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Post Malone Live: Multifaceted Monitors on a Twelve Carat Tour

A multifaceted performer like Post Malone needs an equally flexible monitors setup—and engineer.

Post Malone, seen here at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, has been belting into a Sennheiser 9235 capsule on an SKM 6000 transmitter at every tour stop. Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage/Getty Images.
Post Malone, seen here at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, has been belting into a Sennheiser 9235 capsule on an SKM 6000 transmitter at every tour stop. Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage/Getty Images.

Like most artists sidelined by the pandemic, rapper/singer Post Malone was more than ready to hit the road last year when his long-awaited fourth album, Twelve Carat Toothache, came out in June. The globetrotting Twelve Carat Tour kicked off in September and now at each stop, engineer Travon Snipes can be found in Monitorworld, keeping mixes clear in the ears.

Snipes first tackled Malone’s monitor mixes in 2019, joining the production partway through the Runaway Tour’s Australian leg. Despite the production ending five shows early in March, 2020 due to COVID tour suspensions, everything else went smoothly, and one worldwide pandemic later, Snipes headed back out with Malone’s 2022-23 tour, using audio gear provided by PRG. In addition to the excitement of returning to the road after so much time, the new production meant Snipes finally had an opportunity to build a new monitor setup: “It was a new tour and for me, it was like a green light to put my spin on how to do it, because we were all starting from scratch—new music, new stage design, new P.A. I had an opening to put together my interpretation of what I thought would work best for his sound.”

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While it was a chance to incorporate some of his favorite gear and workflows into the monitor methodology, Snipes stayed focused on ensuring it was all there to support the artist onstage.

“I was tailoring this for an incredibly talented artist/singer who has a dynamic range where he might yell or sing or scream at different times—and through it all, it needed to be a rounded sound that could move with him,” Snipes recalled. “Honestly, we hit the nail on the head pretty early; there wasn’t a lot of swapping gear in and out. We had one show where I made the swap on his channel strip and microphone, and from that point on, he immediately was, ‘Man, something’s different. Whatever’s going on, I love it.’ Ever since then, it has been golden.”

Determining the right vocal mic took some consideration, and ultimately the production went with an unusual combination—a Sennheiser SKM 9000 transmitter and SKM 6000 receiver. “We travel so much, and the 9000 receiver is like a tank, so we use the 6000 receivers,” said Snipes. “I noticed that the 9000 transmitter gave us more body and clarity, so we opted to use the 9000 stick with the 9235 capsule, because we needed that high rejection. We’re always either in front of a P.A. or the stage design has a runway for Post to walk out on—if he sees that, he’s going to be out there pretty much the whole performance! The capsule can handle his dynamic range; it won’t crumble or give out. Also, he’ll be singing and the mic will be laying on the ground, or sometimes he’ll have it standing up on the antenna—he does some things I’ve never seen done before—so we needed a mic that could withstand that and be reliable. He’s complemented it, like ‘Man, this mic sounds so incredible.’”

Also helping keep the mic bleed minimized is a crafty P.A. design for the tour’s 192 L-Acoustics loudspeakers—eight identical hangs of 16 K2 enclosures; four cardioid-configured hangs of eight KS28 subs plus eight more KS28 on the arena floor; and four hangs of six Karas, horizontally flown as audience pit-fills. FOH engineer Burton Ishmael, Dave Brooks at L-Acoustics, Posty Touring’s Production Manager Dennis Danneels and PRG’s Burton Tenenbein devised a design intended to keep energy on the runways down a minimum of 15 dB, helping put less extraneous audio into Malone’s mic.

That vocal microphone is one of the few live inputs that Snipes has to work with on his DiGiCo Quantum 5 console; the only other major elements are Malone’s acoustic guitar, captured via a Hazelrigg Industries VDI tube DI chosen for its warmth, and 15 channels of playback tracks. Snipes looks after those channels as well as audience mics and considerable talkback activity largely focused on ensuring the artist is well away from the copious amounts of pyro and flames used throughout the show.

During a tour stop at New York City’s new UBS Arena, monitor engineer Travon Snipes could be found behind his DiGiCo Quantum 5 console in monitorworld, with a packed 500 Series rack beside him. Photo courtesy of Travon Snipes.
During a Post Malone tour stop at New York City’s new UBS Arena, monitor engineer Travon Snipes could be found behind his DiGiCo Quantum 5 console in monitorworld, with a packed 500 Series rack beside him. Photo courtesy of Travon Snipes.

While some might expect a mix mostly based around playback tracks to be a relatively simple job, Snipes explained that just the opposite is true: “A lot of people will be like, ‘Oh man, you have the easiest gig.’ No, when you have less to work with, you have to find creative ways to make it feel big in his ears. It’s not a band up there where there’s drums, guitars, keys and more things you can play with and use to fill it out. When you have just tracks, you can’t let it feel weak on stage, so you definitely have to get creative to make it feel full.”

Malone hears those mixes through in-ear monitors, having moved to FIR Audio Xenon 6 earpieces and a Wisycom wireless pack for the current tour. Snipes first came across the monitor brand while researching IEM cleaning vacuums—FIR makes one—and before long, he asked for a demo of the company’s in-ears.

Shaping the mixes, Snipes has a number of Waves offerings at his disposal, making use of the company’s Primary Source Expander plug-in to reduce stage bleed. Other plugs put to work include Waves NLS Buss, NLS Channel, an SSL EQ and the F6 floating-band dynamic EQ, which he singles out as a particular favorite: “That’s a workhorse for me, because it allows me to really fine-tune the shaping of the vocal, which is key. Each artist sounds different—they can use the same mic, but tonally you have to shape their voice to fit what’s going on, and F6 really helps me do that.”

While many engineers deep-dive into plug-ins, Snipes tends to prefer outboard gear, leaning heavily into racked-up 500 Series units like a Burl Audio B1 mic pre; Empirical Labs EL-DS; Electrodyne 511 EQ; WesAudio Hyperion parametric EQ and Mimas FET compressor; Retro Instruments Doublewide II tube compressor; Serpent Send N’ Blend mix/ blend module; and a Rupert Neve Designs 542 tape emulator. While most of that is applied to the vocal chain, Burl Audio has another presence in Monitorworld: “I’m using a Burl Mothership for all my AD/DA conversion of the gear, because of the warmth and the transformers on that thing. I can talk about Burl forever—that company makes some incredible gear.

Ready at stageside, it's Travon Snipes.
Ready at stageside, it’s Post Malone monitor engineer, Travon Snipes.

“Also, Maag Audio is another company where I use a lot of their products, like the EQ4M. I was using it originally on Post’s overall mix, but I moved it over to the guitar for general EQ and coloring, adding more warmth and sonic clarity to the sound. That piece is like a coloring box; you can do so many different things with it, shaping and taking a sound to the next level.”

Many of those units aren’t typically found on the road, as Snipes readily admitted, noting, “I’ve always gravitated to those smaller companies and that boutique sound; when I implement something, I don’t want to use everything that everyone else has. I found Hazelrigg Industries through a friend of mine at Sweetwater, Mike Picotte [senior sales engineer and artist relations], who has been a tremendous help. In this industry, you have to have a company and a person that you can call and say, ‘Hey, I need this tomorrow,’ so shout out to Sweetwater and Mike for their support throughout the years.”

In the meantime, Snipes himself continues to support Malone, as the Twelve Carat Tour just started making its way through Europe—though it’s not as if the artist and audio team took it easy since the U.S. leg ended in November.

“We’ve been busy!” laughed Snipes. “We did the Middle East, had a month off, went to Australia, got back, had a day or two home and then went to do NBA All-Star Weekend. It’s been amazing—always glad to be working!”