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SSL Smooths Silk Sonic’s Slick Sounds

Silk Sonic's smooth retro-flavored R&B fills Las Vegas' 5,200-seat Dolby Live theater with the help of SSL L650 consoles.

Silk Sonic — KA Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — in at the 5,200-seat Dolby Live theater at Park MGM hotel and casino.
Silk Sonic—AKA Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak—in at the 5,200-seat Dolby Live theater at Park MGM hotel and casino.

Las Vegas, NV (November 8, 2022)—Grammy-award winners Silk Sonic—AKA Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak—are known for their retro-tweaked R&B sound, and for packing them in at the 5,200-seat Dolby Live theater at Park MGM hotel and casino. The duo has done no less than three residencies there this year, each one with FOH engineer Chris Rabold and monitor man Ramon Morales on-hand, mixing the festivities on Solid State Logic Live L650 mixing consoles.

A veteran of tours with Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Kenny Chesney and Bruno Mars, Rabold remarked, “I had been saying for a while that I wanted to change things up; the amount of time and effort that Silk Sonic put in in the studio warranted a change on our end, too, so I needed to do something different that would, in turn, step things up.”

While having used L500 consoles on the road for years, he chose the L650 for Silk Sonic’s Las Vegas residency primarily for its surface layout: “I prefer a center control section, with a bank of faders to my right. That’s where the vocals go, particularly with Silk Sonic, where I have two lead vocalists and I’m juggling a lot of vocal parts. I need that hand to quickly maneuver stuff.”

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It was Morales who first used an SSL Live with Bruno Mars, however. “I did a little run of promos with a small input list, maybe 28, with an L350,” said Morales, whose long list of credits includes Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Ciara, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. “I thought, I really want to use this desk. Then Chris called one day and said, ‘I think I’m going to go with the L650; what do you think?’ I said, ‘If you’re going, I’m going!’”

“The layout works great,” he added, “and sonically, it just changes everything. It’s so warm and it sounds great. Having the SSL bus compressor on subgroups just changes everything. The EQs and the dynamics on the SSL Live feel like the real deal,” he says, and are very responsive to small changes: “I don’t have to dig in to get the results that I need.”

Monitor engineer Ramon Morales at his  Solid State Logic Live L650 mixing console.
Monitor engineer Ramon Morales at his Solid State Logic Live L650 mixing console.

Morales generates about two-dozen stereo IEM sends to the nine-person band and the techs, as well as mono feeds to sidefills and other locations: “I also drive all the talkback mics through an aux send between myself, front-of-house and everyone’s ears. It’s easier doing a shout mix with everyone on it; that way, I just turn up one fader.”

Although Rabold has long carried racks of outboard processing on tour, he has a long-term plan to reduce his outboard equipment. “By the end of the year, my goal is to just use the console and a smattering of outboard. No plug-ins, because I know the desk can do it; I know the delays sound good. Within the Effects Rack, I do really like the plate reverb; it’s brilliant and it’s so simple. It doesn’t even have a pre-delay. You just turn it on and it’s good to go.”

Morales, too, relies mainly on SSL’s onboard DSP. “I do use some of the onboard effects, which I like a lot,” he says, including the plate reverbs. But having worked for so long with Bruno Mars, he says, he does still carry a hardware multi-effects processor and a couple of channel strips specifically for his vocals, because the singer is so used to the sound in his in-ears.