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Engineer Ken ‘Pooch’ Van Druten Hits the Road with sE Microphones

Ken “Pooch” Van Druten (pictured), a three-time Grammy-nominated recording engineer and producer, front-of-house engineer and tour/production manager, became something of an unofficial brand ambassador for sE Electronics after trying the Voodoo VR1 microphone. Fast forward a couple of years and Van Druten, who has since turned numerous other FOH engineers on to the manufacturer’s products, is about to embark on a European tour with Alter Bridge, bringing along his personal collection of sE microphones.

Van Druten has served at FOH for a myriad of artists over the years, including KISS, Whitney Houston, Kid Rock, System of a Down, and Limp Bizkit, but he is perhaps best known for his association with Linkin Park, with whom he started working in January 2007. Impressed with the VR1s and having subsequently tried a wider selection of sE mics, when Linkin Park began to gear up for a tour Van Druten recommended that the band add more of the brand’s models to its inventory.

“I said, these microphones are awesome, you should check them out; we need to get them for the tour,” he recounts. “I’m lucky to work with guys who, number one, listen to what I say and, two, have the respect and the money backing to do whatever we would like. The point is, there are now sE microphones all over Linkin Park’s stage.”

More recently, he continues, “I bought my own set of sE microphones. I’ve liked them so much on Linkin Park that I’m taking them to other bands.” Next up for Van Druten and his sE mic collection is a month-long tour of Europe with Florida-based hard rockers Alter Bridge.

Linkin Park

With Linkin Park, the Voodoo VR1s are typically paired with a speaker DI, he says. “But you can’t get the feeling of moving air out of a speaker DI that you can out of a microphone. When you’re actually moving an acoustic to an electric transducer it’s different than electronics, you know? So one of the things I like is that combination; the Voodoo complements the speaker DI very well.”

Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon’s kit is miked using a variety of sE models. “We use the Rupert Neve-designed RN17s on all of our cymbals, high-hats and rides; we mic from the top on hats and from the bottom on rides,” Van Druten reports. “And we use the sE4400a for overheads. The 4400a has a lot of breadth. With a lot of other overhead microphones, you put them up and then you high-pass them, of course, because you’re in a live situation and you don’t want feedback. But some of the super-high frequencies—6k, 8k, 10k—are often harsh in overheads. The first thing the monitor engineer and I noticed with the 4400a’s was that when I high-passed them up they were flat—I didn’t have to make any of the normal adjustments in the super-high end.”

Van Druten’s mic choice for snare drum is somewhat out of the ordinary. “We’re using an sE4; it’s the first condenser microphone that I’ve able to use on the snare drum and not have the capsule collapse, and also have it survive over time. It has to handle 132 dB of snare drum for two hours every single day. And it sounds amazing. I think some of that is due to the way that our drummer plays. He does a lot of almost jazz stuff in between snare hits that’s really super nuance-y, so you can’t gate the snare drum because you won’t pick it all up. That was what we liked about the sE4—it captures all of those nuances and yet survives getting clobbered.”

As Van Druten observes, Linkin Park has wholeheartedly committed to sE microphones. “We have three complete groups of equipment that leapfrog around the world, so anytime we replace something it’s a three-time purchase. When you’re talking about spending $25,000 on microphones you’re actually talking about spending $75,000 on microphones, and that gets the attention of an artist real quick! But they agreed at the end of the very first rehearsal period these are so worth the investment and had improved the mix, and they were happy about it.”

Van Druten says, “I’m one of those guys that would not talk about a product that I don’t believe in. What I like is when I find a product that I think excels and sounds really awesome, and the people that are backing the product are really cool. Then it’s a no-brainer. Let’s face it, this is a people industry, so if the people are cool, like the sE folks, then, hell yeah, I’ll talk about them all day long.”

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