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Juan Gabriel Tours the U.S. During September

Juan Gabriel on September 5, 2014 in Miami at American Airlines Arena

Photo: Robert Hacman

Mexican pop music icon Juan Gabriel recently toured the U.S. as part of his Volver 2014 tour. One of Mexico’s most successful vocalists, Gabriel is a Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame inductee and six-time Grammy Award nominee.

When Gabriel had to interrupt his U.S. tour for two weeks due to illness, his engineering staff asked production company 3G Productions to switch to a Martin Audio MLA system for the remaining arena dates. The audio system also included SSL and Avid Profile consoles for FOH and monitors, LM44 Lake processing, Smaart 7 software, Shure UFH-RD wireless and DPA microphones.

Juan Gabriel on September 5, 2014 in Miami at American Airlines Arena

Photo: Robert Hacman

“The other [speaker] system was working just fine, but Juan’s FOH engineer, Rodrigo López. had attended an MLA demo in Mexico and was really interested to see how it would perform,” says 3G System Engineer Manny Perez.

Gabriel resumed the second leg of his sold-out tour at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, which presented some challenges of its own.

According to Perez: “As soon as I walked into the arena, their staff expressed concerns that they’d been having trouble covering the top rows of the nosebleed section for the last few shows and had to provide refunds. We assured them that we had it covered and the show would sound great everywhere. Then we put the MLA system up and tuned it really quickly even though it was a big rig designed to provide 270-degree coverage. Rodrigo, the band’s music consultant and I all walked the room from top to bottom and front to back, and there were absolutely no problems in terms of coverage and balanced sound.”

The 270-degree system for American Airlines Arena comprised a main hang with 32 MLA and 4 MLD; side hangs with 36 MLA Compacts; a third hang with 24 MLA Compacts; 10 ground-stacked MLX subs, and 4 DD12s on the front of the stage for front-fill to the first six rows.

“The ratio of MLX to the rest of the system seems a bit light, but Rodrigo didn’t want a bass-heavy mix for the show because of all the acoustic instruments and high end frequencies,” Perez says. “Also, we were using the new two-way DD12 powered speakers from Martin Audio for the first time and they’re really good. I would usually have to do a lot of cleaning up with EQ because they’re positioned so close to the subs, but they didn’t need a thing. The DD12s throw further than we needed them to and were more than perfect for what they had to do.”

Front-of-house engineer Rodrigo López

Asked about mixing on MLA, Rodrigo López responds, “For me, it’s definitely the best speaker out there with more control of the sound and how it projects to the audience. The system provides the same amount of sound pressure and coverage from the front seat to the back with correct phasing throughout the arena.

“It’s been perfect for the tour,” López continues. “The audience hears exactly what I’m getting out of the console. It’s challenging with Juan Gabriel because he’s playing with a lot of Mariachi and there are a lot of acoustic instruments that don’t have as much power. But with MLA, the audience can hear all of those instruments clearly, as if the musicians are playing right in front of them.”

“I like the MLA’s clarity and imaging, which is amazing when you pan the percussion and keyboards left to right,” Perez adds. “The speakers sound 30 feet wide where the sound moves across the space. The high end and high mids for vocals and snares are so clear; you can really hear the sizzle of the snare bottoms and hi-hats.”

The SSL Live is Solid State Logic’s first-ever dedicated live sound console and features SSL SuperAnalogue preamplifiers. “As soon as it was available, I wanted to use it,” López says of Live. “Just by reading ‘SSL,’ you know it’s a quality console. An engineer friend of mine who used Live for another U.S. tour provided the only training I needed. It’s very user-friendly. Soundcheck was my rehearsal with the console. It just sounded correct, it was really great. Everything was there, the way I wanted it to be. It’s really clear and sounded exactly how the band was playing.”

López says SSL Live’s sonic quality was particularly noticeable on violins: “We have seven violins for the mariachi. Sometimes it’s hard to hear because it’s loud on the stage. The first time I truly heard violins sound in the place I wanted them was when I mixed with SSL Live. What’s more, we’re running the mariachi musicians through a really small wireless microphone. It’s hard to have power on those instruments, but that just came naturally with the SSL.”

A 25-year veteran in the industry who also mixes FOH for Los Ángeles Azules and was previously with Marco Antonio Solís, López says he appreciates Live’s versatility, which allows engineers to work exactly the way they want. “The console accommodates to the way you’re mixing,” he says, “not the other way around.”

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