Maroon 5 is a band well known for its clever pop sensibilities, insanely catchy musical hooks and, of course, super-polished vocals—which should be “a given” seeing that singer Adam Levine has long been one of the hosts of NBC’s The Voice. For the past eight years, the challenge of bringing the group’s world-class-studio sparkle and sheen to the live stage has been trusted to veteran FOH engineer Jim Ebdon, who is also well known for his many tours with Aerosmith, Annie Lennox and Matchbox Twenty.
Ebdon says he is a fan of high-end concert production technologies, such as DiGiCo SD7 digital mixing desks and L-Acoustics K1/K2 loudspeaker arrays, but his ear is equally discerning when it comes to the smallest, most utilitarian tools as well.
Recently, the engineer has been carrying several products from A-Designs Audio, including a KGB-1tf instrument preamplifier, REDDI all-tube direct inject box and electrodyne 501 mic preamp (from sibling company Pete’s Place Audio), and been delighted with the results.
“I’m now using the KGB-1tf on acoustic guitar, which features quite a lot during our show,” he reports. “Previously, it was just sort of a bland acoustic guitar tone, but the KGB completely opened up the sound. Even running the EQ on it flat, it just suddenly became three-dimensional—the guitar sounds huge and open with a gorgeous, warm texture.
“Both the musician, who’s on in-ears, and Kevin [Glendinning, monitor engineer] noticed it immediately when we first plugged it in. They said, ‘Wow! Hold on… is that the same guitar?’ So it was a very positive response and obvious that the KGB was a clear improvement.”
As for the REDDI, Ebdon notes that he had happily used another manufacturer’s direct inject box on Mickey Madden’s bass for many years and wasn't looking to replace it. However, when the device needed to be serviced, he asked several record producer friends for recommendations on their favorite studio DI, and the comments back were overwhelmingly in favor of the A-Designs unit.
“So I tried out the REDDI and it does exactly what it says on the box; you know, the bass just sounded very, well, like a bass!” he laughs. “There were no missing frequencies. It was very direct. It wasn’t really coloring the sound. If anything, it was kind of tightening it up and I was hearing all of the notes as I should, so I was very impressed with that.”
Ebdon also points out that an electrodyne 501 currently serves as the latest addition to his Radial Workhorse 500 Series outboard module rack. The classic two-stage, discrete-transistor, transformer-coupled preamp is now being used regularly on Jesse Carmichael’s electric guitar channel and delivering the goods. “I love that I can drive the 501 really hard and it just keeps sounding richer,” he adds.
“All in all, the KGB-1tf, REDDI and 501 are very simple items—you either like them or you don’t—and I most definitely do!”
A-Designs Audio is a boutique manufacturer of high-quality professional audio products, including the MP-A Series (all-tube microphone preamplifiers), Pacifica, REDDI (all-tube direct box), ATTY and ATTY2’D (passive line attenuators), EM Series (500 Series-compatible microphone preamplifier and EQ modules), HAMMER 2 (dual mono, three-band tube equalizer) and HM2 NAIL (hybrid compressor).
Visit A-Designs Audio at www.adesignsaudio.com.