The roots rock/jazz/blues band Widespread Panic has been on the road nonstop for 17 years, developing a reputation as one of the music world's workhorse touring bands.
Many of its most successful albums during the years were live recordings that reproduced the raw energy that often only the stage can bring to life. In 2004, fans who were disappointed by the band's sabbatical were treated to four separate album releases, three of them live recordings of noteworthy 2003 performances.
Widespread Panic returned to the road in the spring of 2005, announcing their intent to tour well into 2006. While a full year had passed without touring, the band wanted to pick up right where it left off. That meant having the full complement of audio gear that allowed t hem to produce the kind of quality live recordings that would continue to yield their signature live albums.
For the band's live recording engineer, Billy Field, that meant again having access to one of the most important pieces of gear in his toolbox: the 8MX2 microphone preamp/mixer from Audio Toys. "Next to my bass player, Dave Schools, the 8MX2 is the most dependable piece of gear I have onstage. Both are truly exquisite machines!" quips Field. "It gives me the ability to monitor sound in three different places—at the mic preamp, I/O and the return signal from the tape machine—allowing me to know exactly what I have going to tape at all times. The 8MX2 produces a phenomenally transparent signal."
Providing sound for the tour is Eighth Day Sound (Highland Heights, Ohio), which purchased seven 8MX2s. Says Owen Orzack, tour services director for Eighth Day Sound, "Normally, bands will own products like this themselves, but Widespread Panic is set up a little differently and they choose to rely on the sound company to provide them.”
While the band's heavy tour schedule will keep the company's 8MX2s booked well into next year, Orzack says it clearly will be a product worth having in inventory for future work. "It's a superior product in terms of the sound the mic preamps help produce," Orzack says. "Plus, it's very easy to use and is something that will hold its value well into the future. It's a good inventory item for us."
With the seven 8MX2s supplied by Eighth Day Sound and one that Field owns and employs during live performances, Field can run up to 64 tracks; seven units that have eight mic preamps apiece for a total of 56 that go directly to main tape units, and another eight preamp device that goes to a backup tape unit.
"With the 8MX2, I'm able to raise and lower microphone gain throughout the show as the musicians' styles change with each song, allowing me to create a mix from all 56 tracks that's crystal-clear," Field says.