Menlo Park, CA â€“ June 2010â€¦ When the late NASA flight director and manager Eugene Kranz said, â€œFailure is not an option,â€? during the troubled Apollo 13 mission in 1970, he certainly wasnâ€™t referring to on-stage electronics at a music concert. Those words, however, have an equally special meaning for Randy Lane, the front of house engineer (FOH) responsible for ensuring great sound and glitch-free performances during the live concerts of Country music singer/songwriter Carrie Underwood. To help ensure the best possible sound for a number of stringed instruments, Lane depends on the Type 10 DI from Countryman Associates.
Lane is a veteran FOH engineer. In addition to his current duties with Ms. Underwood, his credits include work with the Spin Doctors, Three Doors Down, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Julio Iglesias to name but a few. Working on Ms. Underwoodâ€™s â€œPlay On Tourâ€? in conjunction with monitor engineer Cam Beachley, Lane is responsible for all that the audience hears.
Long cable runs from the stage to the FOH mix position can wreak havoc with the quality of the signalâ€”resulting in RF interference, hums, loss of fidelity, and several other less than desirable qualities. This was very much the case for a number of stringed instruments such as acoustic guitars, fiddle, and bouzouki used during Ms. Underwoodâ€™s concerts. Likewise, Underwood's opening act, Sons of Sylvia, encountered similar issues with their instruments. The Countryman Type 10 DI resolved the issues, and Lane is very enthusiastic about its performance attributes.
â€œThe goal of a FOH mixer is to translate the sources the band provides as accurately as possible,â€? Lane explained. â€œTo this end, the Type 10 reproduces the instruments as if Iâ€™m standing right beside them. When I initially evaluated the Type 10, one of the tests I conducted involved standing next to each instrument to listen to the way it sounded naturally. I then connected the Type 10 and listened closely once again. In each case, these instruments reproduced faithfully to the source when connected through the Type 10. I was very impressed.â€?
Lane is equally enamored with the Type 10 DIâ€™s build quality. â€œCountrymanâ€™s products are legendary for being rugged on the road,â€? he said. â€œThe build quality of the Type 10 is no different and it has several features to ensure mishaps in wiring and switch positions are kept at a minimum. Other manufacturers have switches and buttons that are far too accessible and can be accidentally moved during performances, which can be catastrophic for artists using in ear monitoring systems. One wrong switch and nearly 30 times the level can be applied to an inputâ€”with devastating results. The Type 10 ensures that if the switches are moved, it was intentional.â€?
Lane discussed one specific challenge the Countryman Type 10 DI helped him resolve, â€œWe have moving risers on this tour for the band members to change positions during the show. These risers are moved with large electric motors that generate intense RF fields and this noise was being picked up by several of the bandâ€™s inputs. Once we changed to the Countryman Type 10, the issue was eliminated.â€?
The rigors of the road place a variety of strains on both the performers and their equipment. For this very reason, quality customer/technical support services are essential. Here, too, Lane credits Countryman Associates with being a world-class operation. â€œIn the touring industry,â€? Lane notes, â€œcustomer service is the lifeblood of what we do out here. Anyone can buy gear and send it out on the road. What happens, however, when something occurs that requires attention? Many times, this is the deciding factor on which products to use. Countryman has been 100% supportive. When we had questions, the company was very responsive and clearly understood what we were looking to accomplish. They helped us secure the exact product we needed to make these instruments shine! This is the mark of a professional company.â€?
As he turned his attention to more pressing matters, Lane offered this parting thought. â€œThe change to the Countryman Type 10 was made in the middle of the tour and the results were stunning at first listen,â€? he enthused. â€œMy console EQ went from creatively trying to place the instrument and make it sound real and believable to flat on the channel strip and absolutely sounding like the instrument itselfâ€”as if a straight connection to the instrument was what we had. I was no longer fighting for â€˜spaceâ€™ for the instrument to fit. With the Type 10 DI, it fit into the mix right away.â€?
For further information about Carrie Underwoodâ€™s â€œPlay On Tourâ€?, visit www.carrieunderwood.fm.
About Countryman Associates
For more than 30 years, Countryman has focused on developing microphones and accessories that deliver maximum gain before feedback, with the highest possible rejection of wind, vibration, interference, and other unwanted sounds. The result is warm, clear vocals in speaking and singing applications, delivering natural audio reinforcement that requires almost no attention from the sound engineer or the performer. For additional information about Countryman Associates, visit the company online at www.countryman.com.
Photo info: Image of Randy Lane with the Countryman Type 10 DI.