Front of house engineer Davy Kirkwood has been using a Midas XL8 Live Performance System provided by Britannia Row for the UK and European leg of the Rihanna tour.
Kirkwood arrived at the first date in Dublin directly from Jamaica in time for a few run-throughs with Britrow's Josh Lloyd, who has completed the XL8 training at Midas' Kidderminster headquarters.
"I've always been a Midas fan and have been using their consoles since 1977, but I think this sounds even better than the XL4," says Kirkwood of the XL8. "Although I'd used other digital desks, I'd never felt as comfortable or as fast on them, and audibly they were a step down. However I find the XL8 a far more natural way of working, and very similar to using an analogue console."
Kirkwood soon got to grips with the XL8's automation, onboard effects and its many unique features.
"We used the automation on a song-by-song basis for effects and to change all levels except Rihanna's vocal from song to song, and for a high pass filter in one number," he says. "I accessed the channels via the POP (population) groups when mixing, and used a variety of compressors types on the two bass guitar channels and the keyboard bass.
"The onboard KVM let us view and control our show computer running the speaker system controllers from the desk itself. We also had our RT analyser computer running throughout the show on the surface."
System engineer Chris Morrison took advantage of the Area B zone on the control surface throughout the show to control VT levels, CD etc, and help tweak things at one end of the desk.
The sound team also routed audio through the XL8's network, without passing through the desk itself, removing the need for running any analogue cable from front of house to stage. The signal chain was completely digital between the stage box and the amp racks, routing digitally out of the XL8's networked hardware into the on-stage processors.
Summarising his first XL8 experience, Kirkwood says," This desk has changed my life. The quality of the pre amps and the overall audio quality is higher than any other desk I've worked with. The combination of the great desk and how Chris Morrison gets the system sounding every day makes it the best sound I've had with Rihanna since the start."