Barak Koren: Live Mixing in Smaller Venues

Barak Koren

FOH & Studio Engineer

Grinderman, Marco Borsato, Ilse De Lange


What projects have you been working on recently?

I just finished up a tour with Dutch pop star Marco Borsato.

Which console did you use?

On the Borsato tour, I used a Midas XL8.

What mixing challenges do you feel are unique to small venues?

In small venues, the sound coming from the stage has a big effect on your FOH mix. The engineer needs to work with and around the direct sound produced by the band (wedges, guitar amps, acoustic drums). The challenge is to blend both the PA output with the stage output in order to create the perfect mix. The audience should be able to hear every instrument.

Shows in small venues create a magical vibe between the artist and the audience. My advice: Help the band have their cozy little rehearsal room sound on stage, and let them create their own amp balance; have a listen and add the extras. And NEVER spend too much time sound checking in an empty venue.

When did you move from analog to digital consoles?

I still love mixing in the analog domain, but I made the move to digital once I had more than 44 inputs.

What advantages are there to using plugins in addition to the built-in processors?

The standard processors that come with digital desks are often designed as generic processors. Manufacturers have to deal with lots of parameters like overall DSP consumption and user interfaces (GUIs) to fit their product. That often results in devices with no special flavor. Each plugin, on the other hand, is designed and developed to accomplish one job only. Whether it is an effects processor or a dynamics processor, all attention is directed towards its sonic character and quality. Just like in the analog domain, engineers can choose the color and flavor they like, and the interface they prefer working with.

What are your favorite Waves plugins?

I use the C6 and the PuigChild a lot on vocals, V-Comp for heavy compression jobs on vocals, Kramer PIE compressor on brass instruments, Renaissance Compressor on acoustic guitars, CLA Classic Compressors on bass, API 2500 on overheads and drum busses. H-Delay is my first choice delay effect.

Could you walk us through your signal chain?

I like to think simple, a bit analog, with a good mic and a good pre amp on the mixing desk. My approach is based on two considerations: "color" and “correction.” The "color" inputs have devices inserted in order to change a flavor to fit the sonic character I'm looking for, with minimum use of EQ; compressors mostly. The "correction” inputs – mostly with vocals due to microphone technique or loudness vs. spill – have devices inserted for problem-solving, mainly dynamic EQs or an EQ with multiple bands like C6, Q10 and Linear Phase EQ. I always use a buss compressor on the last L/R buss. I keep latency in mind and make sure to minimize the overall differences between inputs. From there on, it’s all out of the desk devices: a Lake EQs, sometimes MaxxBCL, sometimes other analog devices, depending if the speaker system stays in the digital domain or converts to analog before reaching the amps. I think of these as system correction tools, and I want them to be outside of my mixing toolset.

Are you recording the shows?

Yes. With the DiGiCo, I record through Madiface; with the Midas XL8, I record with a system developed by AMPTEC.

Do you use a redundant server?

Yes, I use a redundant server with the DiGiCo SoundGrid.

Do you virtual soundcheck the shows?

Yes I do. I find recording shows a great reference for microphone choices and placements. I also record my left/right mix as a reference both for the band/artist and myself. A virtual soundcheck helps me to fine tune, especially when band/artist don't arrive to soundcheck, but I don’t rely too much on that, since venue acoustics differ, as does a band’s intensity.

What do you see as your main goal for the audience?

My main goal is for the audience to enjoy the show they came and paid for, and to deliver the same sound and energy that the band/artist produces when they play. No more and no less, this is the secret for the magical connection between the artist and audience: Letting them both feel like they are all on the same planet.

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