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Between the Analog and Digital Worlds

Jun 20, 2010

Hey all,

So we are now in Europe doing all kinds of festivals and smaller theater-type venues with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy. I am not carrying any sort of console package out here, so literally I’m showing up with my headphones, laptop, and FireWire digital interface. Armed with my iLok, I am using MultiRack Native every single day.

Lately, I have been seeing A LOT of analog consoles. It seems that some engineers in Europe are not interested in using digital consoles; I find this to be unfortunate. As sound professionals, we should embrace new technology. I realize that there is a "wait-and-see" period that all of us do, to see if the new technology will survive. None of us want to be the FIRST guy to use the stuff and have it fail, but I think that digital technology has been out long enough for all of us to welcome it with open arms, and also see that it is an amazing tool in a step towards creating the “ultimate mix.”

Having said that, analog consoles still sound great, but it is a bit like driving a compact economy car while towing a trailer (FX racks), when there is a Ferrari GT available to you. Regardless, most of these festivals are still bringing analog consoles to the shows to provide for touring engineers not bringing a console package. I find this interesting. Are engineers scared to use the digital stuff? Do they (still) think that analog technology sounds better?

All good questions. In my opinion, the technology has advanced far enough that most digital consoles and technology can, and do, sound better. What I also think is ironic is that those engineers who feel digital technology does not sound as good, and are requesting ONLY analog, are also requesting digital processors for system EQ. I've seen with my own eyes an engineer demanding to have a Midas XL4, but then using a Lake processor for system control. If you argue that you must use analog technology only, then use it all the way down your system. I guarantee that at some point in your output chain these days, there is a digital conversion happening, whether you like it or not. So why not start from the microphone all the way to the amps if you are going to convert anyway?

Here is what I have been doing these past few weeks. At most festivals, I am given an analog console, usually a Midas Heritage of some sort, so I have been patching in my vocal insert chain thru my interface. Right now, it’s Renaissance Channel and Renaissance DeEsser to a C4. Then on my mix bus output, I have been inserting a C4 and Q10 Paragraphic EQ to an SSL G-Master Buss Compressor. I use the mix bus insert, or usually I ask them if they are going to convert it anyway for the system, and if I can give them the AES out of my interface, thereby skipping a conversion step. I have had great success with this, and it gives me the control that I need when thrown into impossible positions of only getting a 15 minute line check to get me up and running. By the way: In that impossible situation, who wouldn't want to show up with a file for a digital console that you have been working on for weeks?

But alas, I am smiling and dialing every day, fighting for my life to pull my mix together when they say “Go!” Regardless, these are the cards dealt to me, so I play the game. MultiRack has saved me on more than one occasion by giving ME the control I need to get thru the time crunch situation, without having to ask a system engineer to pull 6 dB of 200Hz out of his system because it is AWFUL sounding. I do it myself, on my laptop.

Ken "Pooch" Van Druten
WavesLive Product Specialist

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