FOH engineer Mads Mikkelsen (VOLBEAT, King Diamond, Die Antwoord) discusses how the eMotion LV1 mixer and Waves plugins enable him to get big, pristine live sound in a variety of venues, while on tour with Danish rising star Jacob Dinesen.
If you’re a live sound engineer touring with a smaller or even mid-size music act, you know the challenge: Different venues have wildly different sound systems and consoles, and you have very little time to dial in your sound on a new system each night. Unlike huge productions for big superstar acts, you have neither the budget nor room in your small van or minibus to travel with your own full rig.
FOH engineer Mads Mikkelsen has been touring with one of Denmark’s hottest rising stars, 23-year-old singer/songwriter Jacob Dinesen. In this interview, he describes how using the eMotion LV1 live mixer and Waves plugins helps him solve these touring challenges and consistently achieve pristine sound with a super-small mixer footprint.
Mads, what type of sound requirements did you have for Jacob Dinesen’s Found It Tour?
This tour is the first time I’ve used eMotion LV1 as my mixer. I’m using it along with the Waves Mercury bundle and the Dugan Automixer, with all plugins running inside the LV1 software mixer. For me, the system is ideal because we play different-size venues with very different-size front-of-house spaces; and I can fit my rig anywhere. I’ve got so many channels and so much processing, but the footprint of the LV1 is so small! So it’s very easy going into a venue. You don’t have to ask about how big the front-of-house space is or worry about where to put your desk. That’s really cool.
I’ve got a dual touchscreen setup with two SoundGrid Extreme servers and a PC. I’m using a DiGiGrid IOC audio interface for local ins and outs, and I get the stage inputs to FOH straight from the DiGiCo Stage Rack which lives in monitor world with our monitor engineer Arve Gotfredsen. The stage outputs from the DiGiCo SD Rack go into a DirectOut Split.Converter. I then run an optic cable to my FOH position which goes into another DirectOut Split.Converter, and then into a DiGiGrid MGB coaxial interface that converts from BNC to SoundGrid.
I then use the Tracks Live recording software to perform virtual sound checks, tweaking the system and multitrack recording during each show.
What does it take to tune and optimize the sound systems of different venues night after night?
Some venues are just really not refined for loud, rhythmic rock music. Many of the concert halls we’re playing were designed for symphony orchestras. So things can definitely get a bit too ‘reverby’; especially when you put a rock band in there.
Since I’m not touring with a system tech, one of the new things I found was the TRACT system calibration plugin, which takes information from Smaart software and adds a corrective EQ curve for the venue on the basis of that. It’s a great tool if you’re in a little bit of a rush for soundcheck, and it’s pretty amazing how accurate it is from day to day. I do a quick three-to-five measurements around the venue, and then the plugin does the EQ curve for you. It gives me a very flat-sounding system at any venue and a great starting point for the show mix.
How do you bring out the deep and soft airiness on a singer like Jacob Dinesen in the live setting?
On Jacob, I have a C6 Multiband Compressor, which is actually my main EQ for his vocals. I use it for compression as well as EQing. I like to use the C6 for what you call the more musical part of it. Sometimes when using an EQ by itself, you can lose stuff that may be getting sung softly in the lower frequency region. But I just like using the C6 Multiband Compressor as an EQ because I think it can maintain a more natural sound.
I then have an H-Comp with a 50:50 wet/dry setting to get a nice mix between a compressed signal and a very dynamic and present vocal. Doing parallel compression on him helps me get a really in-your-face and up-close sound, especially if he’s singing softly. I can get all the notes and airiness of his voice, but also a lot of dynamics in the signal so that it doesn’t sound over-compressed.
I also use H-Reverb on him because I think it sounds amazing and I almost don’t have to tweak it from the presets.
Then there’s the Dugan Automixer, which I use to reduce stage bleed. I’ll set up a ‘ghost channel’ with a tone generator, and return that to Jacob’s vocal channel with the Dugan Automixer on it. When Jacob is not singing, the tone generator on the ghost channel takes over and automatically turns his vocal down a bit. As soon as he starts singing again, the vocal automatically overrides the tone of the ghost channel. It’s a great way to quiet things down between singing parts, so I don’t get so much bleed from the rest of the band, or from the monitors or PA should Jacob go out in front of it at all.
When Jacob does go out in front of the PA, I also have the F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ in his live vocal chain, which I mainly use just to reduce any chances of feedback. The built-in analyzer makes it very quick to catch a certain frequency.
How do you mix Jacob’s acoustic guitar and give it presence with the rest of the band?
Jacob’s acoustic guitar has a stereo input that I separate onto two channels on the LV1. I put a delay on one channel and keep the other guitar channel clean. This seems to make his guitar sound wider without having to pan anything hard. I’m also using the MaxxBass plugin on his guitars because it gives them a good, firm low-mid.
I also use the C6 plugin on his guitar, again acting as an EQ. And then I have a Renaissance Compressor on the end of it—which is sidechained from his vocal. So when he sings, the guitar will duck a little bit to make room for his vocal. I also use the same sidechain technique for the bass guitar. Except on the bass guitar it’s done with a C6 because I don’t want to take any low end off, I just want to scoop out a little bit of the middle.
Doing it this way creates the right room for Jacob in the mix, and I never have to put his vocal louder or over the band in order to give it presence.
I can’t think of a system that gives me so much control over my sound, with such a small footprint that makes it suitable for so many different types of venues. Walking into a new venue has never been so easy or stress-free.
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