FOH engineer Ken ‘Pooch’ Van Druten (Linkin Park, Kid Rock, Kiss) reports on his first time mixing a live gig with the eMotion LV1 live mixing console.
It’s spring 2016 and there are lots of exciting things happening at Waves. First, let me just say how blessed and proud I am to have been a small part of the release of the eMotion LV1 software mixer. It was a six-year project by the folks at Waves. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to at least download the demo version of eMotion LV1 – if not, what are you waiting for? Also, you should check out the Abbey Road Reverb Plates, and if you mix on headphones – check out Waves Nx, the “virtual mix room” plugin. Amazing.
Into the Fire
The first time I used eMotion LV1 in a real-world situation was at a speaker company’s demo party at the world-renowned NAMM show. RCF, the great speaker manufacturer, graciously allowed me to bring in the LV1 for one of their most important events of the year. I know they had some trepidation about “test-driving” a new piece of unreleased gear. I assured them that everything would be fine. They, of course, were concerned about their speakers sounding amazing – which means the LV1 would absolutely have to deliver the goods. In the end, the LV1 performed flawlessly, sounded AMAZING, and really showcased just how great RCF speakers sound. I was very pleased, and the client could not have been happier.
The band I was mixing was a Led Zeppelin cover band called Spirit of Zeppelin, and they were fantastic. As I told you before here in Pooch’s Corner, good in = good out. It all starts with the source. The source material this night was really great. The guitar player and lead vocalist, Frank Simes, is the musical director for The Who. The bassist and second lead vocalist is Bill Lanham, a well-known guitar and bass technician. The drummer is Mark Romans. They really captured the spirit of Led Zeppelin, and I was very lucky to have an opportunity to work with them.
I had spent a great deal of time on the LV1 prior to this gig using playback for virtual soundcheck. Months are spent in the lead-up to a release of a product by Waves, testing the product and eliminating bugs. I was part of that process and therefore had a pretty solid knowledge of the LV1. Truth be told, though, I had NOT used eMotion LV1 in a pressured, real-life situation prior to this gig. I gotta say, I was a little bit edgy about it. Part of the reason that I get hired as a FOH engineer is because the client has some sort of sense of relief knowing that they have hired a seasoned professional (that’s a nice way of saying that I’m old) who can handle the situation when things go wrong. Anyone can do the job when things are going right. It’s when the world comes crashing down, when nothing is working, that you separate the men from the boys. Part of the action plan I have in keeping my reputation intact as a mediocre engineer on the downward side of blessed career, is to always surround myself with good gear and NEVER – NEVER – take chances. Yikes! Needless to say, I was a little outside of my comfort zone.
When I started unpacking the cardboard boxes of gear, the sound company guys were laughing at us, because nothing was in racks. eMotion LV1 was so new at the time that no setups or cases were ready yet. So, we unpacked the cardboard boxes and went to the work of plugging it all in. Here is what was shipped to us at the gig:
After we got all plugged in, the band arrived and we started getting sounds. The band needed less than 24 inputs, so we placed two DiGiGrid IOXs on the stage and one at FOH. The first thing I noticed right away was how great this thing sounded. I turned up the inputs, and for most of them I just used high-pass filters without gating, compression or EQ. The sound – AMAZING! That’s the true test for any great piece of gear: the less you have to touch when using it, the better it is. The DiGiGrid interfaces are a partnership between DiGiCo and Waves, and boy do they sound like it.
One of the greatest things about eMotion LV1 is that you can run plugins right on the mixer. You get 8 inserts per channel to run Waves plugins (as well as SoundGrid-compatible plugins by any other company), so that’s really exciting. Except, I have to tell you, I did not HAVE to use many plugins for this. I always ask myself “Does this input REALLY need a plugin?” In almost all cases, it sounded amazing WITHOUT a plug. So it’s the front end of this console that is notable. Also the summing is particularly great. I did not notice ANY artifacts of summing together inputs, which is something that I do notice in the consoles of certain other manufacturers.
One of the things that I had to get used to is the touchscreen. I am used to poking at stuff on other products, but when the whole shebang is on a touchscreen, it is a whole other thing. Getting used to faders on a touchscreen is a bit of a learning curve. Towards the end of the two-hour set I felt that I was utilizing the touchscreens in a better way. My first inclination was not to reach for a screen. I had an external fader controller, since I still felt that I needed some physical faders for things such as vocals. By the end of the show, however, I WAS reaching for faders on the touchscreen, PLUS using the faders on the controller, often at the same time. Some of the time, my mind reverted back to “mouse mixing” like I used to do on an old Pro Tools rig. I had to force myself to put the mouse away and use the touchscreens instead. I think if I had more time, and more shows with the eMotion LV1 console, I would become more accustomed to the intended touchscreen tools and could totally get rid of the mouse.
eMotion LV1 performed flawlessly all night long, sounded amazing and really showcased the band through some amazing speakers.
More to Come
I’ll tell you a secret. When Waves releases a new product, it is always an amazing piece of software – solid, dependable and thoroughly beta-tested. But that’s only the beginning. The design team is months ahead of that release, already working on new features. So coming soon are versions of the LV1 with changes to make it even cooler (is that even possible?!) This is truly the exciting part of working on a console that is COMPLETELY software-based: you can change the layout, add functions, move them around – anything – just by creating new code and releasing a new version. So stay tuned – there are some amazing things coming down the pipe.
I am looking forward to upcoming projects and gigs to use my eMotion LV1. With two small briefcases, a six-space rack onstage, and a four-space rack at FOH, I will have an AMAZING console package that could easily fly as checked luggage. That’ll be an easy sell to a production manager, for sure!