In this article, long-time Avid Venue user house-of-worship audio engineer David Stagl talks about making the transition to Waves SoundGrid on a DiGiCo SD10 console.
I've spent the majority of my mixing for the last seven years on an Avid VENUE, but I recently had the opportunity to try something a little different when the great folks up at Eagle Brook Church in Minneapolis invited me to come up for a few days and mix their weekend services. I love getting out of my room from time to time because it's a great way to shake things up a little, build up your mixing chops, and confront those bad habits that sometimes build up when you're mixing in the same box every week.
Eagle Brook's console is DiGiCo SD10 which made me a little hesitant at first since I had never mixed on any of the DiGiCo consoles before. However, there has been a growing chorus from my mixing friends that I should at least try mixing on a DiGiCo, so I figured I'd give it a shot. After all, a console's a console, right? Plus, my hesitation was relieved a bit when I learned there would be a Waves SoundGrid server available for me. So I filled up a USB drive full of some familiar settings and boarded a plane for my Minnesota adventure.
My initial goal mixing on the new platform was to try out the processing provided on-board the console, so I did as much as I could without tapping into the SoundGrid server. Maybe it was simply my unfamiliarity with the console, but it didn't take long before I was yearning for some familiar sounds I've come to rely on my Waves plugins to provide; after all, the multi-platform flexibility of Waves, thanks to MultiRack, was a big motivator for me to invest in my own Waves plugins. So I said hello to my new friend, SoundGrid.
I was initially confused a bit about the SoundGrid integration with the console. The Avid VENUE provides plugin processing directly on the console's built-in DSP, so my initial expectation was for that to be the case on the DiGiCo, but the DiGiCo is a different animal.
I think it's best to think of the SoundGrid server in the traditional way we used to think of outboard gear. The SoundGrid server is a one-stop-shop outboard box that does its processing with our plugins. DiGiCo simply provides a dedicated I/O on the console to connect the server. The folks at DiGiCo then also provide the ability to control the plugins on the server via the touch-screen on the console and a handy knob labeled Touch Turn. You simply touch a plugin control on the touchscreen, and you have instant control of the parameter via the Touch Turn knob.
The VENUE Profile I work on provides up to 100 potential plugins provided there is sufficient DSP available, and up to four plugins may then be inserted on any inputs or outputs. SoundGrid works a little differently, though. Instead of individual plugin slots, I had 16 racks available. I quickly learned the best way to think of these racks is as individual signal-chains that can be inserted pretty much anywhere on the console. Each rack or signal-chain can be mono or stereo and allows eight plugins to be inserted.
I had grown used to liberally applying things like Waves vintage compressors and NLS on a wide array of inputs on the VENUE, but I was forced to rethink things a bit on the SD10 since I was limited to 16 places I could insert my plugins. My master buss, drum groups, and lead vocal got the first few racks. Then I simply started adding things in where I felt I needed to use something familiar.
For example, I don't know exactly what it is, but I have grown quite fond of using the SSL E-Channel for EQ'ing electric guitars. After fumbling around with the console EQ for a couple minutes, I switched over to the familiar E-Channel and had the results I was looking for in a few seconds.
While the 16 racks available felt limiting in some ways, they also offered a new flexibility. The SoundGrid server had a lot of power, and I actually found myself trying new things I have traditionally stayed away from in the past. For example, instead of using a traditional send and return for FX, I found myself inserting reverbs directly on a few inputs. A great example was a violin featured that weekend.
The violin was mic'ed with a DPA 4099 and sounded great to start. I was even happier after applying the console's high-pass filter and a touch of EQ, but something still wasn't quite right so I headed for my Waves rack. I started off my violin chain with a CLA-2A to warm it up a touch while leveling out the dynamics so the violin could stand in the mix with drums and electric guitars. Next I added a trusty C6 to tame some of the bite happening at times on the higher strings. Finally, I rounded things off with IR-Live by adjusting the wet/dry mix to taste. I knew I was on to something when one of the staff engineers at the church approached me to find out what I was doing with the violin.
All in all, I had a good experience mixing thanks in no small part to Waves SoundGrid. The band and staff seemed quite happy with the results, and I even walked away with some new approaches. I consider that a successful weekend.