Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Can Digital and Analog Mixing Consoles Still Co-exist?

Recently, I worked a sound gig where I had the chance to mix on a Yamaha LS9-32 digital mixer. This is only the 2nd kind of digital mixer I have worked with. I was working for a local sound company, Great Big Sound and the gig was an evening of rap artists performing. The owner of the Great Big Sound, Steve, gave me a crash course on the operation of the console before the gig.

The setup was fairly simple consisting of just 3 - wireless vocal mics, 1 - wired mic, and a stereo feed from a DJ mix. The 32 channel console was overkill for the small amount of inputs but, it had all the processing built-in allowing for an easier setup and no separate FOH rack required.

During the evening, I was learning as I mixed the show. After a couple of sets, I was starting to get the hang of how the mixer worked within the different mixing layers. I was using the onboard buttons, dials, and faders to control the mix. Usually, Steve would use this mixer wirelessly with his laptop computer. That way he never has to run any kind of snake cabling.

I was definitely aware of the positive things a digital mixer has and can do. While doing the mix, I discovered some shortcuts to allow me to make changes to the mix quickly and without using the laptop computer. I liked having the main controls onboard the console with mostly direct selection to them when required.

During the show, I did have some technical difficulties that were addressed quickly so that the show would go on. The big one was when the AC outlet went down where the mixer, wireless mic units and one power amp were plugged into. I moved the AC cable to another AC outlet and problem solved. I turn on the digital mixer again, let it reboot, and then I was back in business. That is probably the only thing I don't like about digital mixers. With an analog console, the power would come back on and no reboot required.

I am still very much a big fan of analog mixing consoles. For some projects, a simple, effective analog mixer is perfect for the job. I don't think analog consoles will go away anytime soon. For some sound engineers, analog is still the preferred mixer type to use. Easy to hookup the other components to and all the controls are easily accessible on the console. No menus and no mixing layers to use.

Also, the amount of analog mixing consoles for sale on the online classifieds is staggering. Right now, people are selling great analog consoles for a small fraction of their original purchase price. A number of the sound production companies are selling off their older inventory of analog consoles since most have changed over to digital mixers.With all the great deals out there online, you could put together an awesome, analog mix system for an inexpensive price compared to 10 or more years ago.

I know that the analog consoles always weigh more than the digital ones however, the larger analog consoles would make great additions to certain venues as installed mixers. Venues like bars, clubs, theatres, churches, home studio, rehearsal spaces, community centres, etc. Analog consoles are not dead yet!

Recently, I researched a new digital mixer, the Allen and Heath Qu-16. I watched some product videos about it, and I was quite impressed with the design, the operations, and the ease of use shown in the video segment. This particular mixer is a 19" rackmountable console with all the features built-in that would handle many different mixing scenarios effectively. Check out the video below for an overview of the new Allen and Heath Qu-16 Digital Mixer:

The Qu-16 has some optional gear that can work in tandem with the mixer itself. There is the mic input stage box that can connect to the Qu-16 via CAT5E cabling. No more need for a copper, snake cable. The Qu-16 is also compatible with the Allen and Heath ME personal monitor mixing system allowing performers to craft their own monitor mixes using a controller onstage. There are some really great features on the console. The cost of this mixer will be more than an equivalent analog console but, with all the processing built-in, you can leave the FOH rack at home.

In my opinion, I believe that both analog and digital mixers will co-exist together for a long time to come. Each type has its benefits and faults but, both accomplish the same results.

If you are not familiar with the Yamaha LS9-32 digital mixing console, here it is:

Here is an example of an analog console for sale at such a great price and it makes it harder to resist buying one of the older boards. This is the Yamaha MC2404II 24 channel, 4 buss, analog mixing console. The seller is asking only $250.00 (including the road case)! Not a bad deal consider the original sell price would have been likely $10000.00 or more when it was new.

Livewire Remote Recorders, Toronto, ON. Canada

What you are looking at here is a view from the inside of the mobile recording studio owned and operated by Doug McClement of LiveWire Remote Recorders, Toronto, ON. Canada. LiveWire Remote Recorders is a company that offers professional, mobile recording services across North America.

The first time I heard of the company, I was reading a profile of Doug McClement, professional recording engineer in "Professional Sound" magazine. I was fascinated with the mobile, recording truck and the company that Doug McClement has built.

Yesterday, I revisited the official website for LiveWire Remote Recorders at  I was checking the updated site and found some new additions highlighting the great work of Doug McClement. There is a list of all the DVDs and CDs that were recorded live by LiveWire and a demo reel of highlights of recorded shows.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When "Things Happen" On A Gig....

Recently, I worked a gig at a local bar on a night when there were 4 bands scheduled to play. It was not one of my better gigs that I have ever worked before! Let me tell you about it.

I was mixing sound for one solo guitarist/vocalist and three other rock bands at a local bar/club. I was using the in-house sound system for the show. Unfortunately, I had technical glitches during each set that night. Problems arose during the evening but, I tried to fix them to keep the show going. Most of the problems were centred on bad microphone cables and some questionable gear in the sound system.

During my time mixing the bands, I was also having a bad night. Some songs during the sets sounded okay, and others did not work for me, the audience or the band. Needless to say I was having some issues and was trying to fix things on the fly and keep the show going during the night.

Eventually, I got thing under control by the last band set and got through the gig. After the show was over, I went to each and every band member that I could find and apologized for less than stellar performance with the sound mix during the evening. Almost everyone from the bands said not to worry, that I had done a good job with what I had to work with. It was not a perfect night but, I did make it through it.

Once I was finished with tear down and cleanup of the stage gear, that was when the show's organizer decided to talk to me about my performance that night. At first he made some comments about how the night turned out and then started on with 20 questions about my abilities as a sound technician. I felt like I I was getting lectured by this guy about every little mistake that happened that night. He asked me why I was having so many problems during the night and I answered, "sometimes things just happen". Well, he DID NOT like my answer and that is when he started grilling me on my performance as sound tech.

After about 20 mins, I was starting to get frustrated with this guy because, I had already admitted that I messed up during the night and I apologized to him for poor performance. Finally after getting a lengthy lecture for the guy, he mention that he was reluctant to pay my money for the show but, he had to. Then he tossed an envelope at my on the table and then walks away.

I picked up the money, grabbed my toolkit and left the bar. Now I was feeling like a crapbag and pissed at the same time. For a quick minute, I thought about just giving the guy his money back and trying to forget about the gig. I reconsidered when I thought about all the time I spent that day getting the stage ready for the bands, time spent mixing the bands, and waitng until after the bar closed to get my money. I ended up keeping the money because, I was there for the whole show, and I did the best I could with the house system and the gear that I had available.

The other part of the story is the house system in the bar. Over the time I have mixed shows in the place, the owners have fixed/replaced a few things with the system but, it is still not the best it could be. The problem I have had working at this venue is the equipment problems that I deal with whenever I work a gig there.

Everytime I had mixed a show at this bar, there is always something that is broken, non-operational, unplugged or missing. It is very frustrating when you go to use a stage monitor and find out that the input jacks are broken and the monitor cannot be used. Or when you go to use the house mixer and find out that a bunch of gear has been unplugged from the system. It is the problem of "too many cooks in the kitchen" scenario working with the house system.

Talking with other local sound techs who have worked at the gig, they have told me that they choose not to work gigs there anymore. They just didn't want the hassle of having to work with a house sound system that is always broken down. I don't know if I will ever work there again but, if I do, I am going to ask for more money for my time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Do You Want To Get Paid For All Of This?

Recently, I found a great article on Prosoundweb all about the art of getting paid for work as a sound engineer.

I had a couple of bad experiences recently when it came to getting paid for the work I did on a show. This article has opened my eyes with great ideas and suggestions on how to get paid for the business of sound work and not get burned!

Up until this year, I have worked as a freelance sound engineer and never had any problems when it came to collecting my money on show day. For one show, I worked for a local sound company covering a show date and after the gig was done, the owner of the club did not pay me. This began a month long of calling the club owner and leaving messages about my money.

Nothing worked and since I didn't have any kind of contract on paper I figured that I was screwed. I contacted the owner of the local sound company and he offered to pay me my fee after the club owner would not. I was grateful to get my money however, I likely will not work again for the club owner.

Another gig I worked, there was a lack of audience in attendance. Without any money coming from ticket sales at the door, there was no money available to pay anyone involved with the show. I remember standing outside the venue after the load-out and the organizers telling me "sorry, we can't pay you any money for your work." That was an eye-opener for me!" This was the first time I did not receive the money I was promised for working the show. I thought the show was a write-off until the guy who organized the gig decided to come around and give me a little less than half of the money I was supposed to receive. At that point, I was thankful to get the smaller amount. It was better than nothing at all!

After reading the article, I realized that I SHOULD be using some sort of contract when booking shows in the future. Another thing I learned is that I SHOULD ask for a deposit for the gig. The deposit protects me against problems with the gig. Like cancellation of the show, lack of ticket sales, etc. A fellow sound tech company owner suggested that I SHOULD ask for my money up front BEFORE I start unloading and setting up gear. If the client, does not have the money before the show, then I do not work the show.

With one band, I work gigs for them on a regular basis and I have always gotten paid for those shows either on the show day or within the week. Luckily, I have worked for the band for many years now and they are always good about getting me the money.

Here is the weblink to the article: