Friday April 27th was a significant night at London’s O2 Arena for exponents of Soundcraft’s Vi6 digital platform.
While sound engineer Sam Parker, and his system tech Mark Pantlin, were piloting the main arena sound for Example on a Vi6, Owain Richards was providing reference mixes for support act Wretch 32 on another of SSE Audio Group’s Soundcraft Vi consoles (a VI1) at the stage. Meanwhile, across the O2 concourse at Indigo2, Rampton — another seasoned and committed Vi6 user — was taking a break from his regular charges, Chase & Status, to babysit the house Vi6 as Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird performed their epochal 1995 album Maxinquaye during the Sundance London Festival.
SSE had provided sound reinforcement for Example’s successful 2011 festival season and first theatre production tour — but a step up to the arena circuit by the London-based hip-hop/house/dubstep star was inevitable following two No 1 singles from the Playing In The Shadows album.
Sam Parker has become something of a Vi6 veteran, having originally taken an early loan desk out with Hard-Fi five years ago. He also used it with Groove Armada and Lily Allen — and it has again become his ‘go to’ console this time out. “I specified the desk for this tour, as I've not found an alternative that suits my way of working,” he said.
He has followed the desk’s evolution through the various incremental software updates but is unequivocal that the v4 upgrade — the additional ‘User Definable’ layers, enabling the channel order to be customized, is the most significant. It enables him to group together the inputs he needs, relevant to the set list, and enables him to mix the show on the fly rather than depending on snapshots. The Vi6 also provides him with the ability to quickly gang channels.Article continues below
Lily Allen’s MD Johnny Jenkins — who is also the drummer with Example — introduced Sam to this tour. With drums, bass guitar and keyboards backing Example (real name Elliot Gleave) — and live sound interspersed with playback tracks — the engineer used the channel delay on the Vi6, to compensate for latency issues that exist between live and triggered drum samples."
Example’s music is “modern and intense”, he offered. “The whole show fits into two layers on the desk. We use most of the 64 channels — including 48 inputs and all the returns.
Aside from the ready access and Vistonics II interface, the sound engineer says he is a big fan of the desk’s layout. “Ergonomically, it just suits me. I originally came to appreciate the desk because of its strong visual feedback and the quality of the dynamics. The compression and EQ are excellent and the fact that it has a de-esser is a bonus — as of course are the user-definable snapshots. An additional feature of the desk he finds very useful is the ability to quickly gang channels.” His onboard FX palette is supplement by a couple of outboard Waves compressors.
He and Mark Pantlin have also been multi-tracking the shows from the desk, using RME MADIface, with a couple of ambient AKG C414 mics at the stage and two at front of house — although they have not been taking advantage of virtual sound-checking.
Sam Parker is one of a number of sound engineers that have been systematically introduced to the Soundcraft environment by rental companies such as Adlib Audio (as with Sam Parker) and SSE Audio Group since the manufacturer first stepped into the digital world
“As soon as the Vi6 was introduced we pushed it, and it became very popular very quickly,” said SSE senior project manager, Miles Hillyard. “And when Soundcraft followed this up with the Vi1 they started to go out on a lot of new tours, with stage boxes; in fact they remain extremely popular for monitor duty as well as trailer tours.”
SSE keeps its inventory fresh and with the Vi6 increasingly coming up on tour riders, it is constantly rotating its stock, selling on high-mileage consoles in favour of new replacement boards which are supplied by Sound Technology, the UK and Eire distributors.
As a result, Soundcraft consoles are rarely in the warehouse — and with a busy summer season lined up this trend looks set to continue.