Plus 4 Audio Goes Fully DiGiCo for Barclaycard Mercury Prize

For the first time this year, regular audio supplier to the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, Plus 4 Audio made the move to a fully DiGiCo system, with the UK-manufacturer’s consoles seen at each of the awards show’s mix positions.

DiGiCoHeld at iconic North London venue The Roundhouse, hosted by Lauren Laverne and won by James Blake for his album Overgrown, the Barclaycard Mercury Prize is judged by a panel of music experts, so supplying audio for the live event holds a large degree of gravitas.

“We’ve been working on the Mercury Prize event for the past 10 years,” says Plus 4’s operations manager for the event, Mark Ballard. “It’s great to work on because of its high profile in the industry.

“The move to DiGiCo for the event started when we introduced the consoles into the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Sessions at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

“We had used SD7s at FOH for last year’s awards, with SD8s elsewhere, and this year we felt the time was right to make the shift to an entirely DiGiCo console setup. We also made the decision to have SD5s as our monitor boards, which was another first. It was the right decision as everything about the desk suits these shows.”

With 10 acts fully live and playing only one song each, even the deployment of an A/B system, with Nick Cook and Lewis Warehan looking after FOH positions, Martin Dineley and Rod Clarkson at monitors for Plus 4 and Simon Wall from the Hospital Club engineering a separate broadcast mix, meant incredibly fast turnarounds between acts. But this was where the DiGiCos came into their own.

“Using a DiGiCo desk allows you to set up it up for each band’s engineer and know it’s exactly how they want it. Even if they’ve never used DiGiCo before, it’s easy for them and they come away with a good experience,” says Mark. “Some of the bands sent us session files that we imported and then changed to match our patch system. For most of them, we created a session based around their channel list, but with our generic system patching them on stage.

“In each case we tried to make the engineer’s session individual to them and the layout of the DiGiCo consoles makes that really easy; rather than being a generic board, we were able to customize them for each act. Another advantage is that the engineers don’t have to go looking for things, as every input and output channel is right there in front of them. It’s pretty difficult to do that with any other desk.”

Reports from the visiting engineers were very favourable and everyone was happy with the sound.

“That’s quite an achievement,” smiles Mark. “The Roundhouse can be challenging to get good sound in, but we were very very happy with the end audio result.”

The shift to DiGiCo for the Mercury Prize is indicative of Plus 4’s current equipment inventory – until five years ago, their stock of mixing console was sparsely populated by the company’s boards.

“Now, DiGiCo is the predominant brand of console in our warehouse,” smiles Mark. “In fact, we’re selling off our other consoles to buy more,” says Mark. “We’ve made a pretty sizeable investment and that shows our faith in both the company and the product.”

With the success of the system at The Roundhouse, it is a faith they know is well placed.

Rockers MGMT Transport Audiences Live Across The Globe With DiGiCo
New York-based psychedelic rock outfit MGMT are at the core a duo comprised of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. But live, they are one of those bands that are expansive. And by all indications of reviews from their current global invasion in Europe, that axiom is reinforced nightly with the touring 6-piece outfit, bring music from their current, self-titled release to the masses. Behind the controls at monitor world for the past seven months has been Fabian Quiroga, back on his fave DiGiCo SD8 desk since his departure earlier in the year from a lengthy stint with The Black Keys. The SD8 was provided by Eighth Day Sound’s UK shop.

“After doing a few small tours with the band’s previous console, I knew I had to go back to my DiGiCo board,” he muses. “When I came into this camp, management wanted the transition of a new monitor engineer to be as smooth as possible and they asked if I could use the former board. Ugh, no. So for this European leg of the tour, I’ve gotten my SD8 back out with me and it has already made a huge difference. Mixing monitors on a SD console is just so easy and enjoyable. With this band, I have to be quite heavy with snapshots since there are so many electronic and acoustic elements and each of the six the guys play different instruments all through the set.”

For this run, MGMT’s Andrew handles vocals in addition to guitar, keyboards, and even a huge 70 lbs cowbell! Other frontman Ben does double duty on keys, plus some additional samplers and effects units. Both are complimented by guitar, bass, drums, and another player on guitar and keys—all of which sing, with the exception of the bassist.

“I believe we have a total of 46 inputs,” he sums, “not including my stage talk backs.

Plus, the whole band is on ears with the new  Ultimate Ears UE Personal Reference Monitors and Sennheiser G3 belt packs, with the exception of the bass player, who is on a d&b audiotechnik M2 system (sometimes two if the stage space allows it). I also give the drummer a d&b Q-sub to give him a little more feel.”

Being heavily entrenched with snapshots, and coming from an Avid world on my last two tours, Quiroga admits he was a bit scared about the change, “but after getting back on my SD8, it was like riding a bike… a very powerful, modern and awesome bike! I love that I could make global changes just by choosing the parameters I wanted the changes to ripple to. I always try to be very minimal when it comes to my monitor mixing; I tend to stay away from outside plug-ins, unless the band and the gig really require it. I have been in too many cases where the show was held off and sometimes stopped due to the use of outside plug-ins.”

“I use a designated reverb for each of their vocals and a couple room verbs for the drums in order to recreate the room we are playing at in their ears. I also use a couple delays for a keyboard in order to recreate the effect used on the lead synth for the song ‘Kids’ from their first album. As I said before, I try to be very minimal when it comes to effects (even though I am using over ten onboard FX). I rely heavily on my onboard effects and my audience mics positioning in order to recreate the room.”

One of his favorite, go-to features on the SD8 is the Macros, which he can’t rave enough about. “I use them anywhere, from mute groups for my inputs and outs, delay tap tempo, or simply to bring up my spill groups with the different copies of the channels I have designated to each member of the band.”

“This is the smallest tour I have done in my life and I love it. ( I know that playing 10,000+ people is not small!). However it has been a new experience for me. I love working with the band and I love how welcoming they are to my opinion and comments I bring to the table. The whole crew is super laid-back yet very professional, so I’ve felt extremely welcomed ever since I joined. And I’m blessed to have Steve Revitte as my counterpart at FOH. Although I don’t have an A2 for this gig, my load-outs take about 30 minutes tops and carrying all ears makes it that much easy”

“I’m so happy to be back on my SD8. I explain it to everyone of what bringing an DiGiCo on tour is like in this way: There are a lot of cars that could take you from point A to point B, and that is OK. But once you get used to driving a Ferrari, it’s tough to go behind the wheel of anything less powerful. Yeah, the car is nice and cheap on gas, but it’s nothing like being behind the wheel of a Ferrari. The DiGiCo is fast like a Ferrari, but also has the reliability of a Prius.  That is how I like to see it!”

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