New York (April 19, 2007)–The Who are in the middle of a world tour supporting Endless Wire, their first album in 25 years, and manning the FOH position is Paul Ramsay, standing behind the DiGiCo D5 Live desk he’s used since 2004.
Paul Ramsay at his D5 Live.”I’ve actually been mixing on the D5 since the start of 2003,” he said. “I was first shown it by Robert Collins [FOH for The Who prior to Paul’s tenure, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, etc] and I’ve been using it with all the acts I work with since.”
With all sound requirements for the upcoming European leg supplied by Entec Sound and Light, the arena tour features a flown d&b J-Series loudspeaker system comprising 48 J8s, eight J12s and 16 J-SUBs, with ground stacked components comprising six B2 and eight Q7 all running on d&b D12 amplifiers using Rope software. For a series of charity gigs they did in London’s Albert Hall, there was a reduced system consisting of 24 J8s, four J12s, 12 J-SUBs, 18 Q1s and four B2-SUBs. Q7’s, Q10’s and E3’s were also used for the choir stall and near field coverage.
“The Albert Hall is a fantastic place, but wasn’t design for amplified music,” explained Ramsay. “The most important thing is not to go too loud. There’s a threshold for the room and once you go above it, the mix turns to a mess. The same applies for the sub bass and trying to keep the stage level down helps as well, as does a good PA system such as the d&b J-Series.”
Back at the D5, Ramsay uses 60 inputs as standard, and with FoH audience mics, effects returns and playback, he totals around 80. Outputs, he said, get a little more complicated. “FOH has the usual in and outs of external outboard and I run the whole system AES all the way into the amplifiers, which makes a huge difference. I use the console’s snapshot facility, one for each song in the set, and it’s very helpful as a good base to start each song. I pre-programmed everything in rehearsals last May in Bray and I’m continually updating. I also use MIDI to send a program change to my external effects. It saves me having to dash round the console at the end of each song to reset: I can just push a button and concentrate on the mix without having to worry about missing a cue.”
Ramsay uses some external units, but also a lot of the D5’s internal effects, including gates and, for the most part, the internal compressors. “But I do use valve compressors on a few channels to warm things up and give a different tone to certain inputs, as well as my trusty TC Electronic 6000, which I run AES in and out of the D5.”
Every show is recorded and sold on the internet within a few days of the show as both an official bootleg CD and a DVD with 5.1 audio. This is facilitated via a backstage setup that includes two Radar 24-track hard disk recorders, two Digidesign 002s and four CDRs. Ramsay supplies eight channels of analog recording to the 002 from the mix he creates on the D5, minus a few channels which are sent separately to the remaining six channels of the 002. This, in turn, is used as the 5.1 mix on the DVD.
“The CDRs are a stereo mix I create from FOH, which will be used to play some of the show on The Who satellite radio station the next day,” said Ramsay. “The Radar takes a multitrack of most of the channels, but as there are only 48 tracks, I sub mix a few instruments to this. I also have a MADI recorder at FOH to record the show for backup.”
In addition to the post-show sales, Ramsay also uses the recording to allow him to do ‘virtual’ soundchecks. “This is a tool I dreamt of having for years,” he concluded. “Being able to run same loop of a song and fine tune a mix is fantastic. It’s also great as The Who rarely soundcheck, so I can walk the room with the show mix going and fine-tune my mixes. It really would be very difficult to do all this on an analog console!”