Echoplex, a 700-capacity club in Los Angeles that has become a necessary addition to the touring itinerary of many an up-and-coming indie band since it opened in 2007, has upgraded from its old analog front-of-house console to an Avid VENUE SC48. The switchover to a digital console has been welcomed with open arms, according to the venue's production manager, Miles Wilson.
Echoplex's production manager, Miles Wilson, with the Avid VENUE SC48 digital console Some guest engineers were initially unsure about the changeover, says Wilson, who took over as production manager just a couple of months ago. "But they've all said it sounds great. Everybody spent one shift shadowing somebody senior who knew it, and they were ready to go. It took about five minutes to get them flying around on it."
Wilson, who has worked in the studio and on the road with Frank Black and the Pixies for many years, and continues to do so on their occasional tours, had never previously worked on an Avid digital console. "I'd had a lot of experience on Pro Tools but none in the live realm." He corrects himself: "No, I did do monitors on a two-week run where I used a Profile, but with a system tech doing everything for me. So when this SC48 showed up, it was pretty easy to get into."
Wilson has built a basic template into the SC48 that allows any house, guest or band engineer to immediately start mixing. Everybody has a folder of favorite settings, he says. "I have my own, which has my basic drum-bass-guitar stuff EQ'd the way I like it. So if I'm mixing, I know that I can go out there and save myself 15 minutes."
The flexibility of the SC48 means that there is no single best way to achieve many tasks, he continues. "There are so many layers and different ways to do something. The amazing thing about [the SC48] is not only how easily you can get in and use it, but also how deep and how powerful it is, if you really want to pursue it. It's cool when somebody else walks in and I think, 'I didn't think of doing it like that.'"
The new system, just a couple of inches over three feet wide, has made a significant difference at the club's FOH position, which was previously dominated by a very large analog desk and several racks of outboard processors. Everybody has been happy to adopt the Avid system's plug-ins, says Wilson. "The stock EQ and compressors sound really nice. I haven't gotten anybody saying, you have to go out and spend five grand on plug-ins."
A single item of outboard, a graphic EQ, remains for the analog die-hards. "Most people don't even use it, they use the one in the console. It's there as a safety precaution for people who are uncomfortable with the digital thing," he comments.
Wilson has not yet started marketing the integrated Pro Tools LE system to performers. "It's uncharted territory for this place," he admits. "I'd like to start pushing it because it's so easy to do, and it's so much better than a board feed. It's a multitrack session; you can make edits."
According to Wilson, the fact that the FOH console is now so portable has inspired club owner Mitchell Frank, who also owns a smaller adjacent venue, The Echo, to produce events that don't necessarily focus on the stage. "We just did a show with Henry Rollins where he came in and did his radio show and played records. We brought in a bunch of couches; there were 300, comfortably seated," Wilson reports. "The whole name of the game for places like this is being versatile."
There is now talk about a second SC48 replacing The Echo's analog desk, says Wilson. The Echo's FOH console does double duty on monitors. But, as Wilson notes, "The Avid has 16 sends, more than enough to handle four or five mixes onstage."
Contact: Echoplex | attheecho.com
Steve Harvey is the West Coast editor for PAR's sister publication, Pro Sound News.