Los Angeles ,CA (July 14, 2016)—Rat Sound is on the road with longtime client Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals as the band backs Harper’s latest collection, Call It What It Is. The production is carrying a control package and using the PA of the Day at each venue, running a tight ship with a three-man audio crew—FOH man James Shaw, monitor engineer Nate Dreger and Rat audio tech Bjarne Hemmingsen. As part of the control package, Shaw and Dreger are using DiGiCo SD5 and SD10 consoles, respectively, sharing mic pres and using the manufacturer’s Gain Tracking feature.
“This is the first time that we have gone out without a traditional copper split,” says Shaw, who has been with Harper since 2007, adding that the artist has been a happy Rat Sound client since the ‘90s. “I used to listen to the audio in the studio and wonder—using the same mics I do live and much of the same gear (except the split)—why it sounded so much cleaner. But when you think about it, with a traditional split you will lose gain, and change the impedance of the mic and its mic pre, introducing chances for more noise and tone change. When we were in rehearsals for this tour and using the DiGiCo stage boxes to feed both the house SD5 and the SD10 at monitors, it sounded like it did in the studio.”
While Gain Tracking may not be for everyone, the Harper team found it was a good fit for them. “It really works seamlessly,” Shaw says. “Say I decide that I need an additional 3 dB on the kick at house. I can bring it up, and with Gain Tracking enabled, the monitor console automatically dials it back 3 dB so the output level remains the same.”
Shaw is also using his desk’s MADI outs to feed MGB DiGiGrid units to handle multitrack recording; three MADI outs on the SD5 feed a pair of MGBs at 96 KHz and 24-bit. The Ethernet outs go into a router to combine the signals. “The beauty of this,” Shaw reports, “is that you can use pretty much as many computers as you want at that point. Just connect them to the system via Ethernet and you get 128 channels of 96K/24-bit audio to pick and choose from. I have two laptops running Reaper—one is just a redundant backup of the other.
“But what is cool about this setup is that I just added another computer, connected it to the router, and I use that for playback of walk-in music and to record a two-track of the left and right outputs for a board tape. Plus I can bring in the solo bus for analysis in SpectraFoo, and I can bring a reference mic into SpectraFoo. I am recording about 68 tracks, but I have 128 to choose from. On past tours, I have had to carry some kind of USB interface for playback and analysis. Now I just carry an extra Ethernet cable. It’s great.”