Albo Puts Amy In A Soundcraft Vi6™
Experienced studio and live sound engineer Gerard Albo has made it his mission to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the digital console market.
The versatile French-born sound man — who also plays DJ warm-up sets prior to his main artist taking the stage — presently has the exacting task of piloting Amy Winehouse’s FOH sound mix, and because of the access speed required when set lists suddenly change, he is delighted he made the decision to turn to Soundcraft’s Vi6™ digital console.
His praise for the Vistonics™ II interface and sonic quality of the console is matched only by that for the support he has received from Soundcraft themselves, who made the new V2.0 software available providing him additional new features including the powerful Copy/Paste facility.
Hailing from the Dordogne, Gerard Albo’s interest in the Vi6 was alerted after he had returned to sound mixing after an enforced layoff, following a 2006 tour with Corrine Bailey Rae.
Taking Amy Winehouse’s FOH position from his friend (and tour manager) Dave Swallow (who was on paternity leave!) he mixed shows at the Benicassim Festival in Spain, three broadcasts in Italy and the MTV Awards in Munich.
But his first exposure to the Vi6 came during the iTunes Festival at the ICA this summer, where Winehouse was playing and the desk was installed. “I was already curious, but I was surprised just how good it was,” he said. And when he later found himself babysitting Prince’s sound engineer on IndigO2’s house Vi6 — during one of the Purple one’s O2 Arena after-parties — it seemed like an omen.
However, working on an installed desk is one thing but it’s never the same as performing on the road, he acknowledges. And so Soundcraft’s digital platform was added to the Britannia Row Productions tour rider.
Already aware of its Studer heritage Gerard went into the tour full of confidence — despite having little prep time. “I felt that having the Studer technology behind it was a good start!” he rationalised.
After two days production rehearsals at Bray Studios he was thrown straight into Amy’s now notorious opening show at Birmingham’s NIA. “There was a lot I had to do on the fly — but fortunately the Vi6 is a very easy desk to navigate, and I picked it up immediately.”
Since that opening show Amy has been on top form, says the sound engineer, despite being prone to sudden set-list changes. “Because she can change the running order without notice I need to be able to recall quickly — it makes desks like the Vi6 a much more powerful tool being able to do that.”
From a technical standpoint, he says, “I have been really pleased with the sound of the desk — particularly the great sounding preamp/converters and EQ — and it’s very easy and fast to use. You don’t have to scroll through the pages and the transition is like an analogue desk. I am using seven of the Lexicon FX with no outboard whatsoever — and on top of that it’s great visually, with a fantastic interface.”
Gerard is running a 64-channel MADI I/O interface from the Local Rack straight to a Pink Pig MADIcorder, enabling him to multitrack all shows, saved to a LaCie hard drive.
“It’s great to have 64 inputs carried on optical cable with no hum or buzz pickup — you don’t need to insert gates and compressors. Another advantage is that you can select where in the chain you want to take the mic signal — after it’s been boosted by the preamp, or after the compressor or fader.”
Amy Winehouse is accompanied by drums, bass, guitar, three-piece horn section, keyboard and two BV’s necessitating 27 channel inputs on the board — and a further four for audience recording.
Every song has its own scene and every song is stored with its own parameters and FX — with a BSS graphic added to every bus output.
And with two support acts on each show it’s also good to note that the respective sound engineers share Gerard Albo’s enthusiasm for the Vi6. “There’s very little explaining I have needed to do,” he says.
Gerard Albo is delighted with the excellent support he has received, both from his Italian system engineer Davide Lombardi and Soundcraft support engineer, Simon Roome, who supplied him with the new software.
As for the improved functionality of V2.0 — once again it’s a thumbs-up from the sound engineer. “It’s much more powerful for recording and saving a scene — or if you want to update one of the parameters. The new library functionality means you can copy and paste parameters.”
Gerard Albo is certainly taking full advantage of his time out on the road before returning to the Southsea studio he shares with former Zero 7 lead singer Mozes, whose album he is producing. But you can bet that the Vi6 will appear on another tour rider anytime soon.
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