Although famous as being the gig where Oasis were ‘discovered’, King Tut’s has been a prominent music pub for ten years, and, in that time, many top names have played there including Radiohead, Pulp, Blur, Skunk Anansie, Texas, Kula Shaker, Moloko, the Manic Street Preachers, as well as an equal amount of well-known US and continental European acts. There are live shows almost every night of the year, with up to 4 bands. It works out at around 1000 bands a year - a lot of work for any PA console.
House engineer Jerry Radford was given the task of replacing the house console, a long-serving Soundcraft 800B. “'I needed an easy and friendly desk with all mod cons, extremely powerful EQ and a minimum of 8 auxes. Ad Lib Audio in Liverpool were using the first of Soundcraft’s new Series FOUR desks, and we managed to try it out”.
Jerry Radford’s own PA hire business Dyna-mix is an exclusively Soundcraft house, and he made a powerful case for the Series FOUR. “Really, it was the compact physical size of the desk which won over the management. It had everything we needed except for the stuff that we didn't, and the price was right. Actually I have to say that the Series FOUR is the best-proportioned 4-band sweepable desk I have seen, and its scale and slope are perfect for getting your hands on”.
The Series FOUR is controlling an original Martin F1 Touring 4-way system; “over the years, the cabinets have been professionally modified to accommodate new driver developments and spec.” The system is powered by Crown amps, and managed with a BSS Omnidrive crossover and KT360 graphics.
Stage monitoring is run predominately from FOH, although separate monitoring systems can be provided depending on the band, so, with 10 auxiliaries, the new board is normally configured with four monitor sends and four effects sends leaving two for two-track recording if required.
"The auxes are brilliant,' he enthuses. "The aux 10 aux has a direct feature so that you can switch it to direct out from the desk which is really nice for multi-track recording because you can take directs straight out of the desk and use aux 10 as your master for each channel. For broadcasts, the BBC normally come down with their own splitters, but we're hoping that now people are starting to get wind of the fact that we have the desk we can avoid all that extra hassle. I'm also hoping to get a multi-core situation going from the desk through to the back door with a multi pin-connector so that anyone coming along can plug straight into that for simplicity."
It is however the EQ section of the FOUR that gets the ultimate thumbs up from Radford, who feels that it runs alongside a Midas for quality for small venue applications.
"The EQ is extremely powerful, almost brutal. We have two hours to soundcheck three or four bands and you have to work quickly. The Four has everything you think it should and it also "feels' like a Soundcraft.
"The big boon of the FOUR is the variable roll-off switches that just save the day. You can literally run the board flat and use those to trim your low-end roll-offs and have quite an easy sound to work with. The engineers that work in the venue spent some time playing around with it and most of them got a good hang of it with the first show that they mixed. The first time I used it I panicked because the gain amplifiers are so active compared to the 800B in that they don't slope off as you get to the peak. The 800B smoothes it out so that you can run the channels quite hot and still get away with it. With the Series Four, it just keeps on going.
"The problem is that you can get a snare coming at you from nowhere. Snares are particularly interesting in that if you're running the channel too hot and the player hits it just that little bit harder, you probably get anything up to a 6dB increase, so it took the first show for me to realise that you have to keep the gains on active channels, like snares, kick and certain sample parts quite low down so that the gain structure doesn't jump too quickly."