Sandy Dillon, monitor engineer for The Tonight Show, made the call to use the Soundcraft pair. One of the features that he found particularly attractive about the FIVE Monitor was its ability to comfortably facilitate a large number of in-ear monitors. “We have so many groups that come through here now where everyone uses ‘ears’,” he explains. “Our previous consoles only had two stereo sends, which meant that every time we dealt with ‘ears’, they ended up going through two separate channels and monitor feeds. Now I have eight regular mono sends in addition to eight stereo pairs that I can use. Having the right tools has definitely helped make my job easier.”
Dillon further cites the FIVE Monitor’s sonic purity as another important aspect of the desk. “I spent a weekend installing our second console in August, getting all of the EQs and monitor sends restored so that it wouldn’t be a nightmare for the Tonight Show Band when they came in. After a brief rehearsal, Gerry Etkins, the keyboard player, told me that there was reverb coming back on his send. There wasn’t. It was simply the difference in clarity between our former console and new one. Prior to then, he had never heard the reverb embedded in some of the patches he used almost every day!”
The two Soundcraft consoles are located in an ‘L’ shaped monitor mixing room just ‘stage left’ of the Tonight Show Band’s performing area in NBC’s Studio Three. The house band’s FIVE Monitor is set up at the front of the room giving Dillon direct eye contact with the Tonight Show Band members, who are his primary obligation. The guest band’s FIVE Monitor is located down the other tangent of the room, considerably farther away from its respective stage. However, thanks to a Clear-Com system, Dillon can quickly fine tune settings for the guest band during the morning rehearsal period while their monitor engineer communicates from the floor how things should sound.
Based on a suggestion made by Celine Dion’s monitor engineer, Dillon asked Soundcraft to custom tailor The Tonight Show’s FIVE Monitors by putting parametric EQs on the output of each channel in place of the consoles’ traditional matrix output setup. “This is particularly helpful when I have groups using ‘ears’,” he notes. “If they want a little boost in the high end, or need me to take out some of the lows, I can dial it up very quickly with the parametrics. In the five years that I’ve been here, I had never once used the matrix sends on our previous boards, so I figured I’d have Soundcraft put in something usable, instead of having a bunch of buttons here that just gathered dust.
“Most of the groups that come through here do the circuit. They’ll perform on The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien, Letterman, Rosie and some of the other shows, and almost without exception, they tell us how much they enjoyed the experience of playing here. We really try to make people feel like they’re our guests and do a good job, and that’s why I like the Soundcrafts, because they help me do that.”
Dillon’s partiality for Soundcraft is hardly as new as his FIVE Monitors. “I have to admit that I’m an old Soundcraft user,” he adds. “Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I did a lot of sound system installations, primarily for large churches, and found that the Soundcraft 600 Series and 800 Series were really good, reliable consoles. The EQ was very musical and pleasing. The P&G faders were high quality. Soundcraft simply made a great product. So after reading through literature from probably a dozen or more different console makers, the layout and functionality of the FIVE Monitor consoles, combined with my positive experience with the brand, led me to recommend them to NBC.
“And Soundcraft’s commitment to service is every bit as important to me as the quality of its products. Sixteen years ago, long before I joined The Tonight Show, I was installing a Soundcraft 800 into a church in Alabama and it took a lightning hit, which was a nightmare. So I called the manufacturer’s rep out here in California who immediately drove over to Soundcraft - four and a half hours through the traffic of the ’84 Olympic Games on a holiday - to get the parts that I needed and overnight them to me. Now that’s service! Since then, Soundcraft has always had a soft spot in my heart.”