Sep 06, 2007

Touring & Corporate

Soundcraft Vi6™ Helps Rufus Wainwright ‘Release The Stars’

--Having already notched-up a hugely successful appearance at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival and a five-night sold-out run at London’s Old Vic Theatre this summer, Rufus Wainwright is now crisscrossing the States on the next leg of his ongoing tour. As on the first US leg, which began back in April and included a stop at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, FOH Engineer Matthew Manasse is again behind a Soundcraft Vi6™ digital live sound console rented from Oxnard, CA-based Rat Sound Systems.

Manasse, who has worked at front-of-house for Wainwright since 2003 – around the time that the singer-songwriter released his second album – reports that there was one overriding reason for choosing the Soundcraft Vi6 console for this tour: “The idea that I could get Studer quality engineering in a digital package at this sort of price was, I thought, great.”

The integration of the development and marketing teams of Soundcraft and sister company Studer combined with the porting over of technology, such as Studer’s Vistonics™ interface – which marries touchscreens and encoders in a ‘where you look is where you control’ design – has resulted in a digital live sound console that, Manasse believes, is truly easy to use. Having previously found only one other digital console with a workable user interface, albeit of an older generation of technology, he says, “I think this is only the second board I’ve found that you can walk right up to and mix a show.”

Manasse remained an analog fan until relatively recently as he was dissatisfied with the available console options. But the third-generation technology of the Vi6, he says, puts it leaps and bounds ahead of the earlier digital console competition in terms of functionality and sound. The Soundcraft Vi Series Processor Card integrated into the desk, which provides comprehensive onboard Lexicon and BSS processing, also makes the console an attractive proposition. “The stuff sounds great, it works, it does what it says on the knobs. I’m not using any external effects at all,” he says.

Indeed, Manasse points out, the internal processing outperforms most conventional outboard effects: “It has more readily accessible parameters than most rack-mounting units, unless you’ve got a huge remote control with them. You can literally pull up every parameter on the screen in front of you. It’s right there; why would you want to use anything else? The compressors work and the gates are great. I don’t use the gates on the drums, but I am using an ‘upside-down’ gate on the snare; the snare triggers the gate, which then ducks the drum vocal mic, so I don’t have that ‘third overhead’ problem.”

Not only does the onboard DSP obviate the clutter of effects racks at FOH but the physical size the of console, which houses 32 faders controlling 64 inputs and 35 output busses, is highly ‘promoter-friendly’ by taking up very few revenue-producing seats. “It’s compact and light,” Manasse acknowledges. That’s also to his benefit: “Because everything is onboard, I set it up in minutes and take it down in minutes. And the local crews love the snake because it’s just two bits of CAT5.”

On the current tour, A Fine Frenzy is opening for Wainwright, with Sean Lennon, Neko Case and Magic Numbers also appearing at various shows. “The opening act has no engineer so the house guy has to mix the first band onstage,” reports Manasse. “So far, they’ve all wanted to have a go on the board. I’ll say ‘do you want to mix the first band on the Soundcraft?’ and they all say ‘ooh, can I?’”

Wainwright’s current US tour, in support of his Release the Stars album, extends through the end of August, after which he once more returns to Europe for shows in Germany followed by a highly anticipated tour of the UK and Ireland.

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