Soundcraft Vi6™ Storms The Barns At Wolf Trap
A new Soundcraft Vi6™ digital live sound console has been installed at The Barns at Wolf Trap in time for the winter concert season, which runs annually from early October through May. The audio system at the 382-seat indoor venue, located close to Washington DC at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, was revamped in 2005 with a JBL VerTec line array system, Crown amplifiers, BSS Audio Omnidrive processing and AKG microphones.
"The Vi6 was the next logical move for us; it's part of our ongoing effort to remain current," explains Bob Grimes, production manager at The Barns, a jewel box theater created inside two 18th century barns relocated from upstate New York. "It's all old wood beams, and the sound is fantastic. The Vi6 complements the acoustics of the room perfectly."
The Barns took delivery of the Vi6 earlier this year, giving the venue staff several months to familiarize themselves with its operation, but it wasn't until the season began that he truly appreciated the intuitive operation of the Vistonics™ II control surface, Grimes says. "The ease of the interface really didn't become completely apparent to me until I did a show with it. Then it was so easy. Once I got into a show and I had gating and de-essing and EQ, everything was all right there above the channel. All the controls line up with the faders and the displays are clear--and I love being able to dim the displays.”
The onboard effects provided by the Soundcraft Vi Series Processor Card, which adds BSS Audio graphic equalization and Lexicon reverbs to the console, were an additional bonus, he continues, and helped streamline the installation at FOH. "I had pulled my rack reverb units out so I could insert them into the new board and use them, but after the first show I packed them away. I have eight stereo channels of Lexicon reverbs right here in the Vi6 that sound wonderful, although the most I've set up are four, and we've only used three at one time. It's an embarrassment of riches!"
He adds, "The effects are buttery smooth, and the Vistonics II interface makes them even simpler to set up than outboard units. The parameters are easy to get to and it's clear on the screen what you're doing. The Vi6 just presents it--this is a plate or a room or whatever, this is the size of the room, this is your reverb time. You can see it and adjust it and go forth."
Grimes, who has been in the audio business for 30 years, 25 of them at Wolf Trap, is enjoying the new discoveries that he's making in the transition to his first digital console. "We're running the AES outputs of the Vi6 to our Omnidrive FDS-366T. You cannot tell the system is on until sound falls out of it. It's shocking!"
The significantly lowered noise floor of the system has not gone unnoticed. "[Music critic] Buzz McClean of the Washington Post reviewed the Rodney Crowell show. He came to me after the show and said, 'I couldn't tell the system was on until Rodney sang!'" reports Grimes, referring to the opening show of the 2007-2008 season at The Barns. "Rodney Crowell's road manager/engineer mixed the show and afterwards said, 'Well, Rodney, I just mixed your show on my new favorite board,'" he adds.
The ability to save and recall console-wide snapshots of the control settings and routing is another advantageous feature of the Soundcraft digital console that Grimes is looking forward to using. "It's wonderful to be able to save the show settings," he enthuses. "That's something I haven't had the pleasure of dealing with before. On the nights when we have multiple acts it's going to be wonderful to be able to truly have a unique mix for each band. It's also a nice thing that it comes from the factory with a usable preset loaded in. You don't have to do any setup to get sound out of it, which is a plus."
Grimes has been a Soundcraft fan since he started at Wolf Trap, he says. "My first board was a 16-channel 200B. It was a wonderful board. My whole philosophy at The Barns is that, when we have a guest come in, I want them to listen to the system and feel like they don't have to touch anything to make the system right. That's why I chose Soundcraft and JBL and BSS."
The annual winter season schedule at The Barns at Wolf Trap features entertainment in a variety of genres, from jazz, bluegrass and chamber music to folk, blues, roots-rock, comedy, cabaret and country. Performances scheduled over the next few months include Bettye LaVette, Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, Livingston Taylor, Edwin McCain, Buckwheat Zydeco and Maureen McGovern.
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