May 08, 2009

Musicians & Bands

Soundcraft® Vi6 puts Va Va Voom into Ultravox

--When Midge Ure, Warren Cann, Chris Cross and Billy Currie decided to reform Ultravox for a reunion Return to Eden tour this spring, it was the first time the classic line up of the band had performed together since Live Aid in 1985.

They would be performing exclusively back catalogue material converting the classical analogue early ‘80s synth-driven New Romantics sound into digital and it seemed a natural choice for them to use Midge's long-serving FOH engineer Berenice Hardman and production manager/monitor man, Dave Claxton

But Claxton and Hardman admit that in ‘switching codes’ to digital they only opted for the Soundcraft Vi6 for FOH after much evaluation, sourcing their requirements — including a JBL VerTec line array system — from Adlib Audio, with whom they have enjoyed a long relationship.

"I've used most of the digital boards on the market and never been overly happy with any of them. It always seems to be a compromise between footprint and usability, with the former winning the battle"

The FOH engineer recalls using a Soundcraft Delta as far back as 1993, when she and Dave Claxton were running a PA company in North Wales, and started working with Midge Ure by accident. "Midge liked the sound we got onstage so much so that we were asked to do more and more, and today we take care of nearly everything, including his website."

At the end of last year talk of the band reforming began to gather pace and by the end of January the band’s technical team had been engaged.

"We’ve known [Adlib Audio’ MD] Andy Dockerty since the late 80's and we went to him because he had the Soundcraft Vi6 and we knew we would get the correct standard of service." says Berenice. "It's intuitive and feels like a desk — I knew straight away that I had made the right choice. A very wise man once told me that the best engineers had nothing between their ears and their fingertips. I don't want to have to THINK about how to achieve something, it should just happen"

Berenice was helped by the fact that she had one of Adlib’s arch VI6 exponents, Hassan Essiahi, babysitting the system on tour.

The Vi6 digital live sound console features 32 on-surface faders and 64 mix channels routing to 35 output busses (32 group/aux/matrix busses, plus the main LCR busses) with 24 insert send/return pairs assignable to any of the input or output channels. Aside from the compact control surface the system comprises a local rack that houses the SCore Live processing engine and a stage box that connects to the local rack via Cat-5/7 cable.

"Since she comes from the analogue school it was important than any digital desk responded like an analogue board — with channels, VCA’s and FX in a row — which the Vi6 does. She didn't want to be constantly moving between screens to effect changes"

The main reasons for deciding to go digital were a combination of footprint and the availibility of inserts/processing without having to carry massive racks . The band were using a wide variation of sound sources, mostly hosted on Macs using Mainstage and Logic. "Levels set by musicians through headphones or studio speakers tend to sound somewhat different through a big PA! Each musician had submixed their sounds, but past experience had taught me that a compressor on each of the stereo pairs was essentia" Even with this submix, it still ran to some 58 channels — including FX returns — with 48 channels coming from the stage. The ability to pair across layers combined with the Vi6's 32 channel bank, meant that she was able to have the most important channels always available on the top layer; an absolute essential with this type of "hands on" mix.

Hassan explains. "She didn’t want to be moving from one bank to another — she can just work on one bank and PFL her channels to see that they are linked. This is the beauty of pairing channels, and because we have 64 inputs it allows us to do that — the stereo channels are thus a very good function for her."

The band use many keyboard sounds that are no longer available, and therefore to emulate those sounds they used soft synths triggered by a keyboard (via MIDI and USB/Firewire). "It is a bit like having ten keyboards in one," says Hassan. The sound was then sent out via a MOTU sound card.

Berenice Hardman says that Midge Ure is always happy to leave the band’s house mix entirely to his trusty engineering crew — who know his requirements inside out — and on this tour he will certainly have been pleased with the soundscape served up to Ultravox’s loyal fans nearly 25 years on.

Back to News List

top of page