The 32-mono/4-stereo-channel MH4 primarily resides at Madison's Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, home to nearly two-thirds of the show's 36 yearly dates. Here the desk is called upon to perform both front-of-house and monitor duties for the intimate 320-seat theater in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed venue. The direct outs on the MH4 are further employed to send broadcast feeds to a Telos Zephyr ISDN unit, which relays the live signal back to WERN (88.7 FM) and WHA (970 AM) at Vilas Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus for national distribution.
Eight times a year, the entire production heads out on the road to visit another US city, at which point the MH4 acts as a broadcast desk and headphone monitor mixer. Because audience sizes in other host cities tend to be significantly larger - somewhere between 1500 and 2500 - WPR hires on an additional console to serve as the FOH board and run the monitor mix for guest musicians. In these situations, microphone feeds are split on stage allowing the broadcast and FOH mixes to be completely independent of each other.
Stephen Colon, technical director for Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?, joined up with the show in 1986, one year after its inception. After hearing several glowing recommendations on the Soundcraft MH4, as well as conducting a bit of personal research, he chose to acquire one for the show in September of 2002. Full Compass Systems of nearby Middleton provided the sale of the desk.
"There's so much that you can do with the MH4," he says. "It's very versatile and can be configured in many different ways. Plus, there are a lot of things to like about the board - the clean faders, superb EQ, simple layout, roadworthy build and attractive price. The snapshot automation is also great as it makes setup relatively painless each time we come back to Madison from a road show. I sometimes have only a two-hour window to get everything set up here, so that's been a real time saver. Furthermore, being able to switch our aux busses to front-of-house mode has been very helpful because it allows us to easily integrate reverb, compressors and other processing into the mix. In short, we're very pleased with the console."
This marks the second Soundcraft desk in recent years sold to a high-profile public radio client with Minnesota Public Radio's Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul currently using a Series FIVE for Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion.
The design topology of the MH4 allows it to admirably serve as either a dedicated FOH or monitor desk, or as a very capable combination of both. The console features 16 auxiliary busses, new mic amp and EQ designs, eight VCA and eight mute groups with snapshot automation, true LCR panning and outputs, an integral 20x8 matrix, and integrated control over dbx DriveRack and BSS Audio Varicurve processing. In monitor mode, each input also has a passive mic split feed to connect to a FOH console.