Fresh from a recent performance at the 8 th Annual Latin Grammy Awards show (where he was nominated for 4 awards), Colombian rocker and previous 12-time Grammy Award winner, Juanes, kicks off his 'La Vida World Tour' this March at New York's famed Madison Square Garden. At the audio helm with DiGiCo's D5 live digital console is Rob "Cubby" Colby, best known for his lengthy resume as front-of-house/recording engineer for chart-busting artists including Phil Collins, Genesis, Prince, Janet Jackson, Bob Seeger, Ricky Martin and Shakira. Handling tour production is Eighth Day Sound, who supplied the D5 consoles at FOH and monitors, along with d&b J- and Q-Series line arrays and subs , and Dolby Lake drives. Colby once again chose the DiGiCo system for its overall reliability, onboard tools and sound quality. But Colby had become enamored with the console even before getting his hands on one.
" I went online and got their standalone software and programmed my own console before I even sat in front of it," Colby raves. "I immediately fell in love with the structure of the console. I just got along with it right off the bat and thought it sounded very good. The layout worked very well for me, as well. I enjoy their technology and forward-thinking creations with especially the touch screen idea, being able to set the console up differently if you're a monitor or FOH guy, is so versatile. I've used all the other different desks and they're all very good, but this to me was the one. It's just a very good tool to work with for live sound engineers and I'm looking forward again to the stability that I'm used to with DiGiCo."
DiGiCo's ability to handle the rigors of the road is key for Colby, with variables changing on a daily basis. "It's everything," he states. "In rainstorms, sleet storms,
in the desert, in desert storms, air freighting up and down ramps? I've been very fortunate with the consoles that I've had from DiGiCo, whether it's the D1 or the D5. That speaks volumes because you've got to be able to have that assurance that no matter what hemisphere you're in that your desk is going to work all day- and all performance-long. I get really attached to things when they continue to work well and the sonic quality is consistent. You can depend on these tools day after day and DiGiCo is certainly one of those products that you can lean on every day and they continue to be superb."
Colby's first experience with the D5 was on tour with Latin singer Luis Miguel, where they had 3 systems in use, 1 at FOH and 2 for monitors?and later on the 2005 Juanes 'Mi Sangre' tour. On the current Juanes tour, Colby's FOH rig handles 56 mic inputs from stage, with an additional 4 audience mics and various I/Os for playback. Engineer Anselmo Rota has another console managing monitors. As far as plug-ins, Colby has had no reason to look beyond the onboard effects at this stage in the game. "The console standalone is just wonderful. The only thing I'm doing different on this tour that I haven't done before is I'll be using the D-Tube technology for slightly warmer vocal sounds and electric guitars. I'm using their plate reverbs on drums, hall on vocals, delay on vocal, chorus a bit on horns and maybe on some acoustic guitars. The rooms are already so difficult that the more effects you put on top of what you're trying to do sometimes gets in the way. So I'm a relatively clean, pure-path type of a mixer more than I am an effects wizard."
Overall programmability was a huge asset for Colby. In particular, having the ability to record a previous day's show and use that to soundcheck, refine the mix, and even tune the PA?without having the band present is indispensable to him, and one that requires no extra cards to do so. At the press of a single button, Colby can playback up to 160 tracks instantly with no clicks and no need to reboot. "It's such a handy tool. The fact that you can configure inputs and outputs and groups is also very versatile. For me personally, I like the fact that I don't have to share compressor and gate controls. I don't have to remember which one I'm on; I just use whatever's in front of me. A lot of the other consoles don't have that feature and share the same knobs and you have to select if you want to be on gate or limiter or on compress. It takes the guessing game out of live mixing when everything is moving so quickly all the time."
The D5's capability to interface with virtually any DAW is a proven asset for Colby, who archives all shows on multiple platforms for possible future use down the road. "The band plays to a click track for video and there's a special effects audio that comes down one of the lines that comes out to the front of the house but other than that, the band is live. Through the Pro Tools operator on stage, which is basically the keyboard tech, he will stripe SMPTE time code on every one of the songs and I'll be reading that and recording that time code for future reference. I'll record via their MADI platform via Nuendo and transfer that to Pro Tools no problem because I work in Pro Tools. I'm not syncing to any video I'm just recording for archive purposes for perhaps a live record later. I'm hopeful of that."
Having the ability to translate an artist's complex musical vision from the studio to the stage with studio-quality tools live isn't lost on Colby?especially in working with a hands-on artist such as Juanes. "I believe he does all his pre-production on Pro Tools in his studio in Medellin , Columbia and brings everything pretty well assembled into the studio when he starts to mix. So from a live standpoint, I've been fortunate to work with these artists who take a real interest in all aspects of their production, not only the sound, but the lighting and video and how well everyone is looked after. Juanes allows me to have the creative input."