Bruno Mars is riding high off the success of his sold-out 'Moonshine Jungle' outing. Sporting a diverse set-list with a mix of eclectic covers, radio hits, originals (many from his latest outing, Unorthodox Jukebox CD), the tour was recently made Rolling Stone magazine's list of "50 greatest live acts right now."
The Clair Global tour is outfitted with dual DiGiCo SD7s at FOH and Monitor World, both running redundant Waves SoundGrid servers. Each desk has two SD racks for individual control of preamps and are connected completely via digital Optocore fiber cable—a big change from the 2011 tour. FOH engineer Derek Brener sends MADI lines direct from FOH to the record rig, handled by Charles Moniz, who records 96 channels to a Pro Tools rig seamlessly without the need for an expensive audio router for archival purposes.
Brener's managing a total of 108 physical inputs for the eight-piece band consisting of two drum kits, bass, guitars, multiple keyboards, a B3 organ, plenty of vocals, horns, playback, and a couple of talkback mics. He's been a -- DiGiCo fan since Mars' first run in 2011, and stepped up into an SD7 (from an SD8) because of the larger input requirements.
"We have 108 physical inputs and I still have plenty of capacity for eccentric bussing, effects, and outboard apparatus," he explains. "I also take advantage of the macros, too. I love to have hot keys to turn sends on and off to delays. For example, the delays in ‘Just the Way You Are' are live so the hot keys make it very easy for me play the desk like an instrument and delay just certain words instead of either having it on or off.
"I love DiGiCo consoles for their smooth sonics and ultra-customizable surface. The SD7 is a monster and gives me a lot of freedom and space to experiment and tweak. It has a staggering amount of features and power. Do you need to use all of the features? HELL NO! But is it nice to have them right there if you need them? Absolutely! The snapshot recall scope is great, dual engines, dynamic EQs, etc. I can go on and on about the features it offers, but simply put, for a digital desk, it's the cream of the crop. Straight up."
For outboard gear, Brener's using three Empirical Labs Distressors ("the best compressors on the planet"), a TC Electronics 2290 for stereo delay (equipped with a custom non-latching footswitch for tap tempo), and a Lexicon 960L.
"The EL and Lexicon units are must haves for me. The EL comps are truly the Swiss army knife of compressors and are my favorites. They emphasize that round warmth to Bruno when he really digs into the comp. Bruno has incredible mic control, which is a blessing and a curse because when he gets too far away from his mic, he thins out tremendously. I found the distressors provide the best tonal and level consistency applicable to his style. The Lexicon is the smoothest, most authentic and believable verb, at least to my preferences. Don't leave home without it!
"Of course, I'm using the Waves SoundGrid server to enhance what the SD7 has already made sound amazing. I mostly use the CLA stuff. My go-to lately has been a chain of the CLA-3A>H-EQ>L2. I use that for Kick, Snare, and Toms. The 3A gives the tones so much weight and characteristic and the H-EQ has so much personality. Playing with the slopes is the key. They provide so much color and nuance. Lastly, the L2 adds the incredible punch in the low-mid area, especially noticeable on drums, when you set the threshold just right.
For guitars and horns, I hit 2As pretty damn hard for a nice, unabrasive creamy sound. I always end up playing with the hi-freq knob to squash the nasty tones up top. I'm always careful with that. Also, on the horns, I am using the REDD .17 for analog graininess and a certain articulation. The Leslie hits an 1176 hard as our keyboard player is extremely dynamic. The only thing I use on vocals is the supreme and omnipresent C6 for de-essing and squashing problem areas. Other than that, there isn't much else going on. I have a couple of onboard verbs for snare, acoustic guitar, and horns, (which rarely get used in big arenas), but are lifesavers in outdoor, dry-as-a-bone situations."
James Berry's also no stranger to DiGiCo desks, having used an SD7 on recent outings with Beyonce on monitors before signing on with Mars. The band recently transitioned to all in-ears, utilizing J&H in-ears, Sennheiser 2050 IEMs and Sennheiser 3732 wireless systems.
"The new features in this latest software version are very helpful," he says. "I love the way the new control group feature helps control auxes. It's great to be able to splay out all my auxes at one time on one channel. I've been using the Copy Audio feature extensively to route audio anywhere, which gives us a lot of multitasking opportunities and lets me connect a lot of gear with better quality. We also have a total of four SD Racks between FOH and monitor world, as well as two Mini SD Racks loaded with all AES cards taking in all the wireless. This allows us to keep everything digital."
Berry is also making use of everything onboard the SD7 for his effects, with the exception of a few Waves plug-ins for Bruno's output and vocals. "I'm using a TC Electronics 2290 for Bruno's delay, and running three TC M6000 taking that AES to my vocal rack on the SD7 and its all clocked in at 96k off the console. I'm also using MIDI to control those from the snapshots. In addition, I'm using the Waves C6 plug-in on both his vocal and outputs."
Additionally, he's used the SD Conversion software extensively on this tour. "Early on, we were carrying an SD5 as a backup, so I was able to easily transfer between the platforms using the software seamlessly."
Overall, Berry says the most important reasons that keep him satisfied with the DiGiCo platform are "the sound, first and foremost. From there, usability, service and reliability. The support from DiGiCo when needed has always been top-notch. Needless to say, I'm a huge DiGiCo supporter.
For the latest news and tour dates, please visit: www.brunomars.com.
Bruno Mars Audio Crew: Derek Brener (FOH), James Berry (Monitors), Jeff Hargrove (System Tech), Charles Moniz (Recording Engineer), Eric Rodstol (Monitor Tech), Austin Dudley (PA Tech), and Mike Gamble (PA Tech). PHOTO Credit: Max Crace.