Photo: The "Carnivores" tour audio crew. Top, L-R: Ken "Pooch" Van Druten (FOH mix), Kevin "Tater" McCarthy (monitor mix), Paul White (monitor technician/wireless coordinator) and Vic Wagner (FOH systems engineer). Bottom, L-R: John Leary (audio crew chief, PA tech), Nathan Payne (PA tech) and Scott Taylor (PA tech). Photo credit: Vic Wagner.
Following the release of the band's sixth studio album, The Hunting Party, nu-metal pioneers Linkin Park recently sprang out on the first leg of their 25-date "Carnivores" North American tour with supporting acts 30 Seconds To Mars and AFI.
With Escondido-based Sound Image providing sound reinforcement for the trek, much has changed from previous tours - but not the guys riding faders at FOH and monitors. In a move driven by both I/O needs and the increased sound quality of a 96 kHz system, Ken "Pooch" Van Druten and Kevin "Tater" McCarthy have moved from their previous digital mixing console choices to a brand new pair of DiGiCo SD7 desks.
When asked why, Van Druten immediately cited two reasons: "We wanted a 96k solution, first off," says the FOH engineer. "And we had just reached the limits of our abilities with what we had been using. I was at the point where I needed more than the 96 inputs I had available. And by making this change, Linkin Park's shows sound better than they ever have before."
For McCarthy, while he loves the improved audio quality ("the sound quality is unprecedented," he says), it is about the outputs. "At 128, I had plenty of inputs. It just got to the point where 24 outputs were not enough."
The SD7 and SD Rack system is currently configured with 48 outputs, which doubled what he had on previous tours. But there is the potential to go to 56 outputs, or even higher depending on how the system is configured.
McCarthy also likes the fact that the SD7's ability to control Waves plug-ins directly from the center touchscreen of the console means he no longer has to carry a laptop just for control of plug-ins, as was the case with his previous desk.
Van Druten and McCarthy have been a team for the better part of a decade, but they have a new addition this tour in the person of Vic Wagner, their new system tech.
"What I really love is that we got rid of the splitter and all of the potential issues that come with that much copper," Wagner notes. "We come right off the SD Rack into the Optocore loop and use gain sharing. It just negates a ton of potential problems."
Both FOH and monitors are using SD7s with a Waves SoundGrid Server and the console's MADI outputs feeding four MGB units (two main, plus two redundant), which in turn provide signal over Ethernet (via a switch) to Mac Minis running DAWs for two complete 128-channel recording systems. On the back end are four SD Rack units on an Optocore fiber loop. Two of the SD Racks are 56 mic in/56 line out. The third is configured for 16 mic ins, 24 line outs and 16 channels of AES I/O, which feed the amp racks, and the final SD Rack is configured for 56 line outputs. The only D/A/D conversions happen at the SD Rack inputs and the amp racks. The system is 100 percent digital at all other points.
For this particular tour, the consoles were not the only specifications that changed. The PA is also brand new, and the band changed its entire playback system from one based on ProTools that was largely triggered offstage to one based on Ableton Live. Given the depth of changes in the weeks leading up to a worldwide tour, both engineers expressed relief that the DiGiCo SD7 interface was easy to adapt to.
"The basics of mixing and your hands always being where they need to be are really good on the SD7," says McCarthy. "When it comes to the actual mixing, the system is very intuitive."
But in the end, it's ultimately about how it all sounds. "Speaker technology has come a very long way in a fairly short period of time," notes Van Druten. "A good PA deployed well can rival a good set of nearfield studio monitors. As someone with a recording background [Pooch has been nominated for several Grammys], I can certainly hear it. And we need to send the best sounding signal possible to that new PA. The difference was huge from the first time we turned on the SD7. I am literally doing 75 percent less channel EQ now than I used to. The DiGiCos sound great and are pretty amazing tools. There is no question that - at both ends of the snake - we have vastly improved the quality of both what the audience hears and what the band hears in their IEM mixes by upgrading to the SD7s."
The "Carnivores" tour, promoted by Live Nation, kicked off August 8 at Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL and wraps up at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, CA on September 19 before heading overseas for its European and UK leg.