For the tenth year of the Teenage Cancer Trust’s Royal Albert Hall concerts, patron Roger Daltrey and a supporting cast of hundreds laid on something very special. Ten shows, all featuring very high profile artists, which concluded with The Who playing their legendary Quadrophenia album… in quadraphonic.
The March series of shows featured artists as diverse as Noel Gallagher, The Specials, the reformed Suede, JLS, Arctic Monkeys, Lemar, Diana Vickers, comedians Jimmy Carr, Rhod Gilbert, Noel Fielding and a host of support acts. The Who’s performance was a fitting climax, with the band’s Front of House engineer Paul Ramsay manning his preferred DiGiCo SD7 console, while a pair of D5s handled monitors.
With 88 stage inputs, effects returns and feeds for VT and recording, the SD7’s high specification meant that Paul could comfortably accommodate the audio production for Quadrophenia.
Supplied by Entec Light & Sound, the PA was a large d&b system, comprising stereo main hangs of J8 line array, a central cluster of J-SUBs and mono outer hangs of Q1s and B2 subs beneath the stage. The choir stalls were covered by Q7s and Q10s, with more Q10s, Q-SUBs and Q7s taking care of nearfield, and a single C4 flown to cover the extremities of the circle.
Making life very interesting for both the audience and crew was the fact that the speech and effects from the video sequences that punctuate Quadrophenia were output in quadraphonic, T10s, configured as small line arrays, being used for the rear surround hangs.
“Providing quadraphonic sound in a circular room did provide certain challenges, the lack of corners being one,” smiles Entec technical manager Liam Halpin. “As with all our jobs the audio was fed digitally from the console to the system processors and, for the rear hangs, we used the in-house OB tie lines. It involved a bit of black magic, but it sounded great. It was a fantastic show.”
At the SD7, Paul was mixing the live parts of the show to a standard left/right mix, which was then split to the different zones to ensure every part of this notoriously difficult venue enjoyed excellent audio quality.
In addition, the SD7 was also handling the VT feeds, a straight stereo recording of the show, a submix and a 112 channel multitrack recording, via MADI and two MADI RME cards to a Steinberg Nuendo system.
“The SD7 sounds fantastic and I love the control surface, it’s very easy to use and get around,” says Paul. “The fact that I can do this number of ins and outs, but still have plenty of facilities left for anything else I need to add, is superb.
“The multi-band compressors, the quality of the internal effects, the fantastic backup from DiGiCo, the MADI recording facilities — there’s a whole mass of reasons why I love the console.”
Using the SD7’s internal effects engines for multi-band compression, reverb, harmonising and delays, Paul was very happy with the sound of the show. And, given that The Who hadn’t played live for some time before this show, the console certainly gave Paul a head start.
“We hadn’t done any shows for nearly a year and it was great to go into rehearsals and listen to the Nuendo recordings from the last tour,” he says. “I turned the SD7 on, stuck in my Nuendo show and it reminded me how great the console sounds. The high end is very clean and crisp, the low and is solid and smooth and the separation between channels is great — as a whole mix it all sounds phenomenal.
“I’ve A/B’d it to pretty much every other console and to me, sonically, it’s the best sounding. I think it sounds absolutely stunning.”