Okay. Let’s face it. It’s all about money, right? In this day and age of cutting back on costs, we have all been forced to cut corners and rethink how we approach the necessity of certain equipment. We’ve also been asked to minimize our footprint on the Front of House riser. One way that space can be saved is by cutting back on the amount of compressors you take on the road.
On a recent tour, I put the main instruments and most of the vocals that needed to be compressed into stereo subgroups and then inserted stereo compressors across those groups. One rack space, one stereo compressor, and a whole group of vocals or instruments are processed. End result: a lot of space was saved. With the new consoles on the scene now, loaded with virtual dynamics and onboard software-driven signal processing, the days of racks and racks of gates, compressors, and effects units are soon to be gone. We are also seeing “8-in, 8-out” interface devices, such as BSS Soundweb, that process the signal in a bunch of ways; this further eliminates rack-mounted compressors and EQ units.
I agree with this philosophy of downsizing when it comes to tours that go for a long period of time, where things get set and pretty much left alone. When I do a one-off and have very little time to get set up, however, sitting down with a mouse and new software is a scary thought, and definitely not the fastest way to go. That being said, the onboard stuff is really close (at the time of this writing) to being just as great sounding, and user-friendly to operate, as the rack-mounted stuff. We are already seeing rack mounted consoles that operate with a mouse and screen, or small mainframes with a few VCAs and channel strips to replace the monoliths we now mix on. The learning curve may be a bit steep, but when the first big tour goes out there with a front-of-house riser that is 8′ x 8′, we are all going to have to follow suit. Because I’ve seen this coming, I have tried to consolidate my rack space and get used to the “downsizing mindset.”
One great way to accomplish this is to gang those compressors up into subgroups. It works well. You may lose a little control over individual vocals or instruments, but on average you will be just as pleased and keep costs and real estate requirements down. Let’s get with the new way of thinking and keep ourselves employed. And if you’re still not convinced, think of all the P-touch labels that you’ll save not having to mark all those compressors at the start of the tour.
This article is taken from Jim Yakabuski’s book entitled Professional Sound Reinforcement Techniques. The book is published by MixBooks, an imprint of artistpro.com.