2 How many effects needed for live sound?
2.1 Exciting live sound consists of quite a few ingredients:
Just as with cooking and baking its the "small things" that lead to the extraordinary, the outstanding and special, you sense the love it is done with and, in this case, like to listen to it. Basic live sound ingredients are:
An inappropriate combination of room acoustics and applied speaker system is capable of spoiling the complete „meal“ and leading to muddy sound, the FOH man is trying to keep bearable.
But - if the basic ingredients are decent and mix fine tuning audible, the actual excitement of the man (and increasingly also the woman) at the buttons starts.
Had not 2 effect paths for Reverb and Delay in old analog times (Aux Send 1 + 2 ;)) on a live console be called 'advanced'? These outboard effect units in 19“-housing with different height units were stored in a siderack.
Anyone who wanted more, was extending the siderack with compressors and gates for inserting into the analog console.
With the introduction of digital consoles gates and compressors (serial effects) were integrated into the input channels and parallel effects like Reverb, Ambience, Chorus, Delay in for example 4 global effect units within the same console housing.
31-band EQs per output, for adaption of FOH- and monitor speakers to room acoustics came in as deluxe version.
But paired with being programmable all that meant a huge leap forward, all those different components from analog times integrated into one housing!
A mixing console example, that did all that was and is the Soundcraft Si compact 24. You can do quite solid sound with it.
All could have been content...
If you're getting familiar with live sound and a certain quality standard, you will find that even the best of vocalists change their sound color between quietest and loudest passages so much, that you are constantly EQ compensating.
And a lot of our loved and wide spread 12/2 or 10/2 speaker tops, having woofer- to horn- crossover-frequencies between 1kHz and 2kHz also have their share in making this critical frequency range, our ears are very sensitive in, sharp and piercing.
What about automatically reducing certain unpleasant frequencies of a voice or an instrument if they are exceeding a given level?
Trying to do this correction with a static EQ, leads, depending on song and level, to constant ‚back and forth cranking’, because the disturbing mid frequencies somewhere around 1kHz and 3kHz, one is reducing for a vocal at loud passages are missing at lower ones, due to the fact they have been statically lowered.
A solution to this are dynamic EQs.
In the digital mixing console price range below 5k€ dynamic EQs (level dependent reduction or increasing at certain frequencies), are actually not to be found. But why? Each input channel should be equipped with at least 2-3 dynamic EQ bands (editor opinion ;)). The need is obvious!
Multiband compressors (2-5 frequency bands with level dependent reduction or increasing) are a lot easier to find, for example in the BEHRINGER- oder MIDAS-X32-/M32-consoles, but in limited availability. The above mentioned digital console Soundcraft Si compact 24 does not have any of these. It was released a little earlier into the market and embodies the philosphy to only integrate all the known components of analog live sound into one housing.
2.1.2 'Advanced' Effects:
When the X32-/M32-digital mixer generation showed up the 8 common effect slots were a real novelty (against the usual 4), 4 suited for parallel (z.B. Hall, Delay, Chorus, Pitch-Shifter,…) or serial und 4 for serial effects only (compressor or EQemulations of legendary studio hardware, Exciter, De-Esser, Enhancer, …), that can be inserted into input channels, Busse or Matrixes; the serial effects additionally to the anyway available gate, compressor, EQ.
Among the insert effects are a multiband compressor („Combinator“), a psychoacustic processor („Enhancer“), an Exciter (give "sizzling highs" to acoustic guitars, like new strings) and some more.
Furthermore we're finding old studio friends, like an emulation of the Teletonix LA-2A compressor (here „Leisure Compressor“), the Fairchild 670 Tube Compressor („Fair Compressor“), the Urei 1176LN (here „Ultimo Compressor), the Pultec MEQ-5 (here „Xtec EQ5“) and more, that have written studio history.
Whoever has tasted such old „sweeties“ will appreciate them also for live reinforcement.
The density, clarity and presence of a voice processed by the optical compressor LA-2A cannot be achieved using standard compressors and EQs.
A look across the table, to the studio colleagues, shows them extensively using so-called 'outboard-gear' either as external hardware or internal ‚plugins‘. The fine dosed application of a whole arsenal of 'ingredients' leads to the studio sound of world hits, our ears have adapted to.
Thus it is worth thinking about using actual digital tools and possibilities to refine live sound quality in a similar way.
If you want to add a Leisure-Compressor to each of 4 vocal channels
for a live concert, 2 of the 4 common effect slots of the X32/M32 are used --> 2 slots
a space creating stereo-chorus for ac. guitars and Rhodes --> 1 slot,
an exciter for sizzling highs of acoustic guitars --> 1 slot,
a stereo delay for temporary „throws“ or slaps --> 1 slot,
a stereo pitch shifter (+/-5 cents, with 100% L-R panning) for voc., E-Git --> 1 slot,
a mid-/side compressor for backing vocals stereo-bus --> 1 slot,
a limiter / multiband-compressor for the drums stereo-bus --> 1 slot,
and all 8 effect slots are in use, without one being a Reverb!
Slowly we are awakening to the fact, that more effect possibilities make absolutely sense, and even the at first sight abundant looking 8 effect slots for a live console are not the end of possibilities one could want to use for ambitious sound creations.
If one finds himself being in the fortunate position of calling an additional X32 rack (or X32 core or Midas M32 C) his own, with some routing skill its DSP-effect-power can be utilized and integrated into the FOH-X32/-M32, as additional parallel or serial effects.
--> SCENES 08foh+08rack, 08b_foh+08b_rack, 09b, 09c
If this possibility is not available the 32 In / 32 Out – USB-Interface of the X32/M32 opens further capabilities:
To apply the effect configuration listed in chapter 2.2, not having an additional X32 Rack or X32 Core available, the USB-interface opens the door to integrate external reverb- or delay plugins, running on a PC or MAC.
On behalf of the additional delay (latency) of this signal path in native mode (plugins are calculated directly by the PC-/MAC-Prozessor) of typically 10-12ms it is not suitable for serial effects, to be inserted into an input channel or bus, because a delay in this magnitude will be audible.
For reverb-plugins (live often configured with pre-delays of 20-80ms) as well as longer delays (eights, fourths, halves) this is irrelevant.
More details to latency times and possibilities to further reduce them will follow in Blog chapter 3.
LiveProfessor (70€) or WAVES Multirack (250-440€).
Also there are the actual VST-/AU-plugins are needed.
Recommended Plugins: WAVES TrueVerb (45-90€), WAVES H-Delay (29-179€) or HOFA Algoverb (50€).
(The huge price variations are caused by WAVES special deals. Time and again, especiallys before „Black Friday“ and „Christmas“, but also in between, the „big“ plugins are offered for small money. It is advisable to watch the website WAVES.com for a longer period of time or to apply to the newsletter.
Taking into account that in the mid nineties a LEXICON PCM-80 reverb unit alone did cost 2000€ (2500 USD), the above mentioned costs are put into perspective; meaning in relation to that high quality room simulation is available today by way of external plugins for essentially reduced prices, getting sounds that can be found on absolute world known hit-songs.
Needing 2 additional busses and 2 or 4 return channels on the X32/M32 with LiveProfessor (70€) as host and Algoverb (50€) as multi instance usable plugin 2 very high quality Reverb-Plugins can be integrated via the USB-interface!
If 2 external plugins are so easily being integrated, then there certainly is more of that possible!?
What max. latency is needed for inserting serial effects, without it to be audible?
How many effects with what latency on what hardware is achievable?
Referring detailed informations will follow in chapter 3.