RME, Mac PowerBook & D5 Make Mobile Studio for Maroon 5
These days, archiving nightly shows on tour is standard fare, with many A-list bands spending upwards of $50,000 at the drop of a hat to build a touring recording rig. But as Jim Ebdon found on the current world tour with Maroon 5, he was able to turn his DiGiCo D5 and Apple® Mac PowerBook into a powerful and flexible mobile workstation with RME's HDSPe MADIface 128-Channel 192 kHz MADI PCI ExpressCard. And with the D5's relatively diminutive footprint, he's a hero among the crew, doing away with the headache of schlepping a ton of gear on the road.
"With this setup, I'm able to have a fully functioning recording studio on the road," Ebdon explains. "The MADIface card takes up virtually no space and I can get it in my computer bag. With that, along with the D5's fantastic functionality and very small footprint - I've got one small rack at FOH and one on stage with one thin cable linking it all - I can get great results."
"I've spent a lot of money on previous tours setting up a Pro Tools system just to archive a show," he adds, "which a lot of bands seem to want to do these days. Fifty thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things, to a major artist is sort of nothing. But it's kind of a headache because it's another whole big rack. It's quite a lot of time to get it set up everyday and make sure it's working properly. The MADIface is basically two cables and I can record and play back up to 56 straight, pre-EQ, pre-compressors, pre-mute, straight-from-the-mic pre -amp right into the computer. I'm using Apple Logic, but there are half a dozen other programs you can use just as a recording platform. And it's rock solid. Out of the box, with the plug-ins it comes with for $499, it's a fantastic program. It was so easy to set up for the first time, and the recordings sound great. We also have 6-7 cameras shooting the show every night on this tour, so we can easily sync up to the video, too. So for next to no money, a band could easily release a DVD from this as well."
As an avid DiGiCo D5 fan and exclusive user since the console first hit back in '02, Ebdon was one of the first private engineers to use the console. "When digital consoles first started showing up, the D5 was the obvious choice. It was one of the easiest and most intuitive consoles available. In fact, I remember saying to [DiGiCo's] Bob Doyle back then that I needed someone there for three days while I got up and running on the console in rehearsals. He came down and after an hour I sent him away. It was so intuitive. I couldn't do that on any of the other competitive consoles."
Ebdon's been able to get most of what he needs from the D5's onboard sound palette, and is carrying only a handful of additional external effects for this tour including a Focusrite Producer Pack, a TC6000 for extra and different-sounding reverbs, and a De-Esser for Adam Levine's lead vocals. His 'not-so-secret-weapon' is a Hedd192 Crane Song signal processor.
"Im a 'less is more' kind of person," Ebdon confesses. "In rehearsals, we made sure that the sounds were good. I'm big on that you have to get the source sound right and choose the right microphone, and a good mixing console does the rest. And theoretically, I just push the fader up and it sounds fantastic. On this tour, we're using 52 inputs at FOH with a 56-input stage rack. I could've let it get to 60-70 inputs, but three guitar mics on a guitar cabinet is a bit excessive. I use very little EQ purely because we've got the sound right on stage."
Looking ahead, Ebdon is more than eager to get his hands on the new DiGiCo SD7 in the near future. When the Maroon 5/Counting Crows tour landed in his lap last spring, the timing made it impossible for him to get his hands on one for the beginning of the tour. "I really wanted to use SD7 but I didn't want to have to make the changeover halfway through the tour but I'm very excited about the console," he raves. "The SD7 just looks so fantastic; it's more advanced than anything else out there. I love the sound of DiGiCo consoles, and like the D5, they don't color the sound. The SD7 incorporates functions that we've been wanting I've seen it once and I can't wait to get my hands on it!"