Category Archives: News

Bringing the Sound of the Crowd to the NBA Bubble

Courtesy of Kirsten Nelson via Avixa

Not every COVID-19-era sports venue was reopened with a player-centric experience as the starting point, but over time it became obvious that the players need atmosphere, fans, and the unique energy of real human emotion that comes from collective cheers, boos, gasps, and sighs.

Many will remember LeBron James at the start of the NBA shutdown saying he’d never play without fans present. That conundrum is what Mark Dittmar, VP of Firehouse Productions, had in mind when he developed a vision for how to recreate the feeling of spectator presence on the court, even if the seats were mainly empty.

Dittmar wondered if it was possible to emulate the arena experience so that a player like James would be comfortable enough to perform their job, despite being in a large empty hall. “The goal was to put some energy back in the room and make it real enough that the players are able to be excited and play their games,” he explains.

He started to evolve the idea of a fully immersive soundscape within the three arenas in the NBA “bubble” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in an attempt to recreate at least the sound of an authentic sporting event. Each venue would have essentially the same audio setup, so the athletes could enjoy the same audio sensations and for familiarity and ease of operation for the Firehouse team and NBA producers.

The system design ended up being a 10.6 surround setup encircling the arena floor — aimed at the court instead at the fans, as would normally be the case (see here for more detail). A separate system was also installed for some in-house seating for COVID-19-tested audience members from the bubble community. Every array was hung carefully around a massive LED videowall for the remote audience and all the lighting and broadcast gear required to bring the bubble action to fans.

The audio design was at first a little too perfect. Fans don’t cheer in perfect stereo and chants don’t happen in perfect unison; instead they start in different parts of the arena and grow slowly. Dittmar requested that Firehouse Director of Engineering Paul Bauman “mess things up” to make the experience of playing on the court feel more realistic.

To achieve this, Bauman took an analytical approach, using Los Angeles’ Staples Center as an example in his use of audio simulation software to approximate audience noise from the lower and upper bowls. The arrays that were replicating sound from the upper bowl were delayed so the sound arrived later down on the court, and higher frequencies were rolled off a bit so things sounded a little more natural. “The goal was to make it as realistic as possible,” Bauman says.

With the “messed up” sound created, the next issue was crafting a convincing crowd noise to fill the arena and add some spectator-style energy. The process began with a hope that maybe crowd sound effects from the video game series NBA 2K would suffice, but those were quickly ruled out due to the presence of “contamination” such as sneaker squeaks and referee whistles. So Firehouse contracted Sonic Designs to create all new audio stems that would be triggered by the atmosphere production team, comprising two “sweeteners,” a DJ, and an NBA producer.

The Firehouse team studied the latency to ensure the crowd noise synced with the live action on the court. “We watched a bunch of footage and went through the computer .wav files and timed how long it takes from the time a ball goes in the basket to when a real crowd starts reacting,” Dittmar explains. “We took that number and checked it against video, camera, and conversion latency to make sure that a cued cheer would arrive in time to sound real.”

The work done by Sonic Designs and Firehouse’s QLab programmers involved coming up with a full range of crowd noises (a “base murmur” was created, intended to begin a full 90 minutes before play, so players don’t walk into a totally silent atmosphere), as well as cheers, boos, chants, and all the other sonic elements that fans and players expect without knowing they expect it.

“We realized that the cheering itself is so complicated that we sort of have a pyramid of sound, starting with murmur and room tone and building up from that,” says Dittmar. “When you pick apart how an audience cheers, it is more than just firing a cheer. They collectively take a breath and they get more excited before they cheer.” In addition, operators had to be able to immediately pull out of a cue if excitement led to despair, as emotions tend to go back and forth rapidly in basketball.

Each of the effects had to be built with multiple layers of intensity, and with a very natural, human-generated sound. A crowd doesn’t respond on a perfect music grid, so some more “messing up” was required here, too. Ellen Fitton, Associate Sound Designer with Sonic Designs, and Sonic Designs’ Audio Designer Dan Gerhard dove into the task, deeply investigating the many nuances of crowd reactions in recordings provided by the NBA. The league also provided a narrative for each recorded game, getting into the specifics of why the crowd was reacting the way it did. Sentiments and game context can really change a cheer; for example, if someone is on a comeback, each shot matters even more.

Creating the many layers of reaction was truly a feat of creative sound design, and Sonic Designs learned a lot about the very subtle differences between “ah’s and “oo’s. Early in the fast-tracked project, there was some confusion about the positive or negative nature of each of these utterances, but then a breakthrough came when Fitton realized, “It’s about the pitch —does it go up or does it go down? Because sometimes there’s an oo that goes up, and often there’s an oooo that goes down.”

With the understanding that it was less about the specific word and more about how it was expressed, the layers of positive and negative reactions were a bit easier to assemble. There were a whole lot of reactions created by Sonic Designs, including specially curated Foley effects using actual thunder sticks, all of which were loaded into QLab so operators could select and build layer upon layer of crowd reaction.

“We’re running close to 1800 separate cues now,” Dittmar says. “And we’re using the randomizing features in QLab very heavily, where if you hit medium cheer, it looks to a library of medium cheers and randomly pulls five or 10 of them out. Then it randomly throws the stereo to different parts of the 10-zone surround system.”

To help maintain the home crowd advantage, the NBA decided to have “home” and “away” games, even though the teams never traveled away from the bubble. From an audio production perspective, that meant only the home team would get the cues for “de-fense!” and team-specific chants (for more on the Defense chant, watch the AVIXA® Webinar featuring Dan Gerhard and Ellen Fitton, along with Willem Boning and Elizabeth Valmont from Arup: “Reimagining Stadium Audio and Acoustics.” The energy of the audience could really be customized to support a specific team.

In fact, the operators don’t actually change from game to game. There isn’t a designated home and away operator. Instead, the operators are each assigned to a certain layer of atmosphere, starting with the basic ambient bed, which is handled by one of the two sweeteners working the game, and then going to the anticipation cues, added by the another sweetener. The NBA DJ has the “defense” cue and other chants. Then an NBA producer handles the delicate tasks of negative reactions. “The one thing our guys didn’t touch were boos or ‘airball’ or things like that,” Gerhard says. “We didn’t want any control of the pejorative.”

The NBA production has continued to evolve as the league heads into its history-making, latest-ever playoff season. The crowd noise is getting a lot of positive feedback from players and coaches. And the operators are loving the energy they can build. Reviews from the fans have been positive as well.

“We really wanted people to be able to listen to it and say, wow, that sounds like people were there,” Gerhard says. Even during the earliest listening tests, the effect produced by the sound setup was stunning, he says. “I turned to Ellen one night on the court and I said, ‘You know, I know this is all made up and I’m believing it.’”

Fitton agrees, “After years of experience, we have a pretty good sense of how what we create is going to translate through a PA into a venue space. However, a big part of what we were doing with this was actually ‘creating’ the space itself. As such, it was really valuable to be on site and hear the soundscape in the actual environment and understand how the content was reacting in this unique situation.”

Firehouse Productions and Focusrite Serve Up Sound for 2017 International Indian Film Academy Awards Extravaganza

Courtesy of Focusrite

The annual International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) ceremonies are stadium-filling multimedia and live entertainment extravaganzas. Following the practice of international migration of the event between cities with strong local Indian communities, IIFA 2017 took place at the New Jersey/New York MetLife Stadium in mid-July. Redhook, NY-based Firehouse Productions provided audio support with a drive system powered by RedNet Dante™-networked audio interfaces from Focusrite, with the event providing a critical test that the network aced, according to Firehouse’s Luis Espinal, systems tech on the project. “This is it. It proved the point. The connectivity and how everything came up together – it was truly mind-blowing,” Espinal enthused.

Firehouse Productions provided all sound gear for the stadium and all communications for IIFA 2017. Firehouse senior audio tech Simon Welch and senior RF/PL technician Vinny Siniscal led the team of 12 “Firemen” onsite. “The most exciting part of the event was the ability to use our newly designed routing and network solution, built of Focusrite RedNet Products,” said Espinal. “We had a total of 18 RedNet devices operational on site. They functioned as the drive system, for routing I/O between locations through-out the stadium and for interface with the TV truck. We used RedNet D16R 16-channel AES3 I/O, RedNet A16R 16-channel analog I/O and RedNet A8R eight-channel analog I/O units to drive the PA through a large Dante network. We also used Focusrite’s RedNet AM2 stereo audio monitoring unit as a Dante listening device, so we could move on with the production part of the show and still follow line checks without the need to be next to guest mixers. The RedNet RedNet D64R 64-channel MADI bridge was used to interface through optical MADI, which then was converted to Dante that then fed 64 4-Wire ports for communications.”

“The connectivity and how everything came up together – it was truly mind-blowing”

Normal communications link connections would have required analog snakes with two twisted-wire pairs and a male and a female XLR per port – and four to five hours of setup and configuration. “It was a dream come true when we only had to patch a single ST Duplex MM fiber connection to the truck. Like magic, we had 64 bi-directional ports available immediately.”

That fiber link model was continued all around the stadium. “All locations were connected through fiber for an easy I/O distribution at any point throughout the venue – remarkable,” said Espinal. “There was pretty much no wire longer than 100 feet deployed, due to our large star network of RedNet devices.” That infrastructure helped Firehouse fulfill the client’s vision, even when that vision was a moving target on the second day of the event, as requests for a pair of speakers in a remote location under stage, additional foldbacks, the creation of an off-stage dance rehearsal area and other last-minute production demands came in rapidly. Espinal reported that, with the Focusrite RedNet system providing easily-implemented solutions, every challenge was easily answered within minutes. By avoiding much of the conventional and expensive connection and hardware infrastructure, and preproduction issues like software and firmware status, Espinal says the RedNet system “absolutely saved time, money and resources.”

The system efficiency and stability was remarkable to Espinal. “I’ve never seen this in my lifetime in broadcast,” he declared. There was rain during the setup and rehearsal days (causing the PA and video walls to be taken down) with no recovery issues like he would have expected with an analog set-up. “For seven days in a row, outdoors, with 100-degree temperatures and a live event, we never had to reboot/restart or give it a break,” he concludes, “RedNet surpassed our expectations.” Though each of the three RedNet-centric racks housing the drive system component had only one fan each, Expinal reported, rack temperatures never broke the 100-degree mark, unlike some of the other gear racks. “Finally, there’s a product that I don’t need to power cycle or turn off every night.”

“RedNet truly shined on this project”

The development of the project was spread across six months, reports Espinal. Phase one focused on the network infrastructure, making sure the Cisco enterprise-level 24-port switches would work the way he wanted. The large network solution designed by Espinal would carry internet access, intercoms, program audio and POE cameras (for monitoring temperature, rain penetration and gear indicators), with network functions split between multiple VLANs.

Adam Loesch, Firehouse senior audio technician from its Las Vegas location, brought his Dante network experience to the next phase of the project, joining Espinal in drawing up the initial system configuration. The concept was shared with Firehouse owner/CEO Bryan Olson, who Espinal describes as “very forward-thinking on new technology.” Even though Firehouse had limited prior experience with Focusrite gear, they trusted the brand and RedNet hardware designs enough to take the plunge. The system purchase was made, and two weeks later, 18 RedNet boxes were racked and tested. “This is where Firehouse was going to move if it was good,” said Espinal. The post show conclusion was an affirmation of the vision.

“We have officially moved to this as the only Firehouse drive system configuration,” said Espinal, adding that 14 more Focusrite RedNet units were subsequently purchased, and, as older systems have been retired, purchase of another 36 RedNet units is planned in a matter of weeks, “so we can have three fully networked drive systems.”

“RedNet truly shined on this project,” concludes Espinal. “We look forward to working with our next generation of Focusrite Rednet-based networked systems.”

Firehouse Productions Takes Focusrite RedNet on Tour with Jack White and Nine Inch Nails

Courtesy of Pro Sound News 

Firehouse Productions is providing two marquee artists both an AoIP backbone for touring and RedNet’s reliable engineering that ensures never a note is missed as live shows are archived, used for virtual soundchecks, and broadcast/streamed

Los Angeles, CA – Audio-over-IP has proven its worth in countless installed-sound applications. Now, as concert touring has become the single largest source of revenue for most music artists, AoIP (specifically the Dante™ protocol) is going out on the road, saving space, weight and time – all critical elements in the economics of touring – while Focusrite’s RedNet range of Dante-networked audio converters and interfaces is making those audio networks utterly bulletproof. Redhook, NY-based Firehouse Productions has been an early adopter in the transition to Dante and this year has both Jack White and Nine Inch Nails on tour using AoIP systems they’ve built using RedNet components.

Jack White and band hit the road on April 19 in his erstwhile hometown of Detroit in support of his new LP Boarding House Reach, which was released a month earlier. The tour is covering the U.S. and Europe, and the audio control system assembled by Firehouse Production utilizes an array of RedNet units that will allow White’s audio crew to record up to 72 channels of audio every night for archiving, as well as allowing those same recordings to be used for virtual soundchecks through the tour’s analogue FOH console. Four RedNet A16R 16-channel analogue I/O interfaces take signal from the stage to a pair of Mac Minis using two RedNet PCIeR Cards as interfaces. “Jack wanted an all-analogue rig for the tour, and the AoIP system we built for this tour lets the audio stay analogue right up to the console,” explains Chris Russo, Firehouse Productions’ Director of Touring. “At the same time, the band has all the benefits of being able to record every show digitally, ready for archiving, remixing or for virtual soundchecks.”

After a few individual dates in Las Vegas and Europe over the summer, Nine Inch Nails’ 26-date “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour will kick off September 13 in Atlanta, beginning a string of shows that will include multiple nights at several iconic venues, including Red Rocks in Morrison, CO; Radio City Music Hall in New York City; the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago; and the Palladium in Los Angeles. On the tour, which will have several of its shows broadcast and streamed live, front of house will also supply 32 channels of stem mixes, sent as MADI to a RedNet D64R 64-channel MADI bridge, which converts those stem signals to Dante for network transport. Then, the Dante signal is sent over fiber to a pair of RedNet A16R 16-channel analogue I/O interfaces that are loaded in the stage rack and that will feed the converted stem signals to the remote truck for broadcast. “The show has over 90 channels of audio on stage, so sending pre-mixed stems to the broadcast mixer makes that job easier and assures that the mix that goes out over the broadcast and live stream is the same mix fans are hearing in the venue,” says Russo. “The RedNet products have been reliable, which lets us build a simple, flexible, and straightforward routing system for this audio. RedNet’s reliability makes all the difference in a live situation like this.”

Firehouse Productions built its first RedNet AoIP system last year, for the 2017 Indian Film Academy Awards ceremonies, which took place at the New Jersey/New York MetLife Stadium, and where 18 RedNet devices were deployed in a complex audio network. Since then, Firehouse Productions has also deployed two portable AoIP systems utilizing RedNet products.

Focusrite gear used by Firehouse Productions for Jack White and Nine Inch Nails tours:

  • For the Jack White tour, four RedNet A16R 16-channel analogue I/O interfaces take signal from the stage to a pair of Mac Minis using two RedNet PCIeR Cards as interfaces
  • On Nine Inch Nails tour, a RedNet D64R 64-channel MADI bridge converts 32 channels of audio to Dante for network transport. The Dante signal is sent over fiber to a pair of RedNet A16R 16-channel analogue I/O interfaces that will feed the converted stem signals to the remote truck for broadcast

Tackling RF Coordination, Miking for the Tony Awards

Courtesy of Pro Sound News 

Firehouse Productions takes on Tony Awards broadcast.

New York, NY (July 18, 2018)—For pro-audio enthusiasts, this year’s annual Tony Awards was notable not merely for the long-awaited return of the Best Sound Design categories after a controversial four-year hiatus, but also for the expansion of the wireless audio options provided to the show by Firehouse Productions (Red Hook, NY/Las Vegas, NV).

The annual telecast, broadcast live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall in New York, featured vocalists Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban as co-hosts. Show lead Simon Welch and RF coordinator Vinny Siniscal of Firehouse Productions opted to use Shure wireless systems for the event as in the past, but this year added eight channels of Axient Digital with ShowLink for Groban and Bareilles, who used ADX2 handheld transmitters with KSM9 condenser mic elements for the show opener; for their lavaliers, both wore the new ADX1M micro-bodypack.

For the rest of the cast, the primary wireless was Shure UHF-R, with 48 channels needed to cover the awards’ many production numbers. All of Firehouse’s 32 UR1M micro-packs were on hand, with handhelds available as needed. In-ear monitoring was exclusively Shure PSM 1000, with 10 mixes available on a total of 32 P10R diversity bodypack receivers.

Frequency coordination in the middle of Manhattan is always complicated and the ongoing closing of the 600 MHz range hasn’t simplified that matter. With that in mind, Siniscal limited UHF systems to operating below 608 MHz.

“In the aftermath of the FCC auction, it’s important to adjust to having less UHF real estate available, so I’ve been coordinating for the post-600 megahertz world on all my shows this year,” he said. “Even though much of the 600 MHz band is still technically usable, it won’t be for long. We’re now using 1.9 and 2.4 GHz comm systems for that reason, which means our UHF channel count was actually down a bit this year. It also left us more space for TV crews, which is another area we have to consider in doing frequency coordination.”

This year’s antenna system included three diversity reception zones – on stage, backstage, and audience area. In addition, the system included the Shure ShowLink system with Spectrum Manager for full remote monitoring and control of all Axient Digital functions, including interference detection and avoidance. All Shure systems were monitored by Shure’s Wireless Workbench software throughout the show.

Mix duties were handled by veteran engineers, with Ron Reaves at front of house and Tom Holmes handling the broadcast mix. Monitors were mixed by Michael Bove. Assisting Siniscal in wireless was Sisse Jonassen, who works with the A2s to ensure that all performers are properly miked with their assigned channels.

Shure Incorporated •

Knack For Their Craft: Elevating The Art Of Audio With Daryl Hall & John Oates On Tour

Courtesy of Greg DeTogne via ProSoundWeb

After a Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, he’s mid-sentence, talking about stage input, when the call drops. I immediately re-dial but land in voice jail. Patience, patience, I’ve done a million of these, we’ll reconnect…

Eight minutes pass before the phone vibrates on the overbridge of my desk, drawing the ire of the chubby orange cat lying next to it. “Yeah, sorry man,” the voice on the other end says. “You started getting a little choppy and then I lost you.”

“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “I think we can blame it on New York’s airwaves.”

“No,” he shoots back. “It’s me. I’m the monitor engineer. It’s always my fault, I have to take the blame.”

I’m talking with George Squiers, the person currently orchestrating the mix on stage for this summer’s Hall & Oates tour, which has the talented and prolific duo hitting a wide range of arenas along with Philly brethren Train. Squiers’ counterpart at front of house is Chris Salamone, and the gear used to make it all happen each night arrives courtesy of Firehouse Productions (Red Hook, NY). “I can’t say enough about these guys [at Firehouse],” Salamone says. “Bryan Olson, Chris ‘Radar’ Russo and staff have been amazing!”

The house system is headed by an L-Acoustics rig, with 12 K1s and six K2s per side for the left and right main hangs. Sixteen more K2s go airborne left and right as side hangs, eight KARAs deliver front fill, and 16 KS28 subwoofers in groups of four provide the low end in a cardioid configuration on the floor.

Blending Experiences

If you’ve heard of Fredericksburg, VA-based Salamone’s Recording Studio and are wondering if the Chris Salamone in this report is one in the same, you indeed guessed right. “I’m a live engineer first, 25-plus years and counting, who turned studio engineer along the way,” he explains. “It’s important to make that distinction as they’re two different skill sets entirely as we know, but there’s lots of crossover in how I approach both.

“Coming from a musician’s background, coupled with studio background, has really helped with shaping musical elements to fit together in a mix,” Salamone continues. “It’s also taught me the importance of subtractive EQ to carve room for all the instruments to live together and have a place in a recording. In live audio, there are not as many rules in putting together a mix because the dynamic range is wide open. The speakers can handle almost anything you throw at them. In the studio, we have to fit all of the elements into small speakers in order to get it to translate across many listening devices. I use these studio principles live in how I approach EQ, compression, level and panning, and it helps give the arena or room I’m mixing in a focus clear to the back of the room.

“This concept hit me years ago in my analog days. I was in one of the worst rooms I’d ever been in and I could not get the band to sound clear through the reflections [of the room]. Yet when I would play program material, the reflections became less apparent making the PA more intelligible. What was the difference? As I studied the reference material, it hit me. It’s the compression and the way it’s being applied that seemed to control the anomalies in the room. This concept of compression, with the combination of physical isolation and manual fader automation, changed it all for me and I’ve never looked back.

“Live audio brings in elements of splash and bleed,” he adds. “In the studio, this can be very cool but in a live situation, it is not welcome and I will go to any length to reduce this by physical means [such as plexiglass] and mix decisions. If I need to go further, I’ll turn to the musicians to aim things, or perform certain parts on a given mic, or just plain perform on-axis of a given mic. Sometimes it’s a matter of asking our monitor engineer, George [Squiers] to duck something in the monitors to reduce bleed and make it more manageable at front of house. I also rely on system tech Alex Fedrizzi to tune and align the PA each day.”

The tour also employs the talents of guitar techs Frank Robbins and Justin Stabler, drum tech Matt Fowler, keyboard tech Pepe Merconchini, PA tech Chuck Wells, and PA and stage tech Jeff Child. “This is very much a group effort out here,” Salamone notes.

A DiGiCo SD10 console working in conjunction with a redundant backup DiGiCo S21 serve Salamone in the house. Both are clocked at 96 kHz. The SD10 feeds a Lake LM44 processor through a pair of AES3 inputs for the left, right, subs, and front fill, while the S21 is also feeding a Lake LM44 through four analog inputs in the same configuration.

On the SD10, he uses a redundant pair of Waves SoundGrid Server One machines teamed with MultiRack SoundGrid through the onboard SD10 Waves port. A MacBook Pro is used to control MultiRack SoundGrid and to record multitrack for Virtual Soundcheck through Tracks Live.

“With this setup,” explains Salamone, “I can patch all of the usual suspects from the Waves Mercury Bundle across individual channels and buses. Additional processing is done with a pair of MacBook Pros going in and out of the SD10 via MADI with a Waves DiGiGrid MGB. Setting these computers up in a native configuration lets me use third-party plugins alongside my Waves plugins and have the best of both worlds. With this kind of flexibility, I can leave my analog processors at home and stay digital from front to back. A couple examples of how this works includes using an Eventide H3000 plug to replace my H3000S box and a Relab Development LX480 to replace my Lexicon 480L.”

All In The Mix

Both Salamone and Squiers stress that maintaining solid working relationships and communicating with the band are vital to their sound. “They literally help me mix the show,” Salamone confides. “Examples of this would be keyboard parts being pushed (level wise) from stage on a given part of a given song from Charlie DeChant and Eliot Lewis, or getting them to change the parameter of a sound that might in turn change the timbre, which most of the time works better than EQ from the console.

“Porter Carroll on percussion changes up how and physically where he plays parts to alleviate bleed into Daryl Hall’s vocal mic. while Shane Theriot switches out guitar amps and speakers to find the voicing that fits for me sonically. Brian Dunne and Klyde Jones’s consistent rhythm section coupled with Daryl’s voice never fail. John Oates is very much on the same page, pointing his amps away from his vocal mic, and from day one he’s encouraged me to do and ask whatever I need of the band. All of these little moves add up to a better mix and help these amazing songs translate.”

“The musicality coming from the Hall and Oates stage is second to none. Finding a way to translate that energy to the listener is challenging and is not as easy as just pulling up the faders on the console. Throwing a bunch of plugins at it is not the answer either. You have to use restraint and care in what you choose to process or not process. I try not to EQ and compress just because I can – every move is somewhat of an educated decision. The best metaphor for the finished result is like applying make-up on a model. Before the make-up, you see plain potential. After applying the make-up – EQ, compression and effects in my case – the features start to pop out and the model and hopefully the mix become extraordinary, with sophistication and sheen.”

There are 50 inputs on stage working with a traditional selection of microphones. Starting in the backline and working toward the front, a Shure Beta 52A [dynamic] is placed outside the kick drum and a Sennheiser e 901 [condenser boundary plate] is inside. Snare top and bottom get a pair of Shure SM57s, while hi-hat and ride utilize AKG C 460 pencil condensers, forming a nice complement for the Shure KSM32 side-address cardioid condenser overheads. The former supplies the desired brightness and the latter brings a darker coloration. An Audix D2 [dynamic] is on rack tom, while Audix D4 dynamics stand in for a pair of floor toms. SM57s once again show themselves for congas and bongos; chimes and toys go with a Shure SM81. Bass DI is a Countryman Type 85, bass mic another SM57.

All guitar amps are… you guessed it, SM57s, and the horn mic is an Audio-Technica ATM350 cardioid condenser. Keyboards are direct with more Countryman Type 85s. Backing vocals are all Miktek PM9 dynamics, while lead vocals are captured with Telefunken M80 dynamics. Everything is hardwired.

“I’m about spatial depth and imaging,” says Squiers about some of the defining characteristics of his mix, which he creates with the aid of a Yamaha RIVAGE PM10 (“it has girth, sonic quality, dynamics”), three racks of Crown Macro-Tech 36×12 amplifiers (“classic old school at its best, and I’m old-ish, so why not?”), and “Big Red,” an imposing rack-bound collection of outboard gear including his own I/O cage as well as Salamone’s, a splitter, Sennheiser 2050 RF transmitters used in conjunction with the custom Jerry Harvey Audio Lola in-ear monitors worn by every band memer except Daryl Hall (more on that in a minute), and two channels of handheld Shure UHF wireless, only for the times Pat Monahan of co-headliner Train drops in for a guest turn.

Hall will not part with his Firehouse 12 wedges. That’s non-negotiable, and right now spans across three different positions on stage – front and center, at his piano, or while he’s on electric keys. “He doesn’t want to wear ears, or a belt pack, none of that,” Squiers relates. “I did wedges for many years before people started shoving things in their heads. It doesn’t bother me. He likes to hear everything. I have a stereo mix in front of him – the outside wedges are left and right, and I pan things accordingly.

“All of the backing vocals are in their spatially correct places. The keyboards are stereo, and I have his vocals on the outside along with his vocal effects. So he has imaging right in front of him, it’s not like some mono mix beaming off his forehead. To alleviate some of the weight on the stereo mix I’ll put kick, snare, and bass guitar in the center wedge. There are three mixes really – left, right, and mono center.”

Different Registers

As for the band members wearing the JH Audio Lola IEMs, Squiers provides vocal prominence for everyone in their own mix, without developing an unhealthy sense of competition. “It seems like everyone sings in this band all the time,” he says. “There are so many harmonies going on in different registers. If I were to try to bring up individual vocals in everyone’s mix, I would wind up creating this volume war. Everyone would be going ‘I can’t hear myself, give me more.’ Each mix needs to be treated as a unique piece of real estate. I can tuck things in a lot nicer that way.

“When I start piling things on top of one another, the mix becomes convoluted, and you start screwing up your EQ as well. Start moving things off of each other, and it’s amazing what you can do with your EQ. The volumes change, there’s less competition. We have two ears, we’re blessed with imaging. You can hear things behind you, to the left, to the right, in front, and anywhere in between with spatial accuracy. Why take away from that experience when you’re onstage? It doesn’t make sense.”

There’s a celebratory vibe to the show, with fans embracing both the expected and unexpected. Those who come out to hear powerhouses like “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” “Rich Girl,” and “You Make My Dreams” won’t be disappointed, plus they’ll hear so much more.

“There’s really solid musicianship going on here,” Squiers concludes, sharing a parting thought. “They take the time every day to go through all their parts, triple-check their harmonies, and make sure everything is spot-on and in its place. You’ll hear all the songs, sure, and the nice thing is they stage them for a live environment. You won’t just hear what you heard on the record. Certain parts will be extended, other parts change. The crowd sings along and loves it. They’re more of a rock band live, with a lot of heart and soul.”