Live FOH engineer Chris Stephens (Jason Aldean, Wynonna, Michael McDonald) is part of a growing trend of live audio professionals turning to tools from Waves Audio when working with some of the biggest names in music. Lately, Stephens has been using his Waves plugins and M® with SSL Live L500 on Jason Aldean’s Burn It Down Tour.
Stephens notes, “I had been using Waves on and off in the studio since V6 [Waves version 6], but in the live setting I’ve been working with Waves since 2010. I started with a couple of plugins on my old VENUE Profile and have slowly expanded over the past four years. My transition into using Waves was slow, picking a plugin here or there to solve a specific problem. Over time, I had changed almost everything in my rack to Waves products. Since switching from the integrated plugin system of Avid VENUE to the standalone system of MultiRack SoundGrid, I have been very impressed with how robust MultiRack SoundGrid is and how easy it is to use.”
About specific Waves problem-solvers, Stephens says, “Jason Aldean’s setup is basically a five-piece rock band – no tracks, just two guitars, steel, bass and drums – so all of those pieces have to fit together perfectly. Waves’ Bass Rider helps me to level out the articulation of some of the more intricate bass parts while keeping the low notes locked in with the kick. Maintaining the relationship between the bass and kick is vital with so little instrumentation. Bass Rider is the perfect tool for achieving a consistent bottom end, which is the foundation of the mix.”
He continues, “C6 Multiband Compressor has become indispensable in my mix. It is the most versatile of the Waves products I use. For Jason’s vocal, I use the low band to compress 250Hz and below when he is at the bottom of his register or talking between songs, and the high-mid band to take a little harshness off of the really high notes. I am also using C6 on the bass with a dynamic EQ band, side-chained off the kick at 55Hz to clear room out of the bass for the transient of the kick drum to poke through. In addition I use the C6 on my L-R matrix out to the PA. I don’t use it every day, but I will use it to clean up the low-mids in a very boomy arena or to soften the highs on a not-so-great festival PA system. I started using InPhase last year and it has completely changed the guitar sounds I am able to get. We are using two mics on the guitar cabinets, a dynamic and a ribbon, and those mics sound best at different distances from the cabinet. This creates a phase difference, which I am able to correct with InPhase. Being able to quickly take a measurement and align those mics is absolutely key. In a live setting where despite our efforts we will never be able to get the mics in the exact same place every day, this is a must-have tool for any source with multiple mics.”
Summing up his experience using Waves on the Aldean tour, Stephens adds, “I use a DiGiGrid MGO to go in and out of two MADI optical I/O ports on the SSL Live surface. This configuration gives me 64 insert points at 96kHz between the SSL Live and Waves MultiRack SoundGrid. Those plugins run on redundant Waves SoundGrid Extreme servers. The routing options in SSL Live are the most extensive of any console I have ever seen. My MGO box lives in the console case, while my switch and servers are in my processing rack, so the entire system connects with just one Cat 6 cable.”
“We’ve just finished our first run of shows with SSL Live and I can’t say enough about the console and how incredibly excited I am with how we have integrated Waves plugins into the system.”