Westlife Bids Farewell With DiGiCo SD7s
Thousands of ‘ladies of a certain age’ had their hearts broken this summer as Irish boy-turned-manband Westlife finally hung up their microphones after a phenominal 14 year career. Signing (and singing) off with a 28-date tour of the UK and Ireland, two DiGiCo SD7s ensured that the fans enjoyed a memorable farewell.
Climaxing with two sold-out performances at Dublin’s Croke Park, the tour otherwise played multiple nights at all of the major arenas in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in many of which they hold the record as the band that has played the most consecutive nights. Returning to Front of House duties after a number of years and loving it, Andy ‘Baggy’ Robinson was manning an SD7, with the tour’s monitor engineer Becky Pell, using a second.
“As this tour was my return to FoH after a long time mixing monitors, I wanted to approach it from an analogue point of view. I wanted to prove that sound can really be mixed on a digital desk,” says Baggy. “At the same time I also wanted to make the most of the available technology, so I used the new SD-Racks and ran the show at 96kHz.”
Baggy used snapshots to change effects between songs, using mainly the SD7’s internal effects, plus a TC Electronic System 6000 reverb. “I like the TC6K reverb but, apart from that, there was no need for any outboard,” he says. “The internal effects are fine, for example I really like the dynamic EQ.”
He continues, “As with most tours, there were playback tracks to enhance the band’s sounds with additional synths, percussion and FX coming from tracks and we had things set up so we could take playback inputs from one rack as analogue and from a second as digital. The analogue box we were using to convert them sounded really good, so we built a macro to swap between the inputs and you couldn’t hear the difference.
“Overall, we kept it pretty simple. The SD7 is great at 48kHz, but at 96kHz it’s something else. It does make an audible difference and everyone said it sounded great.”
In monitor world, Becky is a long time DiGiCo user but had never previously toured with an SD7. It didn’t disappoint.
“I was looking forward to taking the SD7 on tour for the first time and it exceeded my expectations. It's the Rolls Royce of digital desks,” she says. “The crispness and detail of the sound running at 96kHz was a real treat and the audio quality is matched by the intuitive nature of the operation.”
With the members of Westlife using both in-ears and wedges and the supporting musicians in-ears and subs, it was a complex show for Becky to mix. But the SD7 took it all in its stride.
“The desk’s processing capability meant that it easily handled everything I needed to do and its versatility meant that I could lay everything out exactly as I wanted. This freed me up to watch the boys, rather than looking at the desk,” she continues.
“The snapshot operation is fast and intuitive to use and being able to crossfade snapshots gave nice smooth transitions,” she notes. “Because we were running both digital and analogue tracks alongside the live instruments, setting up the smart keys to trigger a macro to swap between inputs made it a one-touch operation.
“I've really enjoyed mixing on the SD7. Both Westlife and the musicians commented on the great sound quality - and if they're happy, then I'm happy. But beware - after using one of these, anything else will be like flying business class then going back to economy!”
David Webster at DiGiCo
Tel: +44 1372 845600
IMAGE 2: ANDY BAGGY ROBINSON - FOH ENGINEER
IMAGE 3: BECKY PELL - MONITOR ENGINEER
I was looking forward to taking the SD7 on tour for the first time and it exceeded my expectations. It is the Rolls Royce of digital desks