For engineer Kevin Madigan, manning the FoH responsibilities for Crosby and Nash on tour this year has been nothing but sheer pleasure. The famed duo, who have been harmonizing ever since Crosby, Stills & Nash formed in 1968, have been touring the U.S. for the better part of the year, and are weaving their way through Europe this fall with highlights along the way including London's Royal Albert Hall and the Olympia in Paris. Madigan's well aware that the responsibility of representing the band's iconic, shimmering harmonies accurately night after night lies squarely upon his shoulders. For that reason, and after almost a decade of mixing exclusively on a DiGiCo D1, D5, and SD8 Madigan felt the time was right to make the transition to an SD7 once rehearsals commenced for the overseas dates.
"This is one of the best groups you could stand in front of night after night," Madigan mused. "Their songs are so legendary that it's such a pleasure for me, and the show gets up and rocks, too, because they've got an incredible backing band. But it does have a lot of acoustic elements with just the two of them harmonizing and that puts the responsibility on me to take really good care of them because the songs are so important and the vocals are so pristine. You're kind of under the magnifying glass, so you better get it right. I can't just throw up a mix and let that be it. That's why I'm so careful about what I choose to use as my tools and the whole reason that I use the DiGiCo boards... because I know they're going to sound the best. In fact, I've never chosen anything else on a production run for the last 7 years."
Over the course of the week-long rehearsals, Madigan was able to familiarize himself with the new console, build his mixes and map out the show. "I was already quite familiar with the desk, having seen the prototype during development and reading all the press on the desk. The same workflow and familiarity of the D5 was still there and if you're familiar with the DiGiCo interface you're going to get this straightaway, but there's a progression and improvement from the D Series—they listened to comments from engineers and did their own research—and the SD7 has an improved flow. Another thing that struck me right away was a noticeable improvement in the new SD rack, the overall sound seems more cohesive and tight and I was really struck with how good the preamps were… they're just stellar! With Crosby & Nash's exceptional vocal harmonies, that's where the board and the preamps and the effects really shine, especially on the acoustic songs where there's nothing to hide behind and you can hear how really good they sound and how great the reverbs are."
With the plethora of those onboard effects and the Waves SoundGrid bundle at his fingertips, Madigan's been able to slim his outboard gear down to a pint-sized package. "For the last few years, I've carried a decent-sized rack of outboard gear with some of my favorite things that I like to use, and now with the SD7s effects and the addition of the Waves plug-ins a lot of that rack is going to stay at home. In rehearsals, I did a comparison of one of the hardware units and the actual software emulation and was hard-pressed to find the difference, which was huge! Waves make such good stuff that's so useable. I've had great conversations with [live product specialist] Noam Raz from Waves and he's been helpful at giving advice and I narrowed it down to a few plug-ins I'll be using regularly including the CLA classic compressors comprised of CLA-76 and CLA-2As. They're favorites for everybody and work fantastically well. I'm also loving the SSL compressors and channels and the API 2500 in particular, and really looking forward to getting into some of their EQs as well. Recently in the studio mixing some Crosby/Nash tracks, I used a pair of amazing sounding Fairchild 670 compressors, and now to have that in the Waves bundle for use live is going to be fantastic."
The buzz about the new console has made its way to both Crosby and Nash, who both came out to have a cursory look at Madigan's glimmering new desk. "David hasn't been out to have a full look at it yet but it's really peaked his interest. I had a conversation with [managing director] James Gordon about the time they were doing a lot of R&D for the console and he told me that [technical director] John Stadius went to a lot of the high-tech boat shows to see the kind of control surfaces they were using to expand their ideas by looking outside the immediate audio industry. I mentioned that to David, who's of course a huge boating and sailing man, and he said, â€˜I gotta see it!' So I'm sure he'll be coming out for a look sometime soon."