Looking back on some of the most demanding stateside tours that took place this past summer season, it's no surprise that many entrusted their audio to none other than DiGiCo's flagship SD7 console. Raising the bar for live sound engineering with its Stealth Digital Processing and unique Super FPGA technology, the SD7 has become a familiar sight doing duty at FOH and/or monitors for tours of varying magnitudes and genres—311, Arcade Fire, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Neil Young, Tool and Widespread Panic (with 8th Day Sound); Jay-Z, The Jonas Brothers, Maroon 5, Maxwell/Jill Scott, Nickelback, Rihanna, and U2 (Clair Global); Taylor Swift and Lenny Kravitz (Sound Image); Angels & Airwaves and Morrissey (Rat Sound); Los Tres (3G Productions); The Killers and Foo Fighters (Delicate Productions)—among a mere few!
Undoubtedly, the highest profile outing of the bunch is U2's ongoing 360° Tour, employing multiple SD7s—one at FOH and two to provide monitor mixes for The Edge and Bono. Long-time FOH mixer Joe O'Herlihy chose the SD7 specifically based on its superior sound and versatile specs for the mega multimedia production. "The SD7 gives you a multi-matrix with which you can send a signal from any one channel to any one destination, and we have matrices going all the way around," he explained to Total Production magazine. "For me, the SD7 is a very cleverly thought-out console — a much smarter version of the D5, which I used on Vertigo. DiGiCo listened hard to many engineers about things that might work better for us, and the operating system that now exists is at such a superior level."
For Grammy-awarded NeoSoul stylist Maxwell, who made his much-anticipated return to the stage this spring on a co-bill tour with Soul/R&B singer-songwriter Jill Scott, both group's monitor needs were facilitated by an SD7. Clay Hutson handled the headliner with Jim Roach working with Scott's needs. "The SD7 was literally the only console that could come close to doing what we needed it to do," said Hutson, "between the amount of inputs/outputs needed for the two acts. One of the beauties of the console is that anything you want it to do, it will do. The new Stealth processing allows us to load the heck out of the desk with all these dynamics and effects, and it's a very stable platform… Not to mention, the dynamic headroom is well beyond anything that's out there and the sound is transparent."
David Payne has mixed FOH for a host of artists, including Taylor Swift's latest chart-busting tours. At his fingertips, the DiGiCo SD7 helps unleash his audio vision in the live arena. "The DiGiCo SD7 is a console that keeps up with what I want to do creatively as an engineer. In the past I found myself wishing I could do certain things without the use of outboard gear. I don't find that to be an issue with the SD7. There is an amazing amount of power at my fingertips. The control surface is also set up for speed and ease of use. When first learning the surface, there were many times that I thought to myself, 'Well that's exactly where that needs to be'. From the location of EQ controls to how easy it is to access all the parameters of a multi-band compressor, it all makes sense. The sound quality is superb as well. The lack of typical digital artifacts that make you shy away from digging into an equalizer or compressor are gone. I feel at ease really crafting what I can out of every single channel without worrying about negative artifacts the console may be producing. I have found the onboard effects to be superior as well. The algorithms for the reverbs are seamless, and the delays and pitch shifts are perfect for layering some depth into your mix. I am very satisfied. Thank you DiGiCo for a great product!"
Widespread Panic's veteran FOH guy, Chris Rabold, has trusted his mixes to the SD7 for several years on non-stop tours, including this summer's "Dirty Side Down" outing. "The processing power the desk affords you as a mixer is pretty impressive to say the least," he raved. "My EQ moves were minimal, the dynamics were phenomenal (never thought I'd say that about a digital desk) and the summing busses never had that â€˜choked' sound common on other digital consoles. As much as the SD7 can do with all its available features, it's the basic sound of the desk that I'd cite as my favorite aspect. It just has a very pure, uncolored sound and â€˜analog' in its characteristics. But more so because of the fact that it does NOT sound like your typical digital desk. There's no upper-mid harshness or high-end brittleness. The low-mids are strong and defined. I don't ever think, â€˜I wonder if what's bothering me about this sound is a result of the converters or the individual inputs?' I seriously used to think that on other consoles. The way the inputs sum is pretty amazing, too. You don't lose resolution or depth as you introduce different elements to the mix. Needless to say, I was totally blown away by the sonic quality of the desk."
Eighth Day's Executive VP Jack Boessneck concurred. "The technology in the SD7 is light years ahead of any other product in the marketplace; the processing power is far and above all the competition. With the proven DiGiCo â€˜touch' interface, along with the built-in redundant engines, MADI ports, dynamic EQ and compression on every routing pool of 1392 connections and cool video channel, 64 integrated stereo effects, interface, the SD7 is a world class console in every respect."