Toronto, Canada, July 2010: Now in its 23rd year, the Toronto Jazz Festival has grown from an ambitious upstart to become one of the world's premier jazz events, attracting some 500,000 visitors annually for ten days of music that features jazz legends and newcomers, and even well-known musicians of other jazz-inspired genres. This year's festival brought Maceo Parker, Herbie Hancock, and Harry Connick, Jr., as well as The Roots, Taj Mahal, Chaka Khan, and Macy Gray to the largest city in Canada. To accommodate all of the acts at the 1,200-seat Nathan Phillip Square main stage and the demands of their engineers, FOH guru Brad Mulligan set up the new Innovason Eclipse digital console to have a predicable "analog" topology. For almost all of the engineers, it was their introduction to Innovason's M.A.R.S. integrated multitrack recording system, which allowed them to record portions of the soundcheck and then tweak their mixes offline in headphones.
"Of course, the huge advantage of having a digital board for an event like the Toronto Jazz Festival is that we can save each act's mix at soundcheck and then recall it instantly for the performance," explained Mulligan. "That said, it's still the case that 85% of the riders we get show a preference for an analog board. The engineers want to focus on the music, not learning some menu-thick interface. The Innovason Eclipse is tremendously flexible, and I am able to set it up in a way that everyone agrees feels analog. In that way, we get the best of both - instant recall and an intuitive interface that puts engineers at ease."
The latest in a line of innovative digital consoles, the Innovason Eclipse is expandable to 320 inputs, 104 of which may be mixed at any time on 48 mix buses. The control surface features 48 faders, each with an associated rotary knob with intuitively configurable functions. For the Toronto Jazz Festival, Mulligan laid out 36 input channels. The SmartPanel section was set up in four very simple ways. As input channels 37-48, as aux sends with direct accessible rotary sends, as twelve channels of effects returns and finally, as the system matrix. In addition six VCAs and six VCA effects returns fill up the remaining faders all on a single, instantly-accessible layer. The average festival input request was 34. Larger acts were easily accommodated by adding channels to a second layer. "The beauty of the new design with the SmartPanel," noted Mulligan, "is the ability to have channels 37-48 available as SmartPanel rotary pots all on the one layer!"
"As I've set it up, the Eclipse is perhaps the most analog-friendly digital board out there," said Mulligan. "Everything is accessible from the control surface so there is no need to hunt around for things, which can be off-putting. When each of the engineers came in, I gave them a three-minute intro, and they were happily left to zero in on a mix for soundcheck." He added, "The Innovason Eclipse's very small footprint was also nice, as space at the FOH booth was a premium. Even still, the surface comfortably fits 48 faders."
However, M.A.R.S. integrated multitrack recording technology sets the Innovason Eclipse very much apart from both analog boards and its peers within the digital realm. Simply by plugging an external hard drive to the back of the control surface, the Eclipse is ready to make multitrack recordings that merge seamlessly with the board's live functionality. Recordings are made post-preamp but before processing, and playback automatically occurs on the appropriate channels. For example, if the bass drum is coming on channel seven, its playback also occurs on channel seven. Just as the live signal may have some compression and equalization, the playback (but NOT the recording itself!) will also receive the same compression and equalization. Changes made to the processing during playback will then also apply to the live signal on that channel.
"We were somewhat limited in our soundcheck time and there was another band directly across from us that ran shows from 4:30 to 7:00 pm," said Mulligan. "To handle this, I used the M.A.R.S. technology on the Eclipse to record each band's soundcheck. Afterward, the band's engineer would listen to the playback on headphones to perfect the mix. The wonderful thing about this technology is that there is nothing to think about, nothing to hook up and nothing to mess up. It's all seamlessly integrated into the way the console works." In a separate "Broadway" mode, the M.A.R.S. software allows some tracks to play back and others to run live, useful, for example, when playing back a pit orchestra while understudies practice.
"We received a lot of great compliments," concluded Mulligan. "The sound of the Eclipse was compared to high-end analog boards that many of these engineers grew up on.
ABOUT SENNHEISER Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in sixty countries around the world through long-term distribution partners and subsidiaries in France, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Canada, Mexico and the USA. Sennheiser's technology is produced in manufacturing plants in Germany, Ireland and the United States. Their pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy and the Scientific and Engineering Award (of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). The Sennheiser Group is proud to be affiliated with Georg Neumann (world leading studio microphones), and the joint venture Sennheiser Communications that brings their award winning technology to headsets for PCs, offices and contact centers.
ABOUT INNOVASON INNOVASON was founded in 1993 by two brothers that were enthusiastic about professional audio and digital technology. The name is an acronym from French that means "Innovative Sound". Innovason designs and manufactures all-digital audio mixing consoles and digital audio transmission snakes specifically for sound reinforcement applications.
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