As one of the top-grossing tours in 2009, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra fuse elements of progressive rock, symphonic heavy metal, and classical music into a unique blend, and are known for their dazzling live performances, complete with full light show and synchronized pyrotechnics. In 2000, TSO created two separate touring groups—TSO East and TSO West—to allow the band to cover more ground, and they've maintained that format ever since. Last year, as the band was clearly maxing out their monitor board, the conversation got the ball rolling to implement DiGiCo SD7s for both touring outfits. They previously toured with D5's on monitors and the change to SD7s gave the production what they needed. It quickly became an integral part of TSO's live sound.â€¨â€¨
"I prompted the discussion early on last year for the SD7 primarily because the biggest handicap for us was the amount of outputs our show was using… we were running out of outputs," recalled monitor engineer Antonio Luna, who has toured with TSO East for over 7 years, and previously with KISS and Aerosmith. "We needed a console that was flexible to our growing needs, especially for in-ear monitors. Because of our familiarity with the D5 at monitors with TSO, and my past experience with using DiGiCo on other tours, it was a no-brainer. Production, management and Clair Global were all on board and a part of the decision to get the SD7s. The quality of audio is outstanding, and it's an evolutionary step up from the D5. Now we have a platform that is able to expand as we expand, and DiGiCo is an important part of our sound." â€¨â€¨
The monitor rigs for East and West are somewhat identical. Both implement the SD7s and similar in-ear set-ups, although TSO West, under the production guidance of engineer Chris Hoffman, has more RF than East. For TSO East, Luna manages 60 inputs and 48 outputs—including 16 in-ear mixes, 9 outs for wedges/subs, myriad FX—for TSO's live production, (which includes electronic drum kit with mic'd cymbals), 2 guitarists, a bassist, 2 keyboard positions, a lead violinist, a narrator, a 9-piece choir, an 8-piece orchestra and 6 lead singers. His rig is comprised of 14 Sennheiser IEM G3 and 2 IEM G2 wireless monitor systems, 12 Crown Macro-Tech 36x12 amps, 16 Firehouse F15 monitors, 4 EV 118 subs and a Clair iO processor.
Once implemented, Luna found that the DiGiCo's biggest advantage was its workflow and ease of use in managing the hefty number of monitor mixes required by the band live. "When you've got 24 people on stage and 16 stereo in-ear mixes, you better be able to get stuff done quickly. I had my show programmed into 32 snapshots in a little under 2 days time for a 2-1/2-hour show. I was amazed that it went that quickly. Affecting change is quick and easy on the SD7, and I rely on it heavily. It has a finished quality that is important in keeping my workflow quick and easy, and makes the artist happy."
Additionally, the overabundance of onboard features the SD7 offered was also a big advantage, and he cited the tube emulation among his favorite tools. "I love it! The saturation sounds good in the ears and really makes the vocals stick, if you know what I mean. It sounds great on everything. I'm even using it on the FX returns… Literally, I have it on everything. The dynamic compression has been a big thing for me as well. I love being able to affect a certain bandwidth instead of the whole source. It's really tightened things up on the IEM outputs. The 50 available Macros are a feature we have been using to turn on or off certain console functions like fader assigns channel or performing the save function on a macro key. The way the talkback section works is awesome for a monitor guy. Any console input can be injected into either solo bus, which makes communicating with the band while handling multiple IEM mixes a breeze."â€¨â€¨
Perhaps most critical to any touring engineer is the end-user support from a manufacturer for when the inevitable technical questions that arise. Luna says the few times he's had to reach out, DiGiCo's technical support was exemplary. "Our desk has been operating flawlessly, but whenever we've had a question about something in particular, DiGiCo was there. Their support for this tour has been stellar and they have a great team of guys. A big thanks to TSO Tour Director Elliot Saltzman, Clair Global's Todd Johnson, and Group One/DiGiCo's Matt Larson for making it all happen."