Colombian artist and activist Juanes has been topping the Latin American charts since his debut in 2000. From his fifth studio album, "P.A.R.C.E.", sprung an eponymous worldwide tour, which kicked off in the spring of 2011 with legendary mixer, Robert "Cubby" Colby at the audio FOH helm. Colby, who met Juanes while mixing the Latin Grammy's in 2002 and again in 2003, signed on with the artist 2004/05 and has toured with him over the past several years.
Joining Colby on the P.A.R.C.E tour is Eighth Day Sound systems engineer/crew chief, Edgardo "Verta" Vertanessian, along with monitor tech Fabian Quiroga and PA techs Vince Buller and Clinton Reynolds. Verta has worked in sync with Cubby for over a decade on various tours, first with Shakira and later with Luis Miguel. Verta started with Juanes on the "La Vida es un Ratico Tour" back in 2008 and the pair have enjoyed a tight bond both on the road as well as off. "Cubby and I are always in contact even when not touring together, talking about different approaches to PA configurations, new technologies, new equipment, and sharing our experiences from different tours."
That synchronicity has made for a symbiotic working relationship and workflow when the two are paired on the road. "Working with Cubby is fantastic as we know each other very well," said Verta, "and we have worked together enough so we both know exactly what results we want from the PA. I believe that the goal as a systems engineer is to understand what the mixer/engineer expects from a PA and try to meet that expectation with a technical approach on a consistent basis. Every engineer is different and prioritizes goals in different ways, and the work method used to communicate and achieve that goal is essential. While on tour, there are many ways to approach consistency: matching target curves, EQ techniques, keeping a consistent relationship between tops and subs cabinets regardless of the venue size, keeping the same array heights, keeping the same SPL for the same master fader level, for instance."
"I usually time-align the PA and balance the different sub-systems according to a target curve I know works well for Cubby's approach to mixing," Verta continued. "We look very carefully at our signal path and make sure we are using all the devices in the system at their optimum range. From gain levels at the pre-amps to drive level into the amps, it all has to make sense and give Cubby enough headroom for mixing. Working with Cubby is always a learning experience, too, as he has a huge background of mixing under very different circumstances. He has used many different PAs and consoles, mixed many different bands, and I believe he has always been a perfectionist with great attention to detail."
That attention to detail in particular includes a Colby-specified DiGiCo SD7 at FOH, a console he's been rocking the faders on for a host of high-profile tours. "The Stealth Digital technology that DiGiCo has embraced has truly taken the product line of SD consoles to a new frontier," Colby offered. "It's got impeccable, pristine sonic quality. I've been using DiGiCo products now for the last 5-8 years, and they've made great advancements in that period. I'd have to say for me it's the console of choice. The SD7 offers me the best sonic quality as well as onboard features."
The SD7 is accommodating a total of 70 inputs and works in tandem with a d&b J Series system, comprised of 16+2 J8/12 mains, 10+2 J8/J12 sides, 5 JSub flown subs, 9 B2 ground subs, 2 JSub center subs and 3 Q7 front fills.
As for external source material, video feeds, etc, they're managing an audio feed from a video server for the AT&T Sponsorship Video ads that run before the show, plus an audio-for-video feed for the special effects that start as well as end the show.
In addition, they're implementing one of the new DiGiCo SD racks, as well, run at 96kHz, of which Cubby says, "They have a crystal-clear response and improved dynamics."
"We are using Lake Processors to interface between the SD7 and the d&b D12 digital amps," Verta explained. "All amps are networked, with control at FOH. The d&b PA is really consistent and versatile. Both the software and hardware are rock-solid. The SD7 is providing digital feeds with analog backups to our Lakes onstage. It also feeds a Lake processor at FOH for TV and media feeds. The signal path is 100% digital with analog redundancy at all stages."
"My work with Eighth Day, touring with artists like The Killers, Chayanne, Seal, LCD Soundsystem, Jay-Z—and with quite a few Latin acts in big outdoors stadiums—gave me the opportunity to explore different setups and work with large PA configurations and compare the results through time. Juanes is particularly big in South America, where he plays at big outdoors soccer fields pretty much all the time. The challenge at those locations is to have a powerful yet crystal-clear PA response even when many times we have to supplement what we carry with us with local PA add-ons. We would have Mains and Sides arrays, maybe a 270º hang, flown subs, four to five main ground subs stacks, plus two to six delay towers with distributed subs stacks, depending on the venue. Cubby runs subs through an aux send and sometimes we had three different aux sends for the different subs zones. Phase is very important to us as we carry a heavy loaded sub-bass PA but one of our goals is to have the right balance all throughout the bass guitar range. At certain points we spent a lot of time playing a bass guitar track through the PA, making sure all the notes had the right presence at different places in the stadium. Cubby is very focused not only in having a powerful PA but also an accurate one in the low and sub-low range. He looks forward to a system with enough dynamics to get the impact he likes but also very clean all throughout the spectrum. The d&b J series is really up to the task and we have been using it with great results at many different locations."
Onstage, the look is very clean with all guitar amps in ISO cabinets located offstage. "The majority of the mics that are being used are fastened to the drums and large percussion set up with the very best ISO adapters that minimize any unwanted noise. This was well researched by Cubby and his relationship with all the different microphone manufactures that are on the tour, and this attention to the details is what gets us the best end results possible for the artist and the fans. There is a very small number of mic stands. The concept of this show is to have a clear stage, huge LED screens, big PA."
Both Colby and Verta found much to love onboard the console without the need to carry any external racks or stacks. "I do not use any outboard inserts at all," stated Colby. "I have also changed over to a complete arsenal of RADIAL J series DI's as well as their SW8 switcher units. I recommend that if you haven't tried their products, you do yourself a favor and give them a shot… you will not be disappointed! You will be astonished on the difference they make on direct inputs. There is no loading of any device they are connected to which in turn gives you a better freq. response as well as dynamic response."
"Along with this technology," Colby continued, "I am loving the implementation of full snapshot automation with detailed scope control, as well as the new onboard Multi-Band Compression and Dynamic EQs, which give you the best of both worlds and are available on all paths not just inputs. The expansion of the Control Groups/VCA's, of which I'm using 12, has also allowed me to have all of the musical inputs that I want right in front of me. The SD7 is super-fast and allows you to lay it out in many different ways. By using the Banks & Layers, you can often set it up to not have to change sides of the console. The Macro setup is very easy and useful for so many different short cuts. I utilize this function, as well as the DDL Tap and Verb Taps, more then I ever thought I would. Another shortcut I like to use is to bring my "save session" to a Macro bump. This saves time and constraints on my mixing. I've found the snapshot scope to be very helpful and a great way to organize your song lists. You can get as detailed as your imagination allows. The larger touch screens are nice and of course the color control makes for a beautiful looking console, which immediately makes you feel comfortable sitting in front of it. As you use the console from day to day, and from tour-to-tour you'll find other features that will help you navigate your mix surface. The SD7 is a super-fast and really intuitive console… Smart guys there at DiGiCo!"
Daily multitracking served as show archiving as well as virtual soundchecking for the band, using Nuendo on a MacBook Pro with a single RME MADI-Express Cardinterface. "This allowed me to travel light when we had one-offs where we didn't bring control to," Verta explained. "Another thing that was helpful with this setup was being able to playback the tracks after linecheck and before soundcheck so we were 100% sure on the PA response. It also allowed us to discuss changes we might have to make on EQ or sub-system levels before doors. We would make those changes and then revert back to our normal settings for soundcheck. This little routine made it easy for us because during the first or second song, we could choose to either make those changes or not, but if we decided to make them then we knew exactly what to do with a minimum of talking involved."
That compact recording setup also came in handy for Cubby who was asked to record two separate shows for management and for the tour sponsors to be used for online promotions. "I was able to do everything with the gear we already had in place, which was a huge savings for the artist. I then took the files home to my studio to mix, which all worked out just fine. It's amazing that with the quality of the gear available these days, you can save both time and money to accommodate these last-minute kinds of requests, which previously would've been an expensive proposition."
Another financial boon the SD7 console provided was its compact footprint at FOH. "From a production point of view, management was very impressed with how little of a footprint we occupied," Verta offered. "This allowed us to have 20 more paying customers over the course of 100 shows, and which translated into dollars for both the house and for the artist, not to mention, these seats (usually some of the best in the house) can now be enjoyed by the fans."