Latino superstar Gloria Estefan swept into the UK in late July, headlining at the Summer Pops Music Festival at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. The tour, intended to be her last, has covered Latin and South America plus European festival dates, and is being supplied with a Midas XL8 Live Performance System and Klark Teknik DN9696 hard disc recorder by Clair Brothers Audio.
By the time the tour arrived in Liverpool, FOH engineer Mark Dowdle had clocked up around 50 shows on the XL8 and was having a great time using it. “I was searching for something that would give me the facilities I need for a show of this size: normally more than 100 inputs,” he says. “I’ve used some digital desks which allowed me a lot of inputs on a small surface but they didn’t give me the sound I was used to getting, so I gravitated back to analogue.”
As a longtime Midas user, when Dowdle heard about the XL8 he looked into spec’ing one for this tour. “I’ve used XL4s, H3000s and PRO40s over the years and always loved the sound,” he continues. “Midas desks have that musicality and transparency I’m looking for, the EQ is always responsive and sounds fantastic. As soon as I got in front of the XL8 and heard it for myself, I knew it was what I was looking for. It’s not recognisable as a digital console when you listen to it. It’s unique in the digital world as far as the audio quality is concerned. Having incredible sounding mic preamps combined with the approach taken laying out the control surface, it’s almost like I’m on an analogue console with the extra ability to handle the large input bands I’m used to. My favourite feature is the XL8’s POP groups which allow me to go directly to whichever inputs are assigned to that group; at the push of a button it’s all right in front of you and immediately accessible.”
Dowdle has used the XL8’s automation to programme 29 scenes for the show. “I end up mixing rather actively, but with as many inputs as I have, along with a multitude of instrument changes throughout the show, having a great starting point for each song is invaluable,” he says. “It allows me to have everything set exactly the way I want it, so I’m comfortable that I’m starting in a good place and I can take it from there.”
Cheryl Preston is operating the Klark Teknik DN9696. “I love it; I had it up and running straight out of the box and its ease of use is unbelievable,” she says.
The benefits of the DN9696 are twofold on this show. Firstly, with no time to soundcheck on an average show day, it’s invaluable for virtual soundchecking. “Having a multitrack of the actual show as it’s supposed to sound is wonderful because we can pull it up, tune the PA, and even if we only have an hour, we’re up and running,” says Preston.
“And for recording the shows, rather than have a truck and a bunch of people turning up, and making sure they understand what’s going on and that it’s being done right, there’s one little box, and in three minutes you’re ready to go. It connects straight into the XL8 and is practically foolproof.”
The DN9696 has been mounted inside a case, with hardwired connections to two external hard disc drives. “We average three shows on a set of hard drives, then I pull them out, put them into a box and ship them to the studio for remixing; it’s that easy,” says Preston.
Both Dowdle and Preston are more than happy with the increased functionality and flexibility the XL8 and DN9696 have added to the tour. “The XL4 was the best sounding analogue console that I’d ever used, and Midas have done such a great job of translating that sound to digital that I have the best of both worlds,” concludes Dowdle. “The XL8 has quickly become my all time favourite console, bar none. The shows just keep getting better and better thanks to the XL8.”