After the concert last night, I headed over to the sound booth to chat with the FOH engineer. The venue was a large church in Guelph. Seating capacity was approximately 1,500 so a pretty large hall. The new auditorium had only just opened and this was the first concert.
We talked about the challenge for live sound engineers these days when they have to work on house systems. Before, you could count on analog boards, which usually had a degree of consistency. And larger venues typically deployed Soundcraft, Allen and Heath and Midas consoles. Mid-sized and up formats.
Newer digital consoles offer different challenges. Particularly if the design is not suited to live sound applications.
This church had installed the Yamaha M7CL console. A digital desk. Unlike the Yamaha digital desk at my church, which I find way too complicated for such an installation, this desk has been designed specifically for live sound. It is much easier to use for live sound.
Like most churches, the house operators do not make much use of the internal processing capability (compression, gating). Most volunteers in church sound haven’t been trained on how to use such processing so they are better off to leave it alone. Using default plugin settings to process audio signals is rarely a good thing.
The M7CL is organized in a three-tiered hierarchy that makes operation fairly straightforward once you get over the shock of having to learn a new board. Every input channel has a physical fader, ON switch, and meter that are visible and operable at all times. Major mix functions such as input gain, EQ, auxiliary sends, dynamics, and more are directly accessible via an interface. Functions that are not required for real-time operation during a performance are located one level below.
The desk looked simple. The input channels include a 72-dB head amp, phantom power, phase switching, high pass filter, four-band parametric EQ, and LCR panning capability.
My first reaction when I saw the board was based on my experience with the digital console at my church: difficult to operate in a live sound context with a steep learning curve.
However, the M7CL was designed for live sound. And that makes a huge difference in operations. After looking at the console and doing a bit of reading on it, I could easily operate such a board within an hour or so. Here are some pictures of the board.