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XTA’s Perfect Ten Gives Joe Cocker The Purest Path

United States
20 December 2007 — When evergreen, gravel-throated singer Joe Cocker set out on his current European arena tour, he and his band knew they’d have the ultimate sound quality in their monitors, thanks ten XTA DP324 SiDD processors in monitor engineer Niall Slevin’s rack.

“I come from the analogue age and I’m still not convinced that digital sound is better than analogue,” says Niall. “But I’m happy to use digital consoles because digital brings so much to the table. The possibilities are extraordinary and I believe the opportunity has to be grabbed.”

Audio equipment for the tour is supplied by Concert Sound and Niall is using a Digidesign Venue D-Show Profile console. He wanted an external EQ which would avoid him going through analogue/digital converters, meaning no degradation to the audio quality.

“It’s important to me that I have an EQ which is digital console friendly,” he says. “I needed something that was very reliable, that had a good EQ, a limiter that was fast and subtle enough for in ears, high quality compressions and which I could put on the output of a console that doesn’t usually like inserts. For all those requirements, SiDD fits the bill perfectly.”

The band is all on PSL in-ears, with Cocker using stage left/right sidefills for his band mix and a pair of wedges for his vocals. Because of this, perhaps the biggest advantage of SiDD for Niall is it’s aux sends. He has connected them all to a switcher’ giving him a very simple and effective way of hearing exactly what Cocker and his eight-piece band are hearing at any time.

“I have instant access to all my outputs by flicking a switch,” he says. “Because the output comes straight from the aux send of the SiDD, I have a true reference which is easily accessible. That’s really important to me.

“For example, I can change a little bit of EQ for the keyboard player and I don’t have to go through ad/da converters to do so. It gives me the purest signal path,” he continues. “If I’m inserting anything via AD/DA converters it means I add in latency and, with in-ears, a millisecond or two of latency can cause an effect in people’s ears. So the purest audio path is what I need.”

“I don’t go too heavy on effects in the full band mix,” Niall adds. “I try and make Joe feel like he’s in a bigger place that he is, I try to put him in a zone where he can forget about everything and just sing.”

XTA processing is also controlling the front of house system, which comprises main hangs of 14 EAW KF760 and three KF761 per side, side hangs of ten KF750/755 and nine ground stacked SB1000 subs per side, with front and centre fills of KF730s, all powered by Lab Gruppen 6400 amplifiers

The main hang is processed via an XTAs DP448, the rest with four DP226s, FoH engineer Chris Madden mixing on a second Venue console. System tech Dave Dixon is controlling the XTAs via AudioCore and a wireless tablet.

“I find the AudioCore software invaluable,” says Dave.. “Used in conjunction with the wireless tablet I can walk around an arena and alter the EQs, delays and gain levels on the spot. This can be done now with other processor packages, but AudioCore is a little easier to set up and use than most.”

“To me, sonically they are one of the best processors - even before any settings are programmed. And they are very road worthy, I can’t remember having ever any reliability problems. And they’re a great colour!”

The controllability of the XTAs is crucial in a set which is extremely diverse and with fans who know the ins and outs of every song, but with shows in venues that offer some acoustic challenges.

“Joe’s set goes from very quiet ballads to bluesy rock, it’s very diverse,” says Chris Madden. “The band features a range of instruments, there’s a lot of dynamics and changes of instrument going on, so being able to have quick and precise control of the system is very important.”

“For example, the Ahoy in Rotterdam used to have a banked cycle track and great acoustics but, since they took the track out it has annihilated the bottom end. Acoustically it’s a difficult venue. But everyone is really happy with how the system sounds.”
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