Old Dominion – winners in the New Group category at the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards – have been busy independently touring their recently released album Happy Endings.
Front of house Engineer Ian Zorbaugh (pictured) and monitor engineer Dean Studebaker both decided to take SSL L300 Plus consoles, supplied by event production company Morris Lighting & Sound, on the road with the band.
Supporting the likes of Kenny Chesney and Thomas Rhett, the band has also been confirmed for Chesney’s 2018 Trip Around the Sun stadium tour.
Zorbaugh originally decided to take the SSL L300 out on tour because of the positive feedback he was hearing from other engineers, particularly Chris Rabold, who used L500 on the Kenny Chesney tour, which Old Dominion has been supporting.
Zorbaugh manages about 60 inputs from stage, with half of those coming from Whit Sellers’ sizeable drum kit, including two snares, four toms, and a wide range of cymbals. As well as the standard kit microphones, there are also a number of drum triggers, set up to feed the gate side chains on the individual kit channels. "All the cymbals are so close – some are actually closer to some of the tom mics than the toms are," explained Zorbaugh. "So having the triggers means that the correct gate opens when he’s hitting the tom and stays closed when the splash cymbal is flying around everywhere!"
Inside the SSL L300 at FOH, Zorbaugh bases the structure of his mix almost entirely around stem groups – a particular group channel type that you can mix to like an aux and that can have the same full processing and routing as any input channel – including the ability to route to other stems and use the internal FX rack inserts. "I’m probably using two auxes, total, and running almost everything on stems," he said. “I like having everything laid out so I barely have to leave my top layer."
“Everything sounds very natural – less like there’s a computer in the way,
– FOH engineer Ian Zorbaugh
For example, Zorbaugh routes the two lead guitar mics to a single stem so he can manage overall processing for that instrument, which then goes into the band stem. The SSL makes it easier to access contributions to stem with dedicated Super-Query (Q) buttons, which immediately spills those contributions onto the console surface with a single press, and returns to the original layout with a second press.
"I’m even sending things that don’t necessarily need it, to a stem,” explained Zorbaugh. “…Like the stereo keyboard channel. This gives me lots of options. If we have a TV or video shoot I can provide anything from an analogue split off of the pre-amps, to stereo stems of all the groups, or a full band stem plus a vocal stem, or a full-on left and right mix.”
Zorbaugh’s original motivation for taking SSL Live on tour was its reputation for sound quality: “Everything sounds very natural – less like there’s a computer in the way; like there isn’t as much ‘stuff’ going on – definitely a more analogue feel,” he concluded.