London’s Grade 1-listed Union Chapel recently installed a Soundcraft Vi3000 digital console, the latest acquisition in a carefully planned three phase upgrade of the venue’s technical infrastructure.
The Soundcraft console, distributed in the UK and Ireland by Sound Technology Ltd, was supplied by Crystal Pro Audio, while the house technicians carried out the installation themselves. The 900-capacity venue had already invested in an earlier digital desk with different characteristics, but wanted to give incoming production teams a choice of tonality, flexibility and feature set.
In outlining the requirement, head technician Les Mommsen said, “We set a number of criteria; the new desk had to have rider compatibility; be future-proof; give us flexibility for later expansion and meet the budget. Soundcraft ticked all those boxes.”
Promoters and bands have been taking advantage of the building’s enviable acoustic by adapting their sets to the restricted 88db(A) threshold (over 15 minutes) that is imposed.
“The artists know they have to listen to the room — we ask them to play to the space and many produce shows that they wouldn’t normally do,” Mommsen added. “The pay-off is that we need to provide the best equipment that will enable them to achieve these lower levels, keeping the performance intimate, and at the same time enhancing the audience experience.”
Having regularly used a Soundcraft Vi6 and Vi1, the company’s first generation of digital mixers, Mommsen was instinctively comfortable with the platform. “The sound quality is excellent and by using the built-in Dante interface and additional card slots we are providing recording engineers with digital options.”
Combining its analogue and digital capabilities, the Vi3000 allows a total of 254 input and output paths. With increasing Dante applications and with the industry moving towards bringing the studio into the live format, Mommsen continued, “It’s geared up to provide a live stream, or provide a feed anywhere in the building and the next phase is to have the desk talking to broadcast trucks.
“Hosting high quality acoustic concerts, often including string or choir ensembles, is what we do well, and the Vi3000 provides us with everything we need to deliver the highest fidelity possible. The preamps sound great as is the precision and clarity of the console. In addition, it’s a very intuitive console and there are multiple ways of doing everything to fit everyone’s workflow.”
He also praised the support of Sound Technology Ltd: “Stuart Strachan (Sound Technology’s live sound project engineer) was extremely helpful and they have provided training for the sound crew and will undertake further onsite training,” he said.
“We have put ourselves in a good place where expansion is easy — there’s now flexibility without swapping out the entire system, which was one of the key advantages of the Vi3000,” Mommsen concluded. “The aim is to leave the audience with a feeling that they will want to come back and at the same time having a first class technical infrastructure will encourage promoters to put more acts on here.”