FOH engineer Philip Harvey (Modest Mouse, White Stripes) recently hit the road with The Kills on their 50-date US tour, having been charged with the dual task of both mixing the band’s performances and recording their ten-year anniversary show in New York City.
In order to capture the essence of band’s sound, Harvey opted for his Metric Halo interfaces, having been introduced to them during his seven-year tenure as FOH engineer with Medeski Martin & Wood. “It was around 2000 when the folks from Metric Halo approached the band,” he explained. “They showed me the Metric Halo Mobile I/O 2882, which was their top-of-the-line interface at the time. I was amazed to learn that I could reliably record twenty-four tracks with my Macintosh G3 laptop and three 2882s. The thing had something like 256 MB of RAM, and with all the processing taken care of by the Mobile I/Os, Metric Halo could always coax an incredible performance out of it.” At the same time, Metric Halo demonstrated its SpectraFoo sound analysis software to Harvey. “Since then, I’ve used all the other programmes, including a few quirky iPad apps, but nothing compares to the smooth, musical performance of SpectraFoo,” he said. “I’ve come to trust the tight correspondence between the reality of what I’m hearing and its visual representation in SpectraFoo.”
As The Kills only had a trailer for gear on this tour, Harvey had to keep his rig as light and compact as possible. A Digidesign SC48 digital console was ultimately selected, into which Harvey installed a XO16 output card to feed 16 channels or groups to his Metric Halo ULN-8. In addition, he tracked both the mix output from the board and a M/S pair of AKG 414s as audience microphones with his Metric Halo Mobile I/O 2882. Overall, Harvey recorded 20 inputs of every performance using Metric Halo’s MIO Console software to the custom installed internal hybrid hard drive on his 2011 MacBook Pro. Following some experiments in rehearsals, Harvey determined that the entire rig sounded better if he let the Metric Halo ULN-8 serve as the master clock.
“Since I’ve been working with Metric Halo equipment for over a decade, I’ve come to appreciate the company’s extreme commitment to ensuring that everything it sells is future-proof,” said Harvey. “It is the exact opposite of the ‘planned obsolescence’ business model that pervades the industry. I bought the MIO 2882 I use today in 2000, and then a couple of years ago they sold me a 2d card for a fraction of the price of a new interface… it increased its processing power by a factor of five. What other company is that serious? And then, of course, you have the ULN-8, which sounds absolutely amazing. Between the pre-amps, converters and clocking, I use it when recording, mixing, and mastering. It reveals things in the mix that other interfaces completely smear over.”
Harvey used the fifth input on the Metric Halo 2882 to feed an Earthworks TC40k omni-directional mic to the Metric Halo SpectraFoo sound analysis software that was constantly up and running on his MacBook Pro. “It’s all the routine stuff that SpectraFoo makes easy,” he commented. “I adjusted the soundcheck mix to compensate for all the bodies present at the show. I watched for frequency build ups. I watched my volume by calibrating the volume to an SPL meter, which is a simple thing to do with SpectraFoo. I even used it to identify the precise delay time between the board and the ambient mics, which is crucial when going back to mix these live recordings.”