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Mixing Michael Buble’s 2019 World Tour

by Suzi Spangenberg • in
  • May 2019
  • Production Profile
• Created: May 8, 2019

Setup for Michael Bublé photographed at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on April 03, 2019 by Jay Blakesberg. Solotech’s Dean Roney, left, is joined by FOH engineer Craig Doubet

FOH engineer Craig Doubet discusses science, sound, tour life and…violence?

Many kids can lay claim to building gear using Radio Shack kits back in the day, or being the person teachers tapped to solve their school AV problems. However, only one can claim these as the spark igniting a diverse career stretching from designing a system for the Grand Mosque in Mecca to designing and mixing FOH for Michael Bublé.

The audio crew. From left, Francis Lussier, Jeremy Walls, Sebastien Richard, Craig Doubet, Jonathan Trudeau, Marc Depratto, Louis-Philippe Maziade. Not pictured are Charles Deziel and Dean Roney. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

‡‡         Early Influences

Craig Doubet is never happier than when he can combine his love for building systems with mixing. “I’ve been soldering since I was nine years old,” says Doubet. He recalls building a carbon microphone telephone and a speaker amplifier from a Radio Shack kit in the early 70’s when he was growing up in Waukegan, IL. “My grandfather gave me a cassette recorder when they first came out, and I was like, “Hey, I can make this louder.”

Doubet went on to study audio technology at Indiana University’s School of Music, graduating in 1986. Following graduation, Doubet left Illinois for Los Angeles, working for Scream Studios for seven years. “I spent three years with producer Michael Wagner and did mostly metal records,” Doubet recounts. “We did Skid Row, Ozzy and Kiss.” Doubet states that he “learned a lot” from David Leonard, who he describes as one of his favorite mix engineers. “I also did a couple projects with Andy Walsh, one of which you might have heard of — Nevermind. Yeah. That one.”

Following his time at Scream, Doubet says he “got my passport and went to Argentina and Chile” to record Guadalajaran band Maná. Doubet was asked to “build some stuff” for a 1995 Luis Miguel tour and, two months in, was asked to mix the show. “I’m still mixing today.” Doubet lauds systems engineer David Lawler, a.k.a. Dr. Dave, as the person who taught him how to rig P.A.’s, aim speakers, test speakers and tune systems “long before anyone one else was doing it.”

In 1998, Doubet headed back to Los Angeles, where he got tapped to build a large reinforcement system for the Grand Mosque in Mecca. “I’ll never see it, but it was an interesting gig.” Doubet went on to do a project for Disney before heading over to Staples Center for two-plus years, working on a low-voltage installation before returning to music.

Systems engineer Jonathan Trudeau and FOH engineer Craig Doubet. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

‡‡         Call from Mr. Bublé

Fast forward to 2007. Doubet was mixing k.d. lang, Sergio Mendez and Michael Mancini, among many others. He had just opened a soccer stadium in Los Angeles for AEG when he got a call asking if he was interested in Michael Bublé. He was, and has been with Bublé ever since. When asked which he preferred more, building or mixing, Doubet replied “there’s no easy answer there. It’s why touring is a great fit for me, because it involves both things. I find it helps to put all those things together because the left side, the right side [of the brain], and the mixing becomes freer for me if I have a really in-depth knowledge of what the signal’s doing. Building the rig and tuning it gets me to the point where I get what’s possible, adapt it and learn to live with it.”

Doubet shared the three most important things he’s learned in his career thus far. “First, like with being a doctor, do not harm the music. What is the source? What is the artist trying to get across? That’s your primary focus.” Second, Doubet recommends having a really good grasp of physics, saying “physics makes so many things clearer every day. I can walk into a room, gauge it, and know that the arena with 14 rows of retractable seats will make for an interesting time loading 200 Hz. Third, says Doubet, is to “keep your reference. The sense of hearing has an extremely short memory, so always refresh your ear with stuff that’s good or well-recorded. Listen to music all the time.”

In 2008, the Bublé tour began using Solotech audio. “It’s a good relationship. The people are fantastic — well trained and practiced, interested, and an inspiring group to be around. They’ve provided everything I’ve ever asked for.” Doubet went on to say that “the boss himself (Bublé) likes what we call the family vibe, which is what it is.” As he said this, Bublé came out and started tossing a football to the crew. Doubet deftly returned the ball. “This is my favorite crew in the world to work with. Always. Even on the rough days they’re fun to be around.”

Overview of P.A. indicates the complex requirements for covering the main stage, thrust and B-stage

‡‡         It’s Complicated…

The tour rehearsed in London for a week, then moved to Palmetto, FL for production rehearsals prior to the first show on February 13 in Tampa. “The first leg was exhausting. There are 19 trucks, and we’re doing three shows back-to-back. Now we’ve got the load-out down to 2.5 hours or less, so we have a lot more free time.” When asked for one word to describe this tour, Doubet’s answer was immediate. “Big. It’s big for us physically. It looks big. It sounds big. It is big.”

Having more than 32 musicians on stage makes for complex mixes — both at FOH and monitors. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Bublé is known for not using a wireless, however with the current large thrust and B-stage, going wireless “gave him more freedom,” says Doubet. He went with a Sennheiser 6000 with a Neumann KK205 capsule for Bublé. The other vocals are on Shure Axient handhelds with DPA 4018S capsules. “The horns are all DPA 4099s and the strings are DPA 4060s.” Doubet says his biggest challenges are “having so many open mics, as well as the way we pick up 16 string players every day locally — so rehearsing them, sound checking them, figuring out what they’re doing… it’s an added mind-bender.”

Doubet mixes on a Solid State Logic Live 500 this tour. “Right now, there’s DiGiCo and SSL at this level. The SSL was a natural choice for this show because it’s so big and sounds great. It has a lot of warmth and heft. It just responds. I’m using nothing external on his voice. I’m only using the channel strip, and the dynamic EQ in the console. I don’t need anything else, except I’m using a Universal Audio Live Rack 2, to run one UA plug-in.”

Monitor engineer Marc Depratto. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

‡‡         Tag Team at Monitorworld

Canadians Marc Depratto and Louis-Philippe Maziade are the two audio monitor engineers for the tour. Depratto echoes Doubet’s characterization of the crew, saying “it’s not just work colleagues, it’s people you want to hang out with,” and sharing that he runs daily with frequency coordinator Charles Dezial and is a member of “Craig’s Fine Dining Club.”

Depratto mixes Bublé and the quintet, and Maziade mixes the orchestra. They are using DiGiCo’s SD7 Quantum, which they chose for flexibility. “I’m running more than 130 channels on the desk, something that not every desk could handle,” says Depratto. “The SD series has a specific tone that I really like. It’s the closest to analog that the digital world can offer. I requested the Quantum because I wanted to run the whole session at a solid 96k.” Depratto says that they are using all onboard processing, with the exception of a couple Lexicon PCM 92’s that provide a “nice and rich reverb” for Buble’s vocal. With so many sources onstage, there’s a lot going on in monitorworld. “We’re running 42 stereo mixes right now, spread between two consoles.”

Monitor engineer Louis-Philippe Maziade. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

The stage wiring is impressive. Depratto does it himself with the help of local hands for the string section, saying “we have 7×24 pairs multi to supply the engines. All the cables live directly in the boxes, so we can deploy them quickly and efficiently.” It takes Depratto about 45 minutes to do approximately 100 inputs and be line-check ready. “Everything is color-coded, labeled and cut to size.” The audio team welded and customized all the looms, which paid off in the long run. “We do not have an analog split, we run the input through the SSL input racks, which have a through output that routes to the SD racks.”

Depratto says everyone is on Ultimate Ears UE-11 in-ears, and only Michael uses wedges. “Singers with big voices like Michael don’t just need to hear their voice, they need to feel their voice as well. To translate that sonic sensation, we need both in-ears and wedges. A big part of the show is on the B-stage, and if we didn’t have this P.A. configuration, it would be absolutely impossible. The half-theater design Craig and Meyer Sound collaborated on is an absolute game changer. When we had a classic L/R situation with delays, Michael would go off to the B-stage and basically have a ginormous P.A. shooting at his mics. This design eliminated that problem.”

The P.A. employs more than 170 Meyer Sound speakers. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

‡‡         One Big Rig

This is a big tour that requires a lot of P.A. — there are more than 170 Meyer Sound enclosures in the mains and 15 monitor wedges employed, plus side fills. Doubet states that the combination traditional Left-Right and in-the-round P.A. “design was driven by the stage layout. The large catwalk and B-stage left little room for audience on the floor. To cover the arena and avoid the staging, I expanded the P.A. downstage. The main arrays are downstage of the B-stage, and cover the entire back half of the arena bowl. I added the mid-side and side arrays to cover the area between the stage and main stage. Front fills and floor fills cover the seats along the catwalk and in the VIP pit. The in-round elements were added to be able to localize the B-stage,” Doubet explains.

“Whenever Michael (and any instruments) move to the B-stage, those inputs are routed into the round system. This design satisfies the need to avoid leakage into Michael’s main performance area. It also satisfies Michael’s main goal of never having his vocal behind him.” He goes on to say, “it’s also about coverage. This show is about making sure everybody in the room gets a very similar sound and that the vocal is crystal clear.” Doubet adds that he mixes on average around 97 dB with FOH peaks around 107 dB. “I look at the audience. I don’t want them to be beat up. It has to be exciting.”

Photographed at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on April 03, 2019 by Jay Blakesberg

Doubet shared that he was able to meet up with Meyer Sound’s Bob McCarthy and David Vincent while they all happened to be in NYC, and he asked about in-round systems, knowing that Meyer had recently assisted Metallica with an in-round P.A. design. “We reviewed some pictures, sketched a couple of ideas on napkins, and discussed the idea of being able to move inputs between clusters on the fly.” Meyer Sound provided space map programming by Rob Melo and array processing starting points by David Vincent, who came to production rehearsals to ensure it all went well. “I can’t say enough about the support from Meyer — Helen Meyer made sure I had access to all the personnel I needed, and provided a set of Amie [compact near-field] studio monitors, a sub and Galaxy 408 for my FOH setup.” Doubet went on to say “I have been mixing on Meyer Systems since 1995. I always loved the super-smooth midrange and extension of the MSL5, and the LEO brought that back to me on the first listen. The LEO family is an extremely versatile system and the vocal reproduction is the best I’ve experienced.”

Doubet notes that he especially enjoys mixing Bublé’s version of “My Funny Valentine” because “it’s just so ominous. It’s great fun to mix.” However, the close relationship between the crew, as well as the most fun, seems to take place during “Cry Me a River,” where Doubet says “Jon (Trudeau) and I pretend to punch, shoot or strangle each other. It’s different every day. People laugh. It’s such a James Bondish song that it just calls for violence.”

No worries there, Mr. Doubet. You’re killing it.

Jon Trudeau and Craig Doubet rehearse their strangle pose for “Cry Me a River.” Photo by Suzi Spangenberg

Suzi Spangenberg is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Michael Bublé photographed at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on April 03, 2019 ©Jay Blakesberg

Michael Bublé World Tour

CREW

Sound Company: Solotech

FOH Engineer: Craig Doubet

System Engineer/Crew Chief: Marc Depratto

Monitor Engineers: Marc Depratto; Louis-Philippe Maziade

Audio Techs: Jonathan Trudeau; Charles Deziel; Francis Lussier; Sebastien Richard; Jeremy Walls

Tour Prod. Manager/Solotech VP Touring: Dean Roney

The setup at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on April 03, 2019, Photo by Jay Blakesberg

PA SYSTEM

Main Stage PA: (16) Meyer Sound LEO-M, (2) LYON-M, (14) LYON-W

Main Side PA: (6) Meyer LYON-M, (22) LYON-W

Main Subs: (12) Meyer 1100LFC

Main Front Fills: (8) Meyer MINA, (2) JM1P, (4) 900 LFC subs

B-Stage Mains: (10) Meyer LEO-M, (12) MICA

B-Stage Side/Rear: (44) Meyer MICA

B-Stage Subs: (12) Meyer 700HP

B-Stage Front Fills: (7) Meyer MINA, (2) 900LFC

 

FOH GEAR

FOH Console: SSL Live 500

Outboard Gear: Focusrite RedNet A8R, MP8R; RME HDSP3 MADI FX (96kHz recording) with Wave Tracks Live; UAD Live Rack with Ultimate Bundle

PA Control: Meyer Galaxy 816 AES, (7) Galaxy 816; (4) Luminex GigaCore 16XT; Mac Mini w/Rational Acoustics Smaart 8

 

MON GEAR

Monitor Console: (2) DiGiCo SD7 Quantum; (3) SD Racks

Outboard: (2) Lexicon PCM92; Avid Pro Tools recording from MADI stream

Monitors: (15) Meyer Sound MJF210

Side Fills: (4) Meyer Sound JM1P

IEMs: Ultimate Ears UE-11’s

IEM Hardware: Shure PSM1000 (20 ch.), (22) P9HW hardwire packs; (8) Albatros Audio PH9B headphone amps

RF Mics: (6) Shure Axient Digital AD2G57 w/DPA 4018S capsules, (10) Shure AD1G57 bodypacks; (4) Sennheiser SKM6000 Digital 6000 w/Neumann KK204 capsules

RF Rack: Shure AXT600 and AXT620 Spectrum Managers, Shure UA845UW splitter; (3) ASUS AC3200 routers; (4) Shure Axient Digital AD4Q; (2) Sennheiser EM6000; (10) Shure P10TG10 IEM transmitters

Mics: (17) DPA 4099, (20) 4060; (2) Shure Beta 52, (6) SM58, (2) KSM32; (2) Sennheiser e901, (4) e904, (2) MKH4116; (10) Neumann KM184; (2) Audix i5; (4) AKG C419; AMT ERTS; (2) Schertler DYN-G-P48 pickups

DI’s: (4) Radial PZ-DI, (5) J48, (8) JDI

Intercom: Riedel Artist 64 System with (16) Bolero units

 

Tour Notes

The first North American leg of Michael Buble’s 2019 World Tour wrapped up on April 19 at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place. A 15-date European segment kicks off later this month, with a second North American outing starting July 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and concluding Aug. 3 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec.

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