Tweaking the Front End

by Katherine Schimmel
in Tips & Tricks
Remote recording legend Guy Charbonneau inside his Le Mobile custom studio on wheels.
Remote recording legend Guy Charbonneau inside his Le Mobile custom studio on wheels.

A Chat with Remote Recording Pioneer Guy Charbonneau

If you happen to know something about recording great music live, then one step through the doors of the legendary remote recording studio, Le Mobile, is all it will take for you to be transported into a completely different realm. A formidable electronics heaven that was built slowly over time, Le Mobile is the place where the best of the old has been combined with the best of the new in ways that can best be described as über progressive.

Leaning against the padded helm of his iconic Neve console stands Guy Charbonneau, founder and creator of Le Mobile. And having completed literally thousands of successful location recording projects for top artists in hundreds of venues worldwide, he has done and seen it all — at least in terms of audio technologies.

Charbonneau is dressed casually, all in basic touring black.

Le Mobile has long been a place where vintage meets state of the art, and Charbonneau has never been afraid of trying new methods and technologies. We spoke about his recent experience using DirectOut’s Andiamo.MC and Andiamo AD/DA MADI converter.

Housed in a compact, single-rackspace enclosure, the MC is a 32-channel microphone preamp and AD/DA MADI converter with both MADI I/O and 32 balanced line analog outputs and an onboard with a full MADI routing matrix. The unit can be operated locally or remotely via the Andiamo Remote software.

Also in a single-rack chassis, the Andiamo AD/DA MADI converter provides unidirectional conversion of 32 audio channels from analog to digital. Two units can be cascaded for 64 channels of conversion and bank selection allows the choice of audio channels 1-32 or 33-64 from a MADI stream to be converted. Standard features include an onboard Matrix offering free signal routing on a per-channel basis.

Some 96 input channels fit in a single roadcase.

FOH: Let’s talk equipment…

Guy Charbonneau: My approach to recording live music has stayed the same through the years in that I’ve always tried to capture and preserve live-to-performance in its purest form. So everything I do, or have ever done with respect to the equipment that I’ve used, has been grounded in this ideal.

What initially attracted your attention to the Andiamo.MC?

It’s simple. Over the years, the distance between the stage and where Le Mobile is able to park has increased. In large part, this is due to changes in security but also to advances in digital technologies.

So in order to compensate, I decided to create a type of “trick” digital interface by using a MADI fiber system to replace (as needed) the long analog audio copper snake that I had been using. Of course, the MADI fiber system would need to interface with our Neve 8058.

I approached DirectOut because I needed to run some tests and since I have a history of not reading spec sheets, I thought I’d try it. I really liked the packaging, the way it was built, and the MADI options that were offered with this system.

However, I also knew that in the end the key to this partnership would depend upon the overall sound, its flexibility, and its adaptability because ultimately it would need to be used across a wide variety of highly dynamic platforms.

Can you take us thorough the evolution of this project?

After some preliminary testing, I reached out to an audio tech guru named Jean Luc Louradour so that he could design circuitry that would allow me to use the copper, or MADI feed, without any gain or audio change.

You see, for me it was critical that in the long run the digital audio would have zero degradation.

What we came up with was perfect. The MC sounded very authentic and we were quite pleased with the customized system that we had created.

So you modified, among other things, the remote control software, in particular the user interface.

DirectOut already had a remote to set up the unit’s parameters and gain. This works fine if you have only one MC and don’t need to change the setup or gain of multiple units. Initially, I talked to them about creating a remote that can handle multiple units.

The tweaked control software, inside the Le Mobile truck.

So you could save and recall everything as one rather than individually?

Absolutely. That was key. I’ll give you an example. During a recent show, I needed to record ten performers but only had two minutes to switch from one performer to the next. Meaning, I had to individually select each unit and then “save” and “recall” them one by one.

This approach, however, is not only difficult, but is also prone to error.This particular show gave me some ideas. I decided to take a snapshot of a remote on my computer screen and print it. I created a quick sketch of my concept and sent it to DirectOut. Not only did they embrace the concept right away, but they sent me a beta version as well. And with just a few key updates, they were able to come up with a very easy remote for me to use.

They understood your needs and you ended up with a flexible, fully customized solution?

Yes, and they responded quickly. I really wasn’t expecting it, because I was basically still stuck in the 1970’s and 1980’s mode of customer service.

Even today, most manufacturers will do some updates in order to get you to purchase their latest version. However, the problem for me is that often times manufacturers will add features that are not all that useful. And, of course, they may not really listen to what you need.

The DirectOut difference was a very refreshing change from this other model because it was all about understanding what I needed and then working to modify the product so that it fit with what I had envisioned.

When I am in the middle of capturing a performance, I need reliability, intuitive functionality and ease of use. The support I received from DirectOut gave me the freedom to record the way I I can’t ask for more than this.

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