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Errol Brown Tours with Flex Array, DiGiCo

FOH Staff • International News • March 3, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, U.K. — When Errol Brown, former lead singer and songwriter for Hot Chocolate, capped a 40-year career with a farewell tour, audio supplier STS Touring Productions Ltd. used a Turbosound Flex Array system and a new DiGiCo SD8 to deliver every nuance of his slyly flirtatious songs to every seat in venues throughout Britain.

STS Touring Productions Ltd. used its Flex Array system for the first time. FOH engineer Ralph “Rej” Jane and Keith Farmer had 12 TFA-600 and six TSW-218 subs available to customize the sound to each venue.

“We had Flex Array on demo for a few days a little while ago, which gave us the chance to do three very different shows with it,” said Keith. “That proved just how incredibly versatile it is. At all of them Flex stepped right up to the mark, delivering superb coverage and a remarkable amount of power and clarity from such small boxes.”

Speaking at the tour’s second show in Aberdeen, Rej was already amazed at Flex Array’s performance.

“The first time I heard it was two days ago, when we turned it on for the first show in Rhyl,” he said. “I have never in my life plugged in a PA with so much power and potential from such a small box. I couldn’t believe it. We’d set the consoles up in production rehearsals, but when we put the Flex Array on the end I literally had to reduce all the outputs on the desk by 30dB to keep the meters working at 75 percent. It really was a shock to stand 30 meters away from a PA that you can hardly see and experiencing that sheer force of sound because you’ve unwittingly got it turned up too loud.

“It is phenomenally powerful, but it’s not just SPL — it’s really high quality sound,” Rej continued. “And this was just from four boxes per side. We had the whole PA stacked onstage behind the proscenium arch in a 1,400 seat theatre and we got complete coverage both vertically and horizontally. There wasn’t one complaint about the sound — and the audience will let you know if they’re not happy.”

Rej has worked with Errol Brown for many years and a prime challenge of his job is that the latter sings very quietly.

“Errol isn’t a powerful singer, he sings as loud as he talks, and this is the clearest I’ve had his voice in a PA for 16 years. The Q pattern out of the box is so tight that I can get tremendous level from his radio mic before feedback.”

“Of course a major benefit for us as a sound company is that we have a very happy client,” Keith added. “We’re running the system flat. Unlike with some systems, you don’t need a lot of external processing, corrective EQ and so on to make the boxes sound artificially better.  And you don’t have to use a particularly powerful amplifier in order to make the cabinets sound right, they sound right anyway. I think that’s incredibly important and something that Turbosound has always been fantastic at achieving.”

Rej agreed, adding, “The clarity is beyond reproach and you know it’s the speaker cabinets that are doing that. The sound of the system immediately told me that anything I do to the mix is not going to inter-react with anything else in the mix. If I boost one instrument, it’s not going to affect a whole area of bandwidth. I can layer and window things so much more accurately.

“This is the best line array I’ve come across. Straight from the box it is remarkably better than anything else I’ve used.”

STS also attended the product launch for DiGiCo’s SD8 hosted by Wigwam Acoustics at Manchester’s School of Sound Recording last November, and opted to purchase the unit from Wigwam after the test-drive.

“The floating point processing puts the SD8 leaps and bounds above other digital boards I’ve used before,” Keith said. “It puts it into a different league to others at the same price point. It has a good number of inputs and outputs, which are more than enough for most applications, and you can add more outs if required. And having remote preamps are unheard of in its price bracket. That alone saves a lot of manpower and time.”

Before joint the Errol Brown tour, STS’s SD8 was put to the test for a European tour with Cradle of Filth, which was a multi-band event with five different touring engineers.

“None of them had seen an SD8 before and all five were happily mixing on it within 20 minutes at the first show in London,” said STS Touring’s Paul Collis, who also remarked on the unit’s “value for money and quality.”

“After the tour every engineer told me how much they had enjoyed using the console and would like to tour with it all the time,” Keith added. “It’s very easy to teach someone how to use it and it is literally seamless stepping from the D1 and D5.”

For the Errol Brown tour, Keith manned the SD8 at the monitor position, and the console allowed him to provide a comprehensive set of monitor mixes for the eight-piece band.

“There are two stereo and three mono wedge mixes, plus sidefills. The drummer and two backing vocalists are on stereo in-ears, plus three reverbs,” Keith said. “With various effects that artists want, these days it’s pretty easy to end up with over 20 monitor mixes.

“To be honest with you, I fell in love with it on day one,” Keith concluded. “From the first moment I fired it up I thought it sounded fantastic. I’m recording every show for both archive use and for virtual soundcheck. This saves a lot of time indeed. The console is excellent and I want to use it on all the shows I can.”

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