Ariana Grande may be tiny, but her voice is big enough to drown out a stadium packed with thousands of screaming fans …. with a little help from a Clair Cohesion PA and her FOH engineer Simon ‘Si’ Thomas.
Toby Francis, Ariana’s usual FOH engineer, asked Si to replace him at the helm of the DiGiCo SD7 last May as he left to work on Katie Perry’s new tour.
The Clair Cohesion PA has been utilized for her entire tour, unless unavailable in a country and then an L-Acoustics K1 or d&b J series stepped in, and it’s a system that Si is more than happy to have inherited. In Sydney, Ariana played the ICC Sydney Theatre with sixteen CO-12 per side in the main hang, twelve CO-12 per side in the side hang and three CP-218 flown per side in cardioid. Another six CP-218 per side were ground stacked in cardioid. Infills were Clair CO-8.
“It’s very compact and light weight compared to other line arrays in its class and it’s got lots of headroom,” commented Si. “It has a really good high/mid which is very smooth. With this kind of music there’s a lot of odd sub content that goes down really low with which the CP-218’s do a really good job. The CP-218 sub is particularly good, it’s very powerful.”
“No one had flown subs in there like we did and I believe that made a lot of difference because if there’s too much down on the floor, it’s pointless,” he said. “Once you get some sub higher up, it works really well. I had heard horror stories about the venue but it was fine and quite decent sounding. Although getting in and out of it is a pain in the arse!”
FOH there is a fair amount of analogue involvement, with Si using the SD7’s subgroups to route out through Lake Processors which convert the digital to analogue.
“I then have a Neve Portico 5059 Satellite 16×2+2 Summing Mixer and within that I’ve inserted various types of compression – Smart C2 for the drums, Crane Song STC-8 for the music, backing vocals a Tube-Tech SMC 2B multiband optical compressor and for Ariana’s vocal a Rupert Neve Shelford Channel,” explained Si. “The various compressors are on the A Channel side of the Portico summing mixer, which are then all fed to the B side of the summing mixer to create a master mix which has a Portico II Master Buss compressor across it. Then that would then output and come back into the Master Buss return insert point of the SD7 with yet another Lake, converting to AES. Basically it’s a like one big insert chain.”
Added to that were a couple of TC M5000’s used for drum and vocal reverbs. Si readily admits that it took him a bit of time to get his head around what was going on but concludes that the system works very well.
Ariana uses a Sennheiser MD 5235 dynamic microphone capsule with a Lake inserted across her channel so all of her vocal EQ’s are done in the Lake and not the console. In fact a lot of the serious work is not done in the DiGiCo which is basically being used as a big router! The Digico channel expander was used on the vocal to keep the noise floor down so when Ariana is in front of the thrust and is not singing, you’re not hearing the room noise or PA.
“I’m using a Telefunken M82 kick drum mic which is really, really nice,” added Si. “I also have Telefunken M81’s for the snare drums but the rest of the mics are fairly standard.”
Vish Wadi also used a DiGiCo SD7 to run monitors with everyone using Sennheiser 2050 IEMs plus there are flown sidefills, some CM-22 stage monitors on the floor for the dancers and CP-118’s providing sub onstage for the band.
“The Australian tour was good fun and we really enjoyed it,” said Si. “To be honest, it was quite easy …. partly due to my system tech Jerrell Evans and the JPJ crew of Tim Seconi and Alex McComark, who were good lads.”
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