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10 Nov 2015

Roadskills: Maroon 5

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After touring North America, Europe and South-East Asia with their V tour, Maroon 5 finally arrived in Australia for a whirlwind three gig tour. The multi-platinum selling and Grammy Award winning rock band is mixed by Jim Ebdon whose CV includes Aerosmith, Annie Lennox, Sting and Matchbox Twenty.

Jim has been mixing Maroon 5 for the past seven years, but a long time before that he was a drummer and his mix always starts there.

Audio Design Engineer - Jim Ebdon

Audio Design Engineer – Jim Ebdon

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“If I get a great drum sound, it all pulls together naturally, with everything else just finding its way in the mix,” said Jim who was using a DiGiCo SD5 console to mix the show in Sydney. DiGiCo is a brand he has been loyal to since he was one of the original users of the D5, transitioning to the SD series when it launched.

“The SD5 is a fantastic console at a great price point,” he stated. “DiGiCo has certainly cured out the reliability factor of their products. The SD7 has the redundancy factor with the second engine but in all the years I’ve been using the SD7, I have never had to switch to the second engine. They’ve always been rock solid and I think they took the step making the SD5 because of the reliability factor. It’s a slightly scaled down version of the SD7; it’s more ergonomically compact but it still has a lot of faders.”

A Waves SoundGrid system offered Jim a wide selection of onboard effects including the new dbx 160 compressor / limiter plugin which he particularly liked. He is also a fan of the SSL G-Channel strip plugin and G-Master buss compressor, plus the H-Reverb which he says is the best reverb they’ve come up with and is on a par with any outboard reverb such as a Lexicon or tc electronics unit, if not a little bit better.

The band play live with very little track to augment the sound. The drummer is a hard hitter, the guitar sounds are big, in fact, live they tend to sound not so much like the pop records you hear on the radio, rather a rockier live version.

“I think it’s more exciting that way and Adam has a very powerful voice,” said Jim. “I use a standard Shure SM57 capsule on a wireless system for him and as long as he doesn’t stand in front of the drums too much, it works well. Sometimes during a tour he may get tired and can’t give it his all, so he’ll drop his power level down a bit to save his voice. We’ll then put plexiglass in front of the drums to help him out so there is not an unusual extra amount of drums down the mic and the balance of sound on stage is more tolerable. The band really are all great players and they are pleasure to mix.”

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Jim would be the first person to praise the snapshot functions on a DiGiCo and usually he’ll start a tour by snapshotting every song, he plays it different with Maroon 5.

“With Maroon 5, I find that although it would be easy to do snapshots it takes away the vibe and live element of their live mix,” he explained. “It’s becomes almost too processed and polished. Also, I think I could get a bit bored sitting at a console night after night pressing ‘next’ so I tend not to do snapshots with them anymore. I actually do a live mix which keeps it more current and is more fun for me. It’s like I’m playing the band: they’re playing and I’m playing them. And that’s what live music is all about.”

On stage Jim uses Shure shot gun mics as he makes a multitrack recording at every show and obviously the band like the sound of the audience in their ears. There’s a Shure SM57 on the snare and an AKG414 underneath the snare. Added to that are Shure SM98’s on toms, an SM91 in the kick drum and more AKG414’s for overheads. On guitars Jim has been using Royer 121 ribbon mics mixed with a Shure SM7 and he remarks that the combination of two mic sounds for each guitar sounds fantastic. Jim has been experimenting with a TUL G12 Classic mic, a boutique mic hand built and developed by a friend, Tully McCully, used on guitars.

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Audio Technica AE6100’s were used for backing vocals, while Levine went wireless with a Shure UHF-R system, with the transmitter out tted with an SM58 element. Kevin Glendinning is the bands monitor mixer and has all band members except the bass player, listening to JH Audio “Roxanne” custom in-ear monitors fed by Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems.

When touring the world with the band Jim speci es one of three PA systems; L’Acoustics K1, JBL VTX, or d&b J-Series. In Australia JPJ Audio supplied an L’Acoustics system with 12 L-Acoustics K1 per side as main hangs, six KARA underneath, plus 12 V-Dosc units as side hangs. Twelve SB28 subs per side were deployed in a traditional L-R con guration, three of which were turned out 90° off stage to even out the low end distribution. Rear hangs of Kudo enclosures ensured that seats could be sold past the 180° line.

“I know how an L’Acoustics K1 rig should sound so even if you have a great system tech, it’s very important to be thorough checking the processing system of the PA system,” commented Jim. “There are so many hidden elements nowadays it’s easy for settings that were touched by someone six months ago to be buried and not known about. I often find settings that are wrong or have been tampered with in some way. I found a couple of settings in this rig but there’s no charge to JPJ for finding them!!

“It can be a challenge when you turn up in a different country with a whole new sound system especially with such large shows with a lot of arrays, but JPJ Audio are a very good audio provider and it’s always fun to tour with them. They did a great job.

First published in CX Magazine (November, 2015) 

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