Avid S3L System Movin’ On Up for Primal Scream’s 2013 World Tour

For iconic Scottish alt rockers Primal Scream’s latest tour, space for the crew to carry equipment was at a premium. Front of House engineer Michael Brennan was faced with having to fit his kit into a small trailer that would be towed behind the tour bus as it worked its way across Europe and on to Japan for a flying visit before returning to the UK for the tour’s final dates. Ordinarily the lack of space would have meant going on tour without a mixing console.

Brennan, who has exclusively worked on Avid systems for the past eight years, approached Avid about using an alternative solution – specifically its new versatile and compact S3L live sound system. “I wanted to use the S3L on this Primal Scream tour for several reasons,” says Brennan. “I knew that its sound quality is second to none and because of the compact size of the board and the stage-boxes, I would be able to fit it into the trailer. Additionally, the show file I had already created on my VENUE was compatible with it, so I was confident the transition would be simple.”

Compact size and high performance Come Together

The new console also made its Japanese debut on the tour, having been supplied locally by Clair-Japan. “It’s perfect for a small club tour and because of the S3L’s modularity and networked Ethernet AVB architecture, the setup time is so quick, plus it’s really easy to scale up if you need to,” explains Brennan. “I can set up a 64-channel desk, 48 lines of stage-box and a 128 channel, 75m Cat5e multi in around ten minutes. If you add in its space saving size, it’s just awesome! I couldn’t have taken a board on tour if it wasn’t so small and modular. I’ve had to carry this one in a Transit van, splitter, truck, car and plane, and it’s been really easy to move around.”

It’s not just the sound engineers on whom the S3L has made an instant impression. “It’s also proving really popular in the venues because it has such a small footprint that promoters can sell more seats, which they obviously love,” adds Brennan.

Can’t Go Back to rival manufacturers

Michael’s a long-time Avid user, having first worked with a D-Show on a Super Furry Animals tour in 2005, and has not looked back. When he then got his hands on an Avid Mix Rack System he was so impressed he bought one of his own, which has accompanied him on every tour he’s been involved with since. He has also mixed, produced and recorded many albums over the past 15 years, always using Pro Tools, for artists including Snow Patrol, Primal Scream, Mogwai and Super Furry Animals.

“Avid is the industry standard for live sound. They’re available globally and I’ve never had one fail, despite having mixed over 700 shows on the system,” reports Brennan. “The advantages that you get with using Avid live systems over rival digital consoles are superior sound quality, functionality and reliability, and all within a compact footprint. There’s a great choice of awesome plug-ins, plus comprehensive support and back up. These benefits are fundamental for audio consistency on any tour and make for a great mixing experience.”

Discussing the cost benefits that come with using an Avid system, Brennan says, “I can bring an extensive system that takes up little room on the truck, where space is at a premium, and on the smaller tours, thanks to the S3L, I’m now able to take my own board and have it in a van. It’s also reassuring that I can call on Avid’s worldwide support network and spec a board locally, so we can save money on shipping costs, which can really add up over the duration of a tour. I can’t think of a territory where I haven’t been able to source a Mix Rack, Profile, SC48 or S3L and I’m comfortable using any of these systems as my show file is compatible with all of them.”

Brennan added, “I’ve built up an extensive catalogue of sound system and room EQ’s which allows me to go to any live venue with any PA and instantly recall my stored settings, giving me a great starting point. With the plug-ins and output patch function on the board, I’ve been able to use it as a system controller and crossover on several occasions. This has saved the show both times that the system controller broke, which was awesome.”

Workflow Accelerator

Because Brennan regularly uses Avid’s Virtual Soundcheck feature, he always dials in the show before he goes on tour. “When the band comes in for rehearsals, I record the set onto Pro Tools directly from the board, and then I’m able to sit down with the artist at FOH, locate any point in the set and allow the artist to hear my mix. The scene function has been a major breakthrough and is very powerful, as it gives the artist a sense of involvement and confidence as they’re able to really know how they sound. It’s a very creative tool that allows me and the band to realize and achieve the sound we both want.”

On Primal Scream’s 2010 Screamadelica tour, Brennan recorded every show on Pro Tools, and was then able to mix a live DVD in stereo and 5.1 formats using Avid’s industry-standard DAW. He says, “The compatibility of Pro Tools with the Avid Profile surface made this a simple process, and I was even able to mix it on the Profile surface as I already had the song mix dialed in.”

With such a wide range of tools, functions and plug-ins at his fingertips, Michael can focus on creativity and greater collaboration with artists, without having to worry about space constraints, technical hitches and setup time.