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Many guitarists believe that analog is infinitely better than digital. Professional live sound, however, is not dictated by this mentality. Modern Live Sound is a DVD that bridges the gap between the analog world of live sound gear that many guitarists are familiar with and the latest generation of equipment.
Digital consoles are the future, already comprising 95 percent of the pro-level boards purchased today, according to a Nashville retailer interviewed in the DVD. Gone are the days when you could sit near the analog mixing board for a national act and get a visual on how many pots were hot and roughly what kind of signal processing was in the racks. These days, the big tours have digital boards with computer screens and built-in DSP, line-array speakers, and snakes the size of Cat5 cables. The engineers use software to calibrate frequencies and adjust line-array parameters, and—get this—they do it while wandering around the venue with laptops, iPads, and iPhones that can take measurements and talk to the main console. These technologies and more are explained in Modern Live Sound.
The DVD features working front-of-house (FOH) pros and design engineers walking you through the entire signal chain of basic and modern systems, starting with an excruciatingly elementary recap of microphone types. Signal-splitting, basic board functionality, and power distribution are covered along with signal processing, stage monitoring, and FOH setup. The extra capabilities of digital consoles—scene saving, effects plug-ins, easier signal routing, and multitrack recording—are also discussed.
Some less-than-slick video production keeps the DVD folksy. I’d also argue that one of the video’s most important segments—a recording of a band’s actual soundcheck—fails in that the play-by-play happens after the segment instead of during it. This 180-minute DVD won’t replace a formal audio-engineering education, but it will help you get your bearings on the technology preferred by the pros. Remember, at some point that technology will be offered in the gear the rest of us use.