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Small size, perfectly formed sound – Yamaha LS9 and SB168-ES capture the different sides of Camille O’Sullivan


Part burlesque, part cabaret, part performance art, part music hall, part backstreet German club - Camille O’Sullivan’s live shows are like nothing you have ever seen before. From suspense so profound that you forget to blink to laugh-out-loud humour, from swaggering, good time jazz to emotion so raw that you feel as if you’re intruding on someone’s private grief, it’s a remarkably varied gig. Add to that a diverse array of UK provincial venues and an entire touring production shoehorned into a long wheelbase Transit - and you have the perfect scenario for the Yamaha LS9 and new SB168-ES stage box.

“It’s small, it’s light and it’s a Yamaha,” smiles front of house engineer Jon Sealey, summing up in just eight words exactly why the LS9 is in its element on such challenging tours.

“We’ve just got a long wheelbase transit for the gear, so with all the backline and the cables there’s not a great deal of room. The LS9 has so much processing power and, with the new stage box meaning that the multicore is a single Cat5 cable, it takes up no room at all.”

Supplied by Sonalyst, the audio hire company run by legendary sound engineer Rory Madden, this is the first time that Jon has toured with an LS9-32, but it has proved a painless experience.

“I get on very well with Yamaha consoles and have just spent 12 months with a PM1D on Evita, although that is obviously in a different league,” he says.

“Although this is the first time I’ve set up, programmed and operated a digital desk from scratch, it was very easy to transfer to the LS9 from the PM1D. I did the programming offline in Studio Manager, then went to Sonalyst a day before the first gig, put a USB stick in and it was away, which was absolutely brilliant.”

As well as Camille herself, the show features five musicians, playing drums, double bass, electric guitar, keyboards and flute/sax/clarinet, all except the bass player also having a vocal mic.

“It’s a standard setup,” says Jon. “Pretty much everything is close miked, in total there’s 30 inputs, including reverbs.

“I’m also mixing monitors from the LS9, just a wedge for each performer. It’s very easy with the Sends On Faders facility. That’s a great function - I just flip over to that for the monitor mix and then back, as required.”

From the sound perspective, the biggest challenge is that the tour is using house PA systems throughout.

“We subbed in some additional cabinets for the bigger venues like Brighton Dome and Birmingham Town Hall, but we have been largely are at the mercy of house systems,” says Jon.

“Camille’s vocal has to be on top of the band, which can be a challenge in rooms where the coverage isn’t quite up to the mark. But the LS9 has allowed me to make the very best of each venue - you know you can plug it in, it’ll work and it’ll sound great. The only link in the chain that’s likely to be questionable is the PA.”

“I would love to tour with our own system, but that would mean another van, another driver and of course the costs go up. That’s just the nature of this kind of tour and it’s been absolutely fine most of the time. There’s only been a few venues where I wish we had something else.”

Because of the varied nature of the show, Jon prefers to mix on the fly, making the most of the LS9’s comprehensive yet intuitive user interface, meaning that the user doesn’t have to scroll through pages of menus to find the right parameter to adjust.

“The user interface is very good, it’s all very obvious which is really helpful in situations where you perhaps haven’t got the best light, it’s very easy to push the right buttons,” he says.

“And it’s very good being able to fire up the desk each day and have it exactly as you had it at the end of the previous night’s show. I start with that at soundcheck each day and go from there.

“Particularly from a monitors point of view, there’s no chance of anything being changed while you’re in transit. It’s really nice that I can save the show file and, if anything did happen to go terribly wrong, I can instantly load the show into a replacement desk, if necessary.”

Not that the latter has been - or is likely to be - any kind of problem for a desk as ruggedly reliable as the LS9!

“So far we’ve done four weeks of four to five shows a week and I haven’t had a single problem,” he continues. “It works perfectly first time out of the box every day, which is exactly what you need on a tour like this when you only have around two hours each day to get in and set up.

“I just plug in a Cat5 cable to the SB168-ES stage box and off I go. I don’t even have to think about it. It’s absolutely superb.”

Playing to healthy audiences throughout, the tour has been an enjoyable experience for all, aided by the rapturous reception afforded at many venues where a significant proportion of those present obviously didn’t really know what to expect.

“The tour has gone very well, everywhere we’ve gone it’s been well received and there have been weeks where we’ve had four or five standing ovations in a row,” smiles Jon.

“We’ve done some venues where they couldn’t get to their feet quick enough, it’s really nice to go home with that in your head.”

As for hire company Sonalyst, Jon’s positive reaction to the LS9 has a familiar ring.

“We have LS9s, M7-CLs and a PM5D in our inventory, Yamaha are the digital consoles we favour,” says Rory Madden.

“As far as I’m concerned, they are one of the most reliable out there. They offer a great return on our investment, for the price the facilities are great, they are very intuitive to use and easy to teach.”

With high profile productions ranging from the arena tours for Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice to comedy tours by the likes of Little Britain, Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand and The Mighty Boosh, Rory needs his consoles to be able to handle anything and, vitally, have cast-iron reliability.

“The consoles are A1 and the SB168-ES is also really good. It has a great sounding preamp and allows us to cut down on a big multicore, just using Cat5 cable,” he says. “And, on top of all that, Yamaha’s service and technical backup is absolutely fantastic.”


Products LS9-32 , SB168-ES

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