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X marks the Yamaha consoles

Dec, 2009

Whether it’s been the judges or Jedward, the 2009 season of television talent contest The X Factor has, as always, got the British public talking. And helping to get the contestants singing has been monitor engineer Fred Jackson and his trusty Yamaha mixing consoles.

An integral part of all six series of X Factor so far, Fred is an associate of Delta Media, a division of Surrey-based audio company Delta Sound which specifically services the broadcast industry. Delta Media supplies all of the onstage monitoring equipment for the live X Factor performance and results shows, currently being broadcast every Saturday and Sunday evening on ITV1.

Having used Yamaha digital consoles for many years, and the company’s analogue desks before that, Fred used a PM5D for monitors on the first five series of X Factor, this year expanding the system to two PM5D-RHs and a DSP5D.

“Each year the demand for channels on the programme has grown, so this time I'm running a PM5D-RH and DSP5D expansion unit to give me 96 channels for the contestants, with a further PM5D-RH for our guest artists,” he says.

“Obviously X Factor is huge, it’s more of a phenomenon than a television programme, and with two shows going out every week the equipment has to be totally reliable.”

For the first two weeks of the live shows, Fred was using one PM5D for wedges and side fill mixes and the second console for guest artist IEMs. The DSP5D came online when the third week’s theme required a live big band to play onstage alongside the contestants.

“We’ve had some very high profile guests in this year - the likes of Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Brian May and Roger Taylor. Most acts tend to bring along their own monitor engineer, so we can just point them to the PM5D-RH and they’re happy to get on with setting themselves up. It’s such a well-known console that we can just leave any guest engineer to get on with it. Most are pretty happy to just be left alone!”

Once the second console is set up, it’s used with the first console and DSP5D in cascade mode for the contestant performances, then it’s straightforward to load the settings for the guest performer and use it separately for their song.

“The main console is maxed out,” smiles Fred. “Because we have a very different stage floor this year, full of LED lighting fixtures, we can’t bury any wedges. The rule is that nothing must impact on the visual element. So as well as all the performers being on Sennheiser G2 in-ears, we have a lot of monitors and side fills offstage and flown from the truss.”

Interestingly, while the technical side of the show is complex, Fred’s personal touch is equally important on X Factor.

“My job is very much to help and guide the contestants, to get them comfortable as quickly as possible with monitoring, something that most of them haven’t had to use before,” he says.

“It’s my job of put the tools of the trade in their hands. I say to them ‘This may be new, but it’ll be second nature within a couple of weeks and it’s something you won’t consciously think about ever again’.”

With Fred’s experience, plus the audio quality and onboard effects of the Yamaha consoles, making for happy contestants and guests alike, X Factor’s monitor world is an upbeat one.

“Each week we don’t really know what we’re facing, it’s always a bit of a challenge,” he adds.” But there’s very much a ‘can do’ attitude. Everyone is a pleasure to deal with - it’s a nice place to work.”


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