Focusrite RedNet and Dante Perfectly Serve the Foo Fighters' Major Rock Tour
The fast-paced whirlwind of the Foo Fighters' “Sonic Highways World Tour" has encouraged the professionals behind the sound to be on top of every detail at every venue behind the scenes, but they haven't had to worry about signal transport and sonic quality, thanks to the integration of several Focusrite RedNet Dante™ interfaces into the sound system. Focusrite's latest RedNet D16R AES interface is used to bridge 16 channels of AES/EBU between the DiGiCo SD5 digital console on the tour and the speaker clusters, and a RedNet MP8R 8-channel remote-controlled microphone preamplifier and A/D on the Dante audio-over-IP network utilizes Focusrite's legendary mic pre-amp sound for vocals. Together, they've changed the sound and the way the band's sound team works.
“With the Foos, [we] found that we needed so many different system configurations," explains Phil Reynolds, the band's System Technician, who has been with them since the Wasting Light album tour back in 2011, and who collaborated on the design of the tour's L-Acoustics K1/K2 PA system fielded by Delicate Productions, Camarillo, CA, which has been Foo Fighters' sound reinforcement vendor for the past six years. “One day it will be a stadium with seven hangs of PA, the next an amphitheater with a left/right. We also need to send ADA and press feeds from FOH or backstage. So Delicate chose to switch to a Dante system, so we could have almost limitless possibilities," notes Reynolds.
RedNet D16R AES is a 1U, 19in rack-mount Dante interface featuring 16 channels of AES/EBU connectivity to and from the Dante audio network. Reynolds explains that they use a DiGiCo SD5 console with a Dante card at FOH, and from there route the audio to the Lake/Lab.gruppen LM44 processors via Dante. “The RedNet D16 takes AES feeds from the opening acts' desk to the LM44s," he continues. “This allows for control of routing with just a few mouse clicks. The system is run on a fiber backbone to each side of the stage with two Cisco SG300 switches at each location. The amp racks are fed with two or four AES feeds so when we need to switch modes, the rig converts with a click of a few buttons." In terms of sonic performance, Jason Alt, President of Delicate Productions, says the D16R is totally transparent. “We've found from some units that impart their own sound to the audio, which is not desirable when it comes to audio distribution," he says. “But the Focusrite D16R takes nothing away from the high quality of sound that we have across the rest of the system, which is of critical importance."
The RedNet MP8R 8-channel remote-controlled microphone preamplifier and A/D for Dante audio-over-IP is the latest addition for the Foos' system. Reynolds says the MP8R was on hand for some time before the tour's pace settled down enough for he and FOH mixer Bryan Worthen to experiment on something as foundational as Grohl's vocal sound, but once they did, he said the results were stark — and great. “It was like night and day once we kicked the MP8R in," he exclaims. “The DiGiCo pre-amps are great, but the MP8R just took the vocal sound to another level." A few days later, that success prompted them to try it on drummer Taylor Hawkins' vocal microphone as well. Now, four channels of MP8R are part of every show: Grohl's and Hawkins' vocals, a back-up channel for Grohl, and the mic Grohl uses at the end of the 20-foot stage thrust.
Foo Fighter's front-of-house mixer for the last thirteen years, Bryan Worthen, comments, “Everything I put through the Focusrite MP8R preamp sounds better. It is more akin to that great analog sound we are all used to. Digital tends to sound sterile, the MP8R changes that."
Apart from their sound quality and reliability, Jason Alt says they also like the ease of use of the RedNet devices. “Sometimes it can be very challenging when we start to implement new gear into our systems, because you need to put the techs through training so that they can learn how to use it," he says. “But with the D16R and RedNet in general, we've found that it's really easy for our techs to jump on board and start using it. There's no need for hours of training. The more we delve into RedNet, the more we like it."
In addition to the D16R and MP8R, Reynolds uses a RedNet 4 Mic Preamp for system testing due to its amazing linearity, the RedNet 1 eight-channel analog I/O, and RedNet 3 32-channel digital I/O box for his last several tours.