Old Dominion FOH Engineer Ian Zorbaugh Hits the Road with SSL


July 30, 2021

Ian Zorbaugh began taking Solid State Logic’s Live mixing console out on tour with five-piece modern country music band Old Dominion at the beginning of 2018 – witnessing the evolution of the digital desk’s performance and features over the past three years.

The latest software update, V4.11, has introduced several features that streamline Zorbaugh’s workflow at front-of-house, including new and improved audio sculpting and manipulation tools, expanded FFT analyser functionality and a number of operational enhancements.

Zorbaugh, who has been working at FOH with Old Dominion since March 2015, recently returned to the road with the band, post-pandemic, and has been enjoying the enhanced functionality of the V4.11 software. “I like to take advantage of as many of the new features as I can,” he remarked.

“The coolest feature that I’ve been using a lot in the new release is the Blitzer compressor,” he said. The all-new Blitzer algorithm provides Live console users with the full range of compression possibilities, from adding character without affecting dynamic range at one end of the scale to offering full-on “blitz” modes for ultimate slamming effects at the other extreme.

“It’s got some cool saturation and ‘smash’ modes,” he said. “I’ve got that on my vocal bus currently, doing parallel compression, and it’s been awesome. It’s great for any bus that you want a compression effect on, whether it’s super-clean transparent or a Distressor-style, crunched-up, dirty sound.”

Zorbaugh had previously relied on SSL’s classic G Bus compressor, he said, but switched when Blitzer was introduced. However, new additions to the G Bus compressor, including an animated analogue-style gain reduction meter, means that it still has a prominent place in his processing arsenal. “SSL added a high-pass filter in the sidechain, which is awesome. I feel like every software compressor should have that; it makes it so much more versatile,” he said.

Zorbaugh has been road-testing the primary source isolator, which can eliminate feedback and bleed from open microphones through the new Sourcerer interface. While he currently has outboard units serving that function, he said. “At some point I will probably look at transitioning my hardware into the software, just for the sake of having it in the box. The more that you can keep in the console the better. It’s one less thing to fail, and is useful for fly dates,” where the hardware may not be available.

Sourcerer offers features over and above the capabilities of his outboard gear, he said. “I love that it has built-in high-pass and low-pass filtering, which you can’t get with the analog hardware. It gives you a little more flexibility to get everything dialed in.”

In V4.10, introduced at the start of 2020, SSL added the ability to insert an FFT analyser on the channel path EQ. Version 4.11 software enhances that capability, enabling the user to add an analyser in the Effects Rack on any 6- or 10-band parametric EQ. “I typically have my solo bus running out to a Smaart setup. If I want to ring mics out or there’s something weird going on, I can check each individual channel without having to put headphones on. But it’s great to now have it in the Effects Rack,” Zorbaugh said.

“I have some Effects Rack EQs set up for some downstage mic positions, so I can use the channel EQ to get the tonality, then use a 10-band parametric EQ to ring stuff out. Having the FFT built in is cool; you can just notch it where you see it, rather than sending it out to the external Smaart unit. It has made it seamless between the channel EQ and the Effects Rack.”

The new V4.11 software update adds support for TeamViewer remote access and remote control computer software. While Zorbaugh has not had occasion to use TeamViewer on the road, the new capability certainly came in handy during the AES Nashville Spring Training Exhibition in late March. Live sound veteran and SSL Live product specialist, Fernando Guzman, was unable to travel, so Zorbaugh represented the company in his place. “Fernando was at his studio in Denver and was able to remote-in using TeamViewer and show people features on the console,” Zorbaugh said.

SSL Live’s TeamViewer support presents a number of opportunities, he continues. “SSL is able to support its gear without having to send somebody to the site, especially for installations,” he said. Plus, during the pandemic, remote mixing became a necessity for some, and may become even more commonplace going forward. There are obvious cost savings, Zorbaugh points out. “You don’t have to fly someone to some expensive city. They can stay at home or go to a remote location and mix.”

SSL Live’s ability to selectively store and recall portions of a preset using filters has further enhanced Zorbaugh’s workflow “Sometimes, when we do an A rig and a B rig show and we have different guitars for one or the other, I’ll save a preset for one instrument versus the other.” But he may not need the entire processing chain when copying it across. “I can recall just the EQ from the B package guitar preset if we’re using it in the A package.”

As a result, he said: “I can keep one show file and just change a couple of the little pieces without having to go through and remember to save a specific dynamic preset for the channel. You can save the whole channel then selectively recall the bits and pieces you need.”

Some of the new software enhancements speed up the assignment of DSP and channel configuration. “The Fast Setup controls are great, especially for building a showfile. You’ve got the option to select multiple channels and set every trim or pre to a preset amount or zero. You have a quick control where you can engage all the EQs and compressors in one fell swoop, rather than having to scroll through every channel or copy. It’s one quick button press.”

Also speeding up the work process, Zorbaugh said, is the new ability to connect the tablet app to SOLSA, SSL’s offline editor software for the Live series. “You can use an iPad as a control tile and put SOLSA on the main screen. If I need to program a file, it’s super-fast to select and edit stuff on the iPad screen and do your general overview on SOLSA and jump back and forth, rather than jumping around between menus, without having the physical buttons of the console. You can work significantly faster.”

Version 4.11 also introduces OSC control of external third-party devices, such as loudspeaker processing, and, for the first time, direct control over L-Acoustics L-ISA. The update enables control from the SSL Live console of the L-ISA immersive speaker system. L-ISA sources can be associated with mono or stereo console channels or stems, with full control of L-ISA pan, distance, width, elevation. Aux send levels for each source may also be controlled. L-ISA master control is accessible from the console via an OSC path assignment on the console surface.

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