From Mixing to System Tuning this FOH Engineer Trusts Earthworks Microphones to Deliver
Milford, NH – After eleven years on the road with Widespread Panic, Chris Rabold has been in the FOH booth mixing for major artists such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Kenny Chesney and The Fray since 2011. While the venues, artists and rider may change with each tour, Rabold never leaves home without his Earthworks M30 measurement microphone.
“I have an Earthworks M30 that travels with me in my backpack, which is the only piece of gear I own that travels with me all over the globe, and I have never had one fail,” says Rabold.
Back in 2002, Rabold got into detailed sound system tuning with analysis software like SMAART. “At that time Earthworks was already the industry standard for measurement microphones, and was what everyone else was using,” explains Rabold.
After using the M30 for some time, Rabold discovered that the microphone was the industry standard for good reason. “The M30 is very durable and very accurate. The readings I get from the M30 always correlate to good sounding results. You can take all the measurements you want, but if it doesn’t correlate to something that sounds audibly pleasing, there is no point in it. When the M30 is used properly, it will always yield an audibly pleasing result. We have used M30s out in the pouring rain countless times, in all kinds of temperatures and in all kinds of conditions and they never, ever fail.”
It is that high level of performance Rabold consistently gets with the M30 that drives his strong recommendation of this microphone for system analysis and tuning. “It is the industry standard for measurement for a reason—for its accuracy, durability and reliability. There are some other fine measurement microphone choices out there, but at the end of the day its either an M30 or it isn’t. I can’t recommend the M30 highly enough. It’s the best. Period.”
Occasionally, Rabold runs into certain multi-mic configurations for making acoustic measurements that force him to use other brands of measurement microphones. In these instances, Rabold always references them to the M30. “It is reliable, it is accurate, and from mic to mic I don’t find any variations in frequency response—and they are very durable. Anytime I have to use a measurement microphone made by another company, I will always compare it to the M30. If there are any variances between the other mics and the M30, I will make note of it so it correlates directly to the M30 as it the measurement mic that I know and trust. I have always gotten good results from the M30 and there is nothing that makes me want change from it.”
While the M30s primary purpose is for sound system tuning, Rabold found that it also excels as an ambient recording microphone for live shows. “I often use a pair of my M30s at front of house for recording purposes to capture the whole sound of the venue,” explains Rabold.
While Rabold’s experience with Earthworks was limited to the M30 measurement microphone, when he learned that Earthworks made a microphone designed specifically for miking toms, he was intrigued. “When I was working for a band called The Fray, I was using another type of small diaphragm mic on toms. I am really big into my tom sound, so I am always trying to find a way to improve the sound. At times I will use dynamic mics in that role, and sometimes I like to use small diaphragm condenser mics. Sometimes drum kits are jammed together pretty tight and there is not room to jam a big dynamic mic in there, so the small diaphragm condenser mics seem to be the better choice. I was interested that Earthworks even made a microphone for toms, because I like their other microphones so much, it caught my interest. Also, I liked the gooseneck because it was a pretty firm design, and that the XLR connector was built right into the microphone. Many other makes of small condenser tom mics require you to connect to an external transformer or electronics box.”
After nearly a decade of using the M30, Rabold got a chance to try the Earthworks DP30/C tom microphone. “I was able to get a pair of DP30/Cs to use on toms for The Fray and they blew me away. I did not have to use nearly as much EQ as I did with other makes of tom mics, and the DP30/Cs were super robust. The goosenecks were very firm, so the mics don’t move around once positioned. I loved the sound, because it was such a true sound. This particular drum kit was well-tuned and the DP30/C provide me with a very accurate representation of what I heard standing at the toms. It didn’t sound like a microphone’s version of the drum; it sounded “exactly like” the drum. So, I found myself not using nearly as much EQ to create a sound, because the sound was already there. We had already tuned the drum to get the sound, so we did not have to alter it because of the response of the microphone. The DP30/C provide such a true response, I was able to get away with very little EQ.”
When Rabold’s next gig took him on tour with Lady Gaga, he brought the DP30/Cs with him. “I immediately switched out the tom mics that the previous engineer had used with the DP30/Cs. Some small diaphragm condenser tom mics can’t reproduce the very low frequencies, but the extended low frequency response of the DP30/Cs sounded like I had a large diaphragm condenser mic on them. I really liked this, because the DP30/C had just as big a sound as any other mic I could have put on them.”
Unlike the M30, the Earthworks DP30/C is not viewed as an industry standard, but after experiencing them, Rabold would challenge that viewpoint when looking to mike toms. “Anyone looking for a small diaphragm condenser microphone on toms for the practical applications of it, and because they like the sound, will be blown away when comparing the Earthworks DP30/C and some of the other industry standards used on toms.”
Rabold concludes: “After years of using Earthworks measurement microphones as a utilitarian data collecting tool, as awesome as they were for me in this application, when Earthworks introduced instrument microphones, which were for creative use, I was happy to find that the Earthworks instrument microphones gave me just as much performance and accuracy, as a creative tool.”