Timeflies in performance.
When the U.S. pop group, Timeflies, went on a European tour, they turned to London-based sound engineer Mark Portlock for their audio. He chose DPA’s d:facto vocal microphones.
The DPA microphone choice was very important to the success of Timeflies’ tour, said Portlock. There were 16 venues on the agenda ranging from 200 to 1200 capacity. In some of the smaller venues, the sound system was often flown close to the stage, which added to the challenge of delivering consistent compressed vocals and clean intelligible speech.
“The microphone choice was crucial,” said Portlock. “The first challenge was to achieve a constant and stable level from the vocal, which is not as easy as it sounds when the artist (Cal Shapiro) is moving around directly beneath small PA systems, in the crowd and occasionally jumping from the DJ table. Cal also loves to cup the mic when he raps and he frequently sings off-axis and points the mic out over the crowd.
“The d:facto vocal microphone was the ideal choice for him because it gave me great pattern control, while the coloration on the mic from ambient noise was much sweeter sounding and natural than other high-end vocal mics.”
Timeflies’ tour took place in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France and the UK. As the budgets were tight, Portlock elected to use in-house consoles and invest his cash in a stage package that included radio mics, IEMs, DIs and power distribution — all supplied by West London rental company Encore PA, which also has a large stock of DPA microphones.
Portlock treated the microphones differently than with a typical rock band. “First, there was plenty of EQ to stabilize the sound between Cal’s rapping and singing. Then there was a lot of compression and make up; sometimes up to 20:1 with 12db with the vocal slamming hard into the compressor throughout much of the show.
“Two reverbs, pitch change and delay were also added and heavily equalized, then applied in layers to achieve the dynamic and right up front ‘poppy’ vocals required, while the harder edged rap vocal sat further back in the mix allowing the live tracks to provide the dynamic range in the show. It was a little backwards, I know, but the band and management loved the results.
“Everywhere we went, the in-house audio guys commented on the quality of the sound and many were surprised at the overall volume and density we achieved from small PA systems and often under the oppressive thumb of many EU noise limits, some as low as 91dba peak!”
Portlock has used d:facto vocal microphones previously and likes them for artists who have quiet voices and/or wide dynamic ranges.
“I had a great time with the d:facto — its ruggedness never fails to amaze me and it performed faultlessly with my Shure wireless system,” said Portlock. “It will be back on tour with me over the summer when I do festival duty with Misterwives and Timeflies.”
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