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John Robbins: Sonic Warfare

John Robbins: Sonic Warfare
Discover why the FOH engineer chooses M-Audio gear when mixing world-class artists

Engineer John Robbins is equally at home at the FOH position, mixing a show for 10,000 people or hunkering down in the studio with an up-and-coming artist. A veteran of tours with Prince, Patti LaBelle, Alice Cooper and, most recently, John Mellencamp, Robbins has come to rely on M-Audio products for a wide variety of stage and studio tasks. As a long-time Pro Tools user, he seldom leaves the bus without a laptop, Pro Tools M-Powered and a FireWire 1814 for recording and editing board mixes. Robbins has also come to rely on a collection of Solaris mics and TAMPA preamps as his “go-to” tools for miking guitars, drums and vocals.

What are some of the challenges and joys of working the board at a live performance?
Live mixing is more like sonic warfare compared to the studio. But [in the studio] there is not a feeling like the one I get from a massive PA and twenty thousand people screaming when the lights go down and the show starts. Big rush! You recently acted as Front of House engineer for John Mellencamp’s tour, which swept throughout the United States and Canada.

What M-Audio gear did you use on tour, and how did it hold up to the rigors of the road?
I use eight Solaris mics on guitars and drum overheads and three TAMPA preamps on vocals. I also use the FireWire 1814 to record in Pro Tools M-Powered. It all sounds and is holding up great.

With all the choices available to you, what made you choose M-Audio for microphones and preamps?
I first bought a Solaris mic at my local music store because it felt like a serious mic, and I thought for the price, I couldn’t go wrong. And I was right. It is a very serious mic and the price is very low for what you get. And I think those preamps sound great. I really use the compressors in them as they work very well.

The demands of a sound engineer in a live performance environment must differ greatly from a studio environment. How do you transition between the two? Are there any pieces of hardware or software that make the transition with you?
You’re always fighting physics on the road, but in the studio, [the goal] is preservation. I take every piece of my M-Audio gear to my studio when I finish a tour.

Tell us a little bit about your studio setup and why you have chosen to make M-Audio gear a part of it.
The bang for the buck is a huge factor. M-Audio now makes everything anyone needs to build a complete studio. The one-stop shopping and the consistency is there. The tech support is great at M-Audio. I had a power supply in a CPU die three hours before a very big session, and it baked everything in the FireWire ports including my FireWire 1814. I ran to the store, bought a new CPU, hard drive and an 1814, and ran home. M-Audio tech helped me start from scratch to restore all of my software and hardware settings so I could do my job.