Live Sound

The Cogeco Amphitheatre, an award-winning outdoor auditorium located midway between Montreal and Québec City in Canada, integrated a pair of Solid State Logic Live L550 Plus mixing consoles into its existing Dante network infrastructure. The two SSL Live desks were installed to future-proof against the ever-growing processing requirements of shows coming through the venue and to improve the sonic performance of the house sound system while occupying only a small physical footprint.

“The SSL Live consoles combine all the features we need for our future development,” Daniel Savoie, Technical Director, confirms. “The integrated Dante routing and management was a critical aspect for us because our network is already built for Dante, and we want to build on this flexible network system for efficiency and proven stability. We also needed to double our mixing capabilities because production requirements are always growing.”

SSL Live - Fully networked

The two L550 Plus consoles are integrated into the venue and its network via a pair of X-Light Bridges, SSL’s high channel count Dante interface designed for lightning-fast I/O deployment. X-Light provides 256 x 256 console Dante audio capacity for Dante routing managed directly in the console software. Signals are routed and stored within the showfile, providing integration of three SSL SuperAnalogueTM SB 32.24 Dante stageboxes and several other third-party Dante-enabled units within the facility. The Cogeco Amphitheatre operates in two configurations, depending on the season. During the winter, the 600-capacity Le Cabaret venue is created on the main stage, where a single L550 Plus handles both FOH and monitor duties. In the summertime, the amphitheatre can accommodate 8,500 people outdoors, and the two consoles are typically used for front-of-house and monitors, respectively, subject to each production’s requirements.

“Of course, SSL’s reputation for sound quality and legendary precise audio reproduction were a given,” adds Nicolas Ouimet, Sound Manager. “The L550 Plus has a small footprint, with enough faders to comfortably handle any show. The terrific amount of processing capabilities included with the ‘Plus’ license was a huge upgrade that enables us to handle any kind of production, including live orchestral events.”

The L550 Powerhouse: Unparalleled processing and routing flexibility
The features and functionality of the L550 Plus are already proving beneficial, according to Patrice Gagnon, Sound Manager. “The Query function is a nice and simple way to quickly access members feeding an audio bus, assign to a VCA, and doing it all without using the touchscreen. For us, stems are a game changer in terms of flexibility and a true contemporary innovation, enabling us to meet more complex mixing needs compared to traditional bus path logic. The surface and its knobs are highly customizable to meet the needs of both monitor and front-of-house engineers, and the fader layers are highly effective. The full processing path signal chain is very flexible and the feed points to the bus give you a lot of control over how and where sources are filtered and processed. Plus, there are always four ways to accomplish any task.”

As for the sonic performance, Gagnon says, ““Everything seems to be more transparent and dynamic, and timbres are way more alive. The reproduction of the bass lines and every high-end harmonic contributes to a more detailed and precise mix. It’s not about what’s in the brochure; when you feel it, you know that the audience will feel it too.”

Out with the old, in with the new

The two L550 Plus desks, procured to replace an older mixing system, offered benefits beyond the onboard capabilities of the consoles, Savoie says. “We quickly realized that all our Dante devices could benefit from this addition allowing us to multiply the mixing and routing capacity of the entire Dante audio network and amplify the audio possibilities of the Amphithéâtre Cogeco. The combined value of the networked devices arguably exceeds the sum of their individual contributions.”

Flexibility and easy integration with the venue’s Dante network and switches were crucial, Savoie says, to transport inputs from the Shure wireless mic receivers, send monitor feeds to the amps or send the main mix to the Lake LM44 processors feeding the P.A. amps. “The L550 Plus combined with the X-Light Bridge Dante interface provides the console with 256 I/O channels at 96 kHz. With the integrated Live Dante Expander card built into the console, an additional 32 I/O channels are provided with a sample rate converter from 48 kHz to 96 kHz. This allows us to continue to benefit from our devices that run at 48 kHz. And now we are 96 kHz from preamps to final D/A conversion at the P.A. amps.”

The new system also offers enhanced capabilities when combined with the older mix system, limited to 48 kHz, which can accept audio from the L550 or work in parallel. “The SSL SB 32.24 stage boxes can output two different sample rates simultaneously. Network A is used to share 96 kHz Dante inputs. Network B is used as a sample rate converted digital split from the same preamps at 48 kHz. In this way, all sources from SB 32.24 are routable with both sample rates simultaneously on the Dante network, without requiring additional devices. The setup gives us the choice to record directly from the stage racks at 48 kHz or 96 kHz and/or playback from DVS at 48 kHz or 96 kHz,” Savoie explains.

“We had excellent service and collaboration with everybody involved in the SSL Live acquisition, from the manufacturers, the distributors and the sellers,” he says. “Specifically, our seller, François Jomphe and Serge Lachance from LSM ambiocréateurs, in partnership with distributor SC Media Canada, where Arif Nathu, Brad Fox and Noah Daoust were a great team researching the best options for us and the project. Everyone we talked to or asked questions about the project and network planning was kind, competent and patient. It makes a huge difference about how we feel about a product, as does the pleasure we experience while using it.”

Savoie concludes, “And not forgetting the outstanding support and service from SSL in Oxford — thanks to the SSL team, we are very proud of making this project happen with all of them.”

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