Charles Bradley for McDowell Signal Processing

The crowd forms outside down Geary as they wait for the doors of the Filmore to open to a sold out show. The excitement and anticipation seems to be at the same level it was 25+ years ago for a Duran Duran concert. Monitor engineer Charles Bradley is at the Avid VENUE Profile showing us his favorite McDSP plug-ins before the concert. Tonight they are in San Francisco, tomorrow they are a main act at Cochella.

Bradley has made a name for himself as a monitor trouble-shoote, hired to get rid of the floor monitors and move to an in-ear system. Charles frankly claims that one of the main reasons he uses the Avid Profile is that it allows him and Front of House to use the plug-in ecosystem they are used to and build a show file that is used for the entire tour. Having the plug-ins available that they are used to with Pro Tools makes doing their job quicker and more efficient. Every song can be meticulously tailored during rehearsals and instantly recalled at a seconds notice. In this tour, Bradley scrolls through a list of over 70 possible songs, all mixed and ready to go. Tonights’ set list is just under 20 songs and is queued up in just a few seconds.

As a monitor engineer, Bradley’s job is to make sure the band plays in time and in tune with each other, not to mention having fun on stage. For instance, a drummer might need a click track, his drums, the rhythm section and a little vocals. The lead singer may want more of the keys than drums. In short, every member of the band wants a different mix – even from song to song! “What we are looking for is a mix that is dynamic and we want the maximum level we can get into the in-ear monitors for transmition. So I’m looking to control the dynamic range- but not compress and muddy everything up. The ML4000 is perfect for that, I use it across all the mix outputs because you can control the crossover points, gains and ratios. You can’t have a kick drum punching in the mix, you take care of it by controlling the compression ratio in just that frequency, so it doesn’t trigger a wide-frequency band compression. If it did, every time you heard the kick [the overall mix] would shrink down and disappear.” Bradley continues “For the bass drum, I use Channel G to compress, then apply the gate so I’ll get a constant kick drum level the Eq section in there sounds great too. That’s really what you want for pop music.”

“When it comes to choosing plug-ins, low latency is super important when it comes to in-ear monitors. Obviously, we cant have things out of time and delayed when we are trying to play in time with each other.” The ML4000 has 55 samples of delay at 44.1 kHz, Channel G has 3 samples of delay. “The other really important thing is low DSP usage. We have a limited amount of chips that we can run plug-ins on and the more efficient, the better.” The ML4000 ML4 uses 46% DSP on HD Accel systems in stereo, Channel G in it’s largest configuration only uses 20% DSP in stereo. These two technical aspects of the plug-in line are what consistently put McDSP on the top of the plug-in market.

“The McDSP Emerald Pack is the one to get, if you are looking for a set of plug-ins that sound amazing and do wide range of things. Certainly from a monitoring point of view, I can’t live without the ML4000.”