NILES, IL, July 15, 2010 — One of 2010’s most successful tours is the Troubadour Reunion, a pairing of acclaimed singer-songwriters James Taylor and Carole King, which has been drawing sellout crowds to arenas across the country. The tour boasts an equally legendary FOH mixer David Morgan, who was asked to create a warm, intimate sound, despite working with a large stage and an in-the-round setting.
“The music on this tour is incredible,” Morgan states, “But it’s been very challenging from an engineering perspective. James and Carole are playing afternoon soundcheck shows for charity, so there’s literally no time for experimenting when audio problems arise.” That was exactly the case in Morgan’s attempts to capture the guitar sound of Taylor’s venerable guitarist Danny Kortchmar.
Playing through a pair of Fender Deluxe reproduction amps with 12-inch speakers, Kortchmar had originally planned to elevate his rig on stands. But because that set-up was deemed an obstruction to the audience’s line of sight, the guitarist had to place the amps on the floor. Even with the amps rocked back, the direct speaker sound was hitting Kortchmar in the knees, not the ears.
“To get the articulation he needs to hear, Danny had to change his tone, which actually thinned his sound,” Morgan explains. “To Danny, the amps sound normal, but the new setup sounded a bit harsh in the microphones. I had been using KSM27s on the amps, and that’s a good, fat-sounding microphone. But suddenly I found myself using a lot of EQ, trying to get that signature sound Danny is known for. It was problematic, especially with the lack of free time to explore other options.”
The solution turned out to be savagely simple: the KSM313 ribbon microphone from Shure. “I needed a warm, fat sound with a lot of articulation, so a ribbon mic was one obvious option. I had heard good things about the KSM313, but I had never so much as talked into one, so it was kind of an unknown,” he relates. “But as soon as they came out of the box and went onstage, the sound I needed was there. I put them up in Chicago and they’ve been there ever since. ”
Morgan deploys one KSM313 on each of Kortchmar’s two cabinets, using the front side of the mic and positioning them as close to the grille as possible to take advantage of their mild proximity effect. Doing that required approaching the tilted-back cabinets from above, with the XLRs pointing upward.
“It worked instantly,” Morgan reports. “I’m using very little EQ, just one or two dB here and there, whereas before I had cuts of 6 dB or more at 2.5k and 7k. With the KSM313, I can now just pretty much put them up and let him play. Now Danny is happy with what he’s hearing, and the fans are getting the sound they want and expect. It’s an incredibly elegant solution to what had been an ongoing problem.”
When the James Taylor-Carole King tour wraps up in late July, Morgan will be taking the KSM313s with him as he goes to Las Vegas to mix Cher beginning in September.
“The KSM313 was an instant success in a difficult situation on this tour,” Morgan says. “They sound great on guitars and I can’t wait to try them in other applications, especially acoustic instruments like the saxophone and trumpet. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with them.”