Metric Halos's Mobile I/O Functions Like A Swiss Army Knife For “Robert Randolph and the Family Band” FOH Engineer Sean Quackenbush Print

Sean_QuackenbushSean Quackenbush (shown here at Red Rocks), FOH engineer for Robert Randolph and the Family Band discovers Metric Halo’s Mobile I/O offers incredible functionality from a one-rack unit.

ALBANY, NEW YORK: Although it has a well-earned reputation as one of the best sounding and most user-friendly audio recording interfaces available, Metric Halo’s Mobile I/O offers much more. According to Sean Quackenbush, front-of-house engineer with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, “It’s like an audio Swiss Army Knife. It can be whatever you need it to be.”

Quackenbush elaborates, “I’ve used it in situations where we’re doing a fly date and I have it in my backpack with my laptop and I’ve used it as eight channels of inserts. I’ll pull up Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in and insert it on channels where the club doesn’t have as many inserts as I need. If you want to use it as a PA processor, like a crossover and dynamic processor, you can do it with this one-space unit. You can use it for virtually anything. It’s so multifunctional.”

Best of all, says Quackenbush, who has been using the Mobile I/O to archive live performances by the band for nearly two years after being introduced to it by engineers working with the Dave Matthews Band and the Secret Machines, “It’s the most rock-solid recording unit I’ve ever used. It doesn’t ever give problems, like a digital tape machine - it rolls every night.”

“But,” he reports, “the thing that’s most impressive is the sonic quality. When we were in the studio recording the new album I brought it in with me, and we A/B’d it versus the recording system they were using. The sonic quality of the Mobile I/O is just phenomenal.”

Quackenbush has put together a single rack that, with the addition of a couple of reverb units, replaces several FOH processing racks when he’s using a digital console. “I’ve built a whole rack with a maxed out MiniMac computer, an eight-channel line-in-to-Lightpipe converter, a couple of DAT machines and CD burners, and a tube compressor that the stereo mix goes through to warm it up a little bit. I run one Mobile I/O that I’ve got maxed out at 18 tracks -- eight analog in, eight Lightpipe in and the S/PDIF in.” He adds, “The expandability of it’s just phenomenal. If you want to add tracks you just get another box.”

The Mobile I/O allows him to keep things flexible for future post-production while simultaneously creating multiple feeds for immediate use. “I break everything down into groups of instruments, or certain key instruments that, if we were going to remix, we would need to work on a little bit - vocals, lead guitar, stuff like that. I also send a two-track of my mix off the console to the Mobile I/O. I have a pair of audience mics that allow me to create a submix within the unit and run it through the ChannelStrip plug-in as a mastering processor, to compress it and EQ it a little. I take the AES/EBU out to one DAT machine and two CD-R machines, so at the end of every show I have a burn.”

All last summer, Quackenbush, who frequently uses a popular new digital console at FOH, recorded every night with the band using the Metric Halo Mobile I/O in place of the console’s integrated recording system. “I found myself tying the Mobile I/O by Firewire to the console instead. The Mobile I/O console is so rock-solid that I never had any issues with it. It rolls and it tracks. Plus,” he notes, “it exports to whatever you need. If someone wants to mix the show on Pro Tools or Logic, one can.”“That’s not all,” he continues. “Off that same box, I’ve created a press feed for when people want to come in and record, or for television. I’ll do the same thing with the ChannelStrip plug-in to fatten it up a little. That works real nice.”

Quackenbush’s initial introduction to Metric Halo was with the SpectraFoo analysis software. “I went and visited Metric Halo in Hopewell Junction, New York, which is only an hour-and-a-half away from me. They showed me a few tricks and showed me what it could do. I was just floored.”

“In particular,” he says, “the time alignment function alone is worth its weight in gold. You walk into these rooms where the guys have used other systems on the room a million times and hook up ‘Foo, and you can see speakers aren’t aligned. It’s so precise. It gets you that much closer to where you need to be at soundcheck, or at the start of the show in a festival situation.”

As Quackenbush points out, “I’m just one guy at FOH. But everything is so well put together as one system - the way the Mobile I/O works with SpectraFoo - that as soon as the rack is patched, I’m up and running and can tune the entire PA in 15 minutes tops. I have this whole rack that sets up easily and just runs. It’s the must-have rack, no matter what I’m doing.”