Multitrack Songbird

Function: Digital Soundboard Expansion

Overview: Anytime I attend a concert or visit another church, I like to peak over the sound booth wall to see what they are doing, especially if it sounded good. When I started to notice laptops popping up on top of soundboards my curiosity was peaked, what I discovered is a game changer and probably the future of live sound audio. A program by Waves known as MulitRack.

For those unfamiliar with Waves plugins, they are bits of software that emulate top-notch vintage gear and innovate with new processing capabilities. While these programs have been in use in the recording world for awhile they have been unavailable for live sound until now. The main hurdle had always been that digital soundboards didn’t have a strong enough computer to process the sound of hi-end plugins fast enough to keep up (a problem known as latency). The MultiRack SoundGrid resolves this issue by partnering with your existing digital soundboard to gain the best of both worlds giving you the hands-on features of a physical soundboard and assigning the specialty processing to your external computer.

What Is MultiRack? The MultiRack SoundGrid is simply a host application that takes the signal from your digital soundboard via a brand-specific interface card (purchased separately if necessary) and prepares the signal for use with Waves plugins. Then after processing, it returns the signals to your soundboard via the interface card. It’s like using an insert cable on an analog board.

What Do The Plugins Do? Once you have your signals routed into the MultiRack SoundGrid you can then use any of the Waves plugins designed for live use (purchased separately in bundles or individually). While many of these plugins will do functions similar to items already on your digital soundboard (things like compression, EQ, and effects) the Waves plugins are modeled after the best gear in the world and will allow you to choose processors based on instrument type instead of the one size fits all approach available on most all digital soundboards. While you may not be able to hear the difference between a good compressor and a great one, you can’t deny the benefits of having the latest processing technology in live sound such as dynamic compression, automatic volume control, and pitch correction.
The C6 plugin is revolutionary because it allows you to EQ and Compress at the same time so that your signal dynamically changes depending on how you perform.
The Vocal Rider plugin instantly responds to adjust the volume of a channel to a preset level. When your pastor whispers it turns it up and when they shout it turns it down.

Another feature that is still developing is live pitch correction. While it won’t help Mrs. Can’t Hold a Tune in a Bucket, it will bend some notes a bit in your favor.

More: So on the positive side, this really is some of the best equipment that you can use, allowing you to do more than ever before for less money. It’s also nice that it will work with your existing digital equipment instead of demanding a replacement.

Less: This amazing technology isn’t without its challenges. The first is a fairly steep learning curve for most people with a new technology that is not yet widely used. While there are a lot of free tutorial videos on how to use Waves plugins there is little knowledge base for MultiRack SoundGrid in a worship team setting. Also, there are a lot of pieces. The MultiRack Software, the interface card, the plugins, and then depending on which and how many plugins you are using your computer may not be able to keep up by itself. It is not required but highly recommended that you give your computer, usually a laptop but doesn’t have to be, a shot in the arm with a processing server (basically another computer dedicated solely to crunching the sound algorithm numbers) so you can keep all your sound arriving on time.

Bottom Line: Top of the line gear that will be easy to set up for those already familiar with recording plugins and are fairly “techie”. If you want to get started take some time to watch the many videos at waves.com and use their trial periods in a recording software environment to give you a better idea of what to purchase.

Insiders Tip: Waves plugins frequently are on sale at deep discounts of 90% at waves.com so buy direct.