Nicki Minaj’s recent tour, in support of her fourth and most recent album, Queen, took DiGiCo SD5 consoles with it, supplied by Cleveland-based Eighth Day Sound.
Eighth Day Sound provided the tour’s PA and control package, which featured DiGiCo SD5 consoles for both FOH and monitors, paired with five SD-Racks and an SD-Mini Rack, all on an Optocore loop.
“We used a traditional splitter for some inputs and shared inputs via the loop,” described FOH engineer Kevin Brown, who has also mixed for Chris Brown, Outkast, American Authors, Toni Braxton, Kid Cudi, and Joi. “Looping the consoles also enabled us to use the Con send and receive ports, which was particularly useful when I needed to send audio down to monitors; this could be talkbacks, FX or playback audio from FOH. I also used the new DiGiGrid MGR at my console for recording and virtual playback.”
The Nicki WRLD tour marked the first time that Brown had used the manufacturer’s new 32-bit “Stadius” mic preamp modules. “The noise floor is almost zero, and the dynamic range is incredible. Using them on vocals and keyboards gave me a big, clean sound. The guys on keys had a lot of analogue synths to replicate the sounds used on the records, and I wanted to make sure we captured what makes us all love analogue synths. We also shared another 16 channels of 32-bit cards that were located in the SD-Mini Rack mounted with our playback rig.”
Marlon John, who has been Minaj’s monitor engineer on all of her tours since 2010, commented: “I first used the new cards last summer with the Migos and loved them. Having previously worked with Nicki on various other consoles and DiGiCo desks prior to having the new cards, I noticed that her vocal was much easier to mix with the 32-bit mic preamps. Her voice sounded bigger and fuller, and I required less gain to get her vocal to where I needed it to optimally sit in her mix.”
For the Nicki WRLD tour, her backup band comprised of a drummer, two keyboard players, a DJ, a backing vocalist and playback, which put the input count at around 80 channels. Adding Juice WRLD’s inputs, plus other local openers, raised that to over 100 channels. “Even with that many channels, the SD5 made it easy to navigate the show via snapshots and spill sets,” said Brown. “I could organise my banks and layers based on the inputs needed for a given song and store the location in the snapshot. The SD-Range consoles have a very powerful snapshot engine; we were both able to have all of the settings we needed at the click of a button.”
With all vocalists and musicians on IEMs, and no wedges for stage monitoring (aside from two d&b J-Sub and four J8 flown as sidefills) John was manning 20 stereo and six mono mixes on his sub-stage SD5. “With the spill set, I was able to configure and lay out the bank where everything was easy to access. Like FOH, we shared the monitor console with Juice WRLD on this tour, and with the SD5’s great snapshot feature, I was able to use one snapshot for him within my Nicki Minaj show.”
Having mixed monitors for everyone from Trey Songz, Drake and Lil’ Wayne to Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg and Prince over the years, John has steadily relied on the SD platform since 2014. “The SD5 is my console of choice; in fact, it’s the only console on my rider. I love its layout, and with the multi-screens, I find that I can navigate around the console very seamlessly.”
“I have been using the SD platform for quite a few years now as well,” Brown chimed in. “I don’t feel at all restricted by its architecture. It allows me to be creative without worrying about technical roadblocks. Though I was very happy with the SD5 on this tour, my personal favourite is really the SD7, especially with the new Quantum engine.”