DEER PARK, New York – When it comes to sound quality, Blokhed Studios owner Tom Stiegler is no fool. A drummer, recording, mastering and live sound engineer, Stiegler is a self-described “sonic perfectionist” who didn’t want to make the move to live digital mixing until it met his standards. When HARMAN’s Soundcraft Si Expression 2 console hit the market Stiegler found what he’d been waiting for.
Stiegler was “really excited” when digital live sound consoles started to become more affordable a few years ago. However, excitement turned to disappointment when he first heard one of those earlier models. “I hated it,” was his reaction, finding it thin sounding and impractical to use because the faders had to be zeroed out whenever they needed to be reset. He shied away from trying a digital console again until recently, as prices came down and more manufacturers including Soundcraft entered the market.
This time, Stiegler was more wary and spent a lot of time “obsessively researching my options” and making sonic comparisons. “Soundcraft was on my list. I always had faith in their mic preamps, and the new Si Expression Series looked like it had the features I needed. The Si Expression 2 was price-competitive with other comparable brands.” After comparing various digital consoles in his price range, Stiegler chose the Si Expression 2 for its superior sound quality and feature set. “I’m a mixing and mastering engineer,” he noted. “I hear everything. What seems like a little bit of a sonic difference to others is a big amount to me.”
Stiegler does a lot of live sound work for local Long Island and New York Metro area bands at outdoor and indoor gigs, where bands have come to rely on him for his ability to get a good-sounding mix no matter where they’re playing—even in clubs with less-than-stellar acoustics and house sound systems. “I feel that local bands should have a live sound mix that’s as good as any national act,” he emphasized. Easier said than done in some venues, which is why Stiegler often brings in extra PA gear and appreciates the Si Expression 2’s ability to adapt to any live sound situation.
In the hectic environment of club sound, Stiegler will often have to set up the Si Expression 2 in less than an hour—or even have only minutes to build a mix. He finds the console to be adept at getting him where he needs to be fast, thanks to its motorized faders, logical layout and features like Soundcraft’s simple, timesaving cue/snapshot system that lets Stiegler instantly recall any board settings from any club he’s ever worked in – “a beautiful thing.” Equally useful is Soundcraft’s TOTEM™ (The One-Touch Easy Mix) system that reconfigures the console and allows users to press a single key to mix to an AUX, FX or Matrix bus.
Stiegler noted that all the compression, EQ, noise gate and other controls he needs the most are at his fingertips, with the “analog section” of the console right at the top and the touchscreen interface providing ready access to desired functions. Stiegler finds the FaderGlow™ color-coded illuminated faders a lifesaver in clubs where front of house is thrown into near-darkness when the house lights go down.
The Si Expression 2’s iPad compatibility gives Stiegler the ability to make adjustments to the console from anywhere in the room—an extremely useful feature that lets him adjust the mix from anywhere in the venue and set each musician’s monitor mix from the musician’s on-stage position.
In making the move from analog to digital, Stiegler found there was a learning curve, but not too big a one. “The Si Expression 2 is not that hard to learn. The biggest mistake you can make is walking into it thinking it’s going to be too complicated. If you’re thinking about buying a digital console in this price range, the Si Expression 2 is the one to get—it’s not even a question,” he concluded.
HARMAN (www.HARMAN.com) designs, manufactures, and markets a wide range of infotainment and audio solutions for the automotive, consumer, and professional markets. It is a recognized world leader across its customer segments with premium brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®,and Mark Levinson® and leading-edge connectivity, safety and audio technologies. The company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems. HARMAN has a workforce of about 14,000 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia and reported sales of $4.3 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013.