Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) is a 4-year public university whose Department of Theater and Dance offers a broad variety of academic courses and practical experience in Performance, Dance, Design and Technical Theater, Theater Education and Theater History/Literature/Criticism. In order to stay on top of theater audio technology, SIUE department chair Jim Wulfsong needed to upgrade to a digital live sound console, and found the HARMAN Soundcraft Si Expression 3 ideal as both a production and educational tool.
“At SIUE, performances and education are intertwined,” said Wulfsong, who teaches a number of courses at SIUE including live sound engineering. “My students start by taking courses in theatrical audio production and live sound—and then they soon move up to doing the front of house mixing of an actual performance.” Productions are held at SIUE’s main theater, where the Si Expression 3 is installed.
Wulfsong needed a console that offers the latest features to accommodate the requirements of professional theatrical production—and could stand up to the rigors of constant use. The students learn on the console day in and day out during the academic year, and activity gets particularly intense during Tech Week, the week before a show debuts when the technical staff finalizes the show’s mic requirements, live and pre-recorded audio cues and other audio needs.
One of the key reasons Wulfsong chose the Soundcraft Si Expression 3 is because he and his students needed flexibility in a console that wasn’t difficult to operate. “The console is primarily used by students, who, while eager and talented, aren’t pros yet. The Si Expression 3 lets them work out in advance and store almost everything that’s needed before the show—cues, levels, EQ and so on—which greatly reduces the students’ stress level once the curtain goes up.” The Si Expression 3 lets his students concentrate on listening to the sound—rather than constantly have to think three steps ahead about what they have to do next. “Sometimes it seems like we can get any slider and knob to do anything we want.”
One of the main uses for the console is to play back cues and sound effects for musicals using QLab multimedia playback software. There can be hundreds of cues in a show and Wulfsong finds the Si Expression 3 makes moving from one cue to the next easy. “The Next button on the console responds really fast, which is critical when you have almost no time to kill a cue or mute and unmute different combinations of every single onstage mic.”
Thanks to the console’s sophisticated panning capabilities and multiple stereo and mono busses, Wulfsong and his students can now do “fancy Hollywood sound effects” like having planes fly overhead and sound effects following the onstage action—all at the touch of a button.
Wulfsong finds the ability to apply EQ on every channel to be “a major feature.” Every input-processing channel on the Si Expression 3 has dedicated processing not only for four-band EQ, but also high-pass filter, input delay, gate and compressor, enabling precise sonic fine-tuning of every input. Another plus is the console’s smaller size. Wulfsong thought that moving to a more advanced console would require more space in the control room, but the Si Expression 3 is actually smaller than the previous console and gave room to install a bigger computer monitor.
In fact, Wulfsong originally was looking for a console to replace the board in SIUE’s smaller theater—and wound up using the Si Expression 3 in the big room. “I was stunned by the price point and value the Si Expression 3 offered—and once we got it in-house we realized we were going to be using it as our main console in the theater.”
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.