The historic Metro club in Chicago recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, and the venue simultaneously underwent a major audio upgrade. “In 2021, we had changed everything about the PA – except the actual audio consoles,” recalled installer John Wagner of Ayre Productions. The staff at the club eventually told Wagner that they wanted to explore changing out the front of house and monitor consoles as well. “They inquired about Allen & Heath’s dLive platform, so we set them up with a demo.” Local sales rep Shawn McLoughlin soon brought in two dLive S5000 surfaces for the team to try out, and it was a perfect match. “dLive was leaps and bounds better than what they were using previously,” noted Wagner. “They really liked the sound and the workflow.”
“We’re a small venue that hosts a lot of big acts,” explained Ben Gordon, the venue’s monitor engineer. “So we’re always trying to minimize our footprint without sacrificing functionality. dLive hit all the marks for us.” Justin Yates, who runs front of house, appreciated the platform’s flexibility and ease of use. “We get a lot of guest engineers, some of whom aren’t familiar with digital consoles. With dLive, it’s easy to get them up to speed and mixing a show in a couple of minutes.” The team eventually decided to purchase two dual-screen dLive C3500 surfaces, along with a pair of CDM48 MixRacks. “Guest engineers are really excited to see the dLive consoles,” said Yates. “Even the folks who bring in their own console are curious and want to play around with a dLive.”
The front of house and monitor dLive systems are each equipped with AES output cards, which allow them to feed the venue’s amplifiers using digital AES/EBU signals. “That’s been a long goal of ours – to be digital as much as possible,” noted Gordon.
Both Gordon and Yates were impressed by the dLive’s full gamut of DEEP processing and compressor emulators. “I really like the Hypabass sub-harmonic synthesizer” noted Yates. “I’ve been experimenting with that plugin to add thickness to my tom channels. I also like the sound of the different reverbs on dLive,” he added. Yates specifically likes the Mighty compressor, which is inspired by a classic transistor array VCA dynamics processor. “That one is so sick.”
“It’s the first time on a digital desk that the compressors actually sound different,” remarked Gordon. “On other digital consoles, you can switch through compressors without really being able to tell the difference. With dLive compressor models, you can actually hear the different characteristics. It’s been fun using them to blend sources into the mix.” For monitors, Gordon also likes using the dLive’s Source Expander. “It helps to clean up vocals for in-ear mixes. If you get the sidechain settings just right, you can eliminate a lot of noise bleeding into the lead vocal mic without missing a lot of articulation.”
Following a lull during the COVID pandemic, Metro has re-emerged as an A-list venue with an intimate feel – recently hosting big name artists like Metallica, Green Day, and Fallout Boy. “Front of house is about 30 feet from the stage,” noted Yates. “It feels like you’re right up there with the acts. I think that’s what makes it such a unique experience at Metro.”