Knoxville, TN, November 30, 2023 — Front-of-house engineer Stanley Soares (known for his work with Sepultura, Devin Townsend, Motörhead, and Meshuggah) and producer/monitor engineer Chris Rakestraw (who produced/engineered the last two Megadeth albums) have chosen to mix Megadeth’s recent stadium tour with Waves plugins via the Waves SuperRack plugin host, seamlessly integrated in their DiGiCo Quantum 338 and Avid VENUE S6L consoles.
Soares’ current setup when mixing Megadeth includes a DiGiCo Quantum 338 in conjunction with Waves SuperRack, Waves’ Mercury, the Studio Classics Collection and Abbey Road Collection bundles, all powered by two Waves Extreme SoundGrid Servers. His setup involves three dedicated computers: the first hosts Waves SuperRack, the second manages recordings and virtual soundcheck through a DiGiGrid MGB interface, and the third handles Smaart and walk-in music duties.
“The Waves integration provides a clean and efficient workflow, allowing me to keep focus on the mix,” Soares says. “Several plugins are my go-to’s. I consider the F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ as the ‘The Swiss Army Knife’ of plugins. I’m a huge fan of dynamic EQs and the F6, with its real-time analyzer, is a perfect fit for many of my applications, not to mention that it’s zero latency. I apply it on my snare bus, for instance, to expand 4-5 kHz range at every hit, adding a crisp top-end bite to the snare tone without introducing excessive hi-hat bleed. I also use it on bass guitar to selectively subtract and expand certain frequencies. This approach makes it easier to keep the bass low end in check, by taming the areas with more energy in large resonant rooms, while expanding the high mids for a clearer tone. Another great use is to control the mic proximity effect on vocals, where I usually set one of the floating bands around 100-200 Hz on the F6, allowing it to dynamically adapt to the vocal performance without compromising the tonality.”
He continues, “Another favorite is Trans-X, which works wonders for percussive instruments. It’s my go-to for achieving a punchy kick and snare drum in my mix. The SSL-E Channel and SSL G-Master Bus Compressor hold a special place for me: they bring me back to my studio times when I used to work on a SSL console. These plugins really capture the feel and characteristics of the console. I have the SSL-E Channel strip across guitars, drums and vocals channels/busses, along with the SSL G-Master on the master fader to tie everything together (settings 2:1 ratio, 30 attack, 0.1 release, and about 2 or 3 dB of gain reduction).”
“The emulations of classic consoles in the NLS Non-Linear Summer plugin are exceptional,” he remarks. “I use it to introduce harmonic distortion to bass and guitars, making them sound a bit edgy. Typically, I place it at the beginning of the chain, followed by the F6 for frequency management and then a H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer, which usually sits at the end of the chain and serves as my tone-shaping tool. H-EQ offers a range of console emulations that add all sorts of flavors to the sound: I love using its UK Vintage and Modern style filters on guitars.”
“In my opinion,” he adds, “the Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain is one of the most musical EQs in a plugin. I have several presets on this one, and I’m currently using one of them on my master bus for mixing Megadeth. This preset is basically an increment of 1 dB EQ Shelf from 512 Hz and above and another 1 dB boost at 10kHz. These settings create a subtle ‘tilt,’ providing openness and clarity across the whole mix. I call the Abbey Road Reel ADT, ‘The holy grail of doubler effects.’ I use it on vocals, acoustic guitars and for some special guitar clean tone effects, such as in the intro of the song ‘A Tout Le Monde’ and at the breakdown of the song ‘Trust’ to add some depth and width to it.”
Megadeth’s producer Chris Rakestraw, who also doubles as their touring monitor engineer, remarks, “The greatest benefit of using Waves with my Avid console is not having to set up an extra computer and another screen to run SoundGrid, since the S6L allows you to control all of that.” His setup includes an Avid S6L with a couple Waves Titan-R SoundGrid Servers, Waves SoundGrid Rack for VENUE and Waves’ Mercury, Studio Classics Collection and Abbey Road Collection bundles.
Like Soares, Rakestraw favors the F6 dynamic EQ: “F6 is number one on my plugin list. With Megadeth, we have hypercardioid Beta 58s on stage for vocals. The low-end proximity effect on hypercardioids can be really sensitive to the distance from the mic, which ends up being quite unpredictable. With the F6, I can set a couple different bands to handle the amount of low end coming through. I keep a pretty aggressive band for plosives, then a band for lows around 150-200 Hz, and a mud band around 300-500 Hz. [Megadeth singer] Dave Mustaine has what I would consider ‘many voices’ in his vocal range, so this helps navigate all of his different tones. I can’t really see mixing any vocalist without this plugin. I never keep the same setting, since I make slight adjustments every night, depending on what’s happening with Dave's voice. Touring can be really hard on singers, as there are good nights and bad nights, and the F6 helps me navigate changes in vocal tone/quality.”
“I also use the CLA-2A Compressor/Limiter on Dave's vocals.” he adds, “I have to be pretty sparing with compression, otherwise the compressor just pulls in garbage ambience from the venue, but I just like the way this compressor sounds. I’d be surprised if I ever pass 2 dB of reduction with this, but I notice when I remove it. And it is just two knobs, which means you can’t screw it up.”
He continues, “I use the PSE (Primary Source Expander) plugin during every show on vocal mics, not to combat feedback, but rather to control venue ambience on the vocal mics. Most of the band’s mixes have the vocals louder than everything else, which means there’s a ton of super loud trash ambience coming through unless the PSE is in place. So on any given show, I’m using the PSE on a static setting for [bassist] James LoMenzo and [guitarist] Teemu Mantysaari’s backing vocals. On Dave Mustaine, I’m usually manually riding the PSE to keep his ambience policed without stepping on his vocal. Basically, once Dave’s head is in front of the mic, I can turn the PSE off and just let him sing, without a ‘gate’ interfering with his dynamics. Then with the slow release time on the PSE, I can engage the PSE at the last phrase or note, and the ‘gate action’ closes in real time to minimize hearing the ‘door slam shut,’ which can be distracting. The great thing about this, is that if I am troubleshooting or putting out a fire somewhere else, he can still sing through the threshold until I can get my hands back on the console.”
“I love the Waves SSL EV2 Channel plugin,” he adds. “I think it’s the best-sounding SSL channel strip that I’ve used, by any brand, live or in the studio. I use the EV2 to sweeten up the guitars. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guitar coming off of stage that didn’t benefit from this plugin. I’m not too aggressive with the EQ, but to compete with all the other chaos on stage, having just a little EQ can make the guitars feel more live and “attacky/present.”
Additional Rakestraw favorites include the Abbey Road Chambers, which he uses on acoustic guitars. “Acoustic guitar can sound terrible in the in-ears, especially when it’s just a DI. If you don’t put some ambience around it, you might as well not even plug it in. As far as the setting, just pick something that doesn’t sound out of place and doesn’t crowd the ambience that’s already present at the venue. In other words, don’t put stadium-size reverb on an acoustic if you’re already in a stadium, just use the least amount possible to place the guitar into the real world.”
He adds, “I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I use the JJP Bass plugin, because it feels like ripping off another engineer [laughs], but I love it on Bass DI and the Bass amp. I’ve never met Jack Joseph Puig, but I do appreciate his plugin. It can help make a basic-sounding bass DI into a more useful shaped sound. The ‘Attack’ slider does great things, and the ‘Presence’ slider handles the high end in a very useful manner. The CLA-3A Compressor/Limiter is my first in-line compressor for bass. This is normally the first plugin in my chain for both bass DI, and amp. And again, two knobs... can’t screw it up.”
Rakestraw and Soares sum it up: “No matter where we’re playing in the world, and no matter what console we’re on, we can rest easy knowing that Waves has us covered with the reliable tools we need to mix the show.”
Video: “Megadeth’s Live Sound – Behind the Scenes”: