Kings of Texas swing, Asleep at the Wheel, are a famed western-swing, boogie and roots-music outfit that’s been on the upswing for nearly 40 years, turning out an incredible 25+ albums while playing an unrelenting schedule of one-nighters that would make a vaudevillian dizzy. The band prides itself on continuous reinvention, exploring new avenues and sounds; however, they don’t ever have to worry about ensuring premium audio quality for all members of the audience thanks to sound technician Jim Finney and his Motion® J3500 Tablet PC, which he uses for mobile audio mixing.
According to Finney, front-of-house audio console equipment is expensive and difficult to transport when on the road. Finney took it upon himself to search for a more mobile, cost-effective solution that was easy to transport both when on the road and in the venues during shows.
With the Motion J3500 Tablet PC, Finney has eliminated the need for a front-of-house audio console and created truly mobile audio mixing. By running Yamaha Studio Manager V2 Host software on the J3500 Tablet PC, Finney is able to wirelessly control the Yamaha M7CL-V3 Audio Mixing Console, which is placed on stage and serves both as the monitor console – directly interfaced by the monitor engineer – and front-of-house console, from anywhere in the venue. Ubiquiti’s PicoStation5 provides the network Wi-Fi connection between the tablet and the console.
“I started out with a convertible laptop, and it almost took my arm off carrying it around during a show,” said Finney. “You wouldn’t think just a couple of pounds would make a huge difference, but when you’ve been in a certain position for just 15 minutes, you realize how heavy it is. The ergonomics of the J3500 were the difference of black and white.”
“What really stands out about Motion, above and beyond any of the other tablets I tried, is the View Anywhere® Display, which lets me read the screen perfectly in direct sunlight. When you’re at festivals outside in the middle of the day, there’s no way you can see a regular computer screen, especially with the detail andaccuracy I need to adjust the controls,” said Finney. “I’ve had absolutely zerosuccess using anything else – even a shading mechanism for the convertible laptop. Being able to be outside and view a screen that is this dense with controls – and being as old as I am – to see it is just amazing.”
“There’s no telling how long a show will last, and if there’s music playing, I’m moving around the venue and mixing the sound,” said Finney. “With the convertible laptop, if we did a two hour set, we were dead in the water. You’d either have to go back to your power supply or sit down next to a plug, losing mobility. With the J3500 Tablet PC’s battery life, I have up to seven solid hours of mixing.”
“I need something as rugged and dependable as the Motion Tablet PC,” said Finney. “There’s no way I could take a fragile computer and use it in this kind of environment. If I’m outside and it’s raining or there’s dirt and dust flying around, I don’t have to worry about it affecting the tablet.”
Connectivity and Performance
“Latency is what happens when I start running out of signal, and we ran into that a lot with the convertible laptop, but it’s non-existent with the Motion Tablet PC,” said Finney. “I’ve tried other tablets, but they didn’t have the range I need when I walk up to the mezzanine and the balconies, nor did they have the powerful Intel® Core i7 processor to drive the fast performance .”
The J3500 Tablet PC offers Finney unsurpassed mobility, allowing him to travel from the balconies to the front-of-houseand the very back wall. According to Finney, he is able to find a happy medium where every in the audience can hear at a comfortable level.
“There’s a subjectivity that you lose when working from a fixed mix position. If someone comes up to you and says ‘I’m sitting under the balcony, and I can’t hear a word’ then you would have to get up and go to the back of the balcony, then back to fixed mix position and hopefully address what you think might be the problem. And if you were to address all those individual problems then theoretically you’d need another console at the back, a console right up by the speakers and a console in the balconies,” said Finney. “With the tablet, I’ve got one solution in my hand and can fix the problems right then and there. I can go from one area to another and address potential issues, and that’s what Motion has brought into the picture.”
The J3500 Tablet PC allows Finney to fine tune the audio from anywhere in the audience, achieving better balance and audio quality in all locations throughout the venue. Additional benefits include:
“As you reduce the impact of your mix position by removing it from the middle of the floor and put it off in corner or on the side of the stage, you’re removing it from obstructing the audience’s view,” said Finney. “With the Motion Tablet PC, we can put the mixer or physical hardware wherever we want and still have complete control of the sound from anywhere in the venue. It also alleviates any issues with the venue staff.”
“I’m a 40 year engineer, and when I started this, it was two tin cans and a piece of string. To be able to carry the Motion Tablet PC to every venue we go to – there is not a place that I cannot use it – it’s changed my life,” said Finney. “The difference from being locked into a single position is unbelievable, and the comments from our audiences support it. I consistently have people coming up to me and saying ‘this is the best sounding show I’ve ever heard '.”
Asleep at the Wheel: http://www.asleepatthewheel.com/