Kevin Madigan is an accomplished audio engineer and acoustics consultant, deftly straddling the worlds of live sound and studio recording. Having relocated to Los Angeles from his native Dublin, Ireland about ten years ago, he has amassed an impressive roster of clients including Crosby, Stills and Nash (CS&N), Smashing Pumpkins, David Gilmour and many others. Recently, he began using the Neumann KH 120, KH 310 monitors and KH 810 sub both at FOH in his live work, and in the studio.
Madigan’s introduction to Neumann monitoring solutions came as he was handling FOH duties for CS&N while on tour, when he acquired a pair of KH 120 nearfield loudspeakers: “Having quality studio monitors on hand has become more and more important for us for what we do in live work,” he explains. “Since it is so much easier to achieve high-quality digital recordings, more of what we do in live venues is crossing over into traditional studio work.”
Neumann KH 120s: immediate gratification
According to Madigan, fans increasingly crave high-quality recordings immediately after the performances they attend: “Many artists now offer downloads of show recordings for fans to purchase at the merch table following each performance. So I have to have a reliable monitoring solution to evaluate the recordings before I upload the final mixes,” he says. “My Neumann KH 120s are perfect for this application they sound great, are easy to transport and have a roadworthy construction.”
To capture the live audio, Madigan is multi-track recording via a 24/96kHz MADI stream with a separate stereo mix bus from his SD7 DiGiCo console. “I leave the KH 120s up during the show so if I want to solo up something, I can check with either headphones or on the monitors,” he says. “Then I will generally come back the next day early in the morning and run through the previous night’s show to make sure everything is balanced properly. Then when everything is good, I will upload the stream.”
Neumann KH 310: mixing for the masters
Madigan’s engineering work tends to move between both live and studio worlds, depending on the work cycle of his clients. Once a long tour is wrapping up, it is a safe bet that he will find himself behind the console in one of LA’s top recording environments, tracking and mixing the next major release. After wrapping up the CS&N tour, Madigan was enlisted to record Graham Nash’s latest release This Path Tonight alongside producer Shane Fontayne, which is set for release on April 15th on Nash’s Blue Castle label. The new album which contains 10 original compositions is Mr. Nash’s first solo record of new music in fourteen years.
After having an extremely positive experience with the Neumann KH 120s on the road and subsequently being introduced to Neumann’s KH 310 midfield monitors at a pre-NAMM event last year during a Sennheiser ‘Immersive Audio’ exhibit, Madigan wanted to try the KH 310s on some mixes for the new album: “We’d been tracking and mixing for a while by that point and I’m very familiar with how things sound in Studio B and D at the Village Recorder,” he recalls. “One day, I came in a little early and set up the 310s next to my previous monitors and started listening. They impressed me straight away and I got back to mixing working with both sets of monitors. After extensive switching back and forth between the two pairs, and listening to mixes in other environments, the switching eventually stopped and I ended up sticking with the 310s.”
Trust your (tonal) instincts
Madigan says that the KH 310s were able to do what the other monitors could not. “We had similarly sized high-quality mid-field monitors we were using at the time, and I just felt that the KH 310s had a better low frequency extension and were more accurate there too – and this was before I added the KH 810 Sub,” he recalls. “That low end was quite impressive in a non-ported design. They’re very easy to work with for long days and nights in the studio and the mixes on them translated very well into several other listening environments and systems where we were comparing them.” The ultimate proving ground was when Madigan brought the masters to Bernie Grundman for mastering. “Bernie was very pleased with the mixes and said, ‘I don’t know what you are using for monitors, but I really like them.’”
The KH 310s enable Madigan to trust his tonal instincts: “With the inherent accuracy of the KH 310s, we are enabled to make the right decisions about tonal qualities. The onus is on us as engineers to do the best possible job we can as sound engineers, because more and more, people are listening on high-quality, polished playback systems. These monitors give us the ability to see the complete sonic picture, so to speak.”
Now, Madigan’s favorite monitors are the Neumann KH 120 for live recording, and the KH 310s for studio recording and mixing. “I would not be without them and will bring them with me wherever I am working,” he concludes. “Also, I am now considering doing some ‘immersive’ mixes of back catalog material with the KH 310s so I may need many more of these in the near future.”