Mixing Maroon 5 Live with FOH Jim Ebdon

jim-ebdon Maroon 5

Live sound engineer Jim Ebdon (who also mixes Aerosmith and Annie Lennox) shows us which Waves plugins he uses on the Maroon 5 tour to bring the band’s amazing studio sound to their live shows. Jim explains his plugin chains for vocals, guitars, drums, and more.


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my name is Jim Ebden I’m a live sound engineer currently mixing maroon 5 I started as a tea boy in a recording studio in England in the 80s and I was privileged to work with the police Susan the Banshees I learnt some great techniques mic technique cut and tape from some fantastic engineers and producers and by default became a live sound engineer and took what I learnt in the studio on the road with me I’m using a digital st7 mixing console with a layer waves live package with two waves sound grid extreme servers providing the power the onboard processing on this console is is in itself fantastic it’s very good sounding very good quality the beauty with waves is I can bring my studio elements to the live arena SSL G compressor is my primary drum sound I

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never used to leave home without an external unit and now have a software version which is always immediately put across a drum mix I use the low air for the kick drum sometimes run that from an aux end and in big moments where it needs it I’ll put that in and often on tom toms as well if there’s a big huge big Tom Tom thud that jeans that extra low-end I’ll use lower dbx 160 is primarily the bass guitar I always used to use an external 160 X and now I don’t need to you I can send that one home and I have a software version of it I have a guitar group which I use a CLA 2a I like the speed the response of that compressor and I think it just just ever so subtly compresses my guitar mix or my guitar group I’ve got two guitar players going through that group and it just

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takes care of any Peaks I used the nls channel a lot on on groups and I’m using it here on a guitar groups keyboard group and vocal group it just gives a little bit of depth I think and takes the audio of those just just ever so slightly splits it up mimicking an old an old mixing console basically with different temperatures different voltages I’m a big fan of the L threes and when I’m at home mixing I always put that across my mix and of course I do a board mix every night which I mix in audience mics and my and my stereo buss and the l3 just takes care of squeezing it and just adding a tiny bit of high end and I get great results with a board board recording every night Adams vocal he’s got a very strong voice he does however have this 2k5 honk in

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his voice which I use an SSL to get rid of I love the warmth of an SSL coming from a studio background it’s very familiar to me I then goes into a CL a 76 bluey which gives it grainy grit which really suits his voice and then the last thing in the chain is a de-esser because it can be very sibilant I use real ADT live viral orcs send in a stereo return and I pretty much have it up all night long on his vocal even him talking over it has an interesting effect as well as the singing effect I’m desired the best preset I’ve used is this classic vocal ADT and really I don’t have to move it much at all from where it is and that just sounds fantastic to me it’s nice I can give my artist the same choices as they have in the studio and recreate some of the sounds almost identically live thanks for looking at the video and

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I hope it’s useful and I’ll see you soon

Bonus Video

FOH Engineer royalty, Jim Ebdon (Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Aerosmith) talks technique and the tools he relies on in the studio and on the road.


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when i first started mixing live you’d show up to a club and there’d be two compressors and two gates and you’d have to figure out what you wanted to compress and gate obviously you want to get some drums but which ones you know and you wanted something compressed but what were you going to compress so you really had to think about and know what was going to benefit from what you had and i’m still a firm believer in that welcome to audio technology magazine’s iso booth podcast where we phone audio engineers and producers at home and thanks to the pandemic lockdown they answer hey everyone chris here and welcome to another audio technology iso booth in the world of live sound luminaries front of house engineer jim ebden is right in the top echelon he’s mixed everybody from aerosmith annie lennox sting prince and in more recent years sam smith and maroon five um and they’ve kept him well and truly busy over the last five years years welcome jim how are you going great thank you it

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was an awesome introduction thank you some of it may have been correct no no it was perfect okay cool um so i guess um uh famously um your career arc started um as a t-boy in a london uh recording studio which studio is that by the way that was some surrey sound studios in leatherhead actually it was just outside okay right gotcha which was famous for the police okay so that’s where they would take up residency for months on end and they recorded two their first two albums there yeah yeah right so did you did your paths cross at any point they did uh because the guy that owned the studio was their producer for the first three records and [Music] when i joined that studio as a t-boy they they finished working with him and they’d moved on to hugh pagean but they came back to that studio to do like b so he had to do b sides in those days so they came back

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and did some you know try to write something or they then they actually re-recorded so that was my introduction to that right and then that studio what happened that that led you to uh life of the live sound engineer well i uh you know i i um would stay late and i became a studio engineer and learned you know mic technique and saw amazing producers and engineers come through so that’s how i learned um you know how to do how to record okay was there like an ssl a series at that time in there i know that when i first started there was an old mci console and then they bought a harrison console and i don’t know why they sold that so quickly and then they bought it i think it was a money issue but then they bought an old tac console okay and then sadly the studio went bankrupt and uh you know i was forced to go freelance but i progressed to be an

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engineer and i’ve been doing quite well actually you know just um recording some albums with some people and one in particular was an old english rock band called wishbone ash and i was i was recording a record with them and they said to me that you know we’re doing a festival in germany at the weekend you want to come over and mix it i might yeah of course yeah so so we get out of this festival site and it’s our turn to sound check and i wasted our 20-minute sound check on the kick drum sound because being a studio in a studio on a kick drum so i no one said to me you’ve got 20 minutes to to get this working so that was my first uh shock of a live sound it was very very different i expect you uh yeah you learned to run very quickly i had to very quickly yeah yeah but i but you know they were great and they were you know they’re older guys and they they taught me that

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the ropes are touring and the reason why i stuck with touring is because the studio i was working out went bankrupt um and i tried doing the you know the rounds of the london studios as a freelancer and it was at that time the studios just started closing down because they were too expensive to maintain because all these new like pro tools and fair lights had just come out and people were favoring those to record with so the big studios were going out of business and i just ended you know the phone just rang to come and mix gigs so that’s what i did um you’re in a privileged position where um you have seen some huge generational shifts in the way we we mix bands and produce bands and you’re also one of those engineers with that much experience who still um really loves to ride um

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the zeitgeist of gear you’re not you’re not sort of that guy still wishing you had a heritage you know three thousand and um you know 20 tons of turbo sound um but um i think the the first time um i met you actually the only time i met you was in the late 90s and you’re in a huge empty arena in manchester doing production rehearsals for wet wet wet yeah and i imagine back like can you remember what you were using there would that have been uh martin sound i probably would have uh no we used a company called ssc from birmingham and in in those days it would have been a big mt4 electro-voice mt4 apa system and most likely a midas xl4 gotcha that was that was yeah and uh you went to know that in a few short years you would um somebody would start talking to you about vdosk right i went uh i heard about vdosk

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and supertramp uh were touring with a vedos grig ah with uh our very own angus davidson who lives down the road yeah well so i don’t know how many years ago that was but they played at the albert hall and i managed to you know score a pass from somebody and go down there and check it out and i’d recently been in the albert hall and it was just a nightmare in those days with you know how did we do the sound at the albert hall it’s usually a center cluster no but this is just like this little skinny column of speakers left and right and no it can’t be true and i went and i was i yeah i remember just like wait where’s this sound coming from those you know because they look pretty small you know 12 vdoskasai i think that’s probably all that was there at that time and uh yeah i was i was shocked it was it was amazing and that was a really good sounding show really good great mix and did that uh did you instantly go away saying um thinking i’ve got to be mixing on

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this system or did it was like a slow burn for you as far as the opportunity i don’t i really don’t remember the timeline as to when i started using it but it probably wasn’t that long it seemed to become popular very quickly i mean everybody seemed to be wanting it and that i did a i think a pop tour um in the uk with a v the right one of the first vedos i think lars brogard had got a bdos rig and he got hold of it somehow and i think i used that for for a few weeks run and that was it really it was i don’t think i’ve ever used anything else other than sorry in terms of line array sure i don’t think it was just line erase from there on i didn’t use any other conventional sound system is there anything that you miss about conventional sound systems no nothing

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absolutely have you uh it’s it’s interesting that you know we’re now in the midst of another big generational shift with um immersive and mel acoustics is kind of one of the prime movers there as well um like what’s uh what’s been your exposure to immersive i think it’s a really interesting concept or whatever it is at the moment um we uh funnily enough this last summer um 2020 summer sitting around twiddling our thumbs wondering what to do with ourselves and i got involved with a couple of guys doing crowd noise for sports um and obviously i live in america now and uh the baseball season was getting underway and our plan was to try and do immersive sound of crowd noise for the players on the field and uh we actually went to the los angeles dodgers and set up an at least immersive system we didn’t

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hang anything we just stacked it then we put it around the field like on the first concourse level and the players loved it you know they were practicing we’re hitting shots and the crowd would be screaming and uh you know we really got this dialed in um very well but that’s a whole nother story but we were using the immersive sound system yeah long story short they didn’t take the league didn’t want to pay the money for this um but fox sports loved what we did so they got us in the studio down the road here and we sweetened all their sporting events for six months so what were you bringing to that um that mix uh like just the fact that you’d properly recorded crowd sound in in in a sort of a surround manner we had compiled a lot of surround sound we actually got um like younger guys to to play the sounds to be the audience um only because they’re more focused than they were used to pressing buttons quickly and totally into the sport and i kind of

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just and a couple of other guys we got in we just oversaw the sound that interface between us and the network so we would make sure they were getting a surround feed from us and we’ve got all the levels properly and then you know and we’d mix it appropriately uh with dynamic according to the game you know so okay so um i’m not sure i’m gonna sort of ask some dumb questions here so there’s never a dumb question are you are you are you saying that you were like performing the crowd sound yeah absolutely queue absolutely so where was this crowd in a in a ableton computer so okay so how or what did this crowd when did you record like it was you know we were a group of sound engineers that had lots of recordings of different emotions of crowds

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right and fred vogler who is the head sound engineer at the hollywood bowl this was his baby and he had actually over the years for some reason recorded a lot of sporting crowds so he had sports crowd just like libraries of various uh levels of emotions and we basically put them in ableton and just got a midi keyboard and triggered those sounds and it was as simple as that so here’s what the major league baseball did they got sony station sounds put them on an ipad and sent the ipad to eat every club around the country and go there you go there’s your sounds it’s crowd sounds and it was six different sounds and uh you know and they would play them on their very weathered sound systems of these stadiums and it just you know nine times out of ten sounded like just white noise um thickness but anyway that’s beside

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the point that’s what we did through the summer we did all the baseball and the software okay nfl right so um even at the super bowl with with that that was augmented uh the sound would probably we want anything to do with the super bowl but um we did do the uh world series baseball okay so i was the sound engineer for the crowd at the world series spacecraft so you just just to be clear you didn’t press the keys you had a young guy in inverted commas who was really into the game who knew you know and you know we had we had a few of those guys but this one particular guy he was so good he knew the game of baseball better than half the players on the field and his anticipation was it was amazing and just the way he played the crowd was fantastic including like they would be um you know villains as well as good shots so

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we would obviously favor the home team um which we were told to buy fox sports you know just make make the home team a little give them some more love you know something i’m putting in we’ve had a complaint give the other team some more love oh ok we had a good time six months that’s brilliant that’s pretty yeah um so can you tell me um like uh just a little bit about what you’re up to so um when was the last time that you uh mixed a show in front of real life human beings and um and what are you sort of doing at the moment like uh when you’re not obviously on the road uh the last show i mixed was uh last year on march the uh first i think it was mardi gras in sydney um that was the last show i mixed back to america and everything shut down

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a few days later um so since then i kind of you know like everybody else for the first month or so just was in quarantine and wondering what was happening and you know like everyone else and then thought i was ridiculous something’s gonna happen this is you know so and but i’d already got a console from ssl and put it in my studio home um the morning of lockdown i managed to get over there and get one out um and now and you know through the summer we as i said we did that sport the crowd sports which kind of naturally uh um just sort of played its course really um they started letting more people into sporting events here in america not so much california but some of the um other states um and um and then i started to get uh

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people call me up hey can you mix this the the business kind of started slowly again more on the production level my tv shows were doing it and now these live streams suddenly became available to people and um of course they’re uh mixing them uh sorry they’re recording them and it’s like oh we need someone to mix this and so i would got some phone calls from a couple of really good bands did i did i hear that you uh working with justin bieber yeah uh that led me to justin bieber they were looking for a broadcast mixer for a new year’s eve gig and um so they gave me a call about that and i went in and mixed this new year’s eve show what was what did that what did that look like well it was justin bieber performing with his band and dancers on the rooftop of the beverly hills hilton so just like any other any other regular gig basically just like a regular gig except it was on a

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rooftop with regenerative scaffolding anyway the the audience were in the balconies of the hotel and i did you know co-vid regulations et cetera i think there’s four people per balcony were they were they just guests or were they paying one night i don’t know they had to pay for the privilege of going and maybe there was hotel guests maybe it was a package deal i don’t know it was sponsored by t-mobile um it’s a great idea yeah it was a good idea and at least it was a you know a covered friendly audience um so where were you mixing that gig sorry just to uh oh right yeah uh i set up a like a makeshift mix room uh in a room at the hotel so i was away from everyone else and um which is great we just set up in there and recorded it and i actually got to one of my guys who does the audience sweetening he came and did the crowd noise extra crowd noise for it because um you know just pointing some shotgun mics at

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some hotel balconies was wasn’t what we were getting was reflection from the pa and very little audience so we we did uh cheat a little bit and sweden was he was he like the the baseball expert uh no he was a music expert that was became a boxing expert we were boxing for uh for fox sports right okay but he still had he still had a feel for when pit win screaming girls right yeah well we we it was more cocktail party kind of all right the clink of glasses uh so that led on to um more broadcast work with justin so you know he’s doing that with right in the middle of um recording uh something for spotify and it’s and it’s filmed as well on a clever video stage called an xr stage over at prg

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and uh you know we’re doing some live training you know he’s great because he wants his band to play he wants to sing live he wants it to be live yeah um so he’s he’s keeping busy she’s nice and what’s uh like um is it is it fun is it fun to mix i’m guessing that they’re amazing he’s got some good tunes i gotta say um you know it’s a fun band to mix they’re very they’re very good players and guys from la here i think and um yeah and um the reason why we’re sitting in your kitchen rather than your studio is that that that you’ve basically packed up your studio to do this work is that yeah my studio is a very portable studio and it’s it’s it’s basically in the box you know but i i have a rack of effects and you know just my stuff i like to take because i know it works i know that you know i just i take it with me so

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it’s everything i need um and the console is supplied for me and i even take my own speakers and speaker stands yeah what do you mix on what speakers sorry uh i’ve been using the neumann three-tenths with a stub which uh and and now they have this uh new software which will timeline the speakers and room you know room correction software ping ping your room and uh yeah yeah it’s fantastic because i’ve been moving so many rooms in the last two months i need some consistency with the monitoring and uh and that seems to work really well and i like the sound of those speakers um just like a by way of a word from our sponsors like i gather one of the reasons why it came to mind was uh in my inbox was the fact that you um have taken on some austrian audio microphones um yeah we i have to confess we had them in um the office we loved the eight one eight thought it was an amazing

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uh you know first microphone as it were yeah the company um so so you’ve got you’ve got those in in i’ve got a pair of eight one eights i’ve got a pair of them probably the first ones that were made uh which i’m using for uh overheads well actually in this case they’re kind of underheads um for some reason that’s a whole other story but um yeah i love them i think they’re great i mean i just put them there and just don’t even have to think about it you know just put them in the right spot and it’s um sounds like overheads capturing a drum kit you know um i haven’t got into any of the clever stuff um that you can do with them um because i felt i needed to that’s right it’s kind of got its that own nap just like an app you can you know change the stuff and the configurator and the do jungles and stuff like that you know um so i’m sure if i had more time to actually play with that i i probably might but

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um i’m just using them as a regular microphone which seems to work fine yeah and uh clearly uh you’ll be you’re using uh the ssl console currently it’s like you’ve made a switch desk cell sort of pretty much whole as bolus or at the moment using something oh no i’m i’m back on another brand of console um only because i kind of inherited it you’re allowed to mention you’re allowed to mention brands jim thank you oh what’s a digicode console an sd7 you know which is what i left to go and make some uh ssls yep and you know you know digicode consoles are fantastic there’s you know there’s ssl and digico just you know out of this world consoles live consoles you know and uh so i inherited this sd7 and and i like it and it’s working and we’re just in this groove now and uh you know maybe i’ll maybe i’ll change back to an essence now when i’ve

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got some time sounds good um so uh there’s a mix through a bunch of ssl outboard products the fusion and a bus compressor so what’s in what’s in your rack that you take around you you’ve got a bus you’ve got a bus compressor and like a from ssl and what else yeah i i take with me um two uh universal audio uh live racks uh which are my plugins uh which i don’t really use a lot of i just use you know i don’t want a rack of of four api 2500s or for tubetechs or you know la2as and who would want that i mean it would be lovely but you know let’s let’s be practical so um so what is in the right is two uad uh real-time racks um two brocassi m7s reverbs um one tubetech

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cl1b another tubetech which is the stereo multiband compressor an api 250 an ssl bus compressor and an ssl fusion not a bad little rack actually it’s not a bad rack it seems to do the trick for me yeah so what do you think uh is um as far as processing in the last five ten years like um what do you find indispensable like what’s what’s kind of come along that you really really really wish you had 25 years ago [Music] i think probably uh well i’d have to say plugins but then again i try not to use them some i rather use proper real outboard gear and the plugins i use i am automated they’re used like outboard gear so i don’t create snapshots with them i i you know

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my when i first started mixing live you’d show up to a club and there’d be two compressors and two gates and you’d have to figure out what you wanted to compress and gate obviously you want to get some drums but which ones you know and you wanted something compressed but what were you going to compress so you really had to think about and know what was going to benefit from what you had and i’m still a firm believer in that i don’t believe in just throwing a dozen plugins on something just because they’re available i just it just i don’t compete with that at all and um i i heard a podcast about delaying channels on a console to get all your plugins to line up and smart being on each channel why you just get the sound right in the first place and then get a good sounding console and then you don’t have to use all those plugins um you know that’s just where my

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head’s at but you know i do believe there is a place for plugins and they are extremely useful uh there’s some great tools available yeah i do wonder about you know sort of multi-band compression and you know when you think about you know back in the days where this you might have have you know 130 db of marshall coming through your vocal mic and the stage was noisier than the auditorium and um all that stuff and trying to like get a vocal over the background uh cacophony and like and now you know you can have like a studio mic in front of a vocalist and and you can have um sort of amazing um yeah um just dynamic eq and um uh multi-band compression and you know finesse it to the degrees that is that sort of do you i guess you you in your position you sort of take that for granted but um you must

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you must um kind of pinch yourself at times yeah i mean i kind of i try to keep it old-school and there are some very useful tools for exactly what you were saying it’s you know just quiet vocals um very quiet singers you know getting them above you know there’s some useful tools within the plug-in platform you know to be able to do that um and there are some crazy effects and just crazy stuff which is fine if you want to do that that’s absolutely fine then then there’s your tools and they’re they’re abundant you know but i just like the i just you know i i compress as a compressor to me and it’s you know and it’s you choose which one you want to use and then you know fine-tune it from there sure so yeah that’s you know that’s been a compressor for 40 years you know that’s all it does that’s what

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it wakes up in the morning to do and uh probably nothing ever been touched on it you know yeah yeah i guess yeah you can uh kind of get a bit lost um with um you know when you’re talking about sort of adding sort of two percent of some kind of um tape emulation across the mix bus and whether you’re using the ampex or the mci or the 15 ips versus the 30 and you’re kind of like right how can you even hear that yeah you’re kidding yourself let’s listen to the final mix and see what’s going on and take a step back and don’t mix with your eyes yeah um okay so um i’m a cheapskate and we’re on zoom so we’re going to get chopped off pretty quickly um but i i the last time the last time i’ll do another one if you want we could we could yeah i don’t mind at the bottom um well just let’s pretend we’re about to get cut off i’m never going to speak to you again so my final question is um last time we spoke 25 years ago

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um i seem to recall you were enjoying a fat cigar i reckon it was all like an affectation when i arrived in the arena you uh were you’re kicking back your feet on the midas xl4 you had a huge stogie in your hand looking like the instead of the mafia wow so you’ve yeah you don’t yeah you’ve obviously given away the cigars well yeah times have changed yeah i don’t smoke anymore i’m not such a dick as i used to be pretentious you know big headed all those other things i think definitely with age and and uh yeah you know wisdom yeah the wisdom is you know just very grateful to be here today well it’s been amazing to talk to you and um thanks for your time um yeah and uh hopefully we get to talk

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again um before 2045. oh well if we’re talking then as a miracle happen

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