The debut of the “Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien” on NBC was full of firsts, including Max Weinberg and the entire “Tonight Show” band's use of Aviom personal mixers for monitoring. Dave Winslow, monitor engineer for the band since 2005, brought the Aviom system to the group’s attention. During the preparations for Conan O'Brien preparing to take over the hosting duties of the “Tonight Show,” Winslow worked on another late-night talk show where the house band was using the system. Band leader Max Weinberg and the band's musical director and guitar player Jimmy Vivino came over and saw the system in action and agreed that it was worth trying out.
The Aviom system supplies 16 channels of audio to a series of compact personal mixers stationed in front of each musician, who can then mix their own monitors to taste. The “Tonight Show” setup includes two AN-16/i analog input modules to interface the two separate Aviom Pro16 systems to the Yamaha PM1D console. Near the console, eight A-16R rack-mount mixers are daisy-chained via Aviom's A-Net digital audio protocol. A custom loom of Cat 6 cable fans out to the monitor positions on the bandstand. Each band member has an Aviom A-16CS control surface to mix with. At each monitor position, a Rolls PM50 personal monitor amp has been mounted to power the IEMs. To complete the system, Weinberg and Vivino each wear a lavalier mic, activated via foot switch, to communicate with Winslow and the rest of the band.
Various music sources are being sent to the 32 channels of the two Aviom Pro16 systems running on set. Winslow has also created a stereo submix of production elements and talkback that connect to the stereo aux mix inputs of the eight A-16R rack-mount mixers.
"We've been using the Aviom system for the ‘Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ band since the debut," Winslow said. "Having the musicians mix themselves has allowed me to focus more on the production elements and cues. From a monitor engineer's perspective, it's the Holy Grail."
Because the 40-plus inputs of the band couldn't be represented in only 16 stems, Winslow has configured a two-zone Aviom Pro16 system. One system is used for the rhythm section and uses stereo submixes of horns and vocals. The other, for the horn players and vocalists, has individual channels for each horn and vocal with the other elements submixed. This gives Winslow the flexibility to give the musicians the stems they need to control most.
In addition to enabling the musicians to personalize their mix, Aviom's personal mixing system also provides Winslow with the ability to ensure that each band member is receiving a good mix. "One thing to keep in mind is that musicians often have no concept of proper gain structure, so I chose the A-16R/A-16CS combination, instead of the simpler A-16IIs, in anticipation of that," Winslow said. "Having the A-16R rack mounts next to me in monitor world allows me to not only see each performer's mix and levels, but also allows me to take over momentarily to fix any gain structure problems."