The Aaron B Story
The name of the brand. Aaron Boothe a Mancunian with now 10 years of experience in manufacturing pro audio speakers systems and 14 years as a professional sound engineer.
His story began in his early youth days. Many of his family members are DJ's and have sound systems exposing Aaron to equipment he was more excited about than toys (so his mother states). By the age of 14, Aaron was DJ’ing needing taxis to get himself and his gear to gigs because he was too young to drive, even designing his own sound systems and building boxes in his mother's living room. The passion for this field was already in his blood.
Such early exposure to head-lining performers and DJs, for whom the reputation of having a great sound was paramount, gave the young Aaron an insight to what speaker systems needed to deliver for top artists. A rich love of music from his Jamaican family background was ignited into a passion for learning how to make sound systems that could meet such high demands. With the courage and independent thinking typical of all innovators, Aaron realised the need to move far beyond his culture’s traditions in speaker-building to master what was required to develop speaker systems for the professional audio markets.
Aaron’s first years at some Manchester based companies from 2002 such as Concert Systems, Wigwam Acoustics, Rockys, dbnaudile and MCL, plus in-house engineering at Manchester Academy, gave him a complete grounding in the real-world requirements of top level audio. As he progressed to Mix and System Engineer, working with UK & international bands on concerts, festivals, theatres, and in the corporate sector, he learned what it was like to be at the helm of a sound ship.
Does the industry need another brand
WHY AARON B?
The industry is always focused on the top end of the market, top level brands, top level products that all come at high costs.
So what about the middle market customers and users? In the middle market there are limited brands and products available that follow many key principles of professional audio systems.
They come with limited features and lack in abilities to cope with the demand from high level applications.
Aaron Boothe has over 14 years of experience as a sound engineer for concerts, festivals, DJ events, conferences, private functions and installations. He learnt that not all customers for these applications have the budget for the current top level brands.
So what do we have as alternatives?
AARON B is a new brand here to cater solely for the middle market. Our products have been built for purpose. They following key audio principles missed in other middle market products. All our products come in series and also have amplifier and DSP solutions making it very simple to use and ensuring users have the best quality, consistency and reliability.
We listen to opinions, companies, engineers and users. We will continue to fill our catalogue of products for the middle market meeting as many requirements as possible.
The opinion of Aaron Boothe about Speaker Systems
At the core of Aaron B’s product designs is combining point source fundamentals with the most modern technologies. From Aaron Boothe’s research and development work, unique cabinet designs and bespoke component specifications build on the inherent strengths of point source, taking it ahead of the curve again in providing superb sound systems that meet and surpass the audio demands and expectations of today’s audiences, artists and engineers. Dedicated power amps, which have evolved through working closely with renowned British amplifier designers, complete the AARON B systems.
Speakers come in different types of designs, some of the common ones we all know are:
Line array Coaxial
Horn loaded subwoofers
Direct radiating subwoofers
These all have different characteristics and limitations. They can be used for multiple types of applications but they cannot be used for every application.
It is unnecessary to understand the full in depth theoretical function of a speaker system. Though it is very important to have a basic understanding of speaker systems, whether you are an engineer, sales rep, installer or user.
Not understanding can lead you to believe in something that is impossible to achieve. It can also lead you into purchasing or selling products which are not suitable for the intended application leaving the end result disappointing.
People may choose speakers based on its brand, size, appearance, power and other technical specifications. Although this information is important, none of this information will guide you to using the correct products for the application. Only experience with a product, training or documented information from the manufacture will guide you correctly.
THE CORRECT SPEAKERS
At AARON B our aim is to guide resellers, engineers and users to choosing the correct products for their applications. On all our product pages on the website, we will have a guide from Aaron as to the design purpose and limitations of the product. All dealers and distributors will also advise customers on the correct products and system combinations just as Aaron Boothe would himself. This will ensure the maximum benefits of an AARON B speaker system are received.
AARON B products are designed in series. We have made every series complete as systems to include mid/hi speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers. We advise not to mix any of the AARON B series as they are designed and voiced to coherently match each other. Mixing the series will lead you into phasing issues, mismatched crossover points and unbalanced efficiency levels.
As a business, we are very keen on consistency; this is key to our brand and our reputation. We can give the assurance that once unpackaged every AARON B system will sound the same no matter which part of the world you are in as long as the guidance information is followed appropriately as well as using the correct DSP amplifiers and modules to match the products we provide.
The Build & Quality Control
Our products are built to last so you will be investing in quality & durability. Within our build process our focus is to ensure we use the best quality wood, bracing, joints and components. Our products are assembled and designed to be durable under extreme use and to withstand the reality of some accidents like a speaker being dropped etc. In order to do this, we do not compromise on the build quality to make the products lighter in weight. Speakers must be well braced to maintain a strong physical structure and to be able to sustain the pressure that components can apply to the enclosures.
Components are selectively chosen to suit the application, desired sound quality, SPL levels required, frequency response and reliability. To achieve this, we do not use one supplier. We have our own custom developed components and we use well-known brands/suppliers such as Faital Pro, B&C and RCF transducers.
Some components will be made from the heavier ceramic or ferrite magnets and others may be from the lighter neodymium. We do not focus on either type or weight, both types have different characteristics and will be used where necessary.
Power rating is also something we do not initially focus on when choosing components. What we try to ensure is that the component power, sensitivity ratings and frequency response are all suitable for product design and application.
It’s important to understand speakers can only be protected to a limited point. We can only limit the voltage and the frequency range going to a speaker via our DSP & amplifier packages. Unfortunately, we cannot stop a user from sending a distorted square wave into the amplifiers, which will go straight to the speakers despite how the limiters are set at. Over a short period of time we can guarantee this will cause some damage to the speakers or the passive crossover components. We advise customers and users to avoid sending a distorted square wave into the signal chain. Generally, this will mean keeping out of the red.
Getting into the industry from the experience of Aaron Boothe
FROM THE WAREHOUSE UP
Many people ask, which route should I take to get into the Live Music industry. The answer is to start from the bottom find an audio company to work for. Many people today have gained access to the industry skipping the vital routes to positions working with some great new artists and traveling around the world. It sounds great to be able to jump straight in but skipping these routes means you will not fully understand the job, the processes and the equipment.
The first and most important role in my opinion is the Warehouse Technician. Many see this role as a demoted role, I see it as one of the most important roles you can ever have. Everything starts from the warehouse. It’s the only position where you will get the opportunity to fully understand the equipment, its connectivity, functionality and to troubleshoot. You will learn how to lift and load vehicles correctly.
This is also where the months of planning then come into action. Preparations for arena tours & festivals can take weeks. The systems have to be built to specification, fully tested and faults have to be identified noted and fixed. Sometimes special cables & panels may need to be manufactured for tours. You also need to ensure everything is logical and simple. This can drive system engineer’s crazy on the road, you need to also make sure all the cases are labelled and they are packed correctly with the relevant combinations of different items.
Following all these steps contributes to the time it takes to setup a system, pack it down and troubleshoot.
This core information will help you out in the field more than you think.
SOUND CREW MEMBER
The second most important role is being a general sound crew member. You need lifting technique more than strength, you need speed, you need to be able to see a problem, prevent or act on it. You need a general understanding of what every piece of equipment is called. You also need to understand a technical instruction, connectivity, cabling, microphones, technical communication. Many people in this role actually understand the system more than the front of house engineers.
Many of today’s FOH or monitor engineers get easy breaks. They end up on the road working with artists without starting from the bottom. This may seem great as those roles are more respected in the industry. The problem is skipping the roles of the warehouse and crew technicians means that although you can mix, you still don’t have enough knowledge to support yourself or troubleshoot.
You don’t want to be the engineer that’s caused a major problem, delayed the show, Take time to fully learn and understand equipment and connectivity before mixing.
LISTEN. UNDERSTAND. LEARN
1) – Learn analogue mixing consoles before digital. Learn about inserts, learn how to use an analogue console, analogue compressors, gates, graphics and fx units. Learn about the signal path and routing here first.
2) - Speaker systems, learn about speaker components and what their purpose is. Should you be using a point source system or line array? Learn about their ranges and frequency responses, learn how to use analogue crossovers, digital crossovers like an XTA with basic 2 channel none dsp amplifier.
3) – Learn about different microphones. Don’t follow people read up on what manufactures recommend you use their products for. Use your own ears. Even the best mics are sometimes not ideal for every scenario.
4) Learn the basics of power requirements. Learn about the amp loads and voltages. Learn how to balance 3 phase loads especially on generators.
My experience from learning the above helped me understand all the new equipment that’s released in this current day. Even with experience, training is often required.
THE ROLE OF A SOUND ENGINEER
There are so many sub categories and many different sectors of Audio industry. There are many different roles and understandings. Many people state they are a sound engineer but when it comes to it they may be involved in a very small sector of the industry. Many people that are trying to get into the industry don’t know what roles are actually available in this sector. A sound engineer Man or Woman has many different job roles which include amplifying audio signals, mixing and balancing music, setting or wiring up speaker systems, mic-ing up instruments and many more.
Here is a small list of different sectors of the Professional Audio Industry:
Live Music & Concerts
Conferences & Presentations
TV & Broadcast
Studio Recording & Music Production
Installations Night clubs, bars & other commercial premises
Although they are different. There all have the same principles. They will all use the same type of equipment and all end up at the same end point, which is what people will hear.
All these sectors require different approaches to achieve the results trying to use the same methods from one sector to another doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. Its not easy to be a pro at everything. you will find an area you prefer. Take time to learn and understand these sectors and also the different technical languages which are used.
10 LIVE MUSIC JOB ROLES
Systems Designer – the person who will design the audio system suitable for the venue & artist/band specification. If done correctly the communications will first need to be made with the FOH, Monitor Engineer & Band MD, then communications will need to be made with the production manager in regards to budgets and logistics. After that you should then design your system.
Systems Engineer – This role is usually doubled up by the ‘Systems Designer’. The person responsible for the setup and functionality of the audio system at the event/venue. They will work in the warehouse directly with the ‘Warehouse Technician’. They will measure the venue, decide on a design, fly or ground stack the speaker systems and ensure the system is in full operation. They will also tune and delay each element of the system to a good balanced starting point for the FOH engineer.
Warehouse Technician – The person who will prepare and test the audio system specified by the ‘Systems designer’. Very important role. You need to ensure the equipment specified is first compatible and configurable in the way it was designed. You will need to build racks and load cases, keeping the system as condensed as possible to save on labour and truck space. You will need to ensure all equipment has the latest firmware and PAT tested so it doesn’t expire whilst out on the road. You need to report to the ‘System Designer, FOH Engineer, Monitor Engineer & Stage/Patch Technician of the setup and any issues.
Warehouse Service Engineers – The individuals who do basic equipment repairs. They may need to design and build cabling systems. PAT testing is also a major requirement.
Stage/Patch Technician – The person responsible for the connectivity of the microphones, and instruments on stage. They will decide on how you are going to wire the signal input & output sat boxes on stage. They will also label them. They will provide power to the instruments on stage. At festivals this should be the first point of contact. You will need to confirm with them before anyone else if your input channel list has changed from what they may have on file. They will do any required updates and pass on to the team.
The Front of House Engineer (FOH) is the person who mixes the sound for the audience.
Probably the most respected role in the Live music industry. The person who you will get more publicity. Usually has the choice of what mics, and PA System. Let’s be straight. They are last in the chain generally at least 30-60m away from the stage and have the easiest role of the team. If there is a problem on stage you don’t have to deal with it. You have 1 mix to do at your own preference.
The Monitor Engineer is the person hidden behind the scene who mixes the sound for each musician and singer on stage. They will either use stage monitors or ‘in-ear monitoring systems’. On average they will do from 4 to 14 separate mixes based on individual requests. The most important Sound Engineer in the team. Usually the one to setup rehearsals for the artist/band. First point of contact for the artist or band members. This role comes with a vast level of responsibilities & liabilities. Requires good people skills, communication & patience. It needs you to be very attentive. A role that many people don’t understand. Finally, responsible for tuning the monitor speakers.
RF Engineer – The person responsible for choosing and setting up radio frequencies for multiple wireless radio mic, in-ear monitoring systems’ and comms systems. This job requires training once you get to very high numbers of radio systems to ensure there are no conflicts with the radio frequency bands. Licences are also required and need to be booked once you have chosen your frequency list.
General Crew – Extra pair of hands lifting, loading and moving equipment around. Connecting cables & equipment. Driving vans or trucks. Techniques are required for lifting equipment. If you do not have good techniques you can cause injury to yourself and others. Driving large vehicles which are heavily loaded can be very dangerous. You need to know how to load vans correctly ensuring the weight balance is correct and cases are strapped down well.
Production Manager – Person that will arrange all the tour technical aspects of sound, light, stage and video. They may arrange logistics and budgets also. The go-to-person usually the boss. This person will normally speak directly with the artist management team.
Each of these roles creates the team but in the real world Engineers are forced to multitask due to budget constraints. So It best to know and understand a few of these roles if you wish to be a priority and have more chance of being chosen for the job.
There is one thing people must understand about the job.
It isn’t all about the artist on your CV. There are many other factors that will help your career.
One point in my statement refers to engineers who chase to mix headlining artist where the music they are performing those engineers either never listen to or have any interest in.
Many people will state they can mix anything. I know I can’t. It isn’t always based on your technical abilities. Music is emotional, you have to connect with it. There is no recipe for mixing sound.
Many engineers are booked based on their CV; people will ask the question ‘who have you mixed for? Other engineers are booked within the friendship circle, there’s nothing anyone can do about that.
But does it mean as long as the engineers mention a big commercial name you’re a great engineer?
Why are people never asked ‘what type of music have you have you had experience in mixing? Music originates from cultures just like food. What do I mean by that?
On a Friday night take out you may decide on what type of cultural food you want to eat. Indian, Chinese or maybe Jamaican food. How many of you personally listen to multiple cultures of music?
Just to ensure you understand where I’m going with this it’s not about race, one can assume if you say Rock band your referring to white people or if you say Reggae band your referring to black people. No this isn’t correct. You will find rock bands in Indian and Reggae bands in Japan.
My point is ‘Understanding Sound Is Learning How To Listen’
It is a total disrespect to the culture of music if you dismiss the work and effort producers and artist put in to making their music sound one way and you amplify it a different way.
Just remember the job is to amplify the music one plays to ensure thousands of people can hear it the same way as they would have sat in their living room. Of course with the live element kick to it.
Engineer’s will be challenged at times to mix bands we have never heard like a festival especially. Take the time to listen and understand the type of music you are going to mix beforehand. You must try to enjoy the music in order to mix it well.
Many music directors spend a long time arranging the music, choosing sounds and FX. There is nothing worst when the FOH & Monitor Engineer doesn’t take time to understand the material he is being sent and in the show they miss the key sounds and the balance wrong making the songs sound alien to the audience or to the band members.
So for your career you should first decide what type of cultures of music you would love to mix. Understand it, learn it and enjoy it. Don’t mix music you don’t enjoy because you just need some work. It’s unfair to the creators and also to the people you are blocking from mixing the music they enjoy.
If you are one to just chase the big names and the best equipment without understanding and learning the culture of the music, then note there will be many people that will eventually take all your work.
Make the right commitments.
ADVICE FOR STARTING OUT
Is this really something you want to do? Or is it that the money is good and would it gain you a high status? Let’s be honest we all require a stable income. The job requires us to be away from home and our families so it’s in our best interest to maximise on our income as no work throughout the year is guaranteed. Gaining a higher status, who wouldn’t want this? With a higher status It’s more likely you will be chosen for better work, shows, tours & job roles. you will get closer to your dreams of working artist who you have always wanted to work with. You will also be able to charge more for your services. Generally, it can improve your career.
Dealing with the artist
If you want respect and need people to follow your instructions, support you or corporate you need good people skills. Sometimes it can be very difficult to deal with some artist or band members. Remember they are famous they are used to getting what they want no matter how they ask. All it takes is for them to provoke you and based on your reaction and tone, if they don’t like how you have spoken to them, they will not hesitate to send you home even if it doesn’t benefit them.
Always be attentive towards artist & band members. Not every artist can describe to you what they want or need when it comes to sound. You should be aware of every change you make and how it affects them. Keep eye contact as their communication with you may be for that split second whilst their performing.
Develop trust. Maybe they are the cause of their own problem. You should tell them what they are doing wrong. Make them understand. Don’t be afraid of losing your job because you don’t want to explain to the artist of band members that they are creating the problems you maybe accruing, ensure you have something to backup your point. Make sure you have doubled checked all your processes first. Remember it is for their best interests.
Good People skills will help you get through the day.
Good Practice Sound Checks
Before you call out the band or artist for a sound check. You need to ensure you’re ready. You need to ensure your communication systems between foh, monitors, patch and stage and setup and functioning. Everything needs to be tested with your audio equipment. The input channels should be checked between foh, monitors & patch.
Its always good practice to only call for the musicians and no vocals. Follow the channel list in order starting with channel 1. Ensure both engineers have the channels and are happy with the sound before moving on. Once the band are done then bring out any backing singers. Follow the same process then finally bring out the artist. I would always say it’s better to leave them in a comfortable dressing room rather than standing on the stage waiting. That’s the point where their frustration builds.
Pride & Teamwork
Some people have too much pride and don’t want people to look down on them because they may not know how to do something so they don’t ask for help or expect help.
For example, on events such as Live music festivals, you may already know that time is limited. You may have the best of only 30 minutes to do a full band change over line check and be ready to start the show. On these events you will have Technicians to support you. It is in your best interest to use these technicians to ensure your show runs smooth. Don’t waste your own time trying to work out how to do something when you can simply ask a question. You may know the equipment but you won’t necessarily know how it is setup so just ask. Something simple you may be short of time and still have to put fresh batteries in mics and packs ask for help. Refusing help may change the attitude of your babysitter and they not help you after that. This maybe an artist/band you have worked with for many of years. You don’t want to be the act that went on stage and experienced problems. There is nothing better than having a successful show and retaining your position. Team work is the key to success.
Grow to be yourself
We have all been trained from someone on how to do things, many follow other engineers leads and claim their methods are the correct way. As you are growing in the business you need to develop your own techniques with a reason behind it.
Methods you must follow as those instructions & training programs given from manufacturers of products you are using.
Don’t limit yourself to learning as you will find that every year you will know more than your previous year.
Presentation & Cleanliness
We all know this isn’t a job where we need to wear a suit and tie. We may need to wear hard wearing clothes and steal toe caps. You could be working is a luxurious theatre or a muddy field.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take pride in your appearance. Clean clothes and take a shower.
I say this because of experience in sending great engineers to work with certain artist and environments and the report that comes back great engineer great sound But! Don’t send him again his presentation caused many complaints. Remember it’s not always about your technical abilities.
Don’t limit yourself by not having a driving license you could miss out on many opportunities if you can’t drive. Many jobs come with limited budgets or odd arrival times and require you to drive your car or even the van with the equipment.