The Radial SW8 Switcher is an 8-channel redundant backup switching interface designed for live concert touring and stage shows that employ backing tracks as part of the sound production.
According to company president Peter Janis:
"Today, it is common for bands to support their live performance with backing tracks as a means to provide the audience with the type of production that they expect when they hear a record. For instance, when Queen performed Bohemian Rhapsody backing tracks were used to provide the vocal chorus. This is generally done using one or more stand alone digital recorders such as the ones made by Tascam, Alesis, or IZ Radar. Unfortunately, even though these machines are very dependable in safety of the studio, traveling night after night across confinements in a truck on bumpy roads inevitably takes its toll and these machines invariably fail due to the inordinate abuse. When disaster occurs, a backup recorder is required."
- "The Radial SW8 makes it possible to switch to an alternate machine either automatically or manually should the need arise. Before launching the SW8, we consulted with a wide number of stage technicians including tech that work with Chick Corea, The Eagles, U2 and so on. These guys know all of the ins and outs of road travel and helped us establish a common feature set. The result is the Radial SW8." -
The SW8 rear panel features two A-B sets of eight (8) line-level balanced input channels with choice of Tascam compatible DB25 multipins or 1/4" TRS inputs. The eight accompanying outputs are available with DB25 for balanced line level feed or front panel balanced mic level XLRs to interface with a standard snake system. These are transformer isolated to eliminate ground loops and further supported with individual ground lift switches. A global -10dB pad accommodates both +4dB or -10dB levels.
Switching the input channels can be manually performed by depressing the front panel AB selector or by connecting a latching footswitch with 1/4" plug. One can also set the Radial SW8 to auto-switch by recording a drone track on the recorder and then playing this into channel-1 of the SW8. Should the drone disappear, the SW8's alarm LED will illuminate advising the technician a problem is at hand. A contact closure is also provided on the alarm bus to connect the SW8 to a siren or external lamp. Full auto switch is also available whereby the SW8 will automatically toggle to the B inputs as soon as the drone track is lost.
To accommodate larger 16 or 24 track systems, the Radial SW8 is equipped with a link i/o function that allows one SW8 to act as master and others as slaves. All of this is housed in a single 19" rack space and powered by an external 15VDC power supply.
The three most common scenarios used today in live production are shown above. For obvious reasons, we have removed the names of the bands and technicians who provided this info as many artists like to keep their production secrets, well... secret! Each scenario might have a click track going on a separate out, usually only to the drummer, very rarely if ever, to the front of house. Sometimes alternate click tracks are sent, via the monitor desk, to individual band members that need to start at the top of a given song.
This is setup is most commonly employed in the club scene and for fly-in promotional TV and video tours. In these scenarios, everything is mixed to a single stereo or even a mono output to feed the PA system and broadcaster. Some bands have done this with great success but this takes a lot of hard work to get the balance just right. (See fig 3 above).
Here, 16 backing tracks are mixed down into stereo subgroups. This is the most common form of backing tracks as the musicians are doing all of the main work and the playback machines are adding icing to the cake. In these systems, you'll see extra left and right drums, percussion & beats, keyboards and orchestration, guitars & backing vocals and often all of the vocal effects (see fig 4 above)
Everything is on backing tracks: drums, electronic beats, instruments, backing vocals, vocal effects and in some cases, even lead vocals. Here we are talking about the various pop bands that incorporate huge, over-the-top production. Every track is broken out to individual channels so the monitor engineer can send different players different mixes & the front of house mixer has total control. (see fig 5 above)