Clearwing Productions is one of the concert industry’s preeminent audio, lighting, video, staging and backline providers for the US festival market, servicing major clients like Boston Calling, Eaux Claires, Innings, McDowell Mountain Music Festival and, of course, Summerfest in the company’s backyard of Milwaukee. So when XTA first revealed its forthcoming new MX36 DSP Enabled Console Switching System in the summer of 2019, Clearwing quickly recognised the benefits of the product and ordered ten of them to seasonally share between its Milwaukee, Phoenix and Denver operations.
Designed to offer a solution to the longstanding problem of routing multiple mixing console outputs to a system processor and/or loudspeaker system, the dual-rack-space MX36 can potentially accommodate as many as nine consoles via 36 inputs across Analog, AES and Dante networks. Inputs are arranged in sets of four to support standard left, right, front-fill and sub feeds from each individual console. All AES inputs have sample-rate conversion, and there is one set of four outputs, available simultaneously across Analogue, AES and Dante networks, with word clock output sync available on AES.
“On the first day of InfoComm, back in June, I was on the show floor when a colleague of mine contacted me about this awesome new thing that XTA was introducing,” Clearwing Productions Director of Operations Bryan Baumgardner recalls. “I immediately ran over to the Group One booth where Richard Fleming gave me a great demo and a chance to really explore it. Right away, I knew this was going to be a necessity for replacing our ageing inventory of analogue-only console switchers. The MX36 was rock-solidly built and sensibly laid out—as expected with anything that comes from XTA—and my initial impression was, ‘Yep, this is what we’ve all been wanting.’”
Although the MX36 wouldn’t technically be available for several more months at that point, XTA was able to provide Clearwing with a pre-production model just a few weeks later for evaluation. “We had a DiGiCo SD10 and SD9 going into that demo MX36 unit for the last few days of Summerfest 2019,” says Clearwing Productions Systems Technician Allen Gerhardt. “All of the engineers were really pleased with how it performed and had no issues going through it.”
After finally taking delivery of its ten DSP Enabled Console Switching Systems in late-October, Clearwing immediately started putting them into service, including on a festival in Live Oak, Florida known as Hullaween. “I had three consoles going into the MX36 on each day of the festival, and had the chance to use pretty much every flavor of console—Avid, DiGiCo, Midas, et cetera—all at different sample rates while maintaining full redundancy on each input,” says Clearwing Productions Chief Engineer of Audio Robert Hegge. “The XTA unit vastly simplified my drive system at Hullaween and entirely eliminated the need for a production console. The ability to easily switch between AES inputs is something we’ve been waiting on for a long, long time. Engineers seemed vastly more comfortable plugging into the MX36 versus other console switching methods that could degrade or modify the signal. And the unit’s microphone input also came in extremely handy for various changeover announcements.”
In the coming year, Clearwing Productions Milwaukee Audio Operations and Logistics Manager Andre St. Pierre says that he expects XTA’s latest device will make a lot of friends. “We plan to deploy the MX36 on most of our upcoming tours and festivals that require ‘live transitions’ between consoles,” he says. “It will certainly prove to be a staple item on most of Clearwing’s multi-console projects in the future. At Summerfest 2020, we plan on deploying the MX36 at most, if not all, of the major stages there. In the past, we’ve used various other methods, ranging from multiple loudspeaker processors to digital consoles, but the MX36 will greatly simplify and standardise our stages in 2020.”
“The MX36 has filled a void left in the market after things started moving away from analogue,” says Baumgardner, sharing several more reasons why the XTA console switcher is an ideal fit for Clearwing. “There are other solutions out there, but none that hit the simplicity and price point that the MX36 offers. And from a staff-training standpoint, it’s a breath of fresh air that there is no real ‘software’ to train everyone on. Most products require complicated software to use, which increases our costs on training, as well as adoption with non-computer-savvy users.”
Hegge also chimes in with, “Thanks, XTA, for releasing the product that everyone’s been asking for for many years!”
*photo credits Jay Baumgardner