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Pepe Aguilar tours the U.S. and Mexico with SSL Live L500

“The SSL L500 provides all of the tools necessary to do whatever I need”

Sep 4, 2015

Jorge Alberto Martinez Mejia with SSL LiveJorge Alberto Martinez Mejia with SSL Live

ZACATECAS, MEXICO — The four-time Grammy® Award and four-time Latin Grammy Award-winning Latin pop star Pepe Aguilar is currently touring the U.S. and Mexico with a 30-member band comprised of musicians who play a wide spectrum of modern and traditional Mexican instruments. Managing such a variety of instrumentation is quite the undertaking and requires an audio system of the highest calibre. To address this challenge, Aguilar’s FOH and monitor engineers each chose an SSL Live. L500 mixing console for select tour dates.

Mixing FOH for Aguilar since 2010 is engineer Jorge Alberto Martinez Mejia, who has worked with Los Temerarios, Mexico’s TV Azteca and as a systems engineer. “Mixing Mariachi is always a challenge, which increases even more when mixing pop at the same time,” he begins. “The violins are the weakest of the instruments in terms of levels; the guitarrón [a large Mexican bass guitar used for Mariachi] has to provide the sense of strength to the music. Pepe’s latest show has new sounds, more musicians and added requirements from the musical director for specific effects on certain songs. We’re always trying to improve the audio quality of the show, and that’s why we decided to try to find a console that could offer better sound and a high level of functionality without being too complex to program and operate. After looking into a few options, Juan and I decided that the SSL L500 was the best option.”

Mejia is referring to monitor engineer Juan Gabriel Fernandez Castillo. “The SSL L500 produces a very natural sound,” affirms Fernandez, whose 25-year background includes eight years with Aguilar, as well as work with Lupe Dalessio, Lucero, Pandora, Alejandra Guzman and other artists. “The signal coming from the console to the monitors is optimal, but it also has so many other strengths. It’s compact, highly functional and easy to connect; the only limitations being our personal abilities and imaginations. The SSL L500 provides all of the tools necessary to do whatever I need.”

And Fernandez certainly asks the L500 to do quite a bit from his stage-right monitor position. “There are a lot of musicians on the stage: 12 Mariachi musicians, bass, drums, guitar, two keyboard players, 14 musicians from Sinaloa Banda, plus Pepe’s children, Angela and Leonardo, who participate in the singing,” he says. “We have 85 inputs from the stage and we are running 40 output channels for monitor mixes. There are six sets of wireless and 20 sets of wired in-ear monitors, plus side-fill and floor monitors to accommodate all of the musicians and singers. The L500 enables me to create all of those monitor mixes and it has all of the on-board processing I need in order to create the specific sound I want for each of the musicians’ mixes. The overall sound quality for each mix is better than it has ever been in the past. A show of this size is usually a challenge to mix, but since we were able to program the console in the shop ahead of time, it’s almost like it’s plug-and-play.”

Martinez wanted a console “that would enable me to create higher quality mixes but also allow me to be comfortable when it came to programming and mixing the show. I like the functionality of the L500. I find it very friendly and intuitive to program. I tell ‘her’ that ‘this is what I need’ and from there forward ‘she’ makes me happy. I can have all of the things I need out in plain sight, just a step away. I’ve become comfortable with using both the main touch screen and the knobs and small touch screen on the Channel Control Tile to access the console. So, now I use a combination of them to perform whatever adjustments are necessary, whether it be for the compressors, EQ, gates or effects. It makes my job easier because I can see everything I need on the console screens at all times. I don’t have to go through a lot of steps in order to access a particular function.

“In terms of sound quality, I feel that the L500 is more accurate in the low and high frequencies,” he continues. “But at the same time, it delivers a warmer sound to the violins, which are so important to the mix in this type of music. The definition is excellent, but it’s not at all aggressive in the high frequencies like the previous desks I had been using. Even the on-board reverbs have great clarity.”
In addition to the local inputs available on each L500, Martinez and Fernandez patch eighty-plus inputs from the stage via three SSL ML 32.32 Analogue Stageboxes. SSL’s proprietary Blacklight II multiplexed MADI is used to transport audio between the consoles and the ML 32.32s, which Castillo describes as “far superior to using traditional heavy, bulky audio cable.” The MADI interface carries several audio streams for the inputs and outputs over fewer cables, so the connection process is simplified. “I have already added the L500 to my rider and I think it will quickly become the most requested live console. I truly recommend it for major events because it has all the tools needed to manage a large-scale show.”

“Every console has its own strengths,” concludes Martinez, “but the SSL L500 has the best of all worlds: functionality and fantastic sound. I feel like choosing the L500 was a very good decision. It’s an extremely high-quality product. Pepe, Juan and I recognize that, so we are all very confident using it.”

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