Cornelius Schock, keyboardist for Paul Carrack and the SWR Big Band, speaks to Synthax about performing live with the RME Fireface UFX+ audio interface.
Singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Carrack rose to fame in the mid 70s as the frontman for British rock band Ace. What followed was a long and successful career in music, with stints as a member of Roxy Music, Squeeze, and The Bleeding Heart Band (Roger Waters), and performances as a session musician with the likes of Elton John, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, B.B. King, The Pretenders and The Smiths.
In later years, Paul enjoyed further success as part of Mike + The Mechanics, and has come to be recognised as one of the best pop vocalists of his generation. He continues to tour as a solo artist to this day, regularly playing concerts with well-known ensembles such as the SWR Big Band and the SWR Symphony Orchestra.
It was after one of their annual Christmas concerts in Germany that Synthax caught up with the SWR Big Band's keyboard player Cornelius Schock, who chose the RME Fireface UFX+ as the main hub of his keyboard rig.
The concert had a slightly unusual requirement. Along with the live strings performed by the SWR Symphony Orchestra, Cornelius would be playing additional string parts via his keyboards, using samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library. Cornelius explained this went beyond holding sustained notes, "because precise articulation, dynamics and interplay was required between myself and the live string performers". With over 30 musicians on-stage, space was also at a premium, with no room for a mixing console or racks of equipment.
Latency was therefore a major concern. By combining sample-playback with real world instruments, the timing was of the utmost importance, and the interchange between the pizzicato strings especially had to be perfect. Additional feeds would also be sent from the Fireface UFX+ for TV and a live stream, meaning the load on the interface would be very high. In essence, an interface was required that could provide the lowest possible latency, and with powerful gains that wouldn't colour the sound in any way. In the ideal case, Cornelius also wanted flexible I/O routings for providing on-stage monitoring, and of course high quality sound to guarantee the best possible musical experience for the audience.
For Cornelius, the RME Fireface UFX+ was an obvious choice. He explains, “for me, the UFX+ passes all of my requirements with flying colours! It produced satisfied smiles all round, when we heard for example the clean sound of the outputs, and without the need for extra DI’s. Also when we first heard the sound of the library strings, when combined with the real-world players, and how convincingly the Vienna samples were transferred!”
Routing and mixing inside of the Fireface UFX+ is handled by a dedicated FPGA chip. As a result, the UFX+ will continue to carry audio signals even if the connection with the computer is lost. Once the routings have been set up in TotalMix FX, the hardware mixer will continue to carry the signals from inputs to outputs, so Cornelius could still use the other keyboards in his rig if a fault was to occur during the live show.
“It was reassuring to know we had that security, in that even with the worst case scenario of a computer crash, all routing paths continue to work, and we’d no need to worry about aborted signals with the connected keyboards or anything. But everything ran really smoothly. To combine the strings, the timing needs to be perfect, so we used in-ear monitoring, with everything routed inside TotalMix FX. This saved us from having to run a separate sub-mixer, and from any additional complicated routing for the technicians.”
“For many people, the use of software in the live area is still a touchy subject. With an interface like the UFX+, any concerns I may have had over reliably connecting with a computer have been hugely reduced. Combined with RME’s long track record of strong customer support, the UFX+ is a sure bet for me!”