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An Interview with Recording Pioneer Guy Charbonneau - Le Mobile Remote Recording Studio - By Katherine Schimmel

If you happen to know something about recording great music live, then one step through the doors of the legendary remote recording studio, Le Mobile, is all it will take for you to be transported into a completely different realm.  A formidable electronics heaven that was built slowly over time, Le Mobile is the place where the best of the old has been combined with the best of the new in ways that can only be described as über progressive. 

Leaning against the padded helm of an iconic Neve console stands Guy Charbonneau, founder and creator of Le Mobile. He’s dressed casually, all in black.  With arms loosely crossed, he stares at a colorful display of flashing LED signals embedded in a large bank of outboard gear that flanks the soundproofed right hand wall, just next to an analog patch bay that’s been modified and whose matte black cables have been labeled by an obsessively perfectionistic hand. I squint and try hard to read one. Suddenly, he reaches past me to adjust a setting that seems to have caught his attention before slowly looking back my way.

Today I’ve come to ask Charbonneau about his recent experience using DirectOut’s ANDIAMO.MC. And so I begin: “Andiamo, let’s talk equipment.” And he offers me a philosophy: “You know… my approach to recording live music has stayed the same through the years in that I’ve always tried to capture and preserve a live performance in its purest form.  So everything I do, or have ever done with respect to the equipment that I’ve used, has been grounded in this ideal.”

KS: Which brings me to the subject of our interview. You have been recording live music for more than 40 years. What made you chose the Andiamo.MC over the competition?

CHARBONNEAU: It’s simple. Over the years, the distance between the stage and where Le Mobile is able to park has increased. In large part this is due to changes in security but also to advances in digital technologies. So in order to compensate, I decided to create a type of ‘trick’ digital interface by using a MADI fiber system to replace (as needed) the long analog audio copper snake that I had been using. Of course, the MADI fiber system would need to interface with our Neve 8058.  

KS: So you approached DirectOut about trying their ANDIAMO.MC and AD/DA?

CHARBONNEAU: I approached DirectOut because I needed to run some tests and since I have a history of not reading spec sheets, I thought I’d try it.  I really liked the packaging, the way it was built, and the MADI options that were offered with this system. However, I also knew that in the end the key to this partnership would depend upon the overall sound, its flexibility, and its adaptability because ultimately it would need to be used across a wide variety of highly dynamic platforms. 

KS: Can you take us thorough the evolution of this project?

CHARBONNEAU: Sure. After some preliminary testing, I reached out to an audio tech guru named Jean Luc Louradour so that he could design circuitry that would allow me to use the copper, or MADI feed, without any gain or audio change.  You see, for me it was critical that in the long run the digital audio would have zero degradation. 

KS: And?

CHARBONNEAU: …And what we came up with was perfect. The MC sounded very authentic and we were quite pleased with the customized system that we had created.

KS: …So you modified, among other things, the remote control software, in particular the user interface. Can you explain these changes and how they worked out for you?

CHARBONNEAU: Sure. DirectOut already had a remote to set up the unit parameter and gain. This works fine if you have only one MC and don’t need to change the setup or gain of multiple units. So initially I talked to them about creating a remote that can handle multiple units. 

KS: So you could save and recall everything as one rather than individually?

CHARBONNEAU: Absolutely. That was key. I’ll give you an example. During a recent show I needed to record 10 performers but only had two minutes to switch from one performer to the next. Meaning, I had to individually select each unit and then ‘save’ and ‘recall’ them one by one. The problem with this approach, however, is that it is not only difficult, but it is also prone to error. So it was this show that gave me some ideas. I decided to take a snapshot of a remote on my computer screen and print it. I then created a quick sketch of my concept and sent it to Claudio at DirectOut. It was amazing because not only did they embrace the concept right away, but they also sent me a beta version as well.  And with just a few key updates they were able to come up with a very easy remote for me to use.  

KS: So they understood your needs and you ended up with a flexible, fully customized solution.

CHARBONNEAU: Yes, totally… and they responded so quickly. I really wasn’t expecting it.

KS: Why not?

CHARBONNEAU: Because I was basically still stuck in the 1970’s and 1980’s mode of customer service. Even today, most manufacturers will do some updates in order to get you to purchase their latest version. However, the problem for me is that often times manufacturers will add features that are not all that useful. And, of course, they don’t really listen to what you need.

KS: Can you elaborate?

GUY CHARBONNEAU: I feel like manufacturers do this just because they can or perhaps because they are not really all that interested in improving their product. For me, the DirectOut difference was a very refreshing change from this other model because it was all about understanding what I needed and then working to modify the product so that it fit with what I had envisioned. When I am in the middle of capturing a performance I need reliability, intuitive functionality and ease of use. 

In the end, the support I received from DirectOut gave me the freedom to record the way I want to… and I can’t ask for more than this.