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Milford, NH – Every summer nearly 40,000 bluegrass fans head to Ontario, California to enjoy the Huck Finn Jubilee Bluegrass Music Festival. John Holder, owner of Blue Ridge Sound, was hired to mix sound for the 3-day festival, which celebrated its 40th year this June. John brought his Earthworks SR20 microphones along to capture it all.
Holder has been using Earthworks microphones since 2009 after being introduced to the microphones through a friend who was miking a choir with a pair of Earthworks SR20 cardioids. “I had been reading about Earthworks microphones for years, and one day a friend of mine, Myron Surber, had a church gig and was having problems getting a good choir sound and also couldn’t make them loud enough. So, he took a pair of Earthworks SR20 cardioid mics and placed them in front of the choir. It made them sound huge, almost like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”
“After this dramatic experience I purchased a handful of Earthworks FM360s for a festival gig and used them on banjo, fiddle, guitar, dobro and whatever was needed. I was also using some Earthworks SR20s. In addition to using these mics on instruments, I also used a single FM360 for a vocal mic, where everyone would stand around this single mic and sing. The FM360 can pick up a lot of voices around it because of its wide polar pattern and flat frequency response. In addition, we can crank up the sound extremely loud and it still sounds good, and with no acoustic feedback.
Holder also works with award winning bluegrass band ‘Balsam Range’ and decided to incorporate the Earthworks FM360 into their performances. “Balsam Range is currently using a single FM360 for their acapella pieces on every show they do. On weekends when Blue Ridge Sound has several festivals going on, I take the SR20s with me, and my other engineers take whatever mics are left over. For any show that I am doing, Earthworks are my go-to mics.”
“Balsam Range previously used a different brand of vocal and instrument mics and we decided to upgrade the mics for their live show,” explains Holder. “When we plugged in the Earthworks SR40V vocal mics, they immediately heard the difference in their in-ear monitors, as well as what I heard in the house sound system. The SR40V is like having a high definition vocal microphone. It is like the comparison between a standard TV and a really good high definition TV. With the SR40Vs, we hear incredible detail in the sound with tons more gain, and the feedback rejection on the back is also great.”
“Balsam Range has been using Earthworks SR40s and SR40V vocal mics for nearly two years on their tours, and they just finished recording an album using the Earthworks mics in the studio slated for an October, 2016 release. They used SR40s on dobro, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass. Mountain Home engineers Scott Barnett and Van Atkins raved over the tonal qualities they were getting while tracking this album.”
While some engineers prefer microphones with a colored sound, Holder prefers Earthworks microphones for their uncolored sound and accuracy. “They are very transparent and very responsive at all frequencies,” explains Holder. “If you have a really good PA system, you don’t have to use much EQ at all. It’s awesome; you just turn the mics on and let them go. These mics always accurately reproduce whatever the instrument sounds like.”
“My most memorable experience using Earthworks mics was when I was doing monitors for Tony Rice with Mountain Heart. Tony has some of the best ears in acoustic music field and has a reputation for being extremely particular over his sound. That night, he was playing into an Earthworks SR20 and all of a sudden he turned around and looked at me, and I immediately thought he wanted something that he was not hearing. Then Tony walked over to me and said ‘Hey pal, it sounds great, can you turn it down 1dB.’ This was probably the highlight of my career. Later, he told his front of house engineer, Eric Wilson, that this was the best monitor mix he had ever had.”
“This year I was hired to mix sound for the Huck Finn Jubilee in Ontario, California, and naturally I took my SR20s with me for all the instruments. They really came in handy when I had to mix the Soggy Bottom Boys (the headliners) following a great, but rather loud, set by Leftover Salmon. The crowd was really cranked up after Leftover Salmon played, so I turned the PA to "stun" for the Soggy Bottom Boys. They sounded like a record! Stuart Duncan, the fiddle player, came off the stage and told Josh Trivett of Moonstruck Management who was in charge of the talent for the festival, ‘I don’t know who your front of house guy is, but that was one of the best mixes I have ever had.’ The SR20's are like studio quality mics that really behave themselves in extremely tough situations!”
After nearly eight years mixing sound with Earthworks microphones, Holder is quick to recommend the brand for a variety of applications. “I always recommend Earthworks mics to others,” says Holder. “Anytime someone asks about the mics I use, I tell them about Earthworks. Whenever I do to a show and bring out the Earthworks mics, the guys drool and say, boy I wish we had these mics because they sound so great and amazing. Whenever I am asked, ‘If money is no object, what would I buy?’ I always say Earthworks, as these are my go-to mics. I also recommend Earthworks podium mics and their PianoMic system to churches.”
Holder’s positive experience with Earthworks stretches beyond the microphones as well. “The people at the Earthworks factory are great to work with. They are always up for new ideas and feedback on how their products are performing in the field. Earthworks’ is very hands on as far as companies go. I really like that. You can call Earthworks and always get someone on the phone to talk about any questions or issues you have on anything. They are great!”