The virtual sound check is a relatively new concept that is definitely going to become more mainstream as the gap in the latest live digital audio technology closes, and it is actually closer than it seems. In fact, it is not restricted to only the high end gear. This feature is available on several digital audio consoles, and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the average band. In fact, I would even argue that it offers as much relevant value to the rest of us as it does the full time pro uses in that it chops the time needed to ring out a room during soundcheck, and therefore reduces the stress level for the operation as a whole and gives the band more time to set up and less time focusing on working with the FOH engineer to get the system ready for show time.
The concept is simple: digital audio systems that have integrated DAW functionality–in other words, can record the audio signals that are running through the console, can capture the audio running through each of the channels and save each one individually as a separate track. These tracks can then be used at future gigs in place of the actual band playing, allowing the audio engineer to do a virtual soundcheck without the band even being involved.
This takes the stress off of both the engineer and the band, allowing each to focus on their tasks simultaneously, essentially creating a nice chunk of time that would normally be compressed into an already tight time frame. When you get off of your day job late on a Friday afternoon, it is typically a mad rush to get home to get your gear, get ready and head to the gig–you already have little time to get things set up and ready. Virtual sound checks get rid of the engineer’s dependency on the band, giving him (or her) the ability to even sound check and get the system ready before the band arrives! This is HUGE!
While this is just one simple example of what this technology can do, the point is that there is a significant opportunity to shorten the amount of time and effort it takes to get all systems to the point of being ready for showtime, and giving everyone on the team that much more space to get things set up and that much less stress in doing so, which all adds up to making for a better performance.
At the end of the night, that means more physical, mental and emotional resources for everyone to focus on what really matters, and that is pulling off the best performance possible. Technology and its creative and intelligent use can make playing in a band a much more sustainable–and enjoyable–experience over time, and that is what it is all about.