The sound of MDNA – Backstage with DiGiCo and Matt Napier

Madonna’s MDNA Tour currently wowing sold out stadiums and arenas across several continents features 11 musicians, 22 dancers, multiple costume changes, ground breaking graphics and an audio system that includes two DiGiCo SD7s at Front of House and another on monitors.

The SD7 is a step up for monitor engineers Matt Napier and Sean Speuhler, who were using a D5T on Madonna’s previous ‘Sticky & Sweet Tour’.

Audio wizard Matt Napier in his “office”

“There are two of us because Sean exclusively mixes Madonna’s vocals and her vocal effects, all of which she insists be done live,” Matt explains. “We effectively share the console – I use the SD7’s control surface and Sean uses an EX-007 expander unit to mix on.”

In total the SD7 has 114 inputs coming in from the stage rack. including effects, Matt is using 100 channels, with Sean using over 30 more.


“I think the SD7 is the only desk that can handle the amount of inputs and outputs we’ve got,” says Matt. “In terms of surface channels on the desk we’ve got about 160 while, in terms of outputs, I know there are over 50 mono sends by the time we take into account the musicians, dancers, side fills, subs, speakers for the MD, feeds for the video and recording. I don’t think there is anything else available that could do it.

“Because Madonna is running on the left right buss, I’m using VCAs and groups to control and mix various elements for her. All of the music is routed through a group, which is delayed as she walks down the catwalk. When she uses the catwalk, everything other than her vocals is incrementally delayed up to a maximum of 30 milliseconds. It’s a 60 foot catwalk, but doing this acoustically reduces the length of the catwalk by about 30 feet, which helps her significantly.”

Tim Colvard is mixing the house sound alongside Mark Brnich (of the tour’s sound company Eighth Day Sound). A DiGiCo user since 2003, Tim’s use of dual SD7s on Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour was an unqualified success, making a similar setup an obvious choice for this tour. The two SD7s are networked and mirrored, giving 100% digital redundancy – and complete peace of mind.

“MDNA runs through December this year, finishing in South America,” concludes Matt. “Everything is working really well so far – and that’s exactly what you need on such a long running tour.”

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