MerleFest 2010 Recorded with FireStudio Mobile and Studio One

July 31, 2010

Founded in 1988 in memory of the great Merle Watson, the MerleFest American Music Festival is one of the most compelling bluegrass and “traditional-plus” music festivals. Hosted annually by Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the 2010 festival ran from April 29 through May 2 and featured 11 stages, with bands playing almost continuously for 9 to 12 hours a day.

Sound provider SE Systems of Greensboro, North Carolina, tracked every minute of the four-day festival. Using six PreSonus FireStudio™ Mobile interfaces and PreSonus Studio One™ Artist DAW software, running on Windows® XP-based computers with huge external drives, the SE Systems team captured the music of Sam Bush, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, The Tony Rice Unit, The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Cadillac Sky, The Waybacks, and a long list of others.

Using a system designed by SE Systems owner Cliff Miller and PreSonus sales rep Bobby Kelly of Techrep Marketing, the engineers sent a stereo feed from each stage, via a Fibox Digital Fiber-Optic Audio Transmission System, to six FireStudio Mobiles in the SE Systems mobile-production trailer, where Robert Kirk of Treehouse Mobile manned the recording rig. Each FireStudio Mobile recorded the stereo feeds from two stages, via its rear-panel line inputs. (FireStudio Mobiles have six line inputs in addition to two mic/instrument inputs and S/PDIF digital I/O.) “The FireStudio Mobiles sounded like a million bucks,” says Kelly.

The Windows PCs were old, low-end machines, “virtually surplus,” according to Kelly. SE Systems added FireWire cards to them so they could be used for recording. The systems were tested in advance by recording CDs continuously for two full days, around the clock. “A lot of DAWs would have quit,” says Kelly, “but Studio One never glitched. At MerleFest, the six PCs and Studio One recorded continuously for up to twelve hours a day for four days without so much as a hiccup, despite 90-plus-degree weather. This is amazing software for streaming audio!”

As of this writing, recordings from MerleFest 2010 are being edited and mastered, and some of them will be available for download from