In-ear monitors give musicians the ability to hear themselves and their band at safe volume levels during performances, no matter how big or small or loud the stage. But hearing your band in earphones can isolate you from what's happening on stage – which is what makes Klang's new 3D in-ears such a fascinating idea. This gadget uses 3D audio technology instead of standard stereo mixing to provide musicians with a natural sound sensation.
In-ear monitors are an absolute blessing for any working musician – the ability to hear yourself and your group in a consistent, detailed way each night, and to do so at volumes far lower than what's happening in the room, helps you deliver a better performance every night while saving your ears for later use.
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I use a beautiful set of Westone in-ears when I sing on stage, and doing so has transformed our soundcheck process into a 10-minute routine that's virtually the same no matter how big or small the stage.
But one problem you do get with in-ears is a slight sense of disconnection from what's happening on stage and in the room – and that's why Klang's 3D in-ear monitoring technology is so interesting.
German company Klang has designed a monitor mixing system that uses 3D audio modelling to separate where the sounds are coming from as you stand on stage.
In essence, if the drummer is in the center rear of the stage, the guitarist is on the right and the bassist on the left, that's where they'll appear in the binaural mix of the lead singer, if she's facing the audience. The system tracks which way her head is oriented and can spin the mix around if she turns to face the drummer.
Klang believes the 3D monitoring experience helps get musicians into the moment on stage, and helps them react more naturally to what's happening around them – which is certainly tough in a complicated mix.
I had a chance to test the system at NAMM in Anaheim today, and can attest that it works well. Each US$475 KLANG:vektor spatial sensor is fitted to the in-ear plug (2-pin connector required), which can be plugged into your own in-ear monitors. The mix is obtained through the US$4,990 KLANG:fabrik mixing desk, and each musician can create and control their own custom mix through a tablet/phone/PC app. 3D tracking is optional and can be turned on and off, or instruments can be permanently fixed to a point on stage.
It's a very interesting idea, and potentially one that could help musicians have a more natural experience on stage while still enjoying the benefits of in-ear monitors.
Product page: Klang Technologies
Editor's note: This article was updated on Feb. 6, 2015 to reflect the fact that the sound of individual instruments doesn't dynamically follow the movement of instruments on a stage as suggested in the originally-published story. We apologize for any confusion.View gallery - 7 images