Let’s be honest, do you really pay much attention to the sponsored ads on social media? I usually ignore these, and when I saw the purple banner of a company named KLANG, advertising a “revolutionary” 3-D in-ear monitoring system on Facebook a couple of month ago, I did exactly that.
That same day we received a press release in our news room, containing an interview with award-winning monitoring engineer of American rock band Linkin Park, Kevin ‘Tater’ McCarthy, in which he praised the qualities and surprising features of a new interactive 3-D in-ear monitoring system. Which system was he talking about? The very same system we had seen advertised on Facebook – KLANG:fabrik, the flagship product of KLANG:technologies.
By this point my curiosity had peaked, and I immediately headed to the KLANG website to watch an immersive video demonstrating how KLANG:fabric works. I really would encourage you to do the same, because it’s simply astonishing. Just put on a pair of headphones, and click on the youtube video link here under. It will take only 01:45 minutes of your time…
For those of you who don’t already know, KLANG: technologies, a company based in Aachen, Germany, develops and markets interactive 3D sound technology for headphones. The first application is a revolutionary 3D in-ear monitoring system for musicians. As you could hear, and see, it allows the musician on stage to hear all the instruments around them from anywhere they want, for example as the other musicians surround them as they stand. The sound is, despite being replicated through headphones, transparent and natural. But there is more. The interactivity allows, for example, the singer to turn to the drums and hear it from the front. When he turns back to the audience, the drums sound from as they are coming from behind. Surprising, right?
We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Pascal Dietrich, one of the founders of KLANG:technologies, to understand more about this genius technology.
LightSoundJournal.com: Who is KLANG:technologies?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: We are a team of researchers, electrical engineers, audio engineers and musicians with the goal of offering a new and unique concert experience to musicians all over the world. We believe that musicians who feel comfortable on stage with their monitoring sound are able to perform better and connect with the band and audience more easily and freely.
LightSoundJournal.com: When and why did you start thinking about 3D-in ear monitoring?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: More than ten years ago I had this one moment of frustration after switching to in-ears with my band. It was during a rehearsal session when I brought my studio digital mixing console and provided stereo mixes to all my band mates. I was missing transparency and was not able to locate where the sound comes from as you would expect when you are playing e.g. in a small acoustic jazz ensemble. With my background in acoustics as an electrical engineer it was obvious to me that a headphone monitoring mix has to be made with binaural technology that should more be like a virtual or augmented reality application to help musicians to play better.
LightSoundJournal.com: What are the advantages of 3D-in ear mixing compared to traditional stereo mixes?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: In-ear monitoring, which spread widely over the past decades, is the most important technological step to help musicians to get their individual mix without disturbing the others. But musicians still hesitate to make the switch from wedges to in-ears – they are troubled with an unnatural sound, missing transparency, auditory fatigue and disorientation.
With our 3D In-Ear Mixing technology, we are striving to overcome those last obstacles on the way to a perfect monitoring sound. We want to bring back the naturalness in hearing for the musician on stage – the feeling, as if you are not wearing any in-ears at all. If you listen to a stereo mix and a KLANG 3D mix e.g. in a demo on our website, you will notice the benefits for you and your band without any doubt.
LightSoundJournal.com: What is the technology behind it? How does it work?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: We have a strong background in psychoacoustics, digital processing and audio engineering. Binaural technology is based on how we perceive sound and how our ears decode location information hidden in the signals arriving at our ear drums. Basically, small time differences and level differences are used to determine from which direction a sound is coming from. To simulate this realistically and suitable for the in-ear monitoring we needed to develop a new and rather complex database and very efficient algorithms.
LightSoundJournal.com: Can it be used with any headphone or IEM?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: Yes, it can basically work with any pair of stereo headphones or in-ears. Of course there are differences in comfort and sound signature. Hence, we always recommend to get in touch with an in-ear expert and find the right model for you and probably go for a custom molded in-ear if you are touring with a band. If the fit is not comfortable and seal is not perfect you will find your hands on the in-ears constantly trying to make it fit. However, regarding the 3D image and the associated transparency it is most important that tolerances between left and right ear piece are small, which is the case for most professional in-ears on the market.
LightSoundJournal.com: What do you need to experience the Klang 3D In-Ear Monitoring to its full extent?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: To get started our tutorial video online and a decent pair of headphones works well. To further immerse into 3D in-ear mixing we recommend a smartphone or tablet with our free KLANG:app. But of course the best option is to experience the transparency and its benefits for your band when using KLANG:vier or KLANG:fabrik. Simply connect to your digital mixing console according to our online guide and create stunning sounding in-ear mixes with intuitive control.
LightSoundJournal.com: Tell us about your products. Any new products on the way?
Dr. Pascal Dietrich: KLANG:fabrik is designed to be everything between a personal in-ear mixing system for up to 16 musicians and an in-ear processor for monitor engineers. It is a fully flexible audio network router of up to 128 MADI inputs, 64 Dante inputs and 32 ADAT compatible inputs to up to 64 MADI outputs, 64 Dante outputs and 32 ADAT compatible outputs as well.
KLANG:vier is a little lighter version and it creates 5 mixes. With KLANG:app running on all major operating systems you have one tool that controls the entire mixing system.
In order to make the in-ear mix even more natural the head orientation will be compensated by KLANG:vektor. It has not been officially released yet.
With each software update we have achieved a break through to get the best in-ear mixing system. And we will launch a new update soon.