We take spatial awareness through sound for granted, but headphones and earbuds can distort our perception of space. Nevertheless, more and more artists have started to use in-ear monitoring (IEM) because it offers an excellent combination of precision and control, as well as freedom of movement. There was still one problem holding IEM back, though, and Aachen-based KLANG:technologies wanted to tackle it: the loss of spatial awareness. By conducting measurements using a dummy head at RWTH Aachen University, their engineers were able to create the basis for acoustic virtual reality that responds to real-time audio signals. This was the birth of 3D in-ear monitoring.
Under normal circumstances, our two ears allows us to put all the noises we hear in a spatial context. Our brains can interpret any differences and delays in soundwaves reaching each ear to pinpoint the origin of the sound. However, when sounds enter the ear directly via in-ears, and our brain decodes that stereo signal in the same way it does normal 3D sound, it can lead to feelings of disorientation, loss of balance, and audio fatigue.
KLANG:technologies wanted to make the pre-recorded binaural recording method usable in a live setting. Normally, while live on stage, musicians would receive a stereo signal; but the KLANG:fabrik – the 3D in-ear mixer – transforms it to create a natural sound environment. The mixer can process up to 32 signals (guitars, bass, voice, drums, etc.) and place them at any point around the head. The 3D mixes are transmitted to radio transmitters or headphones amps and back to the ears of the musicians. KLANG:vector, the motion tracker, tracks all movements made by the head and transmits the information to the mixer, where the mix is updated in real-time. The mix can be controlled by the musicians or a monitor engineer via the KLANG:app, available for iOS, Android, PC and Mac. So thanks to KLANG:technologies, it looks like there’s no reason not to use IEM during a live performance anymore. Fair play!