Working for a band whose members are tech-fans that are willing to jump into new gear if they dig what it does is great—if the band likes it, it’s in.
Proving that is a job that often falls to the engineers, and it’s how monitor engineer Kevin “Tater” McCarthy got the new KLANG:fabrik 3D monitoring system on the rider for a tour with Linkin Park that will run through 2017.
“I can’t say enough about how great this thing is,” says McCarthy over his pair of KLANG:fabrik units, which reside in a rack beneath his DiGiCo SD7 mixing console. “And it benefits in ways you might not think of. I’ve been able to substantially lower levels in the in-ear mixes for the entire band—especially the click track. I just move that right to the front center of the 3D field, like it’s right at their forehead, and then I cut its volume in half. The sound kind of sits there in its own little bubble and, since it’s not sonically competing with anything else, it does not need to be nearly as loud.”
Volume is an issue that McCarthy has spoken out about in the past, and the band members are all careful to protect their hearing from damage—especially Brad Delson, who plays with foam earplugs and over-the-ear, gun-muff style headphones.
The KLANG:fabrik is flexible in that the engineer can determine the best mix of inputs, outputs and sampling rate for the specific act or situation. “I’m running the KLANG at 96 kHz and can use all eight outputs and have enough processing for 27 inputs,” he says. The show is actually more like 95 inputs, so he’s running a mix of stems and individual channels.
Adding KLANG:fabrik to the system actually allowed McCarthy to eliminate some other gear. “We used to use a single Aviom unit for the drummer, and I was able to ditch that completely. The KLANG:app literally runs on anything. So instead of the Aviom, he’s got his iPad on a stand next to him, and now he has even more control than before.”
The KLANG:fabrik made a difference for the band and its techs, and it was obvious from the start. “This is not the kind of box where you try it and you’re not 100 percent sure you hear what it’s doing,” McCarthy notes. One reviewer described the moment of first enabling the 3D field as akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when it goes from black-and-white to color. “With the KLANG, you start moving sources within that 3D field and just move them the tiniest little bit and it is noticeable like you can’t believe,” he adds.
“The first time we used it with just a crew check, I moved the bass guitar so that it was coming from way behind them. And when the first bass note hit, literally every person on that stage turned around 180 degrees and took a step backwards.”
The members of Linkin Park were just as impressed. “The first time using it with the band, the DJ wasn’t there and his tech was covering those parts. I accidentally dropped him out of the 3D mode and into straight stereo. Now keep in mind that stereo just meant my ‘old’ mix without the 3D field. I swear he looked like he was going to drop to his knees when I inadvertently put him back into 2D.”
People might think of something like 3D audio as a novelty, but that’s not the case for McCarthy and Linkin Park. “We’ll be out for the rest of the year and we bought two units so we have a ‘just-in-case’ backup. It’s not an optional thing at this point. The KLANG:fabrik is now a staple part of the monitor rig for Linkin Park.”