In 2015, rock veterans and 39-year touring pros Toto released their latest studio album, XIV. Since then, they have been steadily touring the world in support of the release.
For the very first time, keyboardist David Paich has been taking the stage with in-ear monitors – the Sensaphonics 3D AARO Active Ambient system. Keyboard tech Jordan Rippe is also using the 3D system throughout the show.
Of course, nearly every major tour relies on IEMs, but like many old-school rockers, David Paich had never taken to the technology. But with side stage responsibilities for two keyboard rigs – David Paich and synthesist Steve Porcaro – Rippe decided it was time to step up his own IEM game, which is how he learned about the 3D AARO.
“As tour tech for both David and Steve, there’s a lot to do,” he recounts. “I talked to my friends around L.A. about in-ears and mostly heard the usual brands. But then I learned about the Active Ambient technology in the Sensaphonics 3D. It was actually a vocalist, Amy Keys, who got me to check it out. She’s a huge fan, and now I know why.”
Between the sound of the 3D AARO and its ability to add controlled stage ambience to the mix, Rippe recommended them to David Paich, who agreed to give the system a try. Asked for his reaction to the 3D, the Toto keyboardist said, “I’ve been resistant to using in-ear monitors in the past because of the isolation I felt on stage. With these new Sensaphonics, I feel totally comfortable. It’s a total game changer for touring for me.”
Rippe explains, “We’ve been trying to get David on ears for a long time, but like a lot of old school guys, he wasn’t into the in-ear thing. But the ambience in the 3D changed all that. It’s really opened him up on stage. It’s made it easier for him to sing and hear his mix, and he’s happy out there. He finds the soft silicone really comfortable and loves the way they feel. I would say he is never going back to wedges.”
For Rippe personally, having the ability to perform his job with both earpieces in place was the key.
“For me as a tech, the binaural mics inside the 3D AARO are invaluable,” he says. “I have to listen to the live mix to make sure everything’s cool, but I also have people talking to me, like the monitor engineer, other crew, or the front of house on radio. Being able to flip the ambient microphones on and off to deal with all that changed my whole life, and makes my job easier. I really dig this product.”
Rippe feels the 3D AARO is a great tool for stage techs as well as musicians.
“These could become a standard in tech world just because of the communication factor,” he says. “Every guitar tech I know is one ear in, one out to hear the monitor mix. But if you could just see visually that your guy needs you and flip that Full Ambient switch, the tech can hear what they need to, when they need to, instead of just hearing cacophony.”
Like most techs, Rippe is also a musician, and thus has also learned the value of the 3D AARO on stage. “I play in little bands and substitute in others around L.A. and San Francisco,” he says. “Even when it’s wedges on stage instead of in-ears, I still use my 3D, sort of like glorified earplugs. I can open up the mics and listen at whatever volume I like, no matter how loud the stage is.”
Having been through months of touring with Toto while using 3D AARO, Rippe knows they made the right choice. “The other companies make fine products, but nothing like the 3D AARO,” he states. “With the binaural mics, it really meets the needs of musicians on stage, and the technicians side stage. It’s just a very cool product, on a number of levels. I love it.”
Toto continues touring in support of the XIV album throughout 2016. The band began the year with a successful winter tour of Europe, followed by eight March shows in Japan. Spring and summer dates will be announced soon on the official Toto website.