Scene: the Philipshalle, Düsseldorf, about 1986. Experienced sound engineer Chrys Lindop is at the FOH position…
“I was mixing Jeff Beck,” he recalls. “It’s about a 12,000-seater, very full, and his manager sidled up to me and said: ‘It’s a bit loud, isn’t it Chrys?’. I said: ‘OK – press that button there’. He pressed it, and nothing happened. Same mix, same volume. ‘And…?’ he said. I said: ‘You’ve just turned the PA off.'”
Basically, the PA was doing nothing at all. Used to this, Lindop reflected that most audiences were, in those days, listening to an equivalent of the bands’ monitor mixes. “I noticed that singers, especially, much preferred listening to mixes on headphones. In loudspeakers, they don’t recognise their own voices – so as well as a noise issue, it was a psycho-acoustic issue.”
With a few “clever bits of wireless”, as he puts it, Garwood Communications was formed and sold IEM to a hesitant industry – until the hesitance yielded, the floodgates opened and, never the businessman, Lindop fundamentally relinquished the entire solution to corporate muscle like Sennheiser and Shure.
As for IEM’s contribution, Lindop sums it up like this. “Much of what I did before was finding the tiny headroom over the background noise where you could place a vocal,” he says, with typical modesty. “I don’t think that’s a skill that anybody needs any more.”
For his own definition of genius, Lindop nominates 19th-century English physician John Snow. “There’s a pub in Soho with a plaque in his name: it’s where he traced the source of an outbreak of cholera,” explains Lindop. “Solely through logic and deduction – he had no modern chemical analysis – he figured out that cholera came from water and, therefore, how to eradicate it. It also explains why I always preferred drinking beer…”
Hail to the boffins! Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. Mailed out with the February print edition of PSNEurope, the 36-page supplement is also available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, at psnedev.wpengine.com/introducing-genius.