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KLANG and 3D in-ear monitoring

The full 360 degrees on the nascent 3D-in ear monitoring company from its co-founder Pascal Dietrich

KLANG was founded in January 2014 by three acousticians and electrical engineers from the Institute of Technical Acoustics at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. All three founders also have a background in music and sound engineering. Combining many years of scientific research in acoustics, two PhD studies and a passion for playing live music led to the invention of ‘3D in-ear monitoring’. Since then, musicians, sound engineers and developers have joined the team.

Everyone in our team is either an audio engineer or a musician, with different and unique backgrounds and experiences. All together we strive for the goal to improve the world of hearing for everyone around the world, ” says KLANG’s Dr Pascal Dietrich (pictured below).

Isn’t Klang the German word for ‘clang’, as in, a dissonant sound?

(PD) Quite the opposite! ‘Klang’ is the German word for ‘sound’ and is associated with sonically good and principled attributes. All our products have German names, added with a colon to the word KLANG, as in KLANG:fabrik, KLANG:quelle and KLANG:vier. ‘fabrik’ is German for ‘factory’, ‘quelle’ means ‘source’ and ‘vier’ is the number four, representing the four headphone outputs.

3D-in ear monitoring – how did you come up with the idea?

When playing with my band over 10 years ago, I experienced the sound transparency problem of mono and stereo in-ear mixing when switching from wedges to in-ears. All instruments were heard inside the head and not naturally distributed around it. It led me to thinking thought of a solution that combined binaural technique with an option for head-tracking and features for personal monitor mixers.

Why does a performer need 3D-IEM?

All of us have experienced a situation when several people around us talk to each other. Our ears and brain are trained to localise sound sources and we are able to effortlessly focus on sounds coming from a certain direction. All other sounds are attenuated and not in our focus. This psychoacoustic effect helps us to communicate better.

The same is true for music. When all spatial cues required by our ears are present, we can focus on instruments, not by concentrating on their sound character but on their locations around our head. That’s why it feels so natural to listen to a good binaural sound mix. Plus, it prevents listening fatigue.

How does it work?

One way to transfer the natural hearing power to headphones is to have spatially recorded audio in the first place. Binaural recording works with an artificial head and small microphones built into the plastic ears. As it is physically based on the human head, the artificial model can record the environment exactly as our own ears would do. In many years of research, KLANG’s 3D technology for headphones was optimised to deliver the best and natural sounding 3D impression – practically in real-time.

The KLANG algorithm accounts for tiny time and amplitude differences between the sound arriving on both ears, depending on the angle of sound incidence. Furthermore, these tiny differences are frequency dependent to allow sounds not only to be heard on a horizontal ring around you but also above and below the head.

Can I ‘Klangify’ the IEMs I already have?

Yes. It works with any pair of decent stereo headphones or in-ears. The required spatial cues are processed in KLANG:fabrik and sent to the ear pieces by standard stereo headphone amps or wireless in-ear transmitters.

The optional motion tracker KLANG:vektor, which is soon to be released, can be attached to any in-ears with a two pin connector. For other headphones a separate sensor cable will be available.

Who has been using it?

Some high profile examples include: Glasperlenspiel, a top German act; David Gilmour; The Heritage Orchestra on their show at London’s Hyde Park with Massive Attack; Hammerfall, a heavy metal band, currently on world tour; and monitor engineer Pasi Hara, who works with System of a Down, Slash and Fergie.

Andy Huffer in the UK is a big advocate of yours: how did he get involved?

Our sales team knew HD Pro Audio by name and reputation, so they were an obvious first choice of contact in the UK. After we had some initial talks about cooperating, we not only realised that we share a common attitude and philosophy with Andy, but that he and his team are also respected and resourceful salesmen who understand it’s not only commercial interests that count, but also a respect and understanding for the people and scenes in the industry.

What about distribution elsewhere?

KLANG has direct distribution in many countries, where we are building a strong network of reps, dealers and integrators. In all cases we make sure we are in contact with the engineers and musicians as much as possible, through seminars and trainings. Our distributors are friends, partners and trusted representatives.

Where do you see the tech leading?

KLANG offers the most advanced personal monitoring system ever – not only in the unique and unmatched binaural processing – but also in its intuitive nature, reliability and flexibility. Additionally it integrates well in monitoring situations with a monitor engineer. We are just starting!

What’s been the most impressive/unexpected mix you’ve heard through the system?

The experiences have occasionally been amusing, like an orchestra babbling into their mics during the break, which makes heads turn in confusion because it feels like they are talking behind the listeners.

We also have creative users who discovered the sonic beauty of hearing a kick drum from slightly above the nose! Whenever we visit our users, who are often respected, innovative thinkers amongst the most audiophile of engineers, we constantly discover new variations on how they are using our products. And each one is unique, creative and beautiful.