Photo above: Minnesota Orchestra’s Quantum338 FOH desk at Orchestra Hall with KLANG:app shown running on an adjacent display and natively integrated into the console’s left screen (credit for all images: Josh Kohanek)
When audiences tune into the Minnesota Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall or social media channels to hear the Orchestra’s livestreams and digital concerts, they’re treated to a sonic spectacular—an immersive rendering of the performance’s mix that puts every listener using earbuds or headphones virtually at the conductor’s podium.
Utilizing KLANG:technologies’ immersive software solution developed to allow musicians on stage to very naturally hear themselves through their in-ear monitors in a realistic three-dimensional soundstage, the Orchestra’s audio team has now essentially extended that experience to anyone, anywhere, with earbuds or headphones. “We did this the first time in September of 2020 as a proof of concept of spatial audio for the digital audiences, and we could see that it was something special,” says Minnesota Orchestra Head Audio Engineer Jay Perlman. “KLANG’s immersive processors were originally designed for musicians that wear in-ear monitors to give them a sense of location on stage, and derives its 3D imaging by encoding binaural processing directly to the stereo signal. We are using it differently to give audiences an immersive experience instead.”
Perlman sets up the immersive mix perspective on the venue’s DiGiCo Quantum338 front-of-house console using its virtual soundcheck feature, recording to Reaper multitrack software, and rehearsing along with the orchestra three times during the week before each performance, which offers him the opportunity to fine-tune the mix and placement of instruments in an immersive panorama. Listeners online and on social media will all hear an excellent stereo image of the orchestra and the hall, but those with earbuds and headphones can access the entire immersive spectrum.
“Having everything integrated into a single platform—the Quantum338, DMI-KLANG card, and Reaper software—makes this process so much easier and streamlined, so that literally one person can do all of it,” says Perlman, who mixes over his own JH Audio earbuds. “The trick is to have a great basic stereo mix that will sound good on the radio, TV, or a phone, but with the KLANG binaural processing encoded with it, so it’s transparent for any device. However, with earbuds, it’s an entirely different experience. The KLANG processing digitizes the reflections you’d experience physically in the venue and reproduces them in your ears. It’s a very dramatic effect.”
Joel Mooney, Minnesota Orchestra’s Technical Director, says the unique application of the DMI-KLANG system was intentional from the very start. “We had made a major purchase from DiGiCo, in the form of the Quantum338 console and related items, and the folks at DiGiCo brought up the KLANG system as a monitoring solution, but we saw this unique potential for it immediately,” he says. “Orchestral music is a great fit for immersive sound, and KLANG is a great way to achieve it for our online audience.”
Mooney says the implementation of the KLANG system was simple and straightforward, and that any experienced front-of-house or broadcast mixer can become accustomed to the immersive mix quickly. “The only real difference is the panning, which is 360 and above and below,” he says.
Perlman proudly shares that the listener response has been extremely positive. “The KLANG technology is taking something that’s already special and making it even more so,” he says. “As you can tell in how we applied the DMI-KLANG processor to the streaming broadcasts, we like to take chances and experiment, and in this case, it created something truly remarkable.”
For info on the Minnesota Orchestra and Orchestra Hall, visit www.minnesotaorchestra.org. To visit the Digital Concert Hall, visit www.minnesotaorchestra.org/digital-concerts.