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Papadosio on Sound — a UE interview about how artists use in-ears on stage

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

So every month I interview a live sound engineer for the UE University. I'm always asking about how they got started, about their gear, about their tours, and sometimes I even remember to ask for some tips and tricks about using in-ears live on stage. I usually talk with monitor engineers but sometimes check in with front of house engineers and studio engineers. I'm always blown away by just how much I really don't know. I'm constantly learning new things when I talk with experts in the field.

 

Granted, musicians use in-ears a totally different way than us audiophiles. But it's worth noting that the manufacturers were building for musicians before the audiophile community caught on. So I thought that this would be a really interesting article to share. When I started talking with Papadosio's engineer, he mentioned that the band themselves were keen to do the interview. It's an interesting take. We always talk about how much we can hear in the recordings. Well, the same is true for the musicians on stage. And that level of fidelity inspires new levels of creativity and improvisations. Check this out:

 

Papadosio On Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you like what you read, then you'll love what you hear. Here's the latest album. Just click the image below:

 

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and if you like this thread, let me know. I'll post more interviews here.

 

Many thanks,

 

Mike


Edited by Mike Dias - 6/26/13 at 6:44am
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post #2 of 18

Thanks for the interview

 

I've been wondering how many artists are personally aware of the level of how good these in ears are and their reaction to the current consumer 'menaces'?

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

Thanks for the interview

 

I've been wondering how many artists are personally aware of the level of how good these in ears are and their reaction to the current consumer 'menaces'?

 

Hey there —
 

Actually, most artists use (or intend to use) in-ears. They are all quite aware of the benefits. Each manufacturer has long standing relationships with different engineers, artists, tour managers, and managers and it is often those relationships that determine which brand is the in-ear of choice for said artist. Artists probably don't do as many A/B tests or auditions as audiophiles do but it's a small industry so word gets around;) Reputation really matters in Live Sound. And most artists use their in-ears on and off the stage.

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post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Dias View Post

 

Hey there —
 

Actually, most artists use (or intend to use) in-ears. They are all quite aware of the benefits. Each manufacturer has long standing relationships with different engineers, artists, tour managers, and managers and it is often those relationships that determine which brand is the in-ear of choice for said artist. Artists probably don't do as many A/B tests or auditions as audiophiles do but it's a small industry so word gets around;) Reputation really matters in Live Sound. And most artists use their in-ears on and off the stage.

We head-fi'ers and headphone audio nerds generally see custom in ear monitors as god like audio devices. Would you say that artists and engineers have a similar view to their CIEM's in terms of quality of sound?

 

I see a lot of artists on your UE page. Are those artists that personally use UE CIEM's? 

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

We head-fi'ers and headphone audio nerds generally see custom in ear monitors as god like audio devices. Would you say that artists and engineers have a similar view to their CIEM's in terms of quality of sound?

 

I see a lot of artists on your UE page. Are those artists that personally use UE CIEM's? 

So in order to really answer this question, it is best if I explain the full picture so I'll start at the very beginning. Please forgive me if this is boring or if I repeat myself from other places online. So it all starts with a live performance. But see, what a musician is listening to at a concert is different than what you or I listen to. The audience hears the sum of all the parts — the audience hears the whole band. And that's the job of what we refer to as a Front of House engineer. That's the guy who stands in the middle of the audience in that sound box. He is mixing for the room. For the audience. He is taking all the inputs from all the different band members (and from canned tracks) and is overlaying them in the best sounding way he can. (I shouldn't just say he because there are many amazing women engineers out there so forgive me) Anyway, you can liken the job of the FOH to your home stereo system. It's providing a great balanced full mix. (some FOH's use in-ears to check their mixes) but they need to listen naturally the way that an audience member will.

 

OK. That's the engineer that you see but there is another person on the side of the stage who is mixing for the artists. The artists DON'T want to hear a full band FRONT OF HOUSE mix. They want to hear themselves. They want to make sure they are in tune. They want to hear their voice, or their guitar, or their drums. They want their stuff with a little bit of their band mates. Think about this for a second. It is really important to get your head around this. At work, chances are you work in a team. And you are responsible for certain parts of certain projects. You tend to focus on your stuff, not on your neighbor's work. Same for the musicians. Their bit is part of a whole, but if they are off, everything is off. In-ears are productivity tools for musicians. They let them hear better which means they can focus more and be in the moment of creation more deeply. If it all goes well, they are giving the Front of House engineer some great stuff to work into the mix for the whole song.

 

So follow me on this. Since we don't know if a musician buying the UE-18 will be playing bass or guitar or singing, we had to make it sound great at every frequency point. Because a bass player will use it differently than a vocalist. They'll both EQ it to accomplish different sound signatures. No one on stage really listens to CIEM's the way us audiophiles do. We listen to them wide-open without a mix. We're listening to the FOH mix while they are actually intended for a monitor mix. Get it? But since we don't know which monitor mix they'll be representing, they have to be robust enough to handle everything. That's why they sound so good and so clear to you. They have to. Plus, think about this. Is Mick Jagger really going to use an inferior product when he's performing? No! He makes a living by his ears. That's why we keep inventing new stuff. We're always sneaking up on perfection. Chasing that elusive sound. Trying to get better and better and better. Our professional clients keep calling us up wanting more. Wanting fractions of more. And I think it's pretty safe to admit that some pop stars are a bit demanding and/or fickle. There are some pretty tall glasses of expectations out there and we — all of us manufacturers — strive to meet them. We make what our industry demands. We love selling to audiophiles but we design for pop stars. That's been our secret success strategy. If it's good enough for Madonna, chances are it's good enough for me;)

 

As for our client list, we try to be as accurate as we can when making any representations. To the best of our current knowledge, our list is correct. Sometimes things change that we are not aware of. Sometimes some band members are on one company and some are on another. That's why you often see overlap on various websites. But like I said originally, and I've been doing this a long time, besides for quality and service, it sometimes comes down to who you know and who you are friends with. The companies with great reputations in the pro world — we all know who's who here — each of those companies have EARNED those reps through endless years of dedication and service. Real recognizes real and there is a tremendous amount of respect in our industry. It is rare to see companies poach clients. The usual rule of thumb is that if an artist is happy, don't rock the boat and make waves for the engineers.

 

Hope that helps clear it up a bit. If you are interested, dig through some more of those On The Road With interviews for more answers.

Reply
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Dias View Post

So in order to really answer this question, it is best if I explain the full picture so I'll start at the very beginning. Please forgive me if this is boring or if I repeat myself from other places online. So it all starts with a live performance. But see, what a musician is listening to at a concert is different than what you or I listen to. The audience hears the sum of all the parts — the audience hears the whole band. And that's the job of what we refer to as a Front of House engineer. That's the guy who stands in the middle of the audience in that sound box. He is mixing for the room. For the audience. He is taking all the inputs from all the different band members (and from canned tracks) and is overlaying them in the best sounding way he can. (I shouldn't just say he because there are many amazing women engineers out there so forgive me) Anyway, you can liken the job of the FOH to your home stereo system. It's providing a great balanced full mix. (some FOH's use in-ears to check their mixes) but they need to listen naturally the way that an audience member will.

 

OK. That's the engineer that you see but there is another person on the side of the stage who is mixing for the artists. The artists DON'T want to hear a full band FRONT OF HOUSE mix. They want to hear themselves. They want to make sure they are in tune. They want to hear their voice, or their guitar, or their drums. They want their stuff with a little bit of their band mates. Think about this for a second. It is really important to get your head around this. At work, chances are you work in a team. And you are responsible for certain parts of certain projects. You tend to focus on your stuff, not on your neighbor's work. Same for the musicians. Their bit is part of a whole, but if they are off, everything is off. In-ears are productivity tools for musicians. They let them hear better which means they can focus more and be in the moment of creation more deeply. If it all goes well, they are giving the Front of House engineer some great stuff to work into the mix for the whole song.

 

So follow me on this. Since we don't know if a musician buying the UE-18 will be playing bass or guitar or singing, we had to make it sound great at every frequency point. Because a bass player will use it differently than a vocalist. They'll both EQ it to accomplish different sound signatures. No one on stage really listens to CIEM's the way us audiophiles do. We listen to them wide-open without a mix. We're listening to the FOH mix while they are actually intended for a monitor mix. Get it? But since we don't know which monitor mix they'll be representing, they have to be robust enough to handle everything. That's why they sound so good and so clear to you. They have to. Plus, think about this. Is Mick Jagger really going to use an inferior product when he's performing? No! He makes a living by his ears. That's why we keep inventing new stuff. We're always sneaking up on perfection. Chasing that elusive sound. Trying to get better and better and better. Our professional clients keep calling us up wanting more. Wanting fractions of more. And I think it's pretty safe to admit that some pop stars are a bit demanding and/or fickle. There are some pretty tall glasses of expectations out there and we — all of us manufacturers — strive to meet them. We make what our industry demands. We love selling to audiophiles but we design for pop stars. That's been our secret success strategy. If it's good enough for Madonna, chances are it's good enough for me;)

 

As for our client list, we try to be as accurate as we can when making any representations. To the best of our current knowledge, our list is correct. Sometimes things change that we are not aware of. Sometimes some band members are on one company and some are on another. That's why you often see overlap on various websites. But like I said originally, and I've been doing this a long time, besides for quality and service, it sometimes comes down to who you know and who you are friends with. The companies with great reputations in the pro world — we all know who's who here — each of those companies have EARNED those reps through endless years of dedication and service. Real recognizes real and there is a tremendous amount of respect in our industry. It is rare to see companies poach clients. The usual rule of thumb is that if an artist is happy, don't rock the boat and make waves for the engineers.

 

Hope that helps clear it up a bit. If you are interested, dig through some more of those On The Road With interviews for more answers.

Read through that.

 

Thank you very much. I understood the whole process, what the people on stage were actually hearing. But it never once connected to me that they were of course then hearing differently what we use the CIEM's for.

 

Thanks for the help on clarification!

post #7 of 18

Thanks for all the work, Mike!

 

Speaking of Monitor sound, are there any patterns among artists that you notice? (i.e. - Bass players commonly boost lower octaves, vocalists favor that mid-heavy sound, etc.)  Or, within a certain degree of variance, is there some stereotypical "stage tuning" that most artists find works best for live shows?

 

As a part-time stage-setup assist, I've always wondered what it would be like to listen in to an artist's monitor-mix.

 

 

 

Thanks in advance,

Cristello

post #8 of 18

Nice post Mike and thanks for the new album link. I'm always on the lookout for new music and the sample tracks I've heard on Papadosio's site is quite mellow and nice. I've ordered the new album from Amazon and look forward to hearing it in it's entirety.

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

Read through that.

 

Thank you very much. I understood the whole process, what the people on stage were actually hearing. But it never once connected to me that they were of course then hearing differently what we use the CIEM's for.

 

Thanks for the help on clarification!


You know, it never occurred to me either that artists were listening to things differently. It wasn't until I went to my first concert with Jerry and went side stage to the monitor desk that I "got it." It was mind blowing really. It was a completely different experience than watching a show from the audience.

 

Actually, the show was really weird to watch and hard to get used to. It was The Cult and the only band member on ears was the lead singer. That meant that I could hear from the stage wedges everything EXCEPT for the vocals — he was getting his mix pumped directly into his ear and no one else had vocals in their mix that I was hearing through the wedges. I could see him singing but I couldn't hear anything. It was like watching an opposite lip-synch. I could see his mouth moving and the audience could hear him and so could the engineer who was listening to the vocal mix through his own set of ears. It was just me who was in the dark. That was a totally revolutionary experience for me and from that point on, I really understood why CIEMS exist. And here's something even cooler. When a full band is on ears, the stage is quiet. There are no wedges so there is no stage noise. All the mix is in the ears.

 

There's more. So each artist is on a wireless pack. That's how they get the signal from the monitor engineer. It's like they each have their own independent radio station that is playing a version of the song. Their version. And the Monitor engineer can scroll through each radio station to hear what each artist is hearing. That's how they fine tune the mix and make changes on the fly. One of these days when we cross paths in person, let's go see a show together so I can take you side stage and you can witness this for yourself. You can plug your IEMS into an extra wireless pack and you can cycle through the "stations" and hear each mix. You can conceptualize it in the meantime but you have to really hear it and see it for the light bulb to really go off. It's pretty cool stuff to think about.

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post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Dias View Post


You know, it never occurred to me either that artists were listening to things differently. It wasn't until I went to my first concert with Jerry and went side stage to the monitor desk that I "got it." It was mind blowing really. It was a completely different experience than watching a show from the audience.

Actually, the show was really weird to watch and hard to get used to. It was The Cult and the only band member on ears was the lead singer. That meant that I could hear from the stage wedges everything EXCEPT for the vocals — he was getting his mix pumped directly into his ear and no one else had vocals in their mix that I was hearing through the wedges. I could see him singing but I couldn't hear anything. It was like watching an opposite lip-synch. I could see his mouth moving and the audience could hear him and so could the engineer who was listening to the vocal mix through his own set of ears. It was just me who was in the dark. That was a totally revolutionary experience for me and from that point on, I really understood why CIEMS exist. And here's something even cooler. When a full band is on ears, the stage is quiet. There are no wedges so there is no stage noise. All the mix is in the ears.

There's more. So each artist is on a wireless pack. That's how they get the signal from the monitor engineer. It's like they each have their own independent radio station that is playing a version of the song. Their version. And the Monitor engineer can scroll through each radio station to hear what each artist is hearing. That's how they fine tune the mix and make changes on the fly. One of these days when we cross paths in person, let's go see a show together so I can take you side stage and you can witness this for yourself. You can plug your IEMS into an extra wireless pack and you can cycle through the "stations" and hear each mix. You can conceptualize it in the meantime but you have to really hear it and see it for the light bulb to really go off. It's pretty cool stuff to think about.
I cant believe Mike Dias of UE just invited me to one day hang out with him back stage. biggrin.gif if the day comes, i would gladly take you up on that offer.

Thank you for all that you have done. Your offer and friendliness shows to me, and i hope to others, that we arent just members of a forum that are JUST a demographic that buys a company product, but are actually friends who share a beloved hobby.

Thank you
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristello View Post

Thanks for all the work, Mike!

 

Speaking of Monitor sound, are there any patterns among artists that you notice? (i.e. - Bass players commonly boost lower octaves, vocalists favor that mid-heavy sound, etc.)  Or, within a certain degree of variance, is there some stereotypical "stage tuning" that most artists find works best for live shows?

 

As a part-time stage-setup assist, I've always wondered what it would be like to listen in to an artist's monitor-mix.

 

 

 

Thanks in advance,

Cristello

 

Hi Cristello — thank you for asking this important question. I wish I had a good answer for you but in all honesty, it really varies. It just depends on what the artist is used to hearing. OK, so bear with me because I have a pretty different take on sound and on this matter. Look, hearing is a perception and it influenced by 4 factors: the source, the delivery system, the physical properties of sound and how waves interact with your unique physiology and brain chemistry, and by beliefs. You can't separate 1 aspect from the total. So if you think about your question in that light, here is how I can answer. The source is the mix itself and that is made of a combination of inputs.  The delivery system is the ears and the wireless pack. (Like CIEMS, not all wireless systems are created equally.) How the musician actually hears is based on their ears and brain. And lastly, what the musician believes or grew up hearing is equally as important.

 

So a monitor engineer is hired to provide the best mix possible. The artist has bought the most expensive equipment out there. So you should assume that there are standards or best case scenarios: that every singer will want XYZ, and that every guitarist will want ZYX.... And this makes sense. Except that people aren't calculus equations. We've left out perception and psychoacoustics - the human element to all of this. And those throw some big wabblers into the game. So essentially it all boils down to this. All mixes start off based on patterns - how an engineer combines the gear with the need and then slowly but surely, the artist will say something like: "hey there - can you turn up the mids a bit....." or "it sounds a tad muddy...." or "Nope. That's a bit tinny...." And eventually the mix creeps right back to where ever the artist is the most comfortable — and that is usually based on how their old amps used to sound when they first started playing. They are searching for that ideal sound in their head. Everyone's mix is different. And there is no such thing as a best mix or even a good mix. If the artist is happy, that is all that matters.

Reply
post #12 of 18

Great read Mike! Thanks for all the hard work and help!

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Dias View Post

 

Hi Cristello — thank you for asking this important question. I wish I had a good answer for you but in all honesty, it really varies. It just depends on what the artist is used to hearing. OK, so bear with me because I have a pretty different take on sound and on this matter. Look, hearing is a perception and it influenced by 4 factors: the source, the delivery system, the physical properties of sound and how waves interact with your unique physiology and brain chemistry, and by beliefs. You can't separate 1 aspect from the total. So if you think about your question in that light, here is how I can answer. The source is the mix itself and that is made of a combination of inputs.  The delivery system is the ears and the wireless pack. (Like CIEMS, not all wireless systems are created equally.) How the musician actually hears is based on their ears and brain. And lastly, what the musician believes or grew up hearing is equally as important.

 

So a monitor engineer is hired to provide the best mix possible. The artist has bought the most expensive equipment out there. So you should assume that there are standards or best case scenarios: that every singer will want XYZ, and that every guitarist will want ZYX.... And this makes sense. Except that people aren't calculus equations. We've left out perception and psychoacoustics - the human element to all of this. And those throw some big wabblers into the game. So essentially it all boils down to this. All mixes start off based on patterns - how an engineer combines the gear with the need and then slowly but surely, the artist will say something like: "hey there - can you turn up the mids a bit....." or "it sounds a tad muddy...." or "Nope. That's a bit tinny...." And eventually the mix creeps right back to where ever the artist is the most comfortable — and that is usually based on how their old amps used to sound when they first started playing. They are searching for that ideal sound in their head. Everyone's mix is different. And there is no such thing as a best mix or even a good mix. If the artist is happy, that is all that matters.

Wow! That's mind blowing.

I never really thought about it like that before... 

Thinking back to my own experiences, I compared everything (for years) to an old set of Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 speakers I rebuilt after finding a pair in my Father's attic. I knew that set had it faults, but I guess It was an emotional baseline of performance for me. I suppose, in a way, Artists aren't all that different from us "audiophiles"; Their earliest experiences shaped what they still strive towards today.

 

Referring back to your reply to Bowei, I can definitely understand why having "flat" response is so crucial for many of these pros. Having a blank-slate is a great advantage, then, for getting the sound to where it needs to be; It becomes much easier knowing you can head in whatever direction you want to with little effort.

 

Thanks for the amazingly quick and honest reply, too!

I'll have to check out that UERM someday. For sure.

beerchug.gif

post #14 of 18

Nice. Thanks for doing that interview, it's pretty cool to see how in-ears are used "in the wild."

Some folks I know are slowly headed towards in-ear monitors over stage monitors...

 

Currently one or two of them use wireless sets with universals plugged right into the mix board.

Fortunately, there's time to tweak the settings before each performance...

Reading what you said about the monitor engineer, it reminded me about a recording engineer who would send one sound through the monitors, and another through the speaker, as he knew what would sound good to the audience VS what the band wanted. (They were used to a thinner sound.)

Sound and psychology.. who knew?

 

Thanks again, keep the articles coming. ^^

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristello View Post

Wow! That's mind blowing.

I never really thought about it like that before... 

Thinking back to my own experiences, I compared everything (for years) to an old set of Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 speakers I rebuilt after finding a pair in my Father's attic. I knew that set had it faults, but I guess It was an emotional baseline of performance for me. I suppose, in a way, Artists aren't all that different from us "audiophiles"; Their earliest experiences shaped what they still strive towards today.

 

Referring back to your reply to Bowei, I can definitely understand why having "flat" response is so crucial for many of these pros. Having a blank-slate is a great advantage, then, for getting the sound to where it needs to be; It becomes much easier knowing you can head in whatever direction you want to with little effort.

 

Thanks for the amazingly quick and honest reply, too!

I'll have to check out that UERM someday. For sure.

beerchug.gif

 

You nailed it my friend — "Artists aren't all that different from us "audiophiles"; Their earliest experiences shaped what they still strive towards today." This says it all. And this is why there are multiple companies in the space and why each company has multiple products. Or another way to say it goes something like this. We all love ice cream. Who doesn't. But we all probably don't agree on what is the BEST flavor. Me, I love something with caramel and chocolate chunks. My wife loves a solid vanilla. And we're both right.

 

In regards to what you said about having a " 'flat' response is so crucial for many of these pros. Having a blank-slate is a great advantage, then, for getting the sound to where it needs to be; It becomes much easier knowing you can head in whatever direction you want to with little effort." You are totally right in concept. But I want to drill down just a little deeper because we are all so close to that giant AH HA moment. Most touring bands don't want reference flat. That sound signature doesn't have enough "umph" for them right out the gate. It is accurate and transparent and clear but it just doesn't sound like a live concert. It doesn't line up with what they are used to. So their starting point; the reference point that makes sense to them, the place that they can then make adjustments to is different for each manufacturer. For us, that starting point is the UE-7. That set feels like a concert. And from there, that baseline signature can get adjusted to suit tastes. The UE-7, you're saying???? But no one in this community uses that???? True. But it is used by tens of thousands of musicians all over the globe on a nighty basis. Different needs; different products.

 

As for the UERM's, engineers love those. That's the sound that they crave. They want a true reference so they can then analyze and make their magic happen. Audiophiles and engineers have the same needs and tastes. There is a huge overlap between the head-fi community members and the sound engineer community. In fact, many professional engineers are part of this community and many head-fi'ers could easily transition into the audio world.

 

Does that make sense? Next time we're at a meet — ask to demo the UE-7's against the UERM's. Both sets have 3 drivers but the tuning couldn't be more different. And you'll be able to hear why one works in one situation while one works in the other.

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