When audiences tune into the Minnesota Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall or social media channels to hear the orchestra’s livestreamed digital concerts, they’re treated to an extraordinary audio experience: a three-dimensional soundscape of the performance from the conductor’s podium position, available to any listener with headphones.
The Grammy Award-winning orchestra, known internationally for its highly regarded renditions, has turned KLANG:technologies’ groundbreaking in-ear monitor mixing system for the stage into an immersive broadcast solution, via a DMI-KLANG card integrated with Orchestra Hall’s DiGiCo Quantum338 FOH console.
KLANG:technologies’ immersive IEM solution was primarily developed to allow live musicians to hear themselves in a natural, realistic three-dimensional soundstage, but the Minnesota Orchestra’s audio team have now been able to extend that experience to anyone, anywhere, with headphones or earbuds. “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,” explains Jay Perlman, Minnesota Orchestra’s Head Audio Engineer. “KLANG’s immersive processors were originally designed for musicians using 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.”
“The KLANG technology is taking something that’s already special and making it even more so. 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,” notes Jay.
Minnesota Orchestra’s Technical Director, Joel Mooney, says the special adaptation of the DMI-KLANG system was intentional from the very beginning. “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.”
Expanding on the implementation of the KLANG system, Joel explains that it was simple and straightforward to set up, and that any proficient front-of-house or broadcast engineer can become quickly acclimated to the immersive mix. “The only real difference is the panning, which is 360 and above and below,” adds Joel.
Jay sets up the listener’s mix position and parameters via a DiGiCo Quantum338, using its virtual soundcheck feature, recording to Reaper (multitrack DAW) and rehearsing along with the orchestra three times a week prior to each performance- which offers him the opportunity to fine-tune the mix and placement of instruments across the virtual soundstage. Listeners online will all hear an excellent stereo image of the performance hall and orchestra, but those with headphones can access a fully immersive palette.
“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 Jay. “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.”