Ever been to a concert and can’t hear anything but blasting speakers and muffled lyrics? It’s 2017, why can’t we get better audio for the audience? Incubus lead guitarist Mike Einziger has been thinking about this very question for a year.
“MIXhalo gives you the best sounding spot in the room wherever you are,” Einziger said at TechCrunch Disrupt, where he and investor Pharrell Williams tested the new tech for the first time with a crowd of more than 300 people.
Musicians have ear mixes coming directly from the sound board. That’s where MIXhalo comes in. The app allows concertgoers access to the same high fidelity mix by wirelessly streaming the audio straight from the engineer to your smartphone. Plug in any pair of wired headphones and listen to the performance with no loss in quality.
“You really get a sense for what the performer is hearing in real time and it’s a different sensation that you guys may or may not understand until you try it,” Williams warned the crowd before the performance. “And that sensation is being able to walk around and nothing changes with the acoustics. You’re at a performance, you are hearing chatter and people around you. This gives you a direct input.”
It was a transcendent experience. Not just because I got to see Pharrell perform “Get Lucky” and Incubus perform their 1999 hit, “Drive.” What made the demo so special was being able to hear every crack, every vulnerability, every note in the bridge guitar solo loud and clear piercing through the buds of your headphones without any lag whatsoever. I think I said, “Holy s***,” out loud about three times because I could have been standing in the bathroom line of Pier 36 and still had a better listening experience than the fan sitting in the front row.
“I was like, “Man, why didn’t I think about that?” Williams exclaimed on stage. “It washes over you instantly. We’ve done this a million times and it never occurred to any of us that we should be offering that same experience to the audience.”
One big question regarding MIXhalo is how audiences will react to experiencing a concert wearing headphones. How will it affect the energy at live events? And, are the artists and performers ready to look out to a crowd all wearing earbuds? Well, if fans want to experience the exact vision of the artist and audio engineer, MIXhalo is hoping people will be open to at least trying it out. VP of Product Nate Pollack compares this sort of jump in technology to when the world switched from standard to high definition televisions. It wasn’t something people knew they wanted until they experienced it.
“When you go to a show, you are getting the energy of the crowd, you are feeling it,” Pollack said. “But at the end of the day when the artists are on stage, they are sending the signal to the mixing board and as soon as it comes out of the PA system it’s getting corrupted.”
The idea for MIXhalo may have been born out of Einziger’s day job, but making the idea a reality was harder than he anticipated. Originally, he set out to build an app but learned pretty quickly the standard Wi-Fi deployment can’t handle large crowds.
“You get a lot of people on a Wi-Fi network and it just crashes. We built a system that functions differently and can theoretically handle infinite amount of devices at the same time,” Einziger said.
MIXhalo has been in development for just under a year. Pollack said MIXhalo will officially launch during Incubus’ summer tour for VIP guests. After more testing, the technology will be rented out to other artists, outdoor venues and public speaking engagements. Einziger says MIXhalo could be available in the marketplace as early as fall.