November 7, 2022
KLANG:konductor Tames IEM Mixes On Aerosmith’s Deuces Are Wild
Andy Bongardt, band monitor engineer for the legendary rock group’s Las Vegas residency, relies on KLANG’s newest IEM mixing processor to help the musicians perform their very best
After more than five decades of rock and roll tours, Aerosmith is on the cusp of wrapping up its first-ever concert residency, Deuces Are Wild, at Park MGM’s Dolby Live venue in Las Vegas. Running from April 2019 through December 2022, the show pushes the boundaries of immersive entertainment with the room’s Dolby Atmos audio reinforcement system, but audience members aren’t the only ones getting to enjoy the 3D mix. For the 2022 dates, which kicked off in September, the guys in the band are able hear their IEM mixes in immersive audio thanks to the use of a new KLANG:konductor.
Clair Global is supplying the residency’s audio production elements and much of the crew, with Andy Bongardt serving as Aerosmith’s dedicated band monitor engineer for the show’s entire run. From the start, KLANG was part of the overall gear complement, albeit with another product deployed in a different way.
“Because this was even before the DMI-KLANG card came out, Deuces Are Wild’s original design incorporated KLANG:fabrik, which was limited in its use due to the show’s high input and output count,” Bongardt shares. “This specific production was designed with over 200 inputs, so John Shipp [FOH engineer], Travis White [singer Steven Tyler’s monitor engineer] and I are all on DiGiCo Quantum7 consoles to best manage the huge number of channels. When we began, the primary use of KLANG was for the immersive elements coming from playback, as the residency was initially designed as one of the first immersive shows in Vegas, and was originally THX-certified in L-ISA from L-Acoustics for the audience. I utilized the KLANG processor to return a binaural version of the immersive playback so I didn’t need to take up 21 channels on the Quantum7, and instead could use just a stereo input, making the :fabrik essentially a summing mixer with an immersive effect.
“The band has often commented on how it feels like they aren’t even wearing ears, as everything sounds as natural as if they are just walking around the stage.”
Andy Bongardt– Monitor Engineer for Aerosmith
“However, with :konductor’s 2022 release and the expansion of capabilities to 128 inputs and 16 outputs, plus significantly reduced latency, that quickly became the ideal choice for these ‘return to Vegas’ runs following our extended break from Covid. So for the past few months, I’ve utilized KLANG not only for the playback elements, but also for the majority of the primary stage inputs depending on the artist’s mix needs.”
Bongardt says that, for him, the biggest benefit the new KLANG:konductor has provided is the “space” that it allows in the mix. “With so many inputs, EQ and level alone are not enough to space out the sources,” he describes. “They inevitably become cluttered in the mix and make it very difficult to pick up on all the elements and cues happening in each song. Prior to using KLANG, we could only spread out inputs with the use of pan for lateral space, or effects like reverb for depth, but now I can move items around using elevation and position. The benefit of this is that I don’t have to have multiple EQs to fit inputs within the spectrum as simple positioning within KLANG allows items to fit without needing destructive EQ.”
Additionally, the second benefit, he says, is the ability to listen at lower levels than before. “All of the band members started turning their packs down as they no longer need to listen as loudly to hear the other instruments. Aerosmith has been used to wedges as the primary monitoring solution for the majority of their career, and so I use KLANG to create that same feeling of space that you get from wedges while keeping the consistency of being on IEMs. The goal is always consistency, and so I love the ability to give a consistent ‘sonicscape’ to each of the musicians.”
For the late-2022 residency dates, Bongardt is supplying 14 individual immersive IEM mixes via the KLANG:konductor. Those mixes also merge in to feed dedicated backline tech mixes, which have additional inputs such as talkback microphones added to them, so KLANG essentially delivers 14 mixes to 24 different people. Overall, KLANG is controlled via snapshot automation from the Quantum7, and most of the show-by-show adjustments are done on the console integration.
“I have found it most comfortable to utilize a hybrid approach for integrating KLANG into my workflow—I typically make my level adjustments via the Quantum7 and my positioning adjustments via the external screen on the grid layout,” he says. “I find it easiest to move items around with the mouse to where it sounds the most natural, and then I typically don’t move the items around during the show itself. The band wants consistency, so level adjustments between songs are really the only thing that change between song snapshots.
“For instance, if the sax fits best in an elevated position on the left side of the head, it stays there for all the snapshots and the automation from the Quantum7 will mute or unmute, and change levels between a solo or a normal horn part. The consistent part is that the sax always shows up in that same spot sonically, so the musician is easily able to locate it. This also means that the level changes don’t have to be drastic as focusing on a particular instrument makes it pop out in the mix using psychoacoustics.”
Four KLANG:kontrollers are also deployed, “mostly as a safety net for some of the artists who are used to previously having a physical controller to manipulate their mixes with,” says Bongardt. “Being static in a residency, the changes that the musicians need on a song-by-song basis are mostly stored in snapshots and they rarely need to adjust anything in their mix. These may come in play more in a touring environment; however, for this run, they are mostly a security blanket in case they need a quick level change. Especially considering that I am working on over 30 mixes, and tracking guitarist Joe Perry who still uses wedges around the stage with wedge zones, it can get hectic on talkback if multiple people want a mix adjustment.”
Bongardt prefers to position the inputs in KLANG based on their physical position relative to the band member on the stage, “essentially placing their instrument or vocal center and sometimes slightly elevated so it pops out above the rest of the mix,” he notes. “I then like to organize the drum set as if the musician is sitting at the set themselves, keeping the elements of the kit relatively close together while using the effects to widen the image. This allows them to easily keep time by picking out the kick, snare, and hi-hat, even at lower levels than you would need in traditional IEM mixing. Finally, I arrange the other inputs around them based on their stage locations, using elevation to help accent the more important inputs for them. This results in very minimal level adjustments song-by-song as their individual mixes are consistent and they can pick out the elements they need.”
Working with musicians that have spent most of their careers playing exclusively on wedge monitor solutions, Bongardt says that switching to immersive mixing allows Aerosmith to be much more comfortable using IEMs. “The band has often commented on how it feels like they aren’t even wearing ears, as everything sounds as natural as if they are just walking around the stage. As an example, Brad [Whitford, guitarist] said he loves feeling like he is ‘sitting at the drum kit, regardless of where I am on stage.’ The overall response from the rest of the group is also very positive, with all of the members enjoying the space created in an otherwise very dense, sonically speaking, show. The ability to constantly hear all the elements that they need to perform, regardless of their stage position, is a real benefit to IEMs over wedges, and with the added space created by KLANG, it is truly a ‘best of both worlds’ solution.”