February 22, 2017

HammerFall | Built to Tour with KLANG:fabrik

Swedish Metal Band’s Guitar Player Pontus Norgren talks about In-Ear Mixing with KLANG:fabrik for HammerFall

HammerFall is for sure one of the big players in the Heavy Metal scene. Originally formed in 1993 in Gothenburg, Sweden, HammerFall has released 10 albums so far.

As true for every touring act in the rock industry, tremendous sound pressure levels have been reached in the past due to highly overdriven guitar amplifiers to achieve the metal like guitar sounds. In order to cope with this volume drummers had to increase their volume and wedges had to add the necessecary instrument at high volumes as well. Monitor sound had to be made to the purpose and not to follow aesthetic sound design rules. Recent technology break throughs in two main fields made in the last couple of decades  have changed – and are still about to change – the whole pro audio and live music industry for good.

In the following video interview Pontus explains HammerFall’s in-ear monitor setup and their implementation of the silent stage approach using a Mackie DL32R rack mixer with Dante interface, KLANG:fabrik and Kemper Profiling Amplifiers.

For sure In-Ears allow for a fully controllable sound environment without cross talk to other musicians and hence enable each musician to get an individual sound mix instead of a compromise of stage sound blended with the some instruments required. But to make the stage silent, removing wedges from the monitor setup is only one part. Furthermore, digital guitar amp emulators such as the Kemper Profiling Amplifier used in the HammerFall setup in combination with in-ears allow for a silent guitar backline without loosing the sound details and feel of a tube amplifier and a highly overdriven cabinet. You might ask at this point, what’s all new about it? In fact, it is not new and more and more bands are switching to a silent setup for these main reasons:

  • Easier and lighter setup, saving valuable time in setting up and sound check leaving more time to focus on sound
  • Better music and band performance
  • Better Front of House sound quality due to less crosstalk in the instrument and microphone signals

But still some musicians are refusing to switch to in-ears and many who have already switched are not fully satisfied with their sound mix. It is simply a matter of the mix you might say. And that is true! A mix is not considered to sound natural and pleasant if the acoustics our ears are used to deal with are neglected. Our ears are binaural, meaning we rely on a certain correlation of the signals arriving at both our ear drums that enables our ears and brain to distinguish the direction a sound is coming from. The sound emitted by the in-ears should include this correlation, these spatial cues. Once it does, we are able to concentrate on different directions and to easily identify what another band member is playing instead of focussing on what that instrument sounds like and finding where it is in the mix. With binaural mixing, the in-ear mix is much more transparent, less fatiguing for our hearing, and it sounds natural.

Being skeptical if 3D in-ear mixing would be compatible with Heavy Metal instrumentation at first, Pontus immediately saw benefits for large orchestras in using KLANG 3D technology. Brollan Söderström from the Swedish KLANG distributor Electrosound was involved in the design phase of  HammerFall’s Silent Stage in-ear rack and simply convinced Pontus with the words “You have to try it!”. That one live demo was enough to see all the benefits in 3D In-Ear Mixing, especially for Heavy Metal. Besides being a highly skilled fret board master, Pontus has deep understanding of sound engineering since he was also on tour as Front of House engineer for e.g. Thin Lizzy.

“It’s a new World. It’s not stereo – it is something else”

After thoroughly trying out KLANG:fabrik, Pontus was convinced and states: “It’s a new World. It’s not stereo – it is something else”. As an example that every guitar player can immediately understand as it is a commonly known problem he continues: “Most guitar players never go down and listen in front of the cabinet and instead the sound is shooting them straight in their legs. That sound is normally a high-end hiss. And you stand up there and it sounds good. In KLANG:app you can move the guitar sound down to the floor and there it is. That’s amazing.” To experience KLANG:app yourself click here.

The HammerFall Setup in Detail

Guitars are sent to a Kemper Profiling Amplifier and the Direct Outs via XLR to the Mackie DL32R rack mixer preamps. A splitter before the preamps of the monitor mixing system are used to send a split to the Front of House console, which in this case is not connected digitally to the monitor system and does not interfere with the monitor sound. A Dante expansion of the DL32R is used to send pre-processed signals with EQ and Dynamics out of the rack mixer via Dante Audio over IP (AoIP) to KLANG:fabrik. A Wifi router connects iPads running KLANG:app to KLANG:fabrik for instant remote control of the 3D in-ear mixes.

Detailed routing between Mackie DL32R and KLANG:fabrik is shown in a separate article here.

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More Videos about HammerFall’s monitoring setup