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Prowda Guides Radiohead Into 3D

On Radiohead’s most recent tour, vetran monitor engineer Michael Prowda put four out of five bandmembers Sensaphonics 3D Active Ambient IEM System, and reports they were pleased with the results.

Monitor engineer Michael Prowda
New York, NY (February 7, 2013)—On Radiohead’s most recent tour, vetran monitor engineer Michael Prowda put four out of five bandmembers Sensaphonics 3D Active Ambient IEM System, and reports they were pleased with the results.

“They are a very talented band—technology-friendly and open to new ideas. At our first meeting in London, I presented the idea of the 3D as something that might be right for them,” says Prowda. “They understood the active ambient concept immediately and knew that they wanted it. They were very decisive, embraced the idea, and trusted me to make it happen for them. Very cool.”

Initially, three Radiohead band members–singer/songwriter Thom Yorke, guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phil Selway–ordered the 3D Active Ambient. The systems arrived during rehearsals. “Sensaphonics really delivered for us. Absolutely no issues with fit, and the band loved the system from the get-go,” says Prowda. “They had experience with in-ears, and knew immediately that the 3D finally gave them what they wanted to hear on stage.”

The other two band members, brothers Johnny and Colin Greenwood, went another direction. “Johnny is strictly wedges, which is cool. Colin, the bass player, had never used in-ears before, so we started him with a pair of Sensaphonics 2MAX,” says Prowda. “He took to them right away and, by the time we had done the first few shows, he was ready to make the move to ambient ears. Once he settled into the 3D, you could tell he was into it. After a few shows, he told me his stage experience was transformed – that he had never experienced a live performance like that.”

Another band member who had a positive 3D experience was drummer Phil Selway. “He was just flipping out at how cool it was. Absolutely flipping out, because the 3D lets him hear his kit acoustically, just like it sounds at home. That’s something you can’t do with regular in-ears. The thing about drums is, you can never get them to sound completely real when you’re closed off from them. Drums need to be in a space. The other thing is the isolation. Sound comes off all over each drum, not just the one point where you’re miking it—but the 3D gets past all that because you can listen to the full, natural sound of the drum kit by just listening to the ambient signal. It’s a powerful tool for drummers, or really any acoustic instrument.”

As the tour progressed, Prowda noticed how actively the band members utilized their 3D systems. “They were active participants, switching from Perform mode to Full Ambient, and even changing the ambience settings themselves, depending on the room,” he reports. “If the room was really friendly, they would dial in a lot of ambience and really get into it.”

Prowda’s first experience with the Sensaphonics 3D system was with Kanye West in 2011. “I only heard it on the last show I did with Kanye, and I could immediately see the advantages,” he recalls. “The soundstage was great, very neutral and natural sounding. The thing about the 3D is that it immediately eliminated that ‘I feel closed in’ objection to in-ear systems. You feel closed in? Turn up this ambience knob until you don’t feel that way anymore. Even at the lowest setting, one click and it changes the whole ballgame. In fact, it might be easier for new in-ear users to start with the 3D. Powerful stuff.”

It’s easy to see why Michael Prowda felt the 3D Active Ambient was a perfect match for Radiohead. “As a monitor engineer, my goal is to provide what the band needs to hear and then just stay out of their way,” he relates. “The 3D empowers the band members to determine their own sound field for that mix, to take the most advantage of it and experience it in the way that works for them. With Radiohead, it was totally the right way to go. Everyone was extremely happy with the 3D. On the whole tour, there were literally no complaints – I mean zero!”

Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation, Inc.