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Live Sound

Surviving Mixing My Bloody Valentine

FOH engineer Philip J. Harvey works around MBV’s demanding levels.

Chicago, IL (November 26, 2018)—It’s no secret that UK shoegaze veterans My Bloody Valentine is one of the loudest acts out there, hitting 110 dB nightly and occasionally sailing past 120. “It’s sort of a trademark for the band, and definitely part of my job description,” said the band’s FOH engineer, Philip J. Harvey, also known for his work mixing Lorde. While everyone from the band to the fans know what they’re in for—earplugs get handed out with tickets—the sheer volume nonetheless puts the engineer at risk for doing long-term damage to his own hearing.

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“I’m out there every night and definitely at risk,” Harvey acceded. “When I started with them, (bandleader) Kevin Shields was very clear on his expectations. So basically, I have to work in a punishingly loud environment, day in and day out. To conserve my hearing, I had to do something.”

While he used custom earplugs for a while, he found they attenuated the high end too much, and he was also faced with a loss of transients. This past summer, he moved to using Sensaphonics 3D AARO in-ears, which use embedded microphones to enable the user to control the blend of ambient and direct sound, while providing broadband isolation with custom silicone earpieces.

On tour, Harvey starts his days by setting up the PA system, tuning the room, and doing line check. He usually puts in his 3D AARO about halfway through sound check, and works without them for the first few songs of the show. During the concert, he connects the 3D to the pre-fader listen (PFL) monitor send on his Midas XL4 console, allowing him to check individual mix elements just as he would with conventional headphones.

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“Obviously, I would prefer to work with my naked ears, so that’s how I start, but once things are dialed in, the mics are definitely accurate enough to mix with. With My Bloody Valentine, the 3D is the perfect tool for a difficult job.”

Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation •