Monitor Engineer Sean Quackenbush Chooses Sensaphonics In-Ear Monitors

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Sound engineer Sean Quackenbush is currently mixing for Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

Over the past 10 years on the road, touring sound engineer Sean Quackenbush has worked with such bands and artists as O.A.R. and Robert Randolph and the Family Band, along with host of other groups. Quackenbush reports that of all the major brands of in-ear monitors, he prefers using Sensaphonics in-ear monitors (IEMs), citing their sound quality, comfort and reliability.

“I’ve had the chance to try them all, and there’s really no comparison,” Quackenbush says. “It starts with sound quality. My job is to EQ an individual mix for each band member, so I want to hear everything accurately coming off the source. That’s the only way to know for sure what I’m actually doing to the sound. Sensaphonics are so accurate, it lets me start with the truth, which helps me deliver the studio-style mixes that the band members want.”

Quackenbush says his experience with Sensaphonics goes back to 2003, when he was hired as front-of-house engineer and production manager for Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Because the band couldn’t budget for a traveling monitor engineer, Quackenbush found himself mixing both FOH and monitors from the main console. The group was opening for Dave Matthews Band, and Randolph had just ordered a pair of Sensaphonics 2X-S.

“Robert was really into IEMs, so I suggested we try putting everyone on them,” Quackenbush recalls. “I talked to Ian Kuhn, Dave Matthews’ monitor engineer, about it, and he told me how much soft earpieces helped in making that transition a smooth one for his band. The silicone absorbs your body heat and actually gets more pliable. After a few minutes, you can’t even tell that it’s in. Much more comfortable for long sets, plus they give better isolation than hard acrylic.”

A few years later, Quackenbush experienced Sensaphonics' 3-D Active Ambient system. “I was talking to [Sensaphonics founder] Michael Santucci at the NAMM show and told him about how the performers wanted to hear the stage. That was 2006, right when they introduced the 3-D system. Robert Randolph tried them in rehearsal and said, ‘This is what we’ve been asking for.’ He ordered a set immediately, and so did Danyel [Morgan], the bass player. They both got into it like there was no tomorrow.”

As monitor engineer for O.A.R. in 2013, Quackenbush found himself with another group full of Sensaphonics users. “Half the band is on the ambient 3-D, the other half is on the 2MAX,” Quackenbush notes. “Sonically, they’re both pretty close, very neutral. I tend to wear my ambients during the show because I like the way the 3-D sounds with the dual full-range drivers. And I love having the Full Ambient mode, where I can flip a switch and hear what a tech is telling me, then flip it back and be right back to what the band is hearing.

“Once I met Dr. Santucci and learned how their products are designed for hearing protection, I knew why they have such a different vibe about them,” Quackenbush says. “I like the fact that my audiologist is also the same guy who designs and manufactures the product I use. Whether I’m going into the Musicians Hearing Clinic at Sensaphonics in Chicago or one of their audiologists is coming out to the venue, I know I’m working with a company that understands the world I live in and cares about my hearing. For engineers and musicians, that’s our livelihood.”

Quackenbush was one of the early adopters of the Sensaphonics dB Check in-ear sound analyzer, which shows how loud the in-ear mix is, in real time and with earphones in place.

In 2014, Quackenbush says he will spend most of his time with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, starting with the current U.S. tour that runs through May. He says he will do occasional gigs mixing Yukon Cornelius, a side project featuring Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band, among others.

“[Sensaphonics products are] the most comfortable…they have the best isolation, and they’re the best sounding,” Quackenbush concludes. “I use them everywhere, and I recommend them to everyone.”

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