This app helped me get front-row sound from the back of a festival

For years, musicians Mike Einziger and Ann Marie Calhoun wanted to give music fans a better sound experience when they were on tour. Sure, fans who got seats in the front row had a great experience, but what about the fans who sat behind the speakers or those who sat in the back? Most of the time, all these people can listen to the people around them.

It was a problem that plagued Calhoun and Einziger when they were on tour with Hans Zimmer, and one that didn't seem to have a good universal solution that could work everywhere in the world. Then they made one.

The culmination of the work of Calhoun and Einziger is called Mixhalo, a software solution that connects directly to the sound board of a place and transmits the mix locally to anyone who has an application in the program through a network private wireless It is a platform that could radically change the way you will listen to artists in places across the United States and, if things are going well, worldwide.

Music for the masses

The benefits of Mixhalo are quite obvious. to anyone who has sat in the back of a crowded arena during a show: the application allows you to listen to more music and fewer people.

But, according to the two co-founders and their CEO Marc Ruxin, it's more than that: it's not just about balancing the auditorium scales and giving everyone the opportunity to listen to quality music, but also allows Fans keep listening to the music if they need to get up from their seats and, in a big festival like Coachella, Lollapalooza or Outside Lands, listen to what happens in other settings.

And so far, it seems that people like what they hear: The company has already announced a $ 10.7 million Series A financing led by the Foundry Group and has worked with worldwide recognized acts such as Bruno Mars and Metallica; the latter, as Calhoun and Einziger told us, actually used Mixhalo to display each individual instrument creating a separate instrument current in the application.

  Mixhalo antennas joined the poles in the center of the festival, as well as the outer edges.

Mixhalo antennas joined the poles in the center of the festival, as well as the outer edge S.

(Image credit: Future)

The magic behind Mixhalo is the local wireless network that establishes in each place. Once you are within range of the network, the free downloadable application on your phone will show you the different stages available and you can connect to a live stream from the soundboard. Connect a pair of headphones to your phone and you will hear the stage music in real time.

The biggest public demonstration of the technology took place earlier this year at the Aerosmith live show in Las Vegas, where Mixhalo partnered with the THX audio brand, but the team plans to take it to festivals across the United States , including the Outside Lands festival last month in San Francisco. where we could get to work with the audio application and meet their cofounders.

Front row sound from the back of a festival

So how exactly can you use the application? Long before anyone arrived at the festival, Mixhalo and his central team arrived at the configuration. They needed to install several antennas in sections of the iconic Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and create the network that we would then use to listen to the bands on stage through the application.

"Knowing the challenge of building a technology platform that could offer this experience to all fans in places of all sizes, I was skeptical that it could be done," said Ryan McIntyre, managing director of Foundry Group, the company that helped Mixhalo raise funds.

"However, once I experienced Mixhalo at the little Fox Theater in Boulder and then at the Aerosmith show in Las Vegas, I became convinced of the technology."

Located throughout the main stage of the show and two side stages, the antennas would provide a kind of wireless mesh for the application to take advantage of. As long as you stay inside the covered area and have the application on, you can tune in to any of the scenarios in the place. Unfortunately, that means you can't tune in to a concert while you're at home, but, according to Mixhalo's team, it's better that way, since they would have to negotiate broadcasting rights for each show.

By the time we arrived at Outside Lands, everything was set up and working completely and all we had to do was open the application and see the stages. Once we chose a stage, we put on a pair of headphones and could hear the music coming from that stage in real time and apparently of high quality.

It is a fairly elegant solution to a complex problem … especially.

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(Image credit: Future)

Not everything is music to our ears

Of course, set up a wireless network the size of Golden Gate Park It comes with its own set of challenges, some of which Mixhalo is still solving the problems.

One of its biggest problems is that the antennas that emit the signal are obviously limited in number and scope, which means that in some areas the application has an irregular reception and in others there is no reception. When that happens, the Mixhalo application will tell you that you have lost the connection and will ask you to approach an antenna.

Mixhalo, both the company and the application, also needs to borrow a small amount of bandwidth from the place that hosts the event. In the case of Outside Lands, the team took advantage of the provider network, a good solution, but that could present a challenge in which there is limited connectivity.

Nor can he ignore that antennas are a large part of the network. solution. They will have to be in every show that Mixhalo wants to use, which means they must be transported and set up before the show. That means planning time, coordination and collaboration between the Mixhalo team and the place.

That said, all this falls on the shoulders of Marc Ruxin's team; In addition to the dropped signal, these are not things that you as a concert assistant have to worry about; While there is a signal, the first row sound is heard anywhere in the place.

  It's nice to be able to get away for a beer or use the bathroom and still listen to the music.

It is good to be able to go for a beer or use the bathroom and still listen to the music.

(Image credit: Future)

The future of live audio

The Mixhalo demonstration we went to focused on live concerts, which makes sense given its founding background: Calhoun is a world-renowned violinist and key collaborator with Hans Zimmer for several of his movie soundtracks, while Einziger is the lead guitarist and co-founder of the band Incubus.

And yet, while live concerts present a good opportunity for Mixhalo, both founders say concert halls are just the beginning: they see a future in the use of Mixhalo as a way to listen to sports games, tournaments of electronic sports, business conferences and other public events, all of which could make use of Mixhalo.

There has also been talk of integrating the Mixhalo application into a pair of headphones, although Calhoun and Einziger still encourage people to bring their own headphones for now. "We don't want to force people to spend a lot of money to get this experience," Calhoun told us. "We want everyone to access it with the headphones they already own."

That said, if you see pairs of headphones at the next festival you go to, you'll know why.

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