Wednesday 26 June 2019

Never suffer sound issues at a concert again - new technology promises perfect audio wherever you're seated

PEEX will be available at Elton John's upcoming Irish concert at the 3Arena

Piano man Elton John says farewell in Dubin on June 12 & 13
Piano man Elton John says farewell in Dubin on June 12 & 13
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

It's a problem concertgoers dread - being unable to hear the dulcet tones or stomping guitar solo of their favourite act in all its glory, or at all, having shelled out significant sums for tickets.

Recent issues surfaced for a tiny fraction of fans at the Spice Girls' Croke Park gig, while some attendees at a Bruce Springsteen concert in the same venue experienced similar issues in May 2016.  It's an all too common gripe.

Sometimes simply where you're seated, even in a smaller venue, means you miss out on the best audio experience.  And if you're a serious music fan, not hearing the subtle genius of that acoustic guitar is a travesty.

However, a new technology aims to solve this problem for music fans.  PEEX, which will be available at Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road concerts at the 3Arena on June 12 and 13, is a wearable device which allows fans to hear perfect sound.

PEEX
PEEX

While it gives fans the opportunity to hear the music as it is heard on stage, wherever they are standing/seated, it also allows them to tinker with the mix once they have downloaded the PEEX app.

The brainchild of former musician Graham Tull, it has been four years in development, and Elton's tour is its first outing. 

PEEX
PEEX

"If, when I was at any number of gigs in the past, I'd been able to boost the guitar solos or lift the bass guitar out of the mix a bit just to hear what the player is actually doing, that would have been an incredible facility," says Graham.

"At the time I went to most concerts the sound systems were nothing like as good as they are now but even with modern technology you're still a victim of the physics of sound depending on where you're sat, especially if you're sat at the back of the room.

"You may not hear the sound that the artist wants to give you or the sound man wants to give you and it's just the way it is - the sound breaks apart and you can meet any number of people where the show is spectacular but they come away disappointed because the sound wasn't up to what they were expecting."

It's about levelling the playing field for fans in general, while the true musos can avail of the facility to personalise the mix.

The product is effectively a plastic disc which you wear like a lanyard around your neck, and it has two earphones.  It might sound a bit like a silent disco, but Graham argues that you won't be isolated from the social aspect of enjoying a concert with your friends.  A certain amount of ambient noise remains.

"You're still among your friends and family and fellow fans and that social experience is very important but equally you're there for a singular purpose and that's to watch songs that you love be recreated live in front of you, and for me, I'd like to be able to really focus on that," he says, adding, "You can still chat to your friends between songs or give them the thumbs up but for me it's focusing on the art in front of you and that important connection between artist and fan."

Elton John was an enthusiastic partner in bringing the technology to fans for the first time.

"Elton, like a lot of artists, is determined to give his best for his fans and he knows they come out in their millions to watch him play live and I think he'd be mortified if he felt that after everything he and the band put on on the night the customers left unhappy with the sound."

On Elton's tour the technology comes into its own on songs like Daniel and Rocketman when there is an acoustic guitar.

"In some places you can see the arm going up and down in front of the guitar but you can't really hear the guitar until you put PEEX in and lift that element of the mix slightly and then this bright, shimmering, beautiful acoustic guitar is perfectly in the mix," he explains.

However, Graham stresses that it does not virtualise or change anything, but rather ensures you simply hear "as faithful a reproduction of the sound on stage as possible".

"You don't want to lose all of that visceral energy and excitement of a PA stack blasting at you - that's part of the experience so we don't want to isolate you from that," he adds.

The technology, he admits, is "not for everyone" and he does not envisage entire arenas using the technology, but he does imagine that in future there may be seats in areas with substandard sound sold with PEEX as part of the ticket price.

Currently it's available at an introductory offer price of €10 to rent for Elton's concert.  If it's pre-ordered on the PEEX.live website there's a further discount of 20 per cent. 

"Although we're renting it out on a night by night basis and the customer pays a little to use it it's not the proverbial salami slicing activity, we're not just trying to squeeze more out of a vanshing margin from the ticket price," says Graham.  "It's a new technology, it fixes a problem that's very real.  It's not for everyone but the vast majority of people who have tried it have had those 'wow' moments."

So far 90 percent of people who have used it at Elton's concerts across the US and Europe have given it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

As a musician and music fan himself, Graham is particularly thrilled to see it come to fruition in just four years, rolled out on one of the biggest tours in the world, and receive positive feedback from fans and from "even skeptical professionals who have seen it all, heard it all, done it all".

"When you see that smile creeping across their face and they realise what they're wrangling with now it's very gratifying for me personally," says Graham of said professionals.

PEEX will be available at the Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road concert in the 3Arena June 12-13. The device can be rented for €10 at the venue or pre-booked at PEEX.live

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