While the live music scene has been on pause for the past year, two live sound innovators, Dr. Christian Heil, president and founder of L-Acoustics, and Jerry Harvey, president and founder of JH Audio, came up with the spectacular idea to combine their technologies into Contour XO in-ear headphones.
Following an initial meeting in which Jerry Harvey traveled to Paris to meet Christian Heil, the two companies’ teams collaborated remotely to build Contour XO, which incorporates the legendary massive L-Acoustics line array sound into the smallest set of speakers imaginable, JH Audio’s celebrated multi-driver portable in-ear monitors (IEMs).
Since their October 2020 release, Contour XO have been widely coveted by musicians, audio engineers, and music lovers as the only way to enjoy the L-Acoustics concert-quality sound wherever they go. The radical design of Contour XO incorporates a remarkable ten drivers and covers the full frequency spectrum down to an astounding 10Hz. They also feature bass adjustment of up to 15 dB so you can control how much low end you need.
Contour XO at Inauguration Day
Contour XO was given a crucial role at one of the most viewed live productions in recent memory: the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, and Vice President, Kamala Harris. With over 30 million people watching in the US alone on January 20, 2021, Lady Gaga delivered a moving performance of the US National Anthem.
Chris Rabold, live engineer for Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé, represented Gaga at the mixing console as she serenaded millions of viewers. While mixing and monitoring the broadcast feed, Rabold relied upon Contour XO to deliver extremely detailed, crystal-clear sound. He comments, “I’m glad my Contour XO in-ear monitors came along for the momentous occasion and served as my mix reference.”
The performers themselves sparkled in customized JH Audio IEMs. Lady Gaga wore an opulent gold set of JH Audio 16V2s, while Jennifer Lopez, performing excerpts of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” stunned the crowd in a silver set of JH Audio 13V2s.
Contour XO at NAMM
Just days after the inauguration, Rabold moderated a panel discussion via Zoom for NAMM 2021. The discussion, titled Contour XO IEM Origins Story: Dr. Christian Heil & Jerry Harvey, allowed both pro audio innovators to reveal the details of how the collaboration unfolded. Rabold talked with Heil and Harvey about their shared passion for sound, mutual respect for each other’s work, and ultimate goals for the Contour XO.
In the interview, Dr. Christian Heil described what pushed him and Jerry Harvey to create Contour XO. “When you are preparing to mix a live performance, you are often in transit, in an airport or hotel room. We wanted to make a tool to match the frequency response of an L-Acoustics PA so that the transition from setting up a mix to engineering a live show is seamless.”
Regarding the tuning process and naming of Contour XO, Jerry Harvey explained, “I had to contour the low frequencies steeper to match the massive sub bass of an L-Acoustics line array. That’s why we named it Contour XO—because I was trying to match the contour. I must have heard the word ‘contour’ a thousand times in a week!”
Chris Rabold summed up his thoughts on Contour XO with nothing short of effusive praise: “Contour XO is my favorite sounding in-ear reference,” he said. “I see it having a value in so many different ways, and above all else, it just sounds phenomenal. Because the palette is so even and smooth and musical, nothing ever feels hyped. Sonically, everything always feels right where it should be. That allows me to set perfect levels with no fuss and no guesswork.”
Contour XO first impressions
In a series of unboxing videos, L-Acoustics gathered first impressions of Contour XO from multiple live-sound engineers at the top of their craft. Feedback from top engineers includes Darcy Khan (Outkast, Kanye West), Arica Rust (SEVENTEEN, Sarah McLachlan), James Rudder (The Rolling Stone, Michael Bublé), Ramon Morales (Ricky Martin, Bruno Mars), and Wayne “Rabbit” Sargent (Swedish House Mafia, Stormzy).
[L-Acoustics Contour XO Ambassador Ramon Morales career in sound began at the legendary spans 25 years from the legendary Sugar Hill Studios in Houston, TX to serving chart topping artists, including Beyoncé, Ricky Martin, and Bruno Mars. Hear what he has to say about Contour XO.]
Contour XO is state-of-the-art equipment, and handmade in the US by the talented engineers at JH Audio. Available via L-Acoustics Creations. Priced at €1,350 plus tax, for universal fit. Contour XO custom fit can be purchased directly at JHAudio.com, starting at $1,949 plus tax.