Beachwood, OH — Ron Young, founder and frontman of hard rock band Little Caesar, has been traveling with his own wireless in-ear system since the components first became commercially available, decades ago. With the release of the ASI Audio x Sensaphonics 3DME Music Enhancement IEM system, Young has significantly reduced the amount of gear he now has to carry to shows while also improving the quality and consistency of his in-ear mix and protecting his hearing.
“I learned very quickly, especially when you play in a hard rock band, that earbuds serve two functions,” Young says. “Besides monitoring, they also provide ear protection by isolation.” The new 3DME Music Enhancement system from IEM specialists ASI Audio does all that and more, enabling users to also blend stage ambience with their personalized IEM mix while offering DSP control via the ASI Audio 3DME BT app, which runs on any current Bluetooth-enabled iOS or Android device.
With conventional IEMs, when the band stops playing and need to converse – whether on stage or in rehearsal – only performers with vocal mics can make their voices heard because of the isolation of the earbuds. There’s no such problem with ASI’s 3DME system, Young says, by way of miniature mics in the earpieces. “When you’re playing in a loud environment the limiter is keeping a safe level on it. When the loud sound stops, all of a sudden, these microphones are picking up what the guys are saying. None of the creative energy or communication is stifled and that’s really, really important, because now you’re back to a more natural environment.”
Young began his relationship with ASI Audio parent company Sensaphonics 10 years ago, he says. “They were the only manufacturer that was doing soft silicone molded earbuds. I found that the isolation and the seal, combined with their armatures and drivers, gave me the best product.”
Young founded Little Caesar in the late 1980s, quickly attracting the attention of Jimmy Iovine, who signed on to manage the band, and Bob Rock, who produced their self-titled debut album. That release spawned a hit single, “Chain of Fools,” which was previously also a chart-topper for Aretha Franklin. Little Caesar fell victim to the vagaries of the music business and disbanded in 1992 but reformed in 2001 and have been going strong ever since.
ASI’s 3DME Music Enhancement system incorporates a tiny electret MEMS microphone in each Active Ambient™ earphone that provides users with a binaural 3D perspective of their surroundings. The bodypack mixer/amplifier provides an input to link it from any wireless IEM receiver (a stereo jumper cable is supplied) and includes DSP enabling users to customize ambient mic levels, limiting and EQ. Settings can be saved as presets on the 3DME BT app for easy recall and repeatability.
Having to rely on a venue’s sound engineer to recreate the natural ambience of a stage full of wedges in his IEM setup had long been a problem, says Young, who studied audio engineering and worked as a venue production manager during his band’s post-1992 hiatus. The Active Ambient earphones provide a simple solution, eliminating the need to set up additional microphones around the stage, or performers having to remove one earbud to better experience the on-stage sound or speak with each other.
“The electret mics have an incredibly flat response; they don’t add any color. They’re really natural sounding,” Young says. “Sending my vocal with some reverb into the 3DME system gives me the most natural soundfield and sound reproduction of being out there with wedges that I’ve ever had.”
Using the app, Young can set ambient mic levels and limiting thresholds and adjust the 7-band EQ – all independently for each ear – which puts more control in his hands as the artist. “There’s an incredible amount of versatility and the user interface is right there in my pocket,” he says. Additionally, rocker switches on the ASI bodypack control the level of the ambient mics relative to the wireless IEM input to accommodate changing crowd volume levels or better facilitate stage dialog between songs.
The benefits of limiting are twofold, he says. “You can set a ceiling level. When I do an hour-and-a-half set and I take my ear buds out, I don’t get that ringing sound. That tells me that I’m not damaging my ears. You’re also saving your voice, because when you can hear what you’re doing you can do it with less brute force and more subtlety so that you don’t blow out your voice.”
Young, who also sings with other bands, has one preset that lowers the level in one ear because the guitarist on that side of the stage is typically very loud. Another preset flips that for when the stage setup is reversed. The drummer in one of the bands has very splashy cymbals, he says, so he has another preset that rolls off the EQ above 10 kHz. “For any situation, I just create a preset and name it and I can reload it at any time. It’s right there at my fingertips,” he says.
Since Little Caesar relaunched, Young has had to carry multiple roadcases of gear for his in-ear setup from show to show. Now, using ASI’s 3DME system, he’s traveling with just one four-space rack containing a half-space digital mixer, a reverb unit and a couple of wireless units. “Because of these great ASI and Sensaphonics technologies I’ve got all the same functionality that a whole bunch of audio gear was trying to accomplish,” he says.
The reduction in hardware from using ASI’s 3DME is a cost saving, Young adds. “That’s a hundred bucks in excess baggage at the airport and another hundred coming back. That’s 200 bucks; if I do three tours, it’s paid for itself in no time. And I no longer have another case that I have to hump around or keep track of,” he says.
Young’s fellow musicians have also come to recognize the benefits of ASI’s 3DME Music Enhancement system. “Several of the band members have purchased these units as well. The drummer loves it, because he gets his ear protection and he can dial everything in,” he says. “We absolutely love it.”