KLANG: Kontroller Is Next Step In Immersive IEM Revolution

At NAMM 2021, KLANG introduced its brand new product, the KLANG: kontroller, an immersive IEM solution targeted towards engineers, recording studios, musicians, concert stages, and more.

In a video presentation, KLANG provided a deep dive into the new product, sharing insights on its first hardware controller delivering fast and intuitive tactile control for all KLANG immersive in-ear mixing processors.

Phil Kamp, KLANG head of sales, opened the presentation by declaring that the KLANG: kontroller is the “next step in our immersive IEM revolution” and a continuation of the manufacturer’s desire to create products that make IEM mixing a pleasure, instead of a duty.

“Two years ago, shortly after joining forces with DiGiCo, we were able to add a haptic element to our immersive mixing hardware with the DiGiCo workflow integration. This was a fantastic success, and was loved by monitor engineers all over the world. Today, I'm excited to introduce the next element for tactile control of musicians' IEM mixes.”

Notably, this launch is not targeted solely towards engineers, but also for all types of musicians (be that in theatre or house of worship applications), concert stages, or recording studios.

Kamp describes the KLANG: kontroller as a tactile interface for all immersive IEM monitoring processes, “lifting a musician's personal mixing experience to a whole new level”.

The KLANG: kontroller is exactly what the name suggests, the controller for KLANG, however Kamp insists that this is “so much more than just a haptic interface”.

The Details

The network port on the back of the KLANG: kontroller takes care of the communication between KLANG: kontroller and any KLANG processors, which could be KLANG: fabrik, KLANG: vier, DMI-KLANG, or any new KLANG products that are released in future.

The new product features a Dante two-channel in and two-channel output, a USB port for software updates and to exchange show files, and an aux-in in the form of a mini jack, which provides a stereo analogue input directly – locally on a personal mixing station.

“That is super handy for a musician who needs a local click, or a playback rehearsal track in a break between rehearsal songs,” Kamp explained.

“Not only can I add this local input to my in-ear monitoring mix locally on my controller, I can also choose to send that out via Dante into the main system, and from there, share it with the rest of the musicians. If I want to connect an RF transmitter locally, or a bass shaker, a wedge, or a subwoofer, I can do that simply with the XLR line-outs on board.”

If there is no PoE switch available, KLANG: kontroller can be powered with the DC power supply directly, locally.

Kamp stressed that one of the most important things about this device is the headphone amp directly onboard:

“There's a quarter inch headphone jack in the back of the unit, accompanied by an eighth of an inch jack on the front side. On the bottom of the unit are four rubber feet. That shows us that we can use the device easily as a tabletop device. It can be used on a table, on a keyboard, on a Hammond organ, or if the drummer is featuring eight toms and only uses six, it can display them on the toms.”

KLANG: kontroller features a typical, clean KLANG design, giving users all the essential info they need quickly:

“One of the most prominent features are the eight colour displays,” Kamp pointed out. “They show me channel name, level metering etc... And since they are colour displays, we can use the same colour coding that musicians love to use in KLANG. That makes it very easy to find the right channel that I want to mix because I can just create my own colour coding and just give drums a different colour than a guitar or keyboard.”

Below those, there are eight rotary encoders with a push and turn function. The push function can be selected by three different buttons – two of those will be mute and solo.

“So if I select mute and then I push down on one of the encoders, that will mute the channel or several channels,” he explained. “Same thing for solo – if I select solo and then push down on one of those encoders, it will solo the channel. A handy little extra feature is that once I solo the channel anywhere, the solo button will blink, which shows me that something is soloed, so you might not hear everything that you want to hear.

"So in case that happened accidentally, a musician can simply press and hold the solo button for a few seconds, and that will act as a solo key function, and we can hear everything again in our mix.”

Panning Modes

Kamp elaborates on the KLANG: kontroller’s config button:

“If I push the config button and then I select any channel, that will lay out all the channel controls across the KLANG: kontroller. I can see the channel name, I can see the level, I can adjust the level and mute and solo, and I also have the choice between two panning modes for each channel, either stereo or 3D.

“If I'm in 3D, I can adjust the azimuth, which is the horizontal panning of a signal around my head. I can access any angle for any signal around my head super easily and create my perfect immersive in-ear monitoring mix. If i'm using a stereo channel, I can also adjust the width. That means I can decide how far apart the left and right channels of a stereo signal are apart within my binaural immersive soundscape.”

Kamp highlights the five bank select keys on the left:

“You probably know the DCA groups from KLANG:app already. We can use eight groups at a time, including the famous KLANG relative mixing function which helps to keep the overall volume for each musician in check in an intuitive way, which is a fantastic way to protect the hearing of musicians.”

By the way, this feature can also be deactivated. That means every musician has a choice between KLANG-style relative mixing and classic DCA style mixing
In the grooves bank, three channel banks give the user access to 24 channels at a time, which can be mono or stereo channels – which is plenty for a musician to mix themselves on stage.

Moving on to the ambience and aux bank, this provides the user with access to local ambience. The local aux then combines those two with the extra mix volume in the KLANG processor. Those combined are then sent to the headphone amp.

True Ambience

On the side of the console you’ll find the KLANG logo, which has a small raised part in the middle of it. Kamp says that this button is what KLANG calls “true ambience,” adding that it’s a set of fully digital binaural ambience microphones that can handle up to 130db.

“It's designed to be used for ages, even if they sometimes get loud! It's designed to be placed directly beside the drumset, even if the snares hit really hard. Having a binaural ambience directly, locally with me on stage is a fantastic feature. It's not a local ambience that's just muddying up my mix and not really giving me any information. It actually feels like my in-ears are transparent. This gets rid of the feeling of being locked in my in-ears, because it's giving me a binaural ambience exactly in the way that I'm used to in real life.”

Apparently this feature also makes communication very easy:

“Gone are the days in a rehearsal situation where I need to dig out my in-ears to have a conversation with the musician beside me; I just use the local ambience – the true ambience,” he clarified.

More controllers can be added to the system by running a couple of network cables to some controllers. If those controllers are to be used by singers who want to move freely across a stage, users can directly locally connect RF transmitters to the line-out of control.

“If we want to have a tight end, we have all the RF transmitters in a rack beside our stage box, and the KLANG mixes back via Dante in the main system. And from there, send it out to whichever output device you want to use.”

Speaking of Dante, you don't have to manually re-patch your Dante with Dante controller if you're changing one controller to a different mix. Once you choose a different mix and you have the Dante follow function activated, re-patching happens automatically.

“It's a super quick way to work for the rest of the musicians; we simply add a couple more controllers. And of course those musicians can use the headphone amps directly onboard the KLANG: kontroller,” said Kamp.

Let's say you have a couple of guest musicians coming in, so you have more musicians on stage than controllers at hand. No problem: you can simply add a Wi-Fi hotspot and the rest of the musicians simply use the KLANG: app in the same way that they are used to.

The KLANG: app and KLANG: kontroller can happily live side by side in different mixes, but they can also be connected to the same mix in case a musician prefers to manage the levels on the KLANG: kontroller’s tactile interface, but would prefer the placement of the signals to be on a touchscreen.

If used with a DiGiCo console, it’s exactly the same workflow:

“We can just add a DMI Dante as well as a DMI-KLANG, and the rest of the setup is completely unchanged,” said Kamp. “Of course, the same thing is possible with a KLANG: fabrik. We could use MADI for the inputs to fabrik and the Dante port of fabrik to connect it to the rest of the system, including our controllers. The same thing is true for KLANG: vier.”

Kamp says that if someone is using a console not made by DiGiCO, it's not an issue.

“You can use KLANG: fabrik, KLANG: vier, or even a DMI-KLANG housed in an Orange Box to connect it to any mixer out there. The rest of the system, again, is unchanged and you can use your controllers in all kinds of situations.”

Recording Studios

Interestingly, KLANG: Kontroller can be used in the recording studio.

“For studio recordings, is as important – if not even more important – for musicians to have a perfect in-ear mix and a binaural in-ear mix that protects their hearing,” said Kamp.

“It gives them more transparency and it's more relaxing for the brain – especially for long recording sessions, so KLANG: kontroller is a perfect tool for studio recording sessions. You simply connect your audio interface with your KLANG processor of choice, and the rest of the setup is exactly the same way as I described before. If you're using a KLANG: fabrik, you can even use the outputs of your audio interface to feed the KLANG system with audio – super simple!”