If you've ever been to a concert where everything sounded awful -- perhaps because of the speakers, or the room acoustics -- you'd understand the pitch behind MIXHalo. Developed by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, it's a way for concert goers to hear the audio coming from the stage mixer with their own headphones. The company developed a custom WiFi technology that pipes the audio to potentially thousands of nearby phones with very low latency.
It might sound a bit pie in the sky, but MIXHalo proved that its technology works during a live demonstration at TechCrunch Disrupt today, which involved Incubus playing alongside one of its investors, Pharrell Williams.
And, before you roll your eyes at the idea of an audience jamming to their own headphones, consider the fact that many musicians are already doing this with in-ear monitors. "We have a much clearer sound on stage than what's in the audience," Einziger said.
Tuning into the the MIXHalo session was pretty simple: I downloaded the app, joined its private wireless network, and then went back and pressed play within the app. It only works with wired headphones for now (sorry, iPhone 7 owners), because the company was focused on delivering a low-latency experience. That makes plenty of sense, after all. If you're at a concert, even slight delays between what's happening on-stage and coming through your headphones could be jarring.
As someone who's particularly picky about my sound quality, I was surprised at just how good the MIXHalo stream sounded. I could clearly hear all the lyrics during Incubus' Drive and make out individual instruments, something that's rarely possible at concerts. I also didn't lose out on the concert experience much, either, since I could still hear and feel the playback from the live instruments. I paid particular attention to the drummer during the demo, and surprisingly enough, I didn't notice any delays between beats.
When I cranked my RBH EP-3 earbuds to max volume, I also didn't hear any distortion or compression artifacts. It's admittedly tough to judge audio quality accurately amid the noise of a live event, though. There was the occasional hiccup during the stream, but it corrected itself quickly. Incubus rounded out the event by backing Pharrell's Get Lucky, a musical collaboration I never expected to sit through.
According to Engadget's Roberto Baldwin, a music nerd who often spends weekends rocking out on stage, MIXHalo could be particularly useful for anyone concerned with hearing loss. Concerts can get incredibly loud, after all, so many regulars end up wearing earplugs to keep things at a manageable level. It could also be great for anyone hard of hearing, he notes.
MIXHalo is still developing its technology, but it hopes to head to concert venues by this fall.