Will This Wearable Sound Mixer Transform the Live Music Experience?

ISSUE 13 2019 - DO NOT REUSE!!!
Courtesy of Peex
Peex app.

When Elton John takes the stage at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome on June 8 for the first of two dates on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, each fan may hear a different version of the show.

When Elton John takes the stage at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome on June 8 for the first of two dates on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, each fan may hear a different version of the show.

That's because ticket holders can rent a wearable receiver and earbud, paired with a mobile app, that will allow them to tailor the concert's sound to their liking in real time. For €10 ($11), attendees can boost John's piano on "Bennie and the Jets," enhance his vocals on "Your Song" or turn up the guitars on "The Bitch Is Back."

"Ninety-nine percent of those that used the system come away with a 'wow' moment," says Graham Tull, co-founder/chief technology officer of PEEX, the London-based startup behind the device, designed by Danish developer RTX. "It's a technology where hearing is believing."

PEEX -- a portmanteau of PErfect EXperience -- is one of several companies trying to transform the live music business through wearable tech. Similarly, Not Impossible Labs has devised a "surround body" kit that turns musical vibrations into electrical pulses for both deaf and hearing consumers. It isn't an easy task: Doppler Labs, which raised $50 million to fund earbuds allowing users to control their audio and which made a splash at Coachella in 2016, folded the following year due to lack of sales.

But Tull is betting that PEEX, which essentially works as a virtual five-channel mixing board and holds a number of international patents for its synchronizing of mixable digital audio, is a better offering.

"The technology is fun to use, but it does solve a problem with sound loss degradation in large venues," he says. "Sound engineers do a great job, but it's impossible to have perfectly aligned sound for every member of the audience at every location inside a venue."

After Tull pitched the technology's capabilities to John's management team in 2016, John and his husband, David Furnish, invested in Powerchord Group, PEEX's holding company. The device made its debut on the spring 2019 leg of John's U.S. tour, where it was free for a number of VIP fans; PEEX will now be rolled out across the remaining dates of John's farewell trek. "I have been delighted by the positive reaction from fans using this revolutionary technology," said John in a statement. "It represents a significant improvement in the way live music can be enjoyed, bringing clear sound to fans wherever they are in the venue."

Ziggo Dome is the first arena to partner with PEEX on future touring shows (artists and venues receive a split of the PEEX rental revenue generated), and Hull says discussions are underway with another top-tier artist "from an entirely different genre" from John. "We're certain there's a large cohort of music fans that will love it," he says, "and will want to use it as often as they get the chance."

This article originally appeared in the May 25 issue of Billboard.