This discussion centers on ASI Audio’s groundbreaking 3DME in-ear monitoring system, which recently earned them the prestigious title of ‘Innovator of the Year’ in the 2023 Hearing Technology Innovator Awards.
Hosted by Andrew Bellavia, the conversation features Dr. Michael Santucci, President of Sensaphonics and ASI Audio, and Evan Mackenzie, VP of Marketing and Sales for ASI Audio. The technology found in the 3DME system allows musicians to hear their music, their way, with real-time control over their mix while safeguarding their hearing health, even in high-volume live music environments.
What sets the 3DME system apart is its ability to deliver pristine sound and a personalized auditory experience without compromising on hearing protection, making it an invaluable innovation for musicians and music professionals.
For more details on the 3DME system, visit: https://asiaudio.com/
Hello, everyone and welcome to this weekend hearing in January 2020 at the music industry trade show called NAMM. I did a panel discussion with Dr. Michael Santucci the founder of Sensaphonics on hearing protection for musicians. It was an honor to participate with him as he is truly one of the most influential and impactful people in music audiology. My time at NAMM was made even more interesting when we saw the newly introduced ASI plus Sensaphonics 3DME active ambient in your monitor system at the Sensaphonics booth. That first version was an innovative blend of in ear monitors and modern hearable technology to both prevent noise induced hearing loss when performing and improve music quality for music professionals who already suffered from hearing loss. I was so enamored with 3DME that I actually recorded a vintage video interview with Michael on the spot. I think that was the first video I ever did out in the field. Over the course of the next three plus years, the 3DME system had only gotten better. Scott improved performance several new and useful features. And as a person who loves his music was part of the in ear monitor industry for 10 years and has hearing loss myself. I love what ASI audio and Sensaphonics is accomplishing. Therefore, it’s a pleasure to congratulate them on being awarded Innovator of the Year. That’s the top honor and the hearing health and technology matters Hearing Technology Innovator Awards competition. With me to celebrate and to share more about the 3DME system are Michael Santucci. And Evan Mackenzie. Michael, please tell everyone a little bit about your background and what Sensaphonics is all about.
Okay, Andrew, thanks. Sensaphonics I founded in believe it or not in 1985 because it came from a family of musicians and musicians were complaining about tinnitus and other music induced hearing disorders and foam earplugs weren’t cutting it. So I tried to make my own earplugs was a beta tester for Mead Killion the ER series earplugs back in 1989. And started writing about them in 92, I created my first in ear monitor that was used by the Grateful Dead. And that kind of put our company Sensaphonics and we’re just a tiny little 10 person company, put us on the map with big companies out there. And we’ve been going ever since. So it’s been over 25 years of making products that are all designed to not only enhance performance, but also to protect hearing while you’re doing it.
Thanks, Michael. And what about you, Evan?
My background is in? Well, thank you for this. My background is in branding and marketing act as a photographer, and then wound up in ad agencies for about 10 years. And photography, like branding and marketing is storytelling. And I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent to my psyche, if you will. And I wound up getting out of that glamorous and rather neurotic world of the ad agencies and one of the QFC audio for eight years and built an agency there and then went to work for a few other brands after that. And then wound up in Nashville working for Gibson and then DPA microphones. And then when there was transitions there at those companies, I had the opportunity to come back to Ohio, which is where I’m originally from, and help Michael launch ASI audio, which at the time didn’t even have a name. So it was a lot of planting the seeds in the garden and growing the crops and Well, four years later, here we are thriving. And it’s it’s very rewarding because this and I know this is gonna sound like marketing speak forgive me. It’s the only IEM in the world that does what it does. That is completely controllable and gives you the musician, the engineer the freedom to hear your music your way not anybody else’s. And I really I really vibe with that. A lot. Pat Quilter of QFC has the same thinking. That’s why these products are so fine. So here I am.
Very good. Yeah, I imagine your Gibson background had some influence over that as well. And I can’t resist mentioning that when you were a DPA microphones and I was at Knowles. We share the fact that ours are the two microphones on the perseverance rover on Mars at this very moment.
Exactly. And I don’t know if you know this, but there’s two of them in every Formula One racecar. So when you watch a Formula One race, you have some nice speakers, because you’ll usually really
nice. Nice. Well, you would you would, given the basic premise of the 3DME system. But I think, Michael, I think a great place to start would be with some background, on the experience of being a music musician and a music professional, what do they need to hear when performing? And what are the challenges in giving them what they need to hear while they’re performing?
Well, you know, in ear monitors in general were invented to try and give musicians more control over their acoustic environment on stage, before they had a forced speaker that everybody’s hearing. And it’s in the way of what you’re trying to play. If it’s not your floor speakers. So they were always turning up the floor of speakers floor monitors louder than the person next to them so they can hear what they’re playing – in ear monitors, were designed to solve that problem. One of the problems with in ear monitors is that people turn them up to where they normally play, if they heard told differently. And that’s something that’s been documented a number of times on studies. The other problem is people also tend to take one out, because when you put these in ear monitors in your ears, it actually creates an environment in your head that you’re not used to. They’re used to localization and spatial cues when they play. So the drum was behind them that crowds out in front of them. They turned around and everything moves. Now it’s all placed in the center of their head, like a stereo in headphones. And wherever they go, it doesn’t seem natural. So you see this a lot of one coming out of the ear. And I’m sure most of the audiologists listening to this will know that binaural summation is lost when you do that. So they’re actually turning the other ear up 6 dB louder. And if there’s enough noise in the open ear, it’s going to mask the the ear monitor ear and I know that words, taking one out is really bad for hearing. And why were they doing it to get those spatial cues. So the 3DMEs main purpose was to allow them to hear the room in both ears without taking the earphones out the protection of that and still be able to hear exactly what they were when I joined forces with think a move who’s the company and partner with to form, ASI audio, they brought in the Bluetooth and app development capabilities, which of course as an audiologist I didn’t have. So it’s been a great partnership, each contributing. And the end result is obviously something that’s award winning. So we’re very, very grateful and proud of the whole thing.
Well, and I learned something interesting, what two years ago now at NAMM, I did a session a presentation on hearing protection for musicians with one year protegees Aler Sinnon And she described that same thing. What happens when musicians pull one in your monitor out and why they would do it. And an interesting thing I learned from her is that it’s often the ear with the in ear monitor in it that gets damaged more than the ear without the in ear monitor for exactly the reason you said you tend to crank it up when you only have one on one side because you missed the binaural summation. And so you’re actually damaging the year from too loud levels on the in ear monitor side. I was very surprised by that. But it made perfect sense. Not, now Evan. Michael had mentioned a little bit about the formation of the company ASI audio, what exactly is the relationship between ASI and Sensaphonics? And how did it come about?
Well, it came about Michael had joined forces as he mentioned with Tam RD, we’re thinking of as the letters spell out, because they have a robust engineering capability there they do, you know, in years for firefighters and astronauts and FBI agents and NCAA referees. So there was this ability to make a really tough, durable product that could withstand the rigors of rock and roll touring, let alone any other genre. I mean, we cover everything from orchestras to, to hip hop to rap to country music. I mean, you name it, and also Front of House engineer. So there was that capability. And then you couple that with what Michael had envisioned. And you bring you bring together two forces that not only build something robust and durable, but you bring something that brings a pristine and clean Sonic signal into musicians head, you know, because one things I’ve learned from Michael, in working on this is that, you know, our ears pick up the sound, it’s our brain that interpret It’s and, you know, most of us think, Oh, my hearing well, your hearing happens up here a lot. It’s happening down here, which is evidence. So when when the two came together, you know, we were, you know, the Michael on another partner we’re working on it and I came along about four months later. And we needed, you know, a brand, we needed to build a brand platform. So that’s what the first four or five months, six months leading up to NAMM 2020, we’re all about, you know, putting together a team of freelancers from a Rolodex that I have a lot of freelancers I’ve worked with over the years, and I was grateful that a lot of them understood that this is a startup, you know, it’s not millions and millions of dollars. But it’s a really cool toy. You know, and Michael hates when I call it a toy, but sometimes that’s that way of sending. It’s a really cool 3d me in your monitoring system. Yeah. Because a lot of musicians go Yeah, I love this toy. But it was a way to, I was grateful that a lot of the really smart people I’ve learned from and worked under came along, and helped us build this brand platform in record time. Because we, we started working on it, and I think July of 2019. And we launched at NAMM in January 2020. So it was fast. It was furious. But great teammates on the creative side, great teammates on the engineering side, you know, and Steve Hillstrom, who’s worked with Michael for decades, who guided the whole engineering side of it. I mean, everybody just really rolled up their sleeves and jumped in and, and there we were, NAMM 2020. And, as we all know, COVID hit two months laters we’d had a brilliant new product, we had a really compelling brand platform, we had a lot of interest and the industry shut down. But we were fortunate that some of my relationships instead of Michael’s relationships continued to buy the product. And it kept us going through. But 18 months of, of a desert. Now we were wandering in the desert looking for customers, and we found some which kept us going. So it’s a tribute to the way the company was formed. Because we had a product that again, no one else has this. And we had a product that once people got it in their ears, their eyeballs open up, and they’re like, how do I get it? And that’s the key to any great audio product, let alone this one.
Okay, no, that’s a really great background and you bring up some of the things I would like to dive into a little more detail. In one of them is what you both said about having microphones so that you get natural directionality while you’re wearing the in ear monitors. And how actually does that work? What’s the system? How’s the system built to give you natural 3d directionality while your ears are plugged tightly with an in ear monitor? Where
I should have probably mentioned this before, but I should preface the fact that the 3DMEs platform is built on a product called the 3D active ambient, which is a Sensaphonics only product, which added the active mics into the earpieces. And then a belt pack processor that allowed you to turn the mics down, there was no app, there was no ability to enhance with volume, gain. And there was no graphic EQ of those microphones like there isn’t the current model. But that 3D product was patented back almost, oh gosh, 12 years ago. And this now the new version has just received its patent, which I’m very excited about adding on the the apps and and the Bluetooth connectivity and such. So that’s where it all started. It works because you have to have mics that are small. For the crowd that’s listening, most of them programming hearing aids or trying to be programmed them for music, getting rid of all the data.
…done that, haha right?
So it’s an analog product. And because of that we did that on purpose so that you wouldn’t have the limitations of signal processing. There is no compression in it. We have a limiter it’s slow. So it’ll keep the the upper limit value is pretty constant but it’s not squashing anything. You don’t nobody complains about it. And the idea is to find a microphone. Unlike hearing aid mics, these mics start at 20Hz and go to 20,000 hertz, as do the speakers unlike the hearing aid platform. They also have headroom to go as high as 130 dB plus, without comfort without clipping which is a big thing to where the hearing aid, you know, once it’s over 105, who needs it, you’re taking it out. But on a stage, the average levels are sometimes 100 to 105. And you’re getting peaks, although they might be quick of over 120 25 db. So this has those two features that make it different than hearing aid.
And I think yeah, that that’s an important point to make sure everyone understands is that music is very peaky. Right, it has what’s called a high crest factor. And when you’re thinking about, you know, pure tone averages, you never want to go above x as the way people think of it. But for the best music quality, it’s fine and desirable to have short term peaks that are higher, even if it averages and dad high without clipping them. Right, you’re a musician, you need to hear faithfully what it is you and your bandmates are performing or if you’re an engineer, you need to hear faithfully what you’re mixing. So
yeah, and the analog platform also allows us not to have there is delays in the in, in the digital signal processing added in. So you wouldn’t want to hit the drum kit and have it come in real time through your earphone and then five milliseconds later through the microphone. It’s going to sound like an echo. Yeah. Yeah, so so these are designed. The other thing is the acoustic environment is different. audiologists are used to having to fit somebody with hearing injuries or hearing impairments that are working in an area that 60 to 55 to 65 dB, right. It’s conversational speech, it’s restaurants, it’s all that and you need a lot of gains, sometimes – this has up to 24 dB gain per octave. But you don’t really need that much. Because you have to remember that they’re working in an environment that it’s probably 85 to 100 dB, not 60 dB. And so the amount of gain needed beyond that isn’t that much and which is really makes it great. We have people that could not benefit from a hearing aid that we can actually get enough gain and stimulate the hair cells enough to give them enjoyment playing still. So it’s really resurrecting some careers. It has also a cross function on it. Because you can’t believe having done this for many, many years and seen 50,000 musicians, there is a lot of single sided deafness in the music industry and they continue to play. So we have a cross system that actually turns it into a stereo effect for them. And we haven’t had one person to like it. Unlike hearing aids.
Yeah, no know when I when I read that the new version had a cros system and number went to a with Laura, in preparing the materials for it, I did some of the background and I was sharing how loud different musical instruments are presented to your ears. In the loudest one I didn’t until I thought about it, it have never occurred to me, but the loudest one was the piccolo And Piccolo is insanely loud on you know, that ear, your right ear typically. And after we did the presentation, we actually had a piccolo player come up to us who had severe single sided hearing loss before they had done anything about it. So a very good real example of somebody
who really the high register ended up flute is is also very, it’s almost the same as a piccolo when you get up there. So it’s got to do with the frequencies obviously. And that’s there’s some volume behind it too. But yeah,
the flute was right behind the piccolo
Everybody blamed the trumpet players that was me and percussion player is but really it’s the piccolo player that’s killing it all
Well and that’s yeah, not only the frequencies, but you know, it’s really close to your ear. And I think the flute was right behind it the flutes a little longer. So you get a few dB of relief, but not not so much anyway, so it makes perfect sense. But you’ve talked about some of the features how was that actually implemented in the system. So you’ve got in ear monitors with ambient microphones. And you mentioned the belt pack a describe the features of the belt pack a little bit
while the belt pack really is just the processing device that takes whatever signals coming in and allows you by use of your phone. The app is is what you use. So there is a smartphone app that works for both iOS and Android and it allows you to control mic levels for each year. Equally equalization in the seven bands for each ear separately compressions for each side there’s memories if you if you’re in four different bands and you play in a jobbing day. An ear and a rock band and a country band. You’ve got ultimate, multiple unlimited settings to add memorize, so you’re gonna have to reset it every time you go to play. So those are some of the main features on it. Evan do you have something to add there?
Yeah, I mean, one of the most amazing things that musicians are really loving is that you know, as traditional IEM’s you know, you’re blocked off from your bandmates, the acoustics of the room, the audience, as Michael is talked in audiologists vernacular of, you know, spatial things that I, I kind of bring it down to, to layman’s terms, I guess. One of the cool features is that in the Options page, you know, instead of you having to yank one out and talk to your bandmate, between the song and say, Hey, let’s do this one, instead of that one, because the crowd is vibing this way, or whatever, you can literally in set mode, in the Options section, just tap the top of the body pack. And the frequency, you’re completely goes flat, and you’re talking to each other as if nothing’s in your ears. And then as soon as the song starts, again, you tap the button on the body pack, again, boom, your mixes back, the ambient blending in if you want this back. And what I like to say over and over and over, I’ve been saying it for four years now is that, that immediacy and intimacy with your bandmates with the audience with the acoustics of the room is back, that is lost with all while all other IEM’s and this little feature, set mode facilitates that, in a way that once a musician, you know, tries it, along with the cross function is quite amazing. It blows people’s minds. But once the musician tries that, they realize holy cow, I can put these things in my ears an hour before I go on stage, 10 minutes, or I go on stage. And I can leave them in the whole time. And not only are they incredibly comfortable, but there’s a freedom there that you don’t get with other IEMs. Because there’s no more once it’s in, it’s in you now it’s done. and off you go. And the beauty to me of the whole product is is that we’re no longer between you. And as I said earlier, your creativity, let alone your fans, your bandmates were the acoustics were no longer there’s no longer a barrier. That is what happens with all of their items, barriers gone, the freedom is here, the intimacy and immediacy is here. And it’s now and to be completely honest, it’s like there’s nothing in your ears. How’s that?
Yeah, that’s, that’s wonderful. And there’s a certain sequence of thinking here, I kind of want to, I want to run through the sequence that I see the value, the value chain of this device, is ultimately I think you want to wear in ear monitors for two reasons. One is because you get a more faithful reproduction of the mix, and you can, you can adjust the mix for your own preferences. So you’re able to hear what you and the rest of your band members are playing more faithfully. And a second one is as you want to use them properly. So you get some hearing protection benefit. But you’re not going to get the hearing protection benefit if you’re taking one out or they’re not fit properly. Or if you don’t get that natural sound of the rest of the band, the stage, the ambient and all that if you’re not comfortable wearing them, because you lose that immediacy, you’re going to take them out or not wear them. And therefore this system addresses both of those correct abike By giving a proper mix by giving fully ambient awareness, right, you’re essentially encouraging people to wear them more. And in fact, since they can adjust the mix for their own preference, they may find it after they get used to them may find it actually preferable to listening with open ears. It did I state all that correctly.
You did well, very well. He stated it very well. The other thing that we kind of slid by here and talking about in ear monitors and it is an in ear monitor. However, it’s also a programmable tunable ear plug. And so you don’t have to be on an in ear monitor system. And listening that way. We sold 50 to the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. And I’ve done demos with tons of orchestras with this product because now you can turn the violin player down next to you you can correct your hearing loss or your left ear with your own violin. And nobody knows because one of the problems with of course you when you get into the the symphony world is management is on top of every if you have hearing loss, you are not telling anybody because your job is probably going to be at risk quickly. So you You struggle through it and hope that nobody notices. And when you get to do a demo with these things that we’ve done so many of them now they’re maliek. And I and Laura Sennot, we get criers people that literally start weeping as they’re using it, because you know, that you brought their hearing back. And they’re able to play back to the levels that they, they did before, we had plenty of musicians that are part of the adult musicians with hearing loss group that are raving about this product and how much it’s helped them compared to a traditional hearing aid.
Well, that’s, that’s really wonderful. I’ve talked a number of times about the impact of hearing loss and the need to address your hearing loss in a professional work environment. Because you can get into this sort of cycle where you’re, you’re afraid whether you’re, you’re afraid of residual effects of ageism, or whatever, from displaying your hearing loss, so you don’t deal with it. And that actually creates a vicious cycle. Because if you don’t deal with it, you may miss things, you don’t understand things, and that can impede your professional performance and development. While you’re saying exactly the same thing for musicians. So that if you if you are
your job’s at risk, Andrew Yes, at risk. So they’re really motivated because you know, they’re gonna lose their what they love to do, they’re gonna say, they’re gonna say ‘You’re not first chair anymore see you later I you’ve been here for fourty years, but your hearing isn’t cutting it anymore.
And so in this system, you’ve you’ve got part of it is an equalizer, seven bands, if I remember right. Now, how actually does somebody if a musician has hearing loss already, and let’s say it’s differential between one ear and the other? Because, you know, the way it works with music often? How actually, do these get fit to accommodate their individual hearing loss? Are they EQing themselves? Yeah, are you fitting that in a certain way, or giving them some guidance?
Now, we always say who is the best sound engineer for you, you, when I used to program hearing aids, I don’t do it anymore. And they’d always go, it sounds a little tinny, I can’t describe it, it just, I feel like sitting here, take the control. And just make it sound the way you like, turn the and it’s really not complicated. We’re giving them the ability to turn the level up at octave band. So what they end up doing is sitting implementing with it, and they tune it to exactly what they think it should sound like.
I’m holding something right now, and if you can see it, but there it is, right there on the app is, that’s the left side, and then boom, there’s the right side, you can also do it in a joint mode. But this this, again, back to the old theme of it’s your music, you hear it your way. Here’s an EQ seven band aside, have at it, have fun. We’re not going to get in the way.
The idea is you’re going to perform with these things in your ears, but you’re going to forget it. That’s what we try. The accomplishment is to say I got on stage and I forgot I was wearing these things. And everything sounded perfect. That’s the idea. Not Oh, I had to adjust all these things. And this was distorting, so I had to go up and down. It’s like if you concentrate on playing, and what you’re hearing without people about what’s in your ears or on your body.
Okay, okay. It’s a self fitting hearing aid. Not a hearing aid, no, I know, it’s not a hearing aid. But the idea that, that especially you’re talking about music professionals, so they understand music, they know their way around an equalizer usually, so that you’re saying the best thing in in, there’s a loudness limiter, so they’re not going to get into dangerous places with it. So that ultimately you’re saying that the individual musician or engineer, they know best what they need, and therefore we’re going to give them full control via the app. Yeah.
And even if you don’t use the app, I had a very famous drummer, I won’t mention his name. He was in it. And I said, where do you have the EQ set? He goes, Oh, I forgot about the app. itself. He just turns it on. He uses a with a mic set flat. And he thinks is the greatest thing ever.
Oh, well, that’s terrific. Yeah. No, no, I’m thinking about the opposite case. If you know I’m at some live performance and I see a musician pulling their smartphone out and working at in the middle of the performance. I won’t necessarily think they’re just bored with this whole thing. They might actually be tweaking or 3d Emmys.
It’s done. We add
customers do that a lot of house of worship. Folks, praise band leaders or guys and girls in the band. You know, they are on stage their iPad on a little stand. And it’s kind of like their cheat sheet because If they don’t know, a hymn or they don’t know, you know all the notes to the song, they can just touch that thing and look down. But the other thing that we found is they’re like, Yeah, and you know, I can also pop the app up. And, you know, if I’m going for my electric guitar to my acoustic, for a particular number, I just touched one of the settings, you know, you can save over 50 settings on this thing. That’s the beauty of it. I just touched you know, my acoustic guitar setting boom. And I don’t have to do anything other than touch the screen and put my acoustic on. And off I go. And then when I go back to my electric, or if I go from my speaking of Piccolo, and flute, I played jazz flute in high school, I didn’t get any chips for it. Sorry, I didn’t have a saxophone, or trumpet like Michael. But it gives you that ability to just protect yourself. But at the same time, just flow just flow with your creativity.
Okay, and we haven’t really talked about the hearing protection part of it much. But presumably, that’s an integral part of this whole experience. And so I think it’s worth having a few words about how you actually fit the that in your monitor and make sure that you’re getting the isolation you need, I think for for people who haven’t worked in the music setting is hearing care professionals, it might be worth talking about in your monitor fitting and how that works, especially for audiologists and other hearing care professionals who might be taking impressions for people or even, you know, following up with the in ear monitor or hit or ordering in your monitor for a local musician. How does that actually work? And what are the important things to think about?
The I think the most important thing to think about is that you’re caring for somebody’s hearing, right? As far as the fit, you’re talking about- How do they know where to program? I’m not sure where the question No, I
mean, physical fit. On other words, okay, an impression this uh Yeah, well, in other words,
yeah. So the importance I’m getting an ear monitor safe is on two things. One is how much does it block. So if it doesn’t block a lot, and you’re trying to turn it down you kid because everything around you so loud, you can’t hear what you are playing, and you’re going to turn it up, so that’s a major factor is a tight fit, that isolates a lot. And the second thing is to train your brain to turn it down. Because the Fetterman study out of Vanderbilt -Vanderbilt showed that, out of the 100, musicians who were they were comparing floor monitor levels to in ear monitor levels, 98% of them turn to exactly the same level. And in fact, that difference between the two was less than a dB for the entire study. So you have to consciously turn the level down, but you also have to have the isolation, the isolation, we provide a foam, comply eartip in three sizes. How do you know if you’re getting it, we have something called a seal test on the app, that gives you a 50 hertz and 500 hertz alternating tone. If they sound equally loud, it fits good. If they don’t, you need a better fit. If you can’t get a better fit with the foam sensaphonics makes it custom sleeve, that you can take the earphone and slide it into so now you’ve made it to completely custom to your ear, I mean, or custom terior. And then we can go complete custom with something called the custom tour, which is what we do for other ear monitors, just a full shell, everything is encompassed inside of it, and though is fit the best of all of the options.
Okay, so you’ve got three options, you can go with a universal fit and foam ear tips, you can pop a custom shell on, you can pop the universal earphone into a custom shell on there or you can do full custom Is that correct?
Right. And you can test all three of them to see if they’re sealing correctly. Or not.
and is that done subjectively?
really? No, now – Well, it’s subjective in that they we present a 50 hertz, which is very low at a 500 hertz tone and they should sound equally loud. So if you say I don’t hear only hear one tone, it’s not sealing at all. If you say I hear the loud tone, but oddly enough, that means it’s not sealing enough. And no matter what they do, if they can’t get those equal, then they need to go custom.
Yeah, ok so, But you’re subjectively having the music professional check on there hearing, which I’ve actually done periodically with my hearing. My passive hearing protection is I’ll play a low tone and, and a higher one and just okay, yeah, you know, is there it’s the opposite if I’m playing it externally, right. If the low tone is a lot higher, I know that they’re leaky. Yeah. So okay, so but that’s good, because you can actually that’s something you can do quickly even before you walk on stage at evening, for example, to make sure everything is still correct.
correct. then, of course, there’s the suit, recently released dB check, which we shouldn’t get into. But that’s the easiest way to tell how loud your ear monitors are. It’s I don’t know if we want to get into that? Well, yeah,
I want to ask you a question or two about dB check, because it’s kind of fits with the whole experience of while you’re trying to do is and always possible, protect the hearing of musicians. So we’ll get the dB check. But with regard to the 3DME system, you had mentioned that musicians have to get used to listening at a lower level, because if they spent half their career, listening with wedges at 105 dB, they’re probably well, according to the study, you’re going to put there in ear monitors that 105 dB too how do you actually train or encourage musicians to listen lower and, you know, become adapted to that, and therefore have the proper experience, let’s say for listening levels, how is that actually accomplished? How do you tell them position where to listen?
Without the dB check, it’s kind of hard to do it, to be honest with you. I mean, the idea is that you want to have them turn it down, but we have no way. It’s like saying it tells somebody not to drive their car too fast. Well don’t drive your car too fast, it’s dangerous. It you know, if you’re driving too fast, you need a speedometer and and problem is no end, your monitors have a speedometer. So you don’t know if you’re safe or not. And even if we tell them be safe. So what’s the number one thing to do forming relationship with a an audiologist, hopefully a music audiologist and get your hearing checked every six to 12 months, then you’ll know whether you’re too loud or not. And that is always even with a dB check or anything else The only true measurement is a hearing test to show no change in hearing. Yeah, so I’d recommend to anybody right? What
you’re suggesting is that they get a hearing check every say 12 months and they’ve got a baseline and then see
well more than that I’m suggesting a relationship with him with an audiologist, not a screening, one place at a screening, a free screening here, I’m talking about somebody that knows how to take care of your ears. And what watching out for you, like any other professional would do a professional athlete, you know, would do the same thing. They get checkups all the time by doctors, right? Because they got that body. You got to keep going. Musicians should be checking their hearing all the time. And no matter what you do where ear monitors or not, there is no guarantee of protection. Nobody’s guaranteeing that. So I don’t even know if it’s working. You got to measure your hearing enough times you know when it’s changing. The changes occur slowly because of loud sound. So you know, if you wait five or six years, you could have dropped another 10 dB at 4k and not even noticed it because it’s so gradual. And it’s still pretty much out of the speech range. You’re not saying what a lot. So now suddenly, this is 40 dB 4k notch that’s developed over five years. But you didn’t get back to the audiologist he had gone back in year two, you would have seen like a five dB change. And then we would have watched in the next year. Oh, it’s 10 oh that was rolling here. That’s really the procedure to keep everybody’s hearing intact. Other than that, you’re guessing
Okay, no that’s I think that’s,
if I could there’s this myth out there that Michael blew my mind a few years ago when I was like, really? That’s all. And that is because we get this comment all the time when we post videos. We don’t post them we’ll have influencers that love the product, everybody from Mitch Malloy to Pete Thorne, to Scott Hall all these folks that post these videos, and there’s always comments that are Well, mine has 12 drivers, my mine has 18 drivers, mine has, you know, eight drivers. And I finally couple years ago went to Michael and said, Hey, wait a minute. Everybody’s doing you know, I have more drivers. And it’s like when we lost the case, there’s a qse we came out and it was 1000 watt speaker or it will be a pristine sound what everybody knows you can’t run 1000 Watts through a tweeter or woofer you have to split, which we did, but it was 1000 watts. But it started this cascade of all other manufacturers of well, we’re 1200 Watts and then someone said, Well, we’re 2000 Watts and we’re like, you only hear the difference. But when it comes to more than two or four drivers aside, Michael, take it away, please because we’re gonna get this comment in the video.
Well, I mean a lot more drivers cause the signals to become more excitable. It allows somebody to drag up a very small chunk of the audio where those speakers are devoted that area and pump up the sound and volume. Nobody can grow the bandwidth, right we have 20 to 20,000. Our system goes 20 to 20,000, with two speakers, my old system with one speaker, so the bandwidth is accomplished with more speakers. It’s all there, all you get is amplitude. And the more speakers the more amplitude or loudness, you get. So we’ve never gone down that road. I’m an audiologist that company both ASI and Sensaphonics are both audiology based hearing protection and conservation business models said we’re not out to see how loud we can make it. On that note, though, you know them we do have a four driver product that gives people more headroom, when they’re in the mouth band or have dynamic peaks that really shoot up, and it helps them but we’re like the Shure Corporation, they they too only go up to four speakers. We don’t believe more is better. But that’s a debatable- Obviously people like it that hyped up sound we get others that just want to hear naturally on the stage.
Yeah. People ask me that all the time. And I just tell them, Look, it’s louder. And is louder necessarily good for your hearing? Probably not. Not over time.
Yeah. Well, you get in, you get into a debate that kind of would rage all over high end audio, right? If
it does, unfortunately, you don’t have to jump in anymore? Are you end users jump in and do the debate for us? We usually have this product. They’re like, Well, wait a minute, you need to experience this and save yourself. You know, look for 800 bucks. Some of these things, you know, are 1400 $1,600. And you’re just paying for a louder instrument. Really? You know?
Yeah. So I think ultimately, the key here is that I mean, your customers like what you’re doing and are satisfied with the experience and all that really matters. And I want to get I want to go into like you had mentioned a dB check in conjunction with how do you train a musician or engineer to listen at appropriate levels, and you said you can’t unless you have a speedometer. So dB check is that speedometer Tell me a little bit about dB check and how it works in conjunction with the 3DME system or how you would use it.
I want to preface that to Andrew with the fact that there’s we’ve since I started making in ear monitors in 92, I’ve always had a way to measure volume. The other way to do it is with an NC two probe. To bend a microphone that’s really small. However, you have to have a sound level meter. So actually, we had a etymotic designed a system the ER7 C, it had an inverse response of a canal resonance because remember, all the safety measurements are taking with a mic outside your ear. So when you place the mic down in the ear, suddenly you’re contaminated by the residence of an ear canal. So we would do an inverse of the average resonance based on about 40 Different resonances, and it would give you a dBA reading but I’d have to be onstage put the tube in their ear but the in ear monitor and stand there and take a measurement record it and you know it worked fine. The problem is it was time consuming and bands have things a late load in because of weather or whatever. And then there’s not much time to do the soundcheck so they don’t have time for you or this singer is in fight with his girlfriend and doesn’t want to do it or whatever it is, there’s always some reason where a lot of times I’d show up at the show and they couldn’t do it. So I thought we need to have something that’s easy, doesn’t require me to be there and allows people to see so dB check measures. It’s a patented device or third baton and it it measures the drive voltage of whatever you’re plugged into and knowing the published specs of the earphone our bat and takes that and turns it into a dBA output. And we offer it in an OSHA and NIOSH allowable time- not dose, because I did 100% dose first I told this band they got 100% They all hide five I go that’s bad that so though I thought percent does it it how did they turn if I say you’re at 105? You have to go down 5% Where is that? Right? But if I tell them you have 26 minutes at this level before you risk injury, they know what to do. And then they can turn it down and look right at dB check and say Oh now you’re going up to like an hour and a half and that’s a lengthier show and you’re probably good at your bed Go check your hearing
in so what actually physically is the dB check system then how does it How does it interface with the in ear monitors?
It’s got a little plug in on the top that you plug a jumper cable from your sound source into it. And you plug your earphones into it. So okay, it just go between it’s passive. If it died, it would still you still get your monitors say no. It also can work on a spare beltpack. So the big engineers for you know Dave Matthews can take his spare back, turn it up to where he uses it and plug the device in and forget about it. When the show’s over, they had stopped and we’ll say this is the average including quiet times between songs and all that and how loud you were and what the time recommendation was compared to the time of the show. So it just information it’s a speedometer, it doesn’t make you do anything. It just gives you the information to say Oh, I didn’t realize that was that loud Right? A lot of them don’t.
Okay, and this is typically something you would do during soundcheck time you wouldn’t necessarily wear it live during the probe I
wouldnt wear it during the show but once you get during soundcheck, at least we get an idea. And the brain starts changing the brain starts, you start listening at lower levels. And it happened to a famous drummer where he drank the Kool Aid and he dropped his levels a lot. And I went to a show and his ear monitors broke and was the last song of the entire tour. And he they went out with his spares that he goes forget it and I’m gonna play without him and there wasn’t any foreign speakers around him. And when he finished you can he goes I can’t believe how loud it was in his drum tech said you were about 10 times louder than that. But before you started so he didnt even have any of the speakers, so their brain your brain adjusts. And now, lower levels become normal and anything louder becomes adult like it really does work. But it takes time and effort and somebody on the audiology side to convince him it’s worth the effort.
Well, then it brings up an interesting question. For any audiologist who wants to be able to work with musicians or better work with musicians. How do they actually get the skill set to work with music, specifically?
Some because their musicians feel like they have an edge. And I think that’s a small edge that people have. I run a course I have for many years since 92, called gold circle. And it was really just to educate audiologists interested in the music industry. I was fortunate enough to get educated by Dan Pearson, who is the head of ultrasound and the Grateful Dead, the one of the brain guys because he realized that I didn’t understand now, stages were set up and sound reinforcement. And that helped me so now I have a virtual class called gold circle. It’s available through our website and audiologists can take it. And it’s about four and a half hours of work on this is what you do with a musician. The American Academy of Audiology came up with a best practices guideline that I chaired along with eight other people involved that are music audiologists, or engineers, or educators and we came up with a consensus document on what to do the course is not what to do so much as how to do it. And what are the nuances working with different genres, orchestra compared to rock band or whatever the case, so it’s a full course that people can take if they’re interested. Or they can be like me and just do it for 30 years and make a bunch of mistake, figure it out and try to teach other people.
Well, the beauty of having people like you was that you know, you don’t necessarily have to learn it by doing like you did. Right and and now there are good resources so people can work with right musicians, because I saw it in in the in ear monitor days, there were a lot of small houses, you know, your molders and so on who are selling in ear monitors just for the local bands. And so there’s a broad need to understand exactly, you know, whole route best take claim
that the initial part of it, Andrew, I had a famous musician, r&b guy, again, HIPAA stuff I came in here he was sold out three nights at City winery, and he’s a crooner. So it’s a lot of women swoon when he’s singing and he’s here to get his stuff. This is 3rd-4th set of ear monitors. He’s had three of different brands, saw an audiologist for impressions and I went to take his hearing test, and I said, How’s your hearing? He goes, Oh, you won’t believe how good it is. And I said, what the audiologist tell you what he said, or never tested me? You had three ear ear impressions for in ear monitors and never got a hearing test. No, they didn’t offer Oh, but I but you won’t believe so I test his right ear and sure enough, it’s beautiful, flat 15-20, beautiful, and he says the late 40s test his other ear, he’s got a 60 dB notch. And I say, are you taking that ear out? He goes, Yeah, why? And I show him and he starts crying. Because he’s always with my whole life trying to protect me hearing, nobody told me I wasnt supposed to do that. Now, do I expected typical audiologist to know that no, but I expect them to take a hearing test, even if they don’t know and give it to the guy when he got his second set, they would have noticed a change at 4kHz, and his third set, they would have noticed and bigger changes that something’s going on with your left ear. Anybody? Oh, that’s when they take out maybe we shouldn’t do that. So this is how simple it is to even stay on top of people without knowing what you’re doing. But if you’re just going to shove putty in somebodys head, I think you have some ethical problems and possibly some liability. I think there’s liability on that. Personally, if say he could have gone back and sued them all for not doing what they’re supposed to do.
Okay. Okay. And so that’s part of the coursework, both your own and also what you’ve done with the AAA is to help educate audiologists is that medical adviser read and
want to work with them Right? You don’t have to, It’s like anything else. But that’s what we’re trying to do is raise the bar.
Okay. Well, look, I mean, I want to I want to congratulate you again, on winning the Innovation Award. I really appreciate you both coming on to describing the 3DME system. Evan, is we wrap it up. Do you have any last thoughts?
No, I think you’ve covered it all. I just I just hope that musicians out there will begin to understand that at a younger age, know when they’re in school, if you want a long, healthy career. You don’t have to use the an ASI or a Sensaphonics product, but do something. As Michael said, go see an audiologist once a year, you know, you go to your doctor once a year to get your insides checked, you go to the dentist, hopefully once a year to get your teeth checked. Well, if you’re a musician, and you’re serious about it, whether it’s casual church, or you really want to tour and go there. This is this is everything right here. Yes, Your voice is important. Yes, your hands are important. But none of that matters if you don’t protect this because you’re never going to know. So does ASI offer a solution? You bet does sensaphonics offer a solution with simple minus 15 minus 10 earplugs, you bet. And there are other companies out there too. I don’t mean to dis other companies by any means. But this company is the only company that founded and all the products are designed by a musician’s audiologist. And if you just want to come to us for knowledge, let alone a purchase. Please do. Thank you.
No, thank you for that. And I will add that if you go visit sensaphonics, when the wind is right, you’re going to come away from there hungrier than you started, because of the smell is that issue from the blommer Chocolate Factory nearby?
Yeah. So I think we’ll be together. It’s really exciting. And one thing we have, which I didn’t say and I Evan, I have forgotten to say I also want to deeply thank the Hearing Health & Technology Matters group organization for the award. We’re very, very, very grateful. And excited. I mean, we’re a very small company, audiology owned company. And I saw some of the other people that were up for awards last year, and they’re quite bigger, much bigger than us and, and more well known. And so for us to find a Innovator of the Year Award to be chosen amongst these giants with that who have all great technology and probably all worthy of winning. We’re just very grateful about it. So thank them and well voter.
It’s a thrill to see you have won because you’re really addressing a need and a unique area. And so yes, congratulations on winning the Innovator of the Year award. One last thing and that is Evan if anybody wants to reach out to you, how do they get you?
They can reach out to Evan McKenzie at ASI audio They can reach out to [email protected] comes into my colleague Charlene Clements and it always gets sent over to me. So either way, is fine.
Okay, thanks. And how about you Michael?
[email protected] come to the Sensaphonics website and learn a few things, maybe see what’s going on.
Okay, well, thanks to you both. I appreciate your joining me today. Congratulations once more on the win. and thanks to everybody for watching or listening to this edition of This Week in Hearing
About the Panel
Michael Santucci, AuD, is the President of Sensaphonics and ASI Audio, based in Chicago. With a career spanning nearly four decades, he has been dedicated to safeguarding musicians and audio professionals from the detrimental effects of loud sound. Santucci’s work includes pioneering custom ear monitors for iconic bands and advocating for annual hearing tests and safe listening practices. His latest innovation, the ASI Audio x Sensaphonics 3DME system, empowers musicians to protect their hearing while enhancing their musical experiences.
Evan MacKenzie, is the Vice President of Marketing & Sales at ASI Audio. With a wealth of experience spanning branding, marketing, and sales management, MacKenzie plays a pivotal role in fostering integrated marketing strategies and expanding the company’s sales network and brand presence. Having previously held key positions at renowned industry leaders like DPA Microphones, Gibson Professional Audio, QSC, and American Music & Sound, MacKenzie brings a wealth of knowledge to ASI Audio, contributing to the company’s growth and strategic brand development.
Andrew Bellavia is the Founder of AuraFuturity. He has experience in international sales, marketing, product management, and general management. Audio has been both of abiding interest and a market he served professionally in these roles. Andrew has been deeply embedded in the hearables space since the beginning and is recognized as a thought leader in the convergence of hearables and hearing health. He has been a strong advocate for hearing care innovation and accessibility, work made more personal when he faced his own hearing loss and sought treatment All these skills and experiences are brought to bear at AuraFuturity, providing go-to-market, branding, and content services to the dynamic and growing hearables and hearing health spaces.