"PEEX allows fans to hear all the fine details with personal HD sound direct from the stage, in rather the same way HD video screens provide fans with a chance to see the details of a performance, wherever they are sat in a venue," explains Graham Tull, CTO and Co-Founder of PEEX.
The device is worn like a necklace that has earbuds attached to it, and the sound pumping into your ears is powered by an app (it doesn't drain your phone's battery) that features an interactive channel mixing desk - meaning the music can be changed from song to song if you so desire.
"We wanted to ensure that the PEEX experience was immersive but did not isolate the fan from the live show or crowd," says Tull.
PEEX is available to try out now, exclusively during select dates of Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, one of which is his Wed., Nov. 13 stop in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena. Rental price is currently $15 per device and can be booked online at rent.peex.live.
Ahead of Elton John's show in the 'Burgh, Pittsburgh City Paper chatted with Tull via email about PEEX, the inspiration behind the device, and what's next after the Farewell tour comes to an end.
PEEX is described as “augmented audio reality.” What does that mean in layman's terms?
Simply put, PEEX allows fans to hear all the fine details with personal HD sound direct from the stage, in rather the same way HD video screens provide fans with a chance to see the details of a performance, wherever they are [seated] in a venue.
PEEX also provides a mixer mode, which further enhances the experience by allowing fans to adjust various aspects of the mix to their personal preference e.g. boost the vocals or guitar solos etc.
Where did the idea for PEEX come from?
As a musician and a fan of live music, I wanted to be able to gain greater control and certainty over the audio experience at live shows. For me to be able to focus on the great musicianship on stage, without the worry that my particular location in the venue might suffer from sound problems was a key motivator. Being able to control my own mix bias was also an ambition, especially when really wanting to highlight a particular instrument or section of the show.
What were some of the biggest challenges when first developing the device?
One of the most important features of PEEX, which we needed to guarantee, was the ability to naturally blend the high energy acoustic room sound with the high fidelity digital sound coming from PEEX. We wanted to ensure that the PEEX experience was immersive but did not isolate the fan from the live show or crowd.
To do this we needed to develop ambient earphones capable of allowing a significant proportion of ambient sound to reach the fan’s ears. We also needed to develop a dynamic delay system capable of automatically synchronizing the acoustic (speed of sound) and PEEX (speed of light) audio signals wherever the fan might be located.
Of course, we also had to design a radio system capable of delivering real-time audio to a limitless number of fans anywhere at a show - indoors or outdoors, which was a massive challenge in itself.
Why did PEEX choose to partner with Elton John? Have you only tested the device with him? Would PEEX work with other genres as well?
One of my co-founders, and a life-long friend, worked for Elton, on the live production side for more than 25-years. We always hoped that Elton would be the first major artist to want to use PEEX and happily that hope turned into reality. Actually, Elton and his whole team have been amazing in their support and encouragement during the development phase and current commercial launch of PEEX.
We have worked with other artists during our development phase and are currently actively discussing commercial opportunities with some other major artists and venues. Unfortunately, I can’t say too much about who and when at this stage!
What has been some of the feedback you’ve gotten about PEEX? Does it affect interacting with those around you?
The fan feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with satisfaction levels consistently in the high 80 percent range. People report having exactly the experience we aimed for, feeling that PEEX was able to significantly improve their audio experience, but also to create an intimacy that is virtually impossible to engineer in large sports arenas and [stadiums]. Fans also report feeling very connected to the live event, friends and the wider crowd, which as mentioned earlier was a fundamental design ambition from the start.
When using PEEX, what instruments do you choose to bring forward?
As a guitarist, you’d naturally expect me to want to focus on all the amazing fretboard wizardry, which of course I do! But honestly, the PEEX system provides such an amazing ‘window’ on all aspects of the performance, that I change my mix and focus almost every song! Of course, I will admit being a bit of a tech nerd and fans don’t need to worry that they need to spend anymore time making adjustments than they want to.
How do you see PEEX changing the future of live music?
Hopefully, PEEX will become widely available to music fans across multiple venues and with multiple artists. At scale, PEEX should fundamentally change for the better the fan experience at live music shows, but importantly also create new sources of revenue for the artists and wider industry. We intend to purely add value to a vital part of our cultural life, rather than disrupt and change it to something far less real and exciting than live music currently is.
After John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, where will PEEX go next?
Definitely more live music, including venues, tours and festivals. But also other verticals like conferences, exhibitions and even houses of worship. There is a lot in the pipeline.