Sennheiser takes AMBEO to next level for Pink Floyd project

We took a trip to Abbey Road Studios, where we were given a demo of the technology used to create a new immersive mix of Comfortably Numb from Live 8, which will be a major feature of the upcoming ‘Their Mortal Remains’ exhibition at the V&A.

Sennheiser is soon set to employ its AMBEO 3D immersive audio technology at another V&A museum exhibition – this time for ‘Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains’, which gets underway in May.

An audio-visual journey through the band’s 50-year history, the exhibition’s finale will include an immersive showcase of their performance of the hit Comfortably Numb from Live 8, featuring Sennheiser’s AMBEO 3D (18.3) audio technology and a 360-degree visual display.

Audio Media International was recently invited to Abbey Road’s Studio 2 – where the band recorded some of their most famous albums – to meet the team behind the new AMBEO mix and hear a demonstration of the 25-speaker setup ahead of the public opening.

Sennheiser is the official audio partner of the exhibition, and its systems will be used for all of the audio elements, including the delivery of high-quality arrangements from Pink Floyd historic audio documents. The band has now been using Sennheiser and Neumann equipment for 50 years, starting with the Sennheiser MD 409.

Leading the demonstration, in a space created to match the purpose-built, acoustically treated exhibition area that will be in place at the V&A, producers Simon Franglen and Simon Rhodes collaborated closely with Pink Floyd recording engineer Andy Jackson to create the new version of the classic track. Franglen’s credits include production for tracks including My Heart Will Go On and films such as Avatar and the recent remake of The Magnificent Seven.

“There are four screens around the room, and the point of all of this is to put you actually inside the music,” said Franglen. “One of the things that Simon Rhodes and I found when doing these immersive mixes was that suddenly you don’t have that restriction of having just one wall. You’ve got all these extra dimensions and that allows you to hear a lot more inside the mix.

“You’ll find as you listen that instruments and vocals breathe like they couldn’t before, but you also hear the song as you’ve always remembered it and it is still Pink Floyd. We’re not trying to change a Crown Jewel; we’re just trying to give you a different perspective. Pink Floyd were pioneers in surround sound and this is a natural extension of that and now we have the technology to take it further.

“The keyboards are over here and David Gilmour or Roger Waters is over there but the drums and the bass we’ve put in the middle, the idea being that it anchors everything,” Franglen explained. “The audience is everywhere and around the edges, and the idea is to give everything room to breathe rather than it being just ‘over there.’”

The loudspeaker system in Studio 2, which will be recreated at the V&A, comprised an arrangement of Neumann KH420 on top and KH870 on the lower tier, which were “able to handle anything that we’ve thrown at them,” according to Franglen.

“We used these speakers on big cinema mixes and they sound amazing, like the best sounding PA we’ve ever heard,” said Franglen of the rig. “With the opportunity that Sennheiser has given us to basically put it everywhere, you get the perfect hi-fi – a really wonderful system. To put that into this space is very special, and to mix with it is very fun.”

Pink Floyd’s journey through the 1970s saw them embracing studio technology and using all the resources at their disposal at Abbey Road, on albums such as Meddle, The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here.

Several instruments used on these albums are displayed there, including David Gilmour’s famous Stratocaster, ‘The Black Strat’, which has been used on many Pink Floyd tours since making its debut at the 1970 Bath Festival Of Blues And Progressive Music.

Jackson, described by Franglen as ‘the guardian of the Pink Floyd sound,’ remarked: “I had this preconception of what you could do, that you’ve got the perimeter of a circle and trying to get inside that circle doesn’t really work. When Simon said let’s put the drums in the middle of the room I thought that you couldn’t do that, but of course yes you can! Not only are you adding the vertical, but you are making use of the entire volume.”

‘The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains’ is a rare glimpse into one of the world’s most iconic rock bands, and will open its doors on 13 May 2017 for 20 weeks.

Check out Sennheiser’s video of the AMBEO 3D audio session at Abbey Road here…