Moods, Zurich

Live Music Streaming that Surpasses the Imagination

Places

This is where the future of audio is being shaped right now - places that are full of music and great sound. It’s where people who love to innovate and experiment are drawn. Where they treat themselves and others to phenomenal audio experiences. “Places” invites you to take a look behind the scenes at these “places to be” in audio, from remarkable music clubs, to legendary recording studios and even art and audio conventions.

Six additional subwoofers will hang from the ceiling, even though new supports haven't been found yet that can carry their enormous weight. They're in development, of course. The walls are being painted, too - what was once blue will soon be burgundy. There is already an opening in the middle of the stage for where the new subwoofer will be mounted underneath. Moods, Switzerland's most famous jazz club and one of the most respected in Europe, is currently undergoing renovations. The club is equipping itself for the new audio formats of the future. Work is set to be completed by the time the club reopens on 9 September. When it does, this former shipbuilding hall in central Zurich will host performances by some of the world's best-known jazz musicians. Moods serves as the venue for more than 350 concerts a year. Six that took place before the remodelling may have already revolutionised the future of music – particularly with regards to distribution and the latest technology.

  • Author: Gunter Ullrich
  • Photos: Sennheiser Sound Academy, Moods

"These six concerts were the first step of what will hopefully be a long-term collaboration," says Veronique Larcher, who heads Sennheiser's AMBEO® 3D Audio programme. And it was all about this programme at Moods, where concerts were recorded for the first time using AMBEO® technology so that they could later be made available to a wider public in 3D sound with the help of live streaming. It's an area that has also remained largely unexploited until now, although Larcher and Sennheiser see great potential to provide an ultimate sound experience with excellent sound quality while at the same time opening a path to new ways of listening – for both musicians and music lovers.

Sound that creates an entirely new experience

"We are thinking of three different categories," says Larcher. First, you have totally normal users who stream music performances over the Internet into their living rooms. Second is the live streaming of important concerts into large movie cinemas, as is already done today with opera and musicals. "Soon we want to expand these offerings to include pop and rock," says Larcher. "It will go beyond what is imaginable with current streaming possibilities." The third category is virtual reality live streaming.

Entry area Moods in Zurich
„We will deliver unprecedented music quality.“

This is the background to Sennheiser's next vision for audio. "We know there's a boom in streaming," says Larcher, "but many users aren't yet ready to pay for streaming. We want to use AMBEO® technologies to create an audio experience that people are willing to pay for."

At the moment, the boom looks a bit like this: Although the number of users is expected to continue growing in the coming years, revenues are expected to decline dramatically. There's a disconnect here, though, given that streaming is becoming more important, especially among younger users. In Germany alone, more than half of all Internet users between the ages of 14 and 29 stream their music. Instead of tediously downloading their music, they simply stream it, allowing them to play audio files directly and without waiting.

That may sound great at first, but there's one big disadvantage. The current stereo recording technologies being used cannot stream the authentic, complete sound. In order to keep file sizes as small as possible, a large part of what artists play simply isn't recorded. Conventional audio technology may be able to detect every note played and each whispered line, but it can't reproduce the complex, extensive spatial variability.

"People who listen to jazz value excellent sound"

In order to accurately convey these subtleties in music, Sennheiser came up with a creative way to record sound: a dummy head.

"The KU100 dummy tries to imitate the human head," says Johannes Kares, a 3D sound engineer with the AMBEO® team. There is a big difference between recording with a dummyhead and recording wih a stereo pair of microphones: With stereo a person localizes sound within its head, with a dummyhead, one can experience sound from all three dimensions. Inside the Neumann KU100 dummyhead, there are two microphones where the human ear drums are located. These two capsules enable the recording of two binaural channels – enough for 3D sound. "It allows you to hear the music from above, below and from all directions around you."

The Moods club and jazz music provide the perfect testing grounds. "Jazz is elaborate," says Veronique Larcher. "People who listen to jazz value excellent sound. Listeners want a higher quality."

Bar of the jazz temple

But one of the rules of jazz, which has been around for over a hundred years, is that it defies definition. It is constantly changing – it is not reproductive music. It's on stage, during a live show that the creative process takes place. In order to achieve the best possible recording, Kares installed further microphones at Moods in addition to the dummy. He strung them from the ceiling and positioned them in front of each instrument. They record the one-of-a-kind performances in the club and preserve the true, spontaneous atmosphere. The singers treat the KU100 dummy like a human head. Sometimes they sing into its right ear, sometimes into its left ear, other times right in front of it. When they turn their back to the audience, it looks as if they are telling it secrets inside the fully packed hall.

This mystical atmosphere is being made streamable to jazz fans in quality that was previously not available. At the moment, the concerts recorded at Moods are stored on Kares' computers in Vienna, where he is mixing them into 3D sound in the post-production stage. They will be finished after the remodelling at Moods. "We want to stream the new shows from Moods in AMBEO® audio quality as soon as the platform opens later this year," Larcher says.