The Breath

In 2023 I was asked to collaborate on a project with the highly acclaimed duo The Breath and loudspeaker manufacturer d&b audiotechnik. Stuart McCallum, guitarist with The Breath and ex long-time member of The Cinematic Orchestra had been put on to Submarine Pickups by my old bandmate, Jack Page now Global Artist Relations with d&b.


It was early days of SubSix, Submarine’s first hexaphonic pickup, and I gave Stuart one of the early prototypes to try. He was immediately taken by the possibilities. The project with The Breath led towards a series of shows using Soundscape, d&b’s immersive audio system. Having multiple pickups on a guitar opens up a large amount of possibilities for placing ‘sound objects’, in this case, strings, at different point in or around the venue. This, in addition to this Stuart’s extensive pedal boards added yet more sonic immersion. In addition to the rapidly expanding channel count it then becomes possible to move these ‘sound objects’ within the space. More of which in later videos.

Soundscape has a number of permutations depending on the size and shape of the venue and also whether the show is your standard stage-at-one-end setup or in-the-round. This particular performance is in the d&b demo room at their UK headquarters with Stuart in the centre of the room. You’ll be able to see around the side of the room, many many speakers. Some clever audio processing which calculates time alignments and levels of each signal delivered to each individual speaker means that when the system operates in concert it is possible to give the illusion of sound emanating from anywhere inside, or indeed outside the room. Combine that with some meticulously captured 3D convolution reverbs and you have an amazingly powerful sound reinforcement system.

Of course the best way to experience this is in the room. But for those of us without our own personal dolby atmos suite, this performance has been mixed for binaural headphones. It sounds ok on speakers but headphones will give you the full effect.

It does feel like each string is a column of sound standing in the room. As the guitar is played there is a call and response from different areas of the space. But at no point does the effect become distracting. Indeed at first you might be forgiven for not noticing. But as the music draws you in you find there is hidden depth and geography to the music.

The Breath will be performing with SubSix at WOMAD on the d&b audiotechnik Soundscape stage on 28th July 2024.

Written by Pete Roe

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