Early IEM Adopter, Singer/Engineer Mitch Malloy
Dec 07, 2021
As featured in Live Sound, November 2021
Currently the lead singer for the band Great White, musician and audio engineer Mitch Malloy started singing at age six, formed his !rst rock band at twelve and has been performing professionally ever since. He signed to RCA as a solo artist in 1990, played The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and had three top-20 singles across two albums.
Audio engineering, however, Malloy picked up on his own. “I got my first 4-track reel-to-reel when I was 17 or 18, out of necessity. I needed to record myself, so I learned how to do it,” he notes. After his solo career, transplanting to Nashville to concentrate on songwriting and the studio, Malloy says he dove “deep, deep, deep into recording, production, engineering and mixing. I never actually ever intended to work with other artists as an engineer, it never even occurred to me. I was just filling a need. Then I got good at it and other people would say, ‘Hey, who did this?’ I’d say, ‘I did’ They’d be like, ‘Will you work with me?’ I’d be like, ‘Will you pay me?’ So, that turned into a business.”
As an engineer, Malloy has collaborated with a host of artists including Taylor Swift and Lady A. “I worked with Kenny Loggins, and lots of big songwriters in Nashville used to use me as their mix engineer,” he adds. “I had a good career in my own studio, which was called Malloy Master Tracks. One day, I just decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. Pretty much within the month of deciding that, I got the phone call from Great White. I think they were apprehensive to ask me, because I have a history of turning bands down.” That includes a brief time some 20 years ago where Malloy was a singer for Van Halen. “There’s a lot of bands people don’t know about that I turned down, but none certainly cooler than Van Halen.”
THE VOLUME WARS
Over his career as artist, Malloy has used numerous in-ear-monitor (IEM) systems. “I’m in a pretty unique position here, because my !rst tour was in 1992,” he says, noting that “in-ears were not yet legal, and I had them.”Exposed to IEM by his management company, he says the experience changed his life: “Singing live was always dreadful for me. Sometimes I hated it. In rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s so loud on stage and is bouncing all over the place, and then your monitor source is these wedges down on the floor.” Before each performance, he says he’d ask himself, “What do they sound like? Are they going to feed back, and is it going to kill you? The volume wars on stage were just insane. I grew up in that.
“My rock ‘n’ roll frontman heroes are David Lee Roth and Steven Tyler. I am all over the place on stage; it’s rare that I stop,” he continues. “The wedges were horrible in that regard, and then you have the side fills – when you get close to the side fills, your mic feeds back. It’s like a landmine of feedback. You have to watch where you go, where you step, so you don’t get feedback. It’s so stupid. The in-ear thing was like the angels sang. It was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the studio. "This is like I’m in the studio on stage.’ I never, ever, ever looked back. I have been using in-ears since that !rst tour in 1992.”
Malloy recently adopted the ASI Audio 3DME Active Ambient system as his IEMs of choice. “I have had quite a few systems by di!erent companies, very famous companies, and this system from ASI sounds by far the best to me. It sounds the most accurate.”
The 3DME Three-Dimensional Music Enhancement IEM System consists of Active Ambient universal earphones (with embedded binaural microphones) and a bodypack that houses a headphone amp, dual mic pres, earphone and monitor I/O and DSP for signal processing and mixing. System control is through the companion ASI Audio App.
Further, the newly upgraded 3DME Bluetooth version allows users to pair any common portable device with the 3DME bodypack mixer for untethered adjustment of the system’s 7-band independent stereo EQ, limiter threshold and the blend of monitor mix and stage ambience via the free ASI Audio app. The app also offers access to an Audio Seal Test to confirm perfect IEM fit and allows the saving and recall of user presets to ensure repeat access to preferred sound signatures.
A NEW WORLD
“I use it primarily closed on stage with Great White,” says Malloy, “Because the band’s stage volume is quite loud, I don’t need the ambience. I use the ambience from time to time, but I generally don’t need it. I use it in the studio in ambient mode for rehearsal because I rehearse along with backing tracks, and I use it when I’m tracking vocals or guitar or whatever. I’ve lived in the studio from the time I was 17 years old, so the studio has been my life. To have microphones in my ears kind of resonating with my skull has opened up a world I never saw coming with this system.
“Because I’m an engineer and a producer. I’m very sonic-driven and always have been. If I have a great mix in the studio to sing to, I sing way better. The fact that the drivers sound as good as they do has improved my vocal performance; I can tell in the studio and I can tell live. There was a recent clip of me live last Saturday night that somebody sent to me that I just posted on my socials, and my pitch and my phrasing are just on another level from where they were, just because I could hear better. It sounds fantastic, so I’m inspired. If I’m inspired, I do better work. For me, music is all about emotion and inspiration.”
He concludes, “I have also gotten Mark Kendall, the lead guitar player from Great White, to start using the system. Because he’s a guitar player, I thought he could use a little bump of ambience with his ears. He also loves the way they sound as a starting point, and then he loves the ambience. So, he’s using it in a di!erent way than me. He’s much happier. This is the third or fourth system that he’s had, and he prefers this by far. He is completely hooked on the ASI.”