Charlie Puth is living the dream of viral video maker turned mega music star. From TikToks in which he writes songs on the spot to his third studio album Charlie, his combination of humor, big feels, and raw talent has earned him a mantel-breaking number of accolades including five Grammy nominations. Suffice to say that when Charlie sings, people listen.
When he tours for his huge and devoted fanbase, he listens to himself in a monitor mix that factors in his exact position onstage, how his head is turned, and the resulting changes in what he hears. Monitor engineer Josh Cruz deploys an ingenious method of providing this, using the Lectrosonics DCHT dual-channel digital transmitter and companion DCR822 receiver along with in-ear transducers that incorporate embedded miniature ambient mics. In an exclusive interview, Cruz reveals the secrets behind this singular application, not to mention Puth’s enthusiasm for how it has changed the way he performs.
“It’s a unique system that really allows Charlie to connect with the audience,” says Cruz. “In-ear systems have the advantage of a quieter stage and a cleaner mix for everyone, but they can make the artist feel isolated. Charlie wants it to be like he’s right there with the audience, but also preserve that cleanliness.”
The necessary signal path is thus more involved than simply mixing room mics into the monitors to add generic ambience, as Cruz explained: “The DCHT and DCR822 work in conjunction with the recently released Ambient Pro system from JH Audio. These are high-end in-ear transducers with omni mic capsules made by DPA embedded in the outer shell of each earpiece. (The Ambient Pro IEM system is designed to be paired with the Lectrosonics DCHT transmitter and either the DSQD or DCR822 digital receivers.) The cable fantails into two connectors. One is an eighth-inch stereo plug that connects to any in-ear receiver pack. That delivers a monitor mix to the earpieces from my console. The other is a TA6F connector that feeds the omni capsules’ output into the DCHT. The mics pick up a binaural soundstage from the point of view of Charlie’s head. I then fold them into the monitor mix as I would with any room mics. The best way to describe it is that I’m vicariously experiencing Charlie’s hearing. I don’t think any other system does this.”
Thus, Puth experiences an enhanced version of his own hearing, which Josh describes as having definite benefits for the artist. “Traditional room mics provide a fixed and usually broad stereo picture, which doesn’t realistically reflect what a lead singer hears when moving around the stage,” he notes. “With this system, if Charlie looks towards the drums, he hears more of them. It’s not something he has to be constantly conscious of, but it helps him give the best performance. He has literally told me and the production manager, ‘I don’t want to do a show without it.’”