Ever been to a concert where the sound mix or acoustics were just wrong enough to ruin a good show? That could be a thing of the past. Mixhalo, a company that broadcasts musician audio going into soundboards straight to smartphones via an app, has used T-Mobile's 5G network to send that audio to phones faster than it takes the sound to reach audience ears from the speakers.
Yes, T-Mobile's 5G network is enabling Mixhalo to send audio faster than the speed of sound. And yes, it's definitely a stunt for the carrier to flex its telecom muscles. But it's a novel way to use 5G to make the concert experience better for audience members. There haven't been many interesting ways that next-gen mobile networks have improved live events, aside from boosting signal speed in sports stadiums.
Mixhalo is one of a dozen startups in the latest class of T-Mobile's 5G Open Innovation Lab, which cultivates new ways to harness 5G networks. Mixhalo's tech can send audio over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, which could be better and more reliable over 5G networks. Of course, the best way to test this out is at a concert, so Mixhalo held one Thursday for T-Mobile employees.
Around 500 T-Mobile staff members gathered in the outdoor plaza at the carrier's headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, downloaded the Mixhalo app, and heard the show coming through both their headphones and from the stage's speakers at the same time. Performers included Mixhalo co-founder Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger, a classical violinist who's toured with bands like Jethro Tull and collaborated with Hans Zimmer on film soundtracks, along with singer Jordyn Simone (current competitor on this season of The Voice) and TikTok musician Liza Kaye.
But the performers' audio didn't instantly go from the soundboard to the audience's ears. The sound broadcast over 5G had to be delayed by about one microsecond per foot each listener was from the stage so it could sync up with the audio coming out of the speakers. Mixhalo's tech sends audio at the right time, whether the audience is in the pit below the stage or way up in the cheap seats. 5G makes that possible, said Grant Castle, T-Mobile vice president of engineering.
"We thought this was a cool idea for many years but we could never do it. We couldn't deliver the data fast enough. Now we're at this stage where these things start to become possible," Castle said.
T-Mobile declined to comment on whether Mixhalo will use its 5G network going forward for its concerts. To be clear, the staff members at the concert were all using off-the-shelf 5G phones connected to T-Mobile's network, so only the carrier's customers would benefit from 5G speeds should Mixhalo use the network in the future.
But the successful concert is promising for ways to get a front-row audio experience to audiences at other events. Have you ever been to a baseball game and seen someone listening to a radio announcer who's describing events that happened five or 10 seconds ago? Why not put that in real time?
"It's that kind of innovation that just seems kind of obvious, but is also really hard. Those are the sorts of things we're really excited about," Castle said.