3 Foldback (sound engineering)

Foldback (sound engineering)

Foldback is the use of rear-facing loudspeakers known as monitor speakers on stage during a live music performance. The sound is amplified with a public address system and directed to the on-stage performers rather than the audience. This sound signal may be produced on the same mixing console as the main mix for the audience (called the 'front of house' mix), or there may be a separate sound engineer and mixing console on stage. Live sound is problematic, and on-stage sound can be the biggest nightmare of all.

The provision of monitor speakers is essential to performers, because without a foldback system, the sound they would hear from front of house would be the reverberated reflections from the rear wall of the venue. The naturally-reflected sound is delayed and distorted. A separate mixed signal is often routed to the foldback speakers, because the performers may also need to hear a mix without electronic effects such as echo and reverb (this is called a "dry mix") to stay in time and in tune with each other. In situations with poor or absent foldback mixes, vocalists may end up singing off-tune or out of time with the band.

The term "foldback" is sometimes applied to in-ear monitoring systems, also described as artist's cue-mixes, as they are generally set up for individual performers. "Foldback" may less frequently refer to current limiting protection in audio electronic amplifiers.


In the early 1960s, many professional live sound engineers were wrestling with the problem of giving the musical artist enough of their own voice to stay in tune during a performance. It's possible that the concept of using foldback loudspeakers was arrived at independently by widely separated engineers. The first recorded time that a loudspeaker was used specifically for foldback was for Judy Garland at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium on September 13, 1961. It was provided by McCune Sound Service. [ [http://mixonline.com/live/applications/audio_mccune_sound/ Local Crew: McCune Sound] ] [ [http://users.deltacomm.com/rainbowz/con091361.html "Another Sensational Evening With Judy!"(Reference only for date of concert)] ]

Bob Cavin, a former engineer at McCune Sound, designed the first monitor mixer designed expressly for foldback. He also designed the first foldback loudspeaker that had two different listening angles. [ [http://bobcavin.com/Inventions.html Bob Cavin. "Inventions"] ]


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