Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon on rocking hard and hearing well

When REO hits the road, guitarist Dave Amato knows his 3D Active Ambient IEMs let him rock hard and hear it all -- and shows us his audiograms to prove it!

When REO Speedwagon decided to make the change to in-ears in the late ‘90s, it was a bumpy ride for lead guitarist Dave Amato. While he loved the freedom of movement, he disliked the isolation of having both earpieces inserted. Like many musicians, the very isolation that makes IEMs so useful can be especially tough for guitarists, creating a sensation of “only hearing inside my head,” which can make them feel disconnected from their bandmates, the audience -- and, most critically for Amato -- his amplifier rig.

Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon“That change was over 20 years ago,” says Amato. “I got into the habit of always listening with one ear in, one ear out onstage -- mostly so I could always hear my amp rig. In fact, I used to chop off the right earpiece since I never used it. I did that for years! But it was giving me tinnitus and making my hearing lopsided, especially with the drums blasting on my right side. I’m not going to lie; it was kind of scary.”

At Sensaphonics, he consulted with Dr. Michael Santucci, who made it clear that Amato’s “one in, one out” approach was a problem, not a solution. In fact, taking out one earpiece actually creates hearing issues, putting both ears at risk. Obviously, the open ear is exposed to uncontrolled sound levels, putting it at risk of overexposure. In addition, the other ear, with an isolating IEM inserted but working alone, now sounds softer. In fact, it takes an additional 6 dB of volume for a single earpiece to be perceived as loud as it sounds with both inserted. This, ironically, causes the user to turn it up.

So removing one IEM actually puts both ears at increased risk.

"Dr. Santucci made it very clear to me that I had to start wearing both earpieces if I wanted to save my hearing,” says Amato. “But fortunately, he had a new product that made that possible, the 3D Active Ambient. And it changed my life.”

Active Ambient technology uses mics embedded in the earpieces to capture and add stage ambience to their monitor mix with both isolating earpieces inserted, thus overcoming Amato's isolation issue. “I actually first heard about the 3D from Tom Gimble, who was the keyboard player for Aerosmith at the time,” Amato recalls. “He said Steven Tyler had them and just loved them. So when Michael suggested I try them, I was ready. And once I did, I was all in. And I haven’t looked back.”

Amato audiogramsWhen REO Speedwagon went back on the road post-Covid, Amato made it a point to stop by Sensaphonics for a hearing when the band played Chicago. “I always try to stop in when we’re in town, but this was my first test since 2018. I didn’t know what to expect,” Dave recalls.

“Afterwards, Dr. Santucci looked at me and said, ‘Dave, it’s absolutely unchanged from three years ago. The audiograms match.’ That was so cool! It means I’m living proof that you really can rock hard without hurting your hearing. I give Dr. Santucci and Sensaphonics full credit for that.”

REO Speedwagon continues to tour, and the entire band and crew are fully vaccinated. “I don’t judge others, but this is what works for us,” notes Amato. “We had a couple crew guys get Covid on our second leg this summer, so we’re pretty strict. No backstage visits, which we miss. But now we get to play real gigs, and that’s what it takes to keep this traveling circus on the road. The Speedwagon rolls on!”

Link: 3DME Custom Tour