Ohio native Rob Lewis started his career in location sound as an audio freelancer in the late 90s. A graduate of the Recording Workshop, he started with local and regional work before graduating to higher profile gigs during the 2000 presidential election. With a strong background in sports location work, Lewis does both “bag” and “cart” style audio capture and support for local and national clients across a wide range of production styles. With over 20 years of experience, he has built a reputation as a top location professional.
During that time, Lewis has migrated from traditional headphones to in-ear monitors. After starting with universal-fit Shures, Rob soon advanced to custom-fit, and recently completed his journey by changing from hard acrylic IEMs to the soft silicone of the Sensaphonics 2X-S, obtained through Dr. Heather Malyuk of Soundcheck Audiology, who serves northeast Ohio as a Gold Circle Audiologist.
“I really do prefer the sound of a good IEM for critical listening, which is a huge part of the job for location sound mixers,” says Lewis. “The soft silicone shells are great across the wide range of temperatures I work in, from hot days on location to freezing cold at a pro football game. They conform and adjust to your ear canal so they are always comfortable, no matter what conditions you’re working in. They take your body heat and adjust, always maintaining that seal you need for full bass response. I don’t lose the seal with Sensaphonics, where I have with other brands.”
Besides comfort and isolation, soft silicone provides another key benefit that Rob Lewis loves: durability. “With hard acrylics, I just found them too fragile for field work. I actually shattered two pairs just by dropping them, which can get very expensive,” he notes. “That doesn’t happen with Sensaphonics. Since it’s a solid silicone mold, it protects all the electronics inside. You can bounce these things off the ground and they don’t get hurt. Believe me, I know. That upgrade in durability has been a game-changer for me.”
Where IEMs really shine in comparison to headphones is isolation. “The goal is to hear what each microphone is doing. Many times, I’m trying to critically listen to maybe 3 mics in my left ear and another 4 in my right,” Lewis explains. “If I’m flying a boom mic on the sidelines of a football game, it’s very critical that I hear the pattern of directional microphones. That lets me adjust the mic angle to minimize unwanted bleed and make the dialog more present. That’s a lot easier with in-ears than with regular headphones, which let in far too much ambient sound. When I’m using my 2X-S, I know what my microphones are going to sound like.”
Lewis acknowledges that the isolation he gets from his 2X-S is also a key to hearing health. “The fact that Sensaphonics is focused on hearing health for musicians makes them a perfect fit for location recording. Eliminating outside sound means you can hear things much more clearly at a significantly lower volume, which obviously helps protect your hearing,” he says. “With headphones, your only option is to crank up the volume, which mean lots of ear fatigue by the end of the shoot. A good pair of isolating in-ears eliminates that problem. With my Sensaphonics, I can go all day and not even realize they’re in my ears.”
Whether he’s capturing sound at loud political campaign rallies and professional sports venues or more subtle audio requirements for documentaries, feature films, and corporate projects, Rob’s 2X-S is always on hand. “It might be a crash piece with a live mix that will air that night, or it could be capturing pristine isolated tracks for post production. No matter what the situation, my in-ears are a mission-critical part of the job. I really don’t go anywhere without them,” he says. “When I fly, they are on my person – either in my carry-on, or in my ears for movies or music. And there’s always a backup in my bag.”
With the fidelity, comfort, and durability of his Sensaphonics 2X-S, Lewis is now much more confident that he’s capturing sound as accurately as possible in any given scenario.
“Field production is a visual medium, so nearly everyone on location – cameras, lights, producers, makeup, etc. – is focused on the picture,” he explains. “Production sound is usually only 1-3 people for recording, sync, and protection of the whole overall soundtrack. With very little time for finding wireless frequencies, setting up mics, etc., having the right tools for effective monitoring is a must. These Sensaphonics IEMs really make a difference, both in terms of saving time and delivering the best results. I couldn’t be happier with them.”