October 16, 2020 1 Comment

We’ve talked about protecting your hearing on stage. We’ve talked about various simple set ups for your solo act. We’ve talked about cleaning up your stage sound and keeping your stage organized.

One constant in all these discussions is the value of in-ear monitors. In-ears, as they are typically known, serve multiple purposes – even for a solo act, you might find them useful.

How Can In-Ear Monitors Help?

In-ear monitors can protect your hearing by giving you close control of your personal volume and serving double duty as earplugs to protect you from loud acoustic elements like drums. They can help you perform better by giving you a mix that isn’t colored by noise from other monitors and allows you to hear exactly what you need to.

If you’re a singer, in-ears can save your voice by placing your vocal up front enough that you don’t have to strain to hear yourself. If your band all chooses a wireless in-ear device such as Carvin Audio’s EM900, your level of stage noise goes way down, which allows not only for a cleaner monitor mix (personalized for each member, if the mix desk allows), but a cleaner house mix as well.

And of course, wireless in-ear monitors allow you to reduce the number of monitors or even eliminate them entirely, which makes room on the stage, eliminates cable trip hazards, and reduces or eliminates feedback issues. Feedback from vocal monitors while vocalists still can’t hear may be the number one house engineer nightmare. In-ears make that nightmare go away.

Even in a solo act, an in-ear monitor system can be invaluable. Sometimes a room is noisy or reverberant, for example. In situations like this, even if you’re just singing karaoke style against a track, it can be hard to distinguish your own vocals or find the rhythm. In some large, cavernous venues, slap back from a distant rear wall can throw you off the rhythm, making it impossible to sing in time. In-ear monitors eliminate this distraction and allow you to sing just like you would in the studio. With this kind of confidence, you can be your best for your audience.

Are There Any Drawbacks to In-Ears?

Like anything, in-ear monitors have their drawbacks. The main thing artists say is that they can take some getting used to. For musicians and singers who have spent a lot of time in the studio, the transition is pretty easy. If you’re used to the stage, where you hear everything out in the room, you might feel a little claustrophobic, but the reduced strain and the ability to hear what you’re doing usually makes up for that quickly.

Other artists feel disconnected from their audience when both ears are covered, so many artists use a single in-ear monitor to get the benefits of in-ears without losing that connection. Of course, this provides a little less protection, but depending on your positioning, it might work perfectly.

Interference can also be an issue with cheap in-ears, which is why the EM900 offers four different groups of sixteen frequencies specifically calculated to reduce intermodulation between other frequencies in the group.

And although in-ear monitors can provide ear protection by serving as ear plugs and allowing you to control your volume, they can just as easily be misused and damage hearing, if you decide to crank up the volume too much. The EM900 has a built-in limiter on the receiver and a 10dB pad on the transmitter, so you can avoid this problem.

Finally, in-ear monitor systems of any quality are often prohibitively expensive, which is not the case with the EM900.

In-ears may not be for every single person, but if you’re like most musicians, you won’t regret making the switch.

1 Response


October 19, 2020

I use IEMs, and I run an omni-directional condenser mic out front to capture the room, my voice reverberating off the back wall, and band instruments. Using an “ambient” mic source really removes the sense of isolation. I run my mic and the “ambient” mic through a personal monitor mixer, so I can set the levels. It works great.

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