First gig with In-Ears: Review

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by jerryfan6, Dec 4, 2017.


  1. jerryfan6

    jerryfan6 Silver Supporting Member

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    On Saturday night, I played my first gig with in-ears, and I thought this review might help those that are considering it.

    Background

    My band is a typical cover band, playing classic rock, country, and pop in bars/clubs/festivals. We have a sound guy who uses a Behringer XR18 Mixer. Because of this, I was able to download an app that lets me adjust my own monitor mix from my ipad (more on this later). We mic everything…always.

    I am the co-lead singer, singing about 40% of the leads, and adding harmonies often. I also am the rhythm guitar player, and my preferred amp is a Quilter OD200 head.

    My interest in in-ears stemmed from my frustration with not hearing my vocals clearly, which often led to vocal strain by the end of the night. In addition, with a fairly loud drummer, my ears would be ringing more than 12hrs after a gig was over.

    In-Ear Setup

    I went with a cost effective setup (less than $150), as I really wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it.

    1. Rolls PM50s Headphone Amp

    2. Shure SE215 headphones

    3. 25’ Headphone extender cable

    Note: The other singer used a less expensive setup (less than $75), which included the Behringer Powerplay P1 and MEE Audio M6 headphones. She was pleased with the performance of her gear.

    Pros to wearing In-Ears

    1. I was able to hear the band more clearly than I ever have before. For lack of a better term, I found myself really locked into the music.

    2. I had way less vocal strain, and no ringing in my ears.

    3. Our harmonies were really solid, as I could hear each vocalist clearly.

    4. I found the earbuds to be comfortable, even after wearing them for 4hrs.

    5. I didn’t have to even carry a guitar cabinet in. I went direct with my Quilter OD200. My load in/out was one trip.

    Cons to wearing in In-Ears

    1. Singing with in-ears is definitely different. Your voice doesn’t sound quite the same. I’m not sure if this is just how it is, or if I have to learn to adjust how I sing. Having said that, people in the crowd said I sounded the same…so…

    2. For sure you don’t feel as enveloped by the band’s sound(which could be good or bad).

    3. I definitely felt a bit disconnected from the audience.

    4. It was more difficult to communicate with my bandmates. If you just follow a setlist, it likely wouldn’t make a difference, but due to an ebbing/flowing crowd, we made a bunch of song changes mid-stream and it was a little difficult to do it without being really overt.

    5. Setting my mix was a work in progress. The sound guy tried to give me a good mix to work from, but it was really muddy from the start. After he pulled the Bass Drum and Bass guitar entirely out of my mix, the muddiness went away (he also probably had too much volume going into my headphone amp to begin with). Once I started using the app to adjust my mix myself, it worked much better.

    6. I’m not sure how much the rest of my bandmates could hear my guitar. I was totally at the mercy of the sound guy, since he was managing the monitor mix for each of their wedges. My bass player said he couldn’t hear me a couple of times. In the future, I’ll probably soundcheck my guitar with headphones off first, so I can make sure its loud enough through everyone else’s wedges.

    7. Being “wired” rather than “wireless” was ok, as I just wrapped the headphone extender around my guitar cable, which made it like I was only attached by one cord. However, I usually use a wireless guitar setup, so with this I felt more tethered than normal. Not a major issue, but sort of a con to the inexpensive route I chose.

    Verdict

    I am going to stick with the in-ears, as they just overall worked better for me than floor monitors. Though there are some cons that I really need to sort out, namely how to stay connected to the crowd and my bandmates, the pros of being able to hear myself and the band more clearly definitely outweigh anything else for me.

    My next decision is whether to stick with the wired setup, or splurge for a wireless one(like the Shure PSM300 series). Certainly the freedom would be a plus, and I imagine the sound quality would be a little better too. Note: If you are doing the wired route, I had to do a bunch of rigging to get the Rolls to be stereo. If I stick with the “wired” approach, I will probably switch to the Behringer, which is stereo.
     
  2. chillybilly

    chillybilly Member

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    Interesting and educational stuff. I daresay your experience closely mimics those of many others but individual anecdotes are always helpful. In other discussions here and elsewhere many IEM devotees advocate the use of one or more ambient mics placed on stage merely to restore what is naturally heard by the naked ear when using wedges. Of course, this means more gear and work in setting up the mixer.....

    It also seems that heterogeneous monitor setups ie one or more person using IEMs and the others using wedges is usually a recipe for more confusion and frustration during setup and, as you noted, may actually have a deleterious effect overall on the performance since different people are hearing different things. It may be expensive and initially complicated but it seems the best success with IEMs is for the whole band to use them.

    I have the occasional chuckle when I see musicians in headliner bands with the best live sound and engineering money can buy nevertheless jerking their IEMs out - at least one side of them - in the middle of the performance. It's evidence, perhaps, of our caveman instinct that we want to hear our surroundings to be aware of threats or simply to gauge - along with our other senses - our location, distance from others, etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  3. jerryfan6

    jerryfan6 Silver Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I certainly didn't write this believing that I had anything earth-shattering to say, rather just to give a layman's perspective on the first time using in-ears.

    As for the ambient mics...I've heard of that also. In addition, I've heard of bands having a mic on stage that doesn't to go FOH, but only to Monitor mixes, for the band to talk to each other(if everyone's using in-ears). A lot to digest, but I was pleased that I saw enough good in it to keep going. For my hearing's sake, its worth it.
     
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  4. MLG Audio

    MLG Audio Member

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    Honestly, for me, I don't think I could play in a band without IEMs. My ears are pretty sensitive, they ring after seeing a movie (lucky me being a soundguy, right). When I joined the band I'm in currently I played two shows with a wedge, and promptly went out and bought an entry IEM rig. I couldn't take the volume. What a difference. I can actually fall asleep when I get home. The only time I've ever had to pull one ear out is when my mix has been controlled by someone else during a quick set festival show where they wouldn't let us use our split rig. I eventually got custom molded 64 Audio triple drivers, and that was another game changer. It definitely is a little difficult to talk to other band members, but I suppose that could be solved with an ambient mic. That's probably my next experiment. I'm thinking a cardioid LDC in front of the drums with the drums in the rejection zone.
     
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  5. blardie

    blardie Member

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    My 1st thought during the 1st song of my 1st in-ear Gig was: “we better get a lot better or just quit!” I was amazed at how clearly I could hear everything and how much we sucked. That was about 9 years ago. Since then we’ve refined and upgraded our monitor rig many times. We try to run our monitor rig as much as possible and are always disappointed when we can’t and have to rely on wedges.

    Not sure we got any better. Ha!
     
  6. griggsterr

    griggsterr Supporting Member

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    I'm about to go this route myself, I will keep you posted.
     
  7. rowdyyates

    rowdyyates Supporting Member

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    In certain venues I use Westone AM pro 30’s. They allow in a good bit of ambient sound, so that I can just have vocals and keys mixed in. This solves the out of touch feeling you can get with IEM’s.
    Downside is that in some places I get too much ambience. There, I go back to my Shure 215’s. This would be a bit of a hassle, but we all use Behringer PM16 mixers, so I have two presets, one for the Westones and the other for the Shures, with instruments mixed in.
    We’ve gotten to the point that we turn down festival gigs that won’t let us patch in our IEM’s.
     
  8. bigtone23

    bigtone23 Member

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    Pretty much my experience with IEMs as well.
    I got into them when the 80s cover band I'm in were all using ears except me. It was a little bit of a hassle to have a monitor for me and my bass cab bumping. I got the Carvin system with an extra receiver and battery pack so that way I can quickly change batteries or in the case of an emergency, receivers, and the show will go on. The SHure SE215 are pretty isolating, but usually the vocal mics pick up enough ambience in the room to keep me connected.
    It's really nice to have the whole band in ears, it really is a all-or-none thing. Now I just keep my little TC bass head and transmitter in a small rack with all the cables and footswitch. Easy transport to gigs! It's also a benefit for having us all on the click and cues with the backing tracks and our stage volume dropped and my hearing isn't getting so blasted.
     
  9. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    that's what i've been wondering about the "AM" westones, whether that ambient bleedthrough means any loss of low end or results in having to run them louder to get over that ambient sound.

    i think if they had a simple little port plug or something so you could convert them back to regular sealed IEMs i might be more tempted to try them (i've been pleased with my older westone UM3-X, an early version of the same 3-driver unit without any ambient stuff).
     
  10. Gasp100

    Gasp100 Supporting Member

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    Not a bad review for your first experience. My guess is that over time your opinions will skyrocket because... well, vocal performance (especially locking in harmonies) trumps anything else.
     
  11. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    Great report, and very similar to my first experience.

    After awhile I decided to have custom molds done with triple driver. I went with alien ears because they will send you a mold kit that you can do at home. The difference is dramatic. I find that what I hear in my ears is very close to what I hear from the mains.

    I also EQ my guitar totally different because I'm hearing what the PA projects to the audience. Tones I think sound smooth and sweet sound brittle and buzzy. I use far less gain and highs than what I use without in ears. People comment that my FOH tone is far better than the other guitarist, and he sounds amazing on stage.

    I've also found that some compression on the in ear mix is a big plus, softer vocals are heard much better without blowing out my ear on louder parts.
     
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  12. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    I'd say this is more a general issue of running direct. If the wedges are laid out well, you shouldn't hear a lot of what's coming out of someone else's monitor. That just makes for sonic mayhem.
     
  13. RCM78

    RCM78 Member

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    All I'm going to say is if you're impressed with the 215's you will love custom molded multi driver buds.
     
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  14. ToneGrail

    ToneGrail Member

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    I've been using the Rolls wired system for the past 7 years. I haven't gone wireless for one reason. I need to be able to bend over, twist a knob and turn myself up or down relative to the overall monitor mix without having to rely on the sound man. I always plug my vocal mix directly into the Rolls and use the pass thru xlr to feed the FOH. I take an overall mix from the board into the monitor in on the Rolls.

    I plan on using this in conjunction with a wireless IEM unit. Instead of plugging my headphones into the headphone out, I will plug a 1/4" instrument cable into it and feed it into one channel of the transmitter. I'll get an overall monitor mix from the board and feed it into the 2nd channel of the transmitter. I'll use the individual channel volume controls on the receiver belt pack to balance my vocals with the overall mix.
     
  15. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    ooh no, that's a very bad idea :warning :nono:mmm:tapedshut

    compression on monitors leads to "over-singing" where you push your voice too hard because you don't hear it get louder when you push harder. that leads to blown-out voices and shortened singing careers. (it also leads to annoying feedback with monitor wedges because they don't seem to get louder even while being turned up.)

    i suppose if you're not singing then you might get away with it, but for anybody singing it's vital that you do whatever it takes to have no compression in your monitor mix.

    traditionally on analog boards this meant going to such lengths as splitting each vocal mic into two channels on the board, with compressors inserted on one for out front and the other used just for monitor sends. the classic trick with analog boards was to send vocals to a subgroup and then compress that subgroup, all with the goal of comp'ing vocals out front for a smooth mix without compressing monitors!

    with modern digital boards they will have settings to make the aux sends (what the monitors get) "pre dynamics" so that none of the compression or gating gets into them, and that's what you should do.
     
  16. ToneGrail

    ToneGrail Member

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    Typically, does the sound man send the monitor mix via XLR or 1/4" to the IEM transmitter?
     
  17. Giga

    Giga Member

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    That depends entirely on the mixer he/she is using . Typically, cheaper ones will have jacks and more expensive ones will have XLR’s. That same goes for the actual headphone-units btw...

    Giga
     
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  18. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    Respectfully, I disagree. With in ears, some compression can allow higher volume without hearing damage. In ears, in general encourage vocal health by allowing you to hear yourself very clearly and not forcing to be heard over the din.

    Now on wedges, you're 100% correct. Compression leads to oversinging.
     
  19. ToneGrail

    ToneGrail Member

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    My wired Rolls unit has a 1/4 input only. I'm assuming it's an unbalanced line level input. So can I assume a lo-to-hi Z line matching transformer will do the job of the sound man hands me an XLR feed from the monitor send?
     
  20. Giga

    Giga Member

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    The drummer in one of my regular gigs also uses a Rolls and I’m sure he only uses an XLR to jack cable to go from my Qu-SB which has all XLR’s to his unit so no transformer needed. Although that might change when the signal first has to go through a multi. The Qu is always on stage close to said drummer.

    Giga
     

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