In Ear Monitors Lessons Learned

Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,250
Hey TGP - I recently added In Ear Monitors to my gear...primarily because I developed tinnitus from one ear...but I now understand the value of not only having hearing protection from IEMs but also being able to hear myself play with detail. I've used them in 3 practices so far and inevitably will be using them playing to live audiences. But ultimately this is a realm I have no experience with. Wondering if you have some lessons learned to share that can help me (us) get up the learning curve more quickly? Particularly if you set up your own sound?
 
Messages
3,192
Maybe tell us a bit more about your setup. Are all the band members on IEMs, or are there wedges in play too? Is there an acoustic drum kit, amps?

I've done IEMS with acoustic drums and modelled amps, and the result was ok, but once we switched to E-drums it was a revolutionary difference. Short "lessons learned/tips" I'd suggest are:
1. Have at least 1 person in the band who really understands how to dial a mix...someone who understands headroom, and balance. This person should spot check everyone's mixes periodically. If you're mixing your own IEM's it can be tempting for musicians to just crank their own instrument up in the mix and eventually run into the channel limit. Or alternatively keep bumping into the master limiter. Having a periodic 'spot check' can ensure that there's enough room in the faders to make adjustments as needed at the gig. Some musicians can be trusted to do a good balance of their own mix and leave headroom...others, not so much. Know who's who in your own band!
2. Watch the channel limiter...you don't want to use this as a compressor; it doesn't sound good. Its purpose is to protect your ears from accidental loud sounds. If set correctly it should never go off in your regular use, or at most simply flash occasionally.
3. Stereo is nice....very nice. Even if the FOH feed is mono it is very immersive to have stereo IEMs and some FX going on.
4. Make sure your get IEMs that fit your ears well. They don't have to be custom, but if they're routinely breaking seal it's going to be a problem, try a different tip.
5. Cable management...if you're using wired IEMs. I like using a Behringer PM1 adapter attached to my guitar strap. This lets the headphone main feed be an XLR cable (easily extended to whatever length is needed, and way more robust than those stupid headphone extender cables that always break). The PM1 has a volume control on it (passive only, so it's an attenuator) which is handy for giving me local control of the overall level. I normally set it about halfway up. To the best extent possible I try to run the headphone XLR along with my guitar lead.
 

Tswan7

Member
Messages
13
2nd the recommendation for stereo use. I like to pan the instruments and if there are multiple singers. It gives the whole mix more clarity. I find that if there are all in the middle then I get a muddy mix and have to get volumes much higher to compensate. Something that I found that has been a game changer is having a room mic set up. I can bring it in the mix just a little and it gives me the room feel that I’m used to.
 

Muzbomb

Member
Messages
61
I haven't made the move to IEM's yet but my fave tip from another band I know that use them is to have your MD with an IEM only mic so that they can do silent(ish) count ins, count down to section changes or pass whatever other instruction they want to the band without the audience hearing.
 

Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,250
So I'm in a 5 piece band with acoustic drums. Thus far we've only been practicing to get a few set lists ready, so no performances outside of practice. The drummer and I share a line out from the PA and I run that into my Behrenger Powerplay P1. I run a cable from my amp's line out into the P1 as well. It's been tricky for me to hit a sweet spot with the mix and not knowing what my amp is doing in ambient is problematic. I set up my 3 channels/levels at the beginning of practice and then put my IEMs in (foam tips). I rely on my band mates to tell me if my sound is harsh or too quiet/loud. I am going to custom molded IEMs for the convenience of being able to take them on and off quickly to monitor ambient sound. Mixing the PA's signal is easy, but as you can imagine it is vocal heavy. Wish everyone was mic'ed up and going into the board but that's just not how it is. For practice, this is fine, my main goals have been met - preventing further hearing damage and I'm able to hear myself play with precision (been hacking away for so long to compensate when I can't hear my playing).

Now when we go to performances in the future I have no idea what to expect. Some places will have sound, some no and we will bring our own PA...but only for vocals. I like Tswan7's idea of a room mic...maybe even for live performances?
 

Stokely

Member
Messages
1,858
Stereo is indeed nice. Even if all the instruments are mono, you can pan them apart to whatever degree you want, which helps you hear each of them more clearly--and possibly allowing you to turn down even more :)

My normal safety spiel...don't put them in and then start turning things up and on. Do all that first and make sure you have a volume for them that is down. Ideally you would have a limiter as close to your ears as possible, in your headphone amp.

Have a backup plan for different PAs. When we use our PA, no problem. Sometimes with another PA I can run them, sometimes I don't feel comfortable. If they have a digital mixer and are willing to give you control of your own aux, I'll probably go for it. I also sometimes bring a small mixer that lets me take a signal that normally would go to a powered wedge. If we had an old school sound company with unpowered monitors I likely wouldn't even ask, thankfully those are usually outdoors on larger stages. Basically I come prepared for not being able to use them.

I've never had a stage mic for hundreds of gigs, we generally don't need to be talking to each other on stage after nine years together. I've thought about it just for ambience, but so far haven't bothered. I'm now used to singing with dry vocals in in-ears, I know out front it sounds better--if I can make it sound good dry in my in ears, it should sound killer out front! We do a mix of in-ears and wedges, never had a lineup where everyone was on them.

One little bit of advice...if your mix is lacking it's more serious with IEMs. Say you can barely hear the bass. You can still play (I'm keys) but you might tend to overplay since the song sounds anemic. I've noticed in our live recordings the whole band does tend to overplay--I think mainly this is what many bands just do live--but because you are so mix-dependent, not being able to hear any onstage amps or other wedges, it can be a more serious problem.
 

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,971
Biggest lesson I've learned: it'll never sound like your listening to a record. Less is more. I tried to get a "mix" that had a decent amount of the other instrucments in but I ended up having to bring everything down other than the main things I needed to hear: my vocals and my guitar. Here's my mix:
Vocals: If your not a lead vocalist i leave you out of my mix. We have 2 female singers and i have both in my mix. My vocal is above both the females so I can hear my harmonies clearly.
Bass: Barely audible in my mix.
Keys: a bit more than barely audible as I rely on hearing the keys as they start some songs.
Drums: I have high hat, a bit of bass drum and the drummers electronic "pad" in the mix.

Thats it. If i try to go more they distort. (and i have a good setup). Less is more.
 

kingsxman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,971
2nd the recommendation for stereo use. I like to pan the instruments and if there are multiple singers. It gives the whole mix more clarity. I find that if there are all in the middle then I get a muddy mix and have to get volumes much higher to compensate. Something that I found that has been a game changer is having a room mic set up. I can bring it in the mix just a little and it gives me the room feel that I’m used to.

Dont you need multiple inputs to your IEM's to be able to do stereo? I was thinking of doing this tonight at my gig but our drummer (who knows more about this than I do) said that we need multiple outputs from the IEM mixer in order to do this. We have a Behringer X-Air mixer and I use the X-air mixing app on my phone. Was simply going to try putting some stuff to the left and some to the right and see how it goes...but apparently it wont work.
 

Luke V

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,590
Dont you need multiple inputs to your IEM's to be able to do stereo? I was thinking of doing this tonight at my gig but our drummer (who knows more about this than I do) said that we need multiple outputs from the IEM mixer in order to do this. We have a Behringer X-Air mixer and I use the X-air mixing app on my phone. Was simply going to try putting some stuff to the left and some to the right and see how it goes...but apparently it wont work.
Actually you need two aux outs to run your IEMs stereo. The xAir has 6 aux's. So it depends on how many monitor mixes you are using.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
40,263
I was thinking of doing this tonight at my gig but our drummer (who knows more about this than I do) said that we need multiple outputs from the IEM mixer in order to do this. We have a Behringer X-Air mixer and I use the X-air mixing app on my phone.
you have to take two of the six aux outs on the mixer and "link" them so they become one mix with a l/r pan control for each channel. then you have to have a stereo IEM setup with that's also set "stereo" as opposed to "mono" or "mix mode"

also, the aux outs need to be adjacent and odd/even; so 1&2, 3&4 or 5&6 can be linked, but not 2&3 or say 1&5

once set up, you'll see the app will show a little L-R panning slider at the top of each of your monitor faders
 

Stokely

Member
Messages
1,858
Yep, either two sends--our QSC touchmix had a couple that were tied together, so one TRS cable was all I needed--or something like the Behringer p16m, which gives me all the channels separately over one ethernet--they call it ultranet--cable and I can pan and control them. Even eq, though I don't bother. If you are using a Behringer mixer that might be the ticket, it also has a limiter in it.
 

WillLane

Member
Messages
2,537
The biggest lesson for IEM's that everyone should learn before they purchase: Buy the right product and install them properly the first time. I've seen how poor quality/poorly installed IEM's have negatively affected a bandmate's perception of IEM's for life; from amateur players to professional level talent.

For anyone reading interested in going down this route, what I'd recommend for a flawless first experience: stereo-capable IEM's (PSM300 is a general entry point), a monitor console with twice as many bus outs as you have IEM systems (for stereo operation), stereo hard-panned ambience mics, great gain staging (green/low yellow bouncing everywhere), an active or passive audio split for FOH, great input processing (low cuts, EQ, comp, etc.), great RF management, and training.

I'd argue that you need to look at the transition to IEM's as a long-term investment into your band's future. You can sacrifice things here and there but the more you sacrifice the harder your time will be during the transition.

I regularly use and manage a mono IEM system. We make it work through great gain staging, great processing, great RF management (we keep the IEM rack on the stage), and training. But when the IEM's were first installed (not by me), everyone hated using them. It took a lot of training and a lot of fixing other people's mistakes to get us to where we are now. But we still have bandmates who regularly complain about not being able to hear well, who take an earpiece out and turn their channels up too high.
 

JCW308

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,966
Hey TGP - I recently added In Ear Monitors to my gear...primarily because I developed tinnitus from one ear...but I now understand the value of not only having hearing protection from IEMs but also being able to hear myself play with detail. I've used them in 3 practices so far and inevitably will be using them playing to live audiences. But ultimately this is a realm I have no experience with. Wondering if you have some lessons learned to share that can help me (us) get up the learning curve more quickly? Particularly if you set up your own sound?
See previous thread (s). Lots of great and very current info there.
 

Tswan7

Member
Messages
13
Dont you need multiple inputs to your IEM's to be able to do stereo? I was thinking of doing this tonight at my gig but our drummer (who knows more about this than I do) said that we need multiple outputs from the IEM mixer in order to do this. We have a Behringer X-Air mixer and I use the X-air mixing app on my phone. Was simply going to try putting some stuff to the left and some to the right and see how it goes...but apparently it wont work.
We use a presonus board and for each person we connect from two aux outputs into the left and right input of our IEM.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
20,589
If you can do stereo, do it!
Custom mold with multi drivers are the best investment overall.
Always opt to turn a full mix down to hear something better. Turning up will just hide everything more quickly.
 

Tony

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,166
So I'm in a 5 piece band with acoustic drums. Thus far we've only been practicing to get a few set lists ready, so no performances outside of practice. The drummer and I share a line out from the PA and I run that into my Behrenger Powerplay P1. I run a cable from my amp's line out into the P1 as well. It's been tricky for me to hit a sweet spot with the mix and not knowing what my amp is doing in ambient is problematic. I set up my 3 channels/levels at the beginning of practice and then put my IEMs in (foam tips). I rely on my band mates to tell me if my sound is harsh or too quiet/loud. I am going to custom molded IEMs for the convenience of being able to take them on and off quickly to monitor ambient sound. Mixing the PA's signal is easy, but as you can imagine it is vocal heavy. Wish everyone was mic'ed up and going into the board but that's just not how it is. For practice, this is fine, my main goals have been met - preventing further hearing damage and I'm able to hear myself play with precision (been hacking away for so long to compensate when I can't hear my playing).

Now when we go to performances in the future I have no idea what to expect. Some places will have sound, some no and we will bring our own PA...but only for vocals. I like Tswan7's idea of a room mic...maybe even for live performances?

So, want to be sure I understand:

You are monitoring your guitar thru the IEMs, but that's it - everything else on stage is ambient.

Do I have it right?
 

VaThump

Member
Messages
293
So thats all I would need to buy?
You say your mixer has 6 aux outs, so I'm assuming you're running the XR18 (not the XR16). In that case, you can use the XR18's ultranet out to feed 16 channels to one or more individual P16 monitor mixers.

If you only want to solve your own monitoring problem, all you need to buy is an ethernet cable and a P16.

Depending on the geometry b/w the mixer, your stage position, and the drummer's, you could get two P16-Ms and daisy chain them. Each P16-M will get the same 16 channels from your mixer over the ultranet connection, but you and the drummer can independently mix those inputs however you like.

If you'd like the P16s to receive power over the Cat5 "ultranet" cable, you can add a P16 hub.
 
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