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I have being asked by a friend if I can recommend a in ear monitoring system for use by there lead vocalist.


They are a indi rock band travelling around various venues, so what things should they look for in a setup?


Any recommendations greatly appreciated




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IEM Systems can be expensive. Lots of people think they're massively overpriced. But when you compare an IEM system to a professional quality monitor wedge then you find they can be quite a bit cheaper.


I stock Sennheiser G2 and G3 IEM systems although Shure also make fairly popular systems.


Most people want the ability to wander around freely, be able to have good control of what goes into them and sometimes be able to blend 2 things at once.


one advantage of the Sennheiser systems (it's probably there on the Shure ones too) is the ability to blend using the up and down keys between 2 mixes. Rather than having a stereo mix, you can have a band mix and a vocal mix. That way the singer can blend between the band and his/her vocal.


Some key things to think about :


* Price, These systems can cost £800 + the cost of custom moulds which can be hundreds of pounds themselves.

* Frequency, Do you need a license for the frequency bands, how does it fit with other wireless stuff you have, mics, guitar packs, venue wireless systems, nearby stuff,

* Battery life. 6 hours, is that 3 shows, or 4, or 2, Do you want to use rechargeable batteries?

* What you put in them. They can be fairly isolated, if you're not putting mics on everything in the band then you can't put it in his/her ears, will this be a problem.

* Ambient noise. Lots of bands have ambient mics setup, often pointing at the audience. These feed into the IEMs to give them some ambient feedback from the crowd. typically a monitor engineer will manually (or using scenes on a console) fade these in and out at what is deemed the appropriate times, like on the last chord of a song or in a section of audience participation.

* Moulds themselves. The best type are custom moulded. This takes time and costs money. Generally IEM manufacturers need 2 sets of moulds which can cost £100 just for the impressions. You then have to send them off and get custom moulds made. This can cost several hundred pounds.

*Spare parts. What happens when your singer breaks something. is there a backup plan. If you scrap your wedges completely, and the IEM pack breaks or you get to a venue and there is no frequency allocation for you, what do you do?



So I would recommend a Sennheiser G3 system in GB band if you have a shared license. I have heard mixed reviews on the Shure stuff. I have used an old system on stage myself some years ago and hated it, but I am not putting that down to just the system, I think the engineer's gain structure was a bit rubbish and unnecessary noise was apparent because of it.

If you're a touring band earning a living from this I'd recommend the ultimate ears range. I've just ordered a new pair of UE11 for myself (11's over 18's as most of the acts I work with use 11's so it makes more sense to have the same) though you may find that the budget doesn't allow for these.


<Please note I deal with Sennheiser stuff day in day out (over 80 channels in hire stock) and have a good relationship with the local UE dealer. My post recommends these as these are what I have found to work best for most people, I'm not as some people may think, trying to sell you anything>




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Wireless? Don't buy cheap, you don't need the most expensive wireless system but the £50 stuff is rubbish. Get good earpieces (Shure SE215 or better) I have ACS T3s and they are very good, custom is the way to go if you can afford it. If he's never used IEMs before try the concept with a simple wired system, rig an extension from the desk headphone output and get him to rehearse with his favourite headphones on. The isolation IEMs cause (actually one of their advantages in many ways) can be disorientating and also consider that they'll only really work if you mic everything, including an audience mic or two. Good luck.


Rob got there first, I wouldn't disagree with what he says except to add :-


ACS T3s cost £250 including impressions, Shure SE215s are well under £100.


Procell AA batteries cost 22p each, change them every show and use the discards in your TV remote.


Definitely pay the premium and go to a good dealer who will let you demo an IEM rig before you buy (but, if he does, please then go and buy it from him rather than look for a cheaper one on t'net) you may need him later.

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This might help - but Rob Beech has mainly covered it.


The only thing I'd say is that Armature Driver based earpieces are critical in my opinion - you get too much incoming stage noise with dynamic driver based earpieces.


I would suggest Sennheiser EW300 G3 system, on Channel 38 (if you're touring, your licence comes with you).....but this is mainly based on my useage - I've had Trantec and Shure systems in the past - both did a job, but the Sennheiser is a class above in my experience.

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Thanks guys some great advice a lot will depend on the vocalists budget but at least I have a better idea of what to recommend.


Couple of more questions that you may be able to help with.


Both the Shure and the Sennies have the ability to provide a mix between the band and the vocalist,this will require 2 monitor feeds to the transmitter,could this be a problem


with some sound guys at the desk?


Would you place the transmitter at the desk or on the stage ?


What would you recommend battery wise is it best just to stick to Duracell pro type batteries?




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If the sound guy has enough aux sends he should be fine, OTOH if he can get the mix right you may only need one feed. Stereo can help to separate the instruments and a 'more me" facility may be useful for her but I'd probably try her with a mono mix to start with.


Procell batteries all the way for me BTW, cheap, simple and pretty reliable.

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When vocalists use in ears for the first time do they sometimes feel somewhat isolated as if they are cut off from crowd?


Yes, which is why I suggested trying a wired rig in rehearsal first, you could rig it with the singers vocal and a single ambient mic (to pick up the backline) going to the headphones just to prove the concept.

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As a regular IEM user, with a rubbish or just un-understanding engineer, the wedges are better because you can mover in out, left right to give yourself more of what you need. I found the change to IEMs with our regular sound guy difficult, and changes the band would make would really mess it up for me - maybe the keyboard monitors were a little wrong, and he couldn't hear, so he would turn up, and I suddenly get loads of him in my ears and nothing mid song I can do. I had a pair of mould made - but they don't work for me, we all sing, and because it's all high stuff, I need to have the mic quite high so my chin goes up, and when I open my mouth wide, the mould doesn't fit, and lets in the sound! I've gone back to SE215's and the foam inserts and these are comfy, effective and don't 'pop' when I drop my jaw.


We now all have personal monitor mixers and it works really well for us - I have everyone else mostly on one ear, and me and my bass on the other side and that works pretty well. We do have an audience mic too, but I don't actually have much of it in my mix at all.


Worst thing is that you can't talk to each other very well.


We've a rack of 4 Sennheiser TXs, and I'm very happy with them.


Biggest step forward is the personal mixers. From time to time we do a PA supplied show and if the sound people are a bit 'worrying' I go back to a wedge, and just put up with a poor mix. On a wedge system, you can manage this. I cannot play with a poor mix in my ears.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've found that when musicians move onto IEMs, they can hear in much more detail, and are mortified by what their performance actually sounds like.


Lolz - That's one way of putting it :)


Its made us perform way better as a band than we ever did before going IEM.


We have the Behringer P16 system which we use at all gigs except festivals and we use the system at rehearsals as well, so get an absolutely consistent sound which I'm sure has helped the band immensely.


No more ringing ears, no more whingeing that the engineer has given us a bad monitor mix etc etc.


Definitely the way to go now the systems have become more affordable.

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+ whatever number it is for Rob's recommendation of the Sennheiser kit. I've not found anything as reliable and good.


Be prepared to spend more time getting the monitor mix "just so". With the additional clarity comes a desire for a really good mix.


On the "feeling isolated" bit, I almost always (channels permitting) set up a spare room mic which goes only to the IEMs to give a bit of atmosphere.

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I just grabbed a Sennheiser 300 wireless system. When I've used them in the past, always had a great mons engineer and loved it.


At the mo, I'm in a trio playing on an almost silent stage. Better than a wedge on a small stage, no doubt, (for me!)...


Gtr using a Pod, me on DI'ed keys and acoustic gtr, singer girl also plays sax(es) with bass and drums on track coming from QLab - we all sing, too. So, everything is going thru the desk and having 3/4 live mics is enough for ambience, really. My mix is mainly me and track with a little vocal. I do do the FOH sound, too so sometimes flip to the FOH mix to check stuff. (X32 rack with and iPad on my keys stand). Love having a stereo mix - just gives a nice bit confidence, I find.


I do need some proper moulds doing because of my strange shaped inner ears! Big on the outside, but, tiny canals... The phones in the box actually sound fine but one just doesn't fit and goes wayward now and again.


Quick afterthought edit picking up on an earlier post... Yeah, I've heard detail in my playing I've never noticed before, and adjusted/improved on. The guitarist has said that he has had to think a lot more, too because he has "a direct line to my ears..." He's on a wedge, still. So, even though the others are on wedges, it's actually improved our playing on a few levels.

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