In Ear Monitors (IEM)– Advantages and Disadvantages
In ear monitors have become increasingly popular in any venue with regular music performances. In the church market alone in ear monitors are changing the way that sound engineering works. The reduced stage volume makes it much easier for sound engineers to get a clean mix. Now, be careful, there are also many disadvantages to in-ear-monitors. The price alone can often scare people away. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using personal in ear monitors.
How In Ear Monitors Work
In ear monitors are quite simple. You simply plug in a patch cable on your monitor/auxiliary output on your mixer and plug it into the back of your in ear monitor transmitter. The transmitter will then take the signal and assign it a frequency and send it to the corresponding receiver. The receiver is simply a belt pack, which receives the signal and lets you plug in any type of headphone that you choose.
Advantages of In Ear Monitors
Reduced Stage Noise Of In Ear Monitors
The most obvious advantage of in ear monitors is the reduced stage sound. Sound engineers are able to do a better job of mixing because there is much less noise pollution. Not only will in ear monitors make it easier for the sound engineer to avoid feedback, but it will also help reduce the noise pollution from the stage, may times the audience in the first few rows can hear the monitors louder than the mains.
Portability Of In Ear Monitors
This one is fairly straight forward, with wedge monitors you need a truck, or sometimes even a trailer if you plan on moving the monitors from venue to venue. With in ear monitors all of your receivers/transmitters can easily fit into a rack mount kit, and is very portable. When you get to the venue, simply pass out the receivers/headphones to the musicians and plug your receivers directly into the mixer - Done.
Personal Control With In Ear Monitors
This is another major advantage of using in ear monitors. Even if you are on the same monitor mix as someone else in your band, you can still control the volume of your channel on your belt pack/receiver. Also depending on the brand that makes your in ear monitors, some companies actually make monitor systems that allow you to mix your own in ear monitor mix, allowing you to have total control of what you listen to.
Disadvantages of In Ear Monitors
The Cost Of In Ear Monitors
This used to be a much larger problem than it is now, but price is still an important factor in your decision. For a good setup of in ear monitors you are looking at paying somewhere between $300-$1000 for each set of in ear monitors that you want to purchase. Also, if you want a rack mount kit for your transmitters then you are looking at another $50 per set, plus the cost of the actual rack ($100-300, depending on the size) Right now is a very good time to start looking at your budget for sound gear at your church.
Frequencies Of In Ear Monitors
This is a fairly large problem, and should be carefully measured before purchasing your own set of in ear monitors. A lot of times performers notice a couple problems…
- The performers signal is fuzzy – You can usually fix this problem by replacing the battery on the receiver, or moving the transmitters away from other electronic devices, they can sometimes get interference if they are stacked right beside a lot of power amps, or other rack mounted effects. The distance between the transmitters and the receivers is also important. Make sure you read and know the maximum distance that your IEM system can perform in.
- The performer is getting interference from other monitor channels – This can usually be fixed by simply changing the frequency of all the transmitters and receivers.
- The performer can hear some sort of tv/radio station (or in extreme cases, baby monitors) in the background – Wireless monitors transmit on the same band of frequencies that old television stations used to use, sometimes you may still pick up the odd FM station or just random radio interference. There have been several times when I have mixed, when the worship band hears a sound of a baby in their in ear monitor. Know that there are allot of signal movements between the sound board, wireless transmission and then the receiver pack; to make for some interference. All you can do in this matter, is change your frequencies on the receiver and the transmitter.
The Lack of Ambient Sounds
Many in ear monitors also come with sound isolating headphones which create a bit of a problem for many lead vocalists. Many vocalists get their energy from hearing the crowed singing along/ screaming/ cheering. When you have sound isolating headphones you don’t hear anything other than what is coming through your monitor mix. Many lead vocalists have gone to wedge style monitors because of this problem. Or they insist on only using one headphone instead of two.
In ear monitors are great for churches/ venues/ bands that have larger budgets. They can definitely make a difference in your performance, and in your overall sound, but I wouldn't recommend buying lower quality or entry level personal wireless monitor systems. They often offer less quality, and can be more distracting than they are helpful. If you can afford some middle-higher level wireless systems then I defiantly think that you will be happy with your purchase, even if you just get a set for your drummer and/or lead vocalist it will make a huge difference in the performance value of your show or church service.
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