You should consider getting your band to get rid of those monstrous stage monitors and get some IEMs (In Ear Monitors). Once you do, you’ll be amazed at how much better your band sounds.
Using IEMs has made a huge difference in our sound.
- It has significantly reduced the stage noise. The noise from traditional floor wedges always bleeds over into the house. That creates a real muddy sound. The more you can reduce the stage noise, the better your band will sound.
- It allows each musician to fine tune their own mix without interfering with what other musicians are hearing (of course we have a lot of auxiliary outputs from our board).
- Monitor noise doesn’t bleed into your microphones. Your mics pick up a lot of sound and you don’t even realize it. They pick up not only your voices, but they also pick up the drums, the guitar amps, and, of course, the sound from your floor wedges.
- Using IEMs also really cleans up the look of the stage. The stage looks great when you get rid of those big ugly things and all the cords and cables that go with them.
- Using IEMs open up a whole new world of musical professionalism for your band. You can now introduce playing to a click, infusing loops, FX, and digital tracks (to fill out your sound or replace a missing instrument).
Cheap. Starting with cheap work arounds will cost you about $500-$600 but you’ll be dealing with some problems if you go this route. Our cheap $40 ear buds (the Sony MDR-AS40EX) were blowing out and getting too hot in our ears. And our Behringer HA4700 distributor (we had two) was giving us a little buzz from dirty power, and was unsightly on our stage. However, I must say, if we hadn’t gone the cheap route first, we wouldn’t have gotten into using IEMs at all. It was that baby step that got us going.
Middle of the Road. Currently, we use Shure SE425 for ears (many of the pros use Ultimate Ears), Sanheizer EW 300 IEM for wireless ears, and the Rolls PM50 for wired ears. We also decided to install floor pockets around the stage to get rid of the central rat’s nest. Each floor pocket includes XLR inputs, XLR Aux outputs, a DMX port, an Ethernet port, and power.
Expensive. Other systems like Aviom the more expensive professional systems allow each musician to control their own mix right at their station. Our board, the Allen & Heath GLD-80, allows us to control our own mixes with an iPhone App called the iLive OneMix. However, we’ve found that even though this option is available, our musicians prefer to communicate with the guy at the sound desk to set their mixes. So, we just use our Sanheizers and Rolls.
If you choose to do this, it’ll be a huge, huge change for all your musicians. It’s very hard for most people to get used to it. Here are some challenges you’ll experience and how we solved it.
The Decision. We found that we couldn’t make this decision based on democracy or what the people in the band felt like doing. The issues identified below were too much for some of the musicians. If it were up to them in the early stages, we would’ve dropped the whole thing and gone back to floor wedges. Most people don’t like change and don’t want to be challenged to improve. Solution: It was the strong and resolved decision of the worship ministry leaders that secured the future of their potential. Holding unswervingly to the goal and working graciously with the musicians was the only pathway to make it work.
The Fit. The first few times you use them can feel really uncomfortable. It’s hard to get used to putting something inside your ears like that. It’s especially uncomfortable when you factor in the next challenge. Solution: There are different sizes and kinds of ear foams for each set of “ears.” Let your musicians experiment with them and find the ones that feel most comfortable to them. Just know that it’ll take many weeks of working with them to get used to them.
Feel Removed from the Room. It really does feel like you’re no longer in the room with the people or even on the stage with the band. The really good “ears” (ear buds) isolate the sound so well that you can’t hear anything but what comes through the “drivers” (the little speakers in the ear buds). It can cause you to feel disconnected from each other and from the people. You don’t hear your own instrument or that of others in the same way. Your entire musical experience is changed. Some will be tempted to pull one ear out so they can hear the room. You shouldn’t do this. Why? Because then you have to increase the volume of the other ear that remains in to compensate for the one that’s out. And, that’s bad for your ear drum. Keeping them both in allows you to hear your mix at a lower volume which is better for your ear drums. Solution: Set up some good ambient mics. Use a couple of good shotgun mics and/or a large diaphragm condensor mics on the stage pointed at the audience. Send that feed to the bands ears till they feel like they’re back in the room again.
It’s Worth It!
If you choose to go in this direction, you’ll never turn back. It’s totally worth it.