In-Ear Monitor Introduction
If you’re a player, think back to the last gig you played using floor wedges. You could hear everything with complete clarity no matter where you were on the stage. The stage volume was absolutely perfect and every conversation you had after the gig didn’t sound like you were underwater and there was zero feedback all night.
What’s that? You’ve never had that experience with floor wedges? Fear not! You’re not alone in your strife. In-ear monitors were born out of a need to solve these specific problems, to create a better sounding and safer stage experience for artists.
We’ve outlined the top 5 reasons why an in-ear monitor is a way to go.
In the past, the quality of the monitor mix was considered “good” if the artists were able to hear themselves, along with the rest of the band. Using in-ear systems allows the monitor engineer to provide a custom, studio quality stereo mix for the artist. This helps the artist to better focus on every grace note and accent that distinguishes his or her sound.
We all know what feedback sounds like. That horrible whistling that starts as a quiet squeal and quickly builds into an ear-shattering scream. 99 percent of the time that is coming from the floor wedges. In-ear monitor systems provide the artist with a healthy listening volume and the monitor engineer with the luxury of not needing to ring* the monitors before every sound check.
I worked with an artist who switched from wedges to in-ears between tours. When I heard this as a monitor engineer, I immediately went into my happy dance because my load in time had just been slashed by 75%. Floor wedges come with all kinds of cases for drive systems*, cables, and the wedges themselves. Heaven helps us if we are working an arena show with a giant stage set. My monitor world rig now consists of a digital desk, a 32-space, shock mounted rack full of monitor systems, drawers and pull out shelves.
Using floor wedges grounds the artist to the “sweet spot” on the stage. Too much movement from that spot and the mix clarity becomes an issue. Loudspeakers are directional. With in-ear systems, the mix goes with the artist. Let the lead singer do the David Lee Roth splits off the drum riser while the guitar and bass players do the synchronized guitar neck swing. It doesn’t matter the mix stays the same.
If you compare system to system, the cost of going with a floor wedge monitoring system versus an in-ear monitoring system is about the same. Where the cost difference is really made is in the resources of time and space. The setup and maintenance of an in-ear system are considerably less than a floor wedge system. The amount of space needed to store and transport in-ear systems is literally a fraction of the space for a floor wedge system.
If given the choice, I will always choose the in-ear system and try to sway any artist with whom I work to do the same. Ultimately, it comes down to the artist and what makes them most comfortable on stage.
*Ring monitors – EQing the loudspeakers to eliminate feedback
Written by: Kevin Waites
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