I am a big fan of in-ear monitoring systems. I believe that any church that is serious about sound quality, lower stage volume and better worship team performance needs to invest in an in-ear monitoring system. Consequently, I place a very high value on low-tech, user-friendly products.
With this in mind, we put the RSS M-48 Live Personal Mixer to the test.
We chose to install this system in our mid-week service room that seats approximately 150 people. Sound is always an issue in this room. To further complicate issues, the system in this room is completely analog, with no digital capabilities whatsoever. We needed to approach this test as if the system would be an add-on to our normal system.
I set the stopwatch and we were able to completely install the system- which included five mix stations, a digital snake and a distribution hub- in approximately one hour, without using the instructions. Kudos to an amazing RSS design team that knows how to build a system with non-technical people in mind!
However, admittedly we did have to consult the manual in order to set up the digital snake system. We learned that it is important to ensure that the front of house snake and the stage snake are set to send and receive properly. Otherwise, the audio signal doesn’t make it to the M-48 Personal Mixers.
So what makes this installation so easy? The first part of the answer has to do with the S-0816 FOH and the S-1608 Stage Digital Snake Units. For our purposes, we only used 16 channels for in-ear monitoring support. However, you can link up to four Digital Snakes to provide 40 channels of in-ear monitoring using a S-4000 M Merge Unit. Alternatively, you can use one of the RSS S-4000 Digital Snakes. That is a great advantage for worship teams that want to include a full drum mix in their in-ear monitors and still have room for all the other musicians and vocalists.
We selected 16 inputs that we wanted to include in our headphone mix. The instruments and vocals we selected were inserted into the S-1608 Stage Unit. At the FOH position, standard mic cables were used to patch the 16 inputs from the S-0816 FOH Unit to the mixing console. One Cat5e Ethernet cable with RJ45 plugs on each end connected the two Digital Snake units. The Cat5e Ethernet Cable looks like a CAT-5 Cable, only on steroids. Each end has the appearance of an XLR mic cable, but the connector is actually a locking Ethercon connector with an RJ45 plug. It’s built to last.
Mic-pres are built into the digital snake and controlled by a S-4000R Remote Controller, RCS software, or by using the M-400 or M-380 V-Mixers. With this remote controller you can adjust the volume of each individual mic-pre, you activate phantom power on each individual channel and you can add pad settings to individual channels as well.
This brings us to the M-48 Live Personal Mixer. Let me just say that Roland Systems Group has listened to the complaints and suggestions that working musicians have had about other personal monitoring systems, and they have come up with a design including features that are simply amazing.
I would really like to thank RSS for putting an AMBIENT MIC in each mix station! How many musicians are frustrated because they can’t hear what’s going on once they put on their in-ear monitors? I can’t remember how many times I’ve used the universal sign for “I can’t hear you”. With this system you can adjust how much outside sound you want to add to your mix.
Additionally, you can now sweeten your own mix with reverb that is assignable per channel. This feature includes a global on and off button if you’re looking for an instant dry mix. Another thank you to RSS for this, because we all know that reverb covers a multitude of sins.
All in-ear systems come with panning and EQ capabilities, but RSS takes it one step further by providing three bands of EQ with a mid-frequency adjustment option. There are also global adjustments for bass and treble. Another very cool feature is the adjustable limiter. It’s not sophisticated, but it does do the job adequately. I found that when I was playing with an acoustic guitar and voice, it wasn’t needed. But in a full band situation it was extremely helpful in creating a very basic “mastered” sound.
I’m a guitar player, so there are features that I may not be looking for that other members of the band are. For instance, my drummer asked if there was a way to plug in a metronome. Guess what: there is! RSS provides an Aux In for that very purpose. There is also a Recording Output that allows you to make a recording for rehearsal purposes. What a great feature. There is also a 1/4” plug and a 1/8” plug for headphones or in-ear monitors.
Additionally, each personal mixer can control up to two separate floor wedges as long as they are powered speakers or powered by an external amplifier.
The only part that I wasn’t thrilled about is the control surface. It is amazing in that you can access up to 40 channels via 16 stereo groups, but it only allows you to have access to 8 channels at a time, accessible by two layers labeled 1-8 and 9-16. I am used to accessing 16 channels in other products. Of course, this is not a deal breaker compared to all the other features RSS has included in the M-48 Personal Mixer.
To wrap up the installation, each Personal Mixer gets its 40 channels of audio and power using the S-4000D which supports up to eight M-48 units. They are all connected using the Cat5e cable. The S-4000D is fed from the digital snake via a Cat5e cable. This system is so portable and component based that it’s ideal for new church start-ups as well as permanent installations.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add that if you already have a digital set up, you are way ahead of the game. You can take advantage of additional features, such as direct connection to the RSS V-Mixer Digital Consoles and the ability to remotely control the mic-pres and set up the M-48 Personal Mixers. You can even remotely control the mic-pres via select mixing consoles from other manufacturers.
If you are looking for a feature packed personal monitoring system that is easy to set up and easy to use, then I would suggest taking a serious look at the RSS by Roland M-48 Personal Monitoring System.