A TechArts Solutions Comparison
With so many recent break-through, cost-saving solutions that now exist, we’ve become inspired to provide you with some new ways at looking at adding IEMs to your existing scenario. Depending on the requirements, getting started is most likely within your reach, becoming something any tech should consider. Plus, its awesome to be the hero that takes the opportunity and reaps the rewards of providing solid IEM solutions that benefit and support musicians with the unique challenges they face. But one must fully consider all of the unique variables of their venue and teams to make accurate choices about the system’s requirements.
Why in-ear monitoring? Although you probably already have a list of your own, here is our hit-list which reveals some of the key benefits of using IEMs over stage monitors. In addition, we’ll list solutions that help overcome the challenges that come along with using IEMs.
- Stage volume- As stage volume decreases due to less on-stage monitoring, the audience’s house-mix improves. Remember that this isn’t just because of the dark, ugly indirect sound coming from the stage monitors (or the back side of them, bulking up at 600hz and down), but because of the amount of monitor sound that end up bleeding into your mics. Keeping it clean on stage makes the mix more spacious and open right out of the gate.
- Hearing preservation- Perhaps the number one reason for using IEMs is the ability to greatly reduce the level of stage volume that directly enters the ears of the musician. The personal volume of their mix becomes their personal choice.
- House volume Levels- Now that you have better control of the stage volume, you have more options for the overall volume of the house mix since it has less stage bleed to compete with. This is especially important to smaller venues that are trying to keep the house mix at a lower level.
- Musician’s performance improves- Assuming you have the right mix, or provide them with the tools to make it right and more personalized, you usually end up with an improved performance due to the musician’s ability to hear parts much better.
- Options for adding additional click and/or parts via a track- Depending on the style of music, adding parts that the onstage musician-power cannot accomplish greatly expands the pallet for the arrangement and impact of the music. Unless you are doing traditional bluegrass, classic jazz, or some special unplugged vibe, this is a no-brainer.
- Cleaning up the stage. Stage monitors take up a lot of stage space and sometimes look very unsightly. Stage clutter builds quickly. Its nice to have more options and looks by eliminating them.
There are so many other great reasons to implement IEM’s. But adding IEMs comes with some inherent challenges:
- Musicians feeling isolated- Isolating earphones remove the musician’s surroundings so that they hear only the IEM mix. This takes getting used to. Having stereo stage and/or audience ambient mics is a must. This can take place with a pair of condenser mics in these areas. Some have had success with using boundary mics on stage and audience mics hanging or on stands near the front rows. This takes experimentation. One should also experiment with the “Vandergrift Effect” ambient mix- adding some heavy, high-ratio compression with slow release times to help “duck” these mixes as they are less applicable during higher-volume music passages.
- Getting the mixes right- It will take some tweaking for everyone, especially the first time out so negotiate for some extra time during sound checking and even a fully dedicated IEM rehearsal the first time out.
- Safeguarding their hearing- It is important to provide protection from feedback and loud spikes. Although many wireless IEM body packs have built-in limiting, be sure to add hard limiting on the final mix outputs going to the musicians. In many scenarios, they are hard wired and more vulnerable to suffering permanent damage due to a simple mistake at the console. It only takes once to completely ruin what could be the life’s work of a masterful performing artist. Take this very seriously. Consider getting a colleague to help you set this up.
This is only a hit list of essentials. It takes some planning to have everything in place for the success of having everyone on board. Depending on the professional experience of your musicians, you may want to plan to work your way through the band, from drummer to vocalists, replacing stage monitors little by little so as to provide the proper attention to each of the musician’s specific needs. The musicians need to be satisfied. It takes both the sound person and musician to be dedicated to working through the challenges for that vastly improved end result.
There are a few basic variables that exist when comparing systems.
- Wired vs. wireless. This can vary for each musician. Sometimes the drummer stays behind the drums, which makes wired a cost-effective solution. Sometimes he pops out to play a Cajon, which requires that he has a wireless pack that receives the mix from a remote transmitter. Same scenarios must be considered for each of the others that may or may not be able to be tied down.
- How is the mix is created? Often, one can provide the musicians with the ability to create their own mix but this is not for every musician. Some musicians have the experience necessary to accomplish this; others have no experience and will need a monitor engineer to properly create the mix for them. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Success depends on a proper evaluation of your performers. Having simultaneous control from both musician and monitor engineer is ideal, and especially beneficial when you have the IEMs being mixed from the FOH engineer who needs to focus on the main mix and get some DIY help from the players.
- Dedicated on-stage mixer or iPad. You may already be using iPads on stage for sheet music, again reducing stage clutter from music stands and stand lights. That said, one would first consider iPad-based mixing solutions. Otherwise, having dedicated small mixers might be a useful interface that better fits the players that you are frequently working with.
- Digital Multichannel Accessibility. Your system may already have an available digital, multichannel audio network (such as Dante), or an available point-to-point output (such as Madi) that is available to be used for adding an IEM system. One must consider the method for either placing the individual channels in the hands of the musicians or the monitor engineer, or both. Every setup is unique. Some careful consideration for possible digital multichannel audio upgrades may have other long-term benefits such as the need for a separate broadcast mix.
All things considered
Take time to gather advice from your trusted experts, associates, and team members. With that the following feature comparison chart will start to come to life. We have placed some of the common, and not-so-common system combinations into this birds-eye view. You may think of other ideas or augmentations that could further maximize your benefits or savings. There is no “one stop fits all” system. It has much to do with your specific scenarios. We hope this helps you get the wheels turning. Don’t hesitate to contact us for some specifics. TechArts sells these systems, along with just about all pro audio products. Just call us with your best price and, as always, we’ll work to beat it. 888-AUDIO45. We’d love the opportunity to apply our experience to your efforts.
Chuck’s passion for music and sound recording started in his elementary school years with reel-to-reel tape and playing keyboards in bands. Now, with over 30 years experience and a B.A. in the field of music, sound and technology, Chuck brings the balance of art, design, and technical applications to the table with a wide array of experience. As a composer, he has extensive experience and has composed with and for such greats as Thomas Dolby, Bob Ezrin, and others. As an AV system designer and sound engineer, his ability to create solutions, listen critically, and assemble resources brings every project to completion with excellence. As the owner and visionary for Voice of the Arts, Inc. and TechArts, Chuck is responsible for project designs, operations, management, quality assurance, staying within budget, and delivering on time. Chuck has also served as a dubbing consultant on several international films for 20th Century Fox, Lucas Films and DreamWorks such as Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, and 3, Shrek, Spirit, Titan AE, and El Dorado, bringing these films to Russia, China, Greece, Spain, Poland, among others. Today, it is always evident that his commitment is to bring creative solutions to his client’s needs. Check out Chuck’s blog at http://techartscreative.com/blog