Whew, my login info from way back in the day still works! I haven't posted here since 2005 when I bought my first bass after decades of guitar playing.
This is Scott from Westone. First of all, I owe gratitude to the TalkBass forum for pointing me towards SX many moons ago. Many many moons ago. I play the SX version of a 62 P-bass custom a couple times a month, and record with it regularly.
I can't address specific questions about competitors, other than Westone are aware of their existence.
Since I was asked to join in here, I will - but I'll just warn folks that this will sound like a sales pitch because it is, unabashedly so!
Westone have been making custom in-ear monitors since the beginning of this type of technology and there are various debates as to whether we were first or not. I can say that we have had a hand in getting some of our key competitors off the ground - good news is that more folks are protecting their hearing while performing, bad news is that our company would be much larger now had we protected our intellectual property.
Westone have been making custom in-ear products since 1959. To this day, our primary business is making the custom in-ear pieces for hearing aids - items that have to be worn for 16+ hours a day for many folks. We ship roughly 500,000 of those every year!
My responsibility for Westone is the Engineering and Technical Sales manager for our hearing protection products. My technical background is that I have a masters degree in engineering with a concentration on acoustics and vibration and R&D management. I am a member of the Acoustical Society of America and the Canadian Standards Association committees on hearing protection standards development. I'm also on the Executive Council for the National Hearing Conservation Association.
I'd like to highlight some technical resources regarding this topic which go along with some of the points made so far. One of the items has to do with whether or not it makes sense to remove an earpiece while performing.
I cannot address as to whether this is wise from an in-ear monitoring standpoint but there is a researcher, Brian Fligor, who with Cory Portnuff, have found what typical signal to noise ratios folks use for .mp3 player use. A discussion of this in interview format is available here: http://www.audiology.org/news/interv...20090319a.aspx
What they have found is that listeners of .mp3 players set the volume of the device so that there is a 13 dB signal to noise ratio.
This has several implications pertinent to this discussion:
1. The better the isolation of the earpiece, the less loud one generally sets the volume of the input to the earpiece.
2. If this can be extrapolated to single-sided monitoring, then likely one does set the volume of the earpiece not removed to a much too high level. I do not have research data to bear this out, but I will mention it to Cory as he is here in Colorado and is also on the Executive Council of the NHCA mentioned above. This could be a research topic for his PhD.
Now, to date, while we do have attenuation information for our in-ear systems, we do not publish it as it is not required information for this type of product, and also we do not want to imply that the product is a hearing protection device. That is not how it is sold. However, products which isolate better will do one of two things:
1. Allow the user to set the output of the device to a lower level, which is better, in the end for the user's hearing.
2. Isolate one from the 'crowd' more, putting more of a burden on ambient monitoring solutions.
This second item is a typical discussion point of using isolating in-ear systems. The suggestions offered so far are excellent - with the main concept being use of an additional 'ambience' microphone that is fed as a channel into the in-ear mix. The Roland V-mix systems actually have a small condenser microphone mounted in each of the mix 'pods' that is user adjustable. However, being a live-sound engineer as well, I will say that I find the Roland V-mix system puts quite alot of burden on the person running the main mixer. The Roland system is ridiculously configurable, so that what is fed from the board to the pods are not necessarily individual channels, but mix groups - eg. the bgv singers can be ganged into a group at the FOH mixer, then sent on a single channel to whomever wants those singers ganged into a single mix group - that takes up just one knob on the mix pod. If you fully mic your drum kit, you can mix that down to a single mix group, or send the individual mic channels along as individual mix groups - each personal mixer user getting their own mix group packaging, with all of those setups stored in the main Roland V-Mix board. The possibilities are nearly limitless, but with that kind of configure-ability comes responsibility and initial setup time. Very cool if you have the time; very cool.
I should also point out that not all systems on the market offer a limiting function to protect hearing. I can say that when I use my Westone ES-5 (which sound like heaven in my ears!) with our AVIOM system at our church, I set the volume so low, that I can get 'ambience' as leftover passive passed-through sound, without worry that even a spike will cause 'shock and awe'! With any of these systems, it takes time getting used to it from a performance standpoint.
One thing that we do at our church with our wired in-ear system is feed our reverb return into one of our in-ear mixer channels that we can then dial in to taste as individuals on the stage. This helps to minimize the 'dry mic' sound that can also happen, where the direct mic'ed signals all get fed directly back into the in-ear mixing system. We don't have an ambience feed as we are in a fairly intimate venue (250 seats) and no super bright lights and so we have a good visual connection to the congregation. We know when we are doing our job to inspire their collective worship visually and even audibly simply from their energetic singing.
We think we make the finest in-ear monitors available on the market, both custom designed and manufactured as well as universal fit products that have our 50+ years of know-how of making custom in-ear products that simply is not available with ANY of our competitors.
Anyways, send me a PM if you have any Westone-specific questions/comments. Here's our gear: http://www.westone.com/music/
make sure to check out the 'bling' on the custom shop page for true GAS inducing product! This is an interactive custom shop configurator - I have Candy Green monitors with the Sunset Exotic faceplates.