IEM sounds too "direct"

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by craigie, Sep 3, 2018.

  1. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    I'd like some help with two things:
    1. getting a good direct bass sound
    2. getting a good IEM bass sound

    Got a question for you IEM users out there regarding getting a good tone in the IEM's and out front.

    I use IEM's. I run my bass through a boss CE3 chorus (only occasionally used) into my TC Electronics RH450 head and out it's DI (post EQ but I usually have everything set flat) into the mixer and use a small 210 just for a bit of stage reinforcement for the guitarists (one in each of the two bands I'm in) who use wedges. I need the IEM's to block out the loud wedges and room sound (tinnitus). Although they are good triple driver Shure SE535's the bass sound isn't too fantastic. It has too much high mids which give finger noise, and the bass distorts a bit (that is probably due to using my headphone microphone through input to be able to get more me at our last (first) gig since I didn't have the luxury of dialing in a great mix for myself and I sure needed to tweak things. Normally with my other two-piece band I can adjust my aux levels at the board quickly between songs and I don't get the distorting bass. I end up rolling off the tone knob most of the way. The "brittle" sound to me is just a direct sound without the benefit of the high frequency roll-off and general smoothing out that bass cabinets give. I am trusting that the sound out front is good and I don't have a separate EQ for the aux channel. I've lived with this and just accept it. But here's the problem:

    In the new band I'm in the guitarist/leader (supremely talented and fantastic guy) loves his wedges, and he loves them LOUD. So much so that I can't block out enough sound with my in-ears. At our gig I put a bit of his guitar and drums in my mix along with my more me bass, and just relied on monitor bleed for all the vocals and the soundcanvas synths, and I was on the far side of the stage. The drummer uses IEM's and electric drums. The guitarist has no amp on stage and uses a cabinet emulator and effects rack. The two vocalists want to have IEM's. One rents and the other plans to. So he's the last one we have to convert and could have a silent stage. He will be a tough sell though. He's been at it for decades this way and loves to hear his guitar loud. At solo (or duo) gigs he just brings one main and puts it up directly behind his head. Now if people are complaining that it's too loud but he's fine with it, imagine how much he's blasting his hearing. I love the guy, and this band is all him. He is the star and the leader and the driving force. Without him it's nothing. It's an amazing opportunity for me to play with solid pros and up my game. We will be able to get him to try IEM's, but if his mix sucks he won't buy into it. The bass sound in particular I can see him having an issue with.

    So after that very long explanation, can you please share how you get a great IEM bass sound. I have tried two sansamp pedals in the past and didn't like them. I can get the same sound with EQ on my amp but I'm reluctant to go for massive EQ'ing since I think they put a good "baked in" sound with everything flat.

    One thing I will try is to get a good IEM sound with EQ tweaks in my amp EQ, and see how it sounds in the main mix. Problem is that gigs won't allow for a lot of time in experimentation this way. I'll suggest to the band that we spend some time in rehearsal getting a good sound set up.
    armybass likes this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    That's my thinking as well.

    Maybe try your DI pre-eq and adjust from the board.
    ObsessiveArcher and craigie like this.
  3. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Well, the first challenge IMHO is what do you define as "good tone" for your bass ??
    One man's junk is another's treasure... :)
    Scottkarch likes this.
  4. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    True, but it is way too raw and clacky sounding. It will work itself out in experimentation.
    Johnny Crab likes this.
  5. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    That's OFTEN the case when bass needs to sit in the mix.. however, if you have a digital console, you might be able to put EQ on your IEM mix buss and get rid of it, without impacting the FOH sound.
    If the bass distorts.. it's too hot a signal.
    You'll need to give more details on which console and what you're using to power your IEM's off the aux buss.
    It might be as simple as putting an EQ pedal between the console and your ears?? idk..
  6. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    I don't know what you do as far as a pedal board, but I use a simple few pedals Everything I like goes through them, and a final pedal is a bass preamp (in my case at the time, an MXR M80). I send the parallel out from the last preamp to FOH, this way, they don't get any changes I make on the last pedal. The affected out goes to one channel of my Sennheiser IEM transmitter (the second channel is fed from monitor land). This way, I get everyone but myself from monitor mixer and my bass from my own preamp (you can use any as long as it has an unaffected parallel out to FOH). I can eq however I want to hear myself all night long. If I need more of me somewhere in the night, twist of a knob. Want to go back to a bit quieter? Same twist of the knob. Works for me.

    You don't necessarily need to use a pedal board, but going through this kind of preamp before FOH and IEM works well.
  7. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    I like this suggestion. I use my amp preamp section. I was thinking of using a small mixer and run my mic and bass DI to it before the board. It would have to have pre-eq outs on the channel strips.

    Our main mixer unfortunately is analog and doesn’t have EQ for the aux’s.
    QweziRider likes this.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I actually like the way the bass sounds flat straight to the board, but you obviously don't. The solution varies depending upon how the monitors are run and how the board is configured.

    I personally think your sound should be optimized for the audience, and unfortunately some finessing is always required to compensate for poor acoustics in the room. Basically this means your sound in the IEMs will not be consistent or possibly even usable if auxes on your channel are configured post EQ. Unless your in a circumstance that has a separate mixer for monitors and FOH, the best you can probably hope for is for the Auxes to be configured pre EQ; so at least you get a flat unprocessed signal. There are ways around this.

    Some digital boards can be set up in duplicate layers so that separate EQ can be used for the monitors and mains. It's confusing and a lot of work, and I don't recommend it unless you always work with the same system and same audio tech.

    Perhaps a simpler solution would be if the bass can be dual assigned to two channels. Once channel is used for the house sound, and the auxes are configured pre EQ/pre fader. The other channel is configured with the Auxes post EQ/pre fader and used only for your monitor mix. IMHO, this option is probably the easiest and most practical, providing the mixer has an extra channel available.

    If you can go for the 2-channel solution, consider sending a pre-EQ DI signal to the channel that will be used for house sound, and sending a post EQ/post volume signal to the channel that will be used for your monitor send. With this sort of setup, the audio tech gets an unprocessed bass signal that can be used for all mixes except yours. You get a mix in which you are free adjust your EQ and volume to taste without impacting any of the other mixes.
    ObsessiveArcher and craigie like this.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Which board? Sometimes channels can be configured with internal jumpers.

    If you like the way your speaker sounds, mic'ing it might give you the ideal sound in your IEMs.
    s0c9 and HolmeBass like this.
  10. just get a channel spliter so your bass mix can be independent of the foh the small mixer option with this setup would be nice because then you have the option to turn yourself up in the mix and have your own eq without effecting anyone elses mix.
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    You're way over thinking this thing. Just use the preamp on your head. Dial in a sweeter sound. That's what it's there for.

    Dial back the highs a little. Dial in some low mid punch. It may make your bass cab slightly more boomy. But it's small enough that it shouldn't kill the front of house mix.

    It'll be fine. Those knobs are there for a reason. ;)
    MrLenny1 and MDBass like this.
  12. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Do they sound good listening to music that sounds like your band's live mix? Do the sound good when you listen to your bass alone, properly routed? If so, check them off on your troubleshooting list.

    Hold the phone. Misrouting your signal through impedance mismatched bits of gear will often screw up your tone, thinning and/or distorting. Start here. How does your bass sound when routed from your TC RH450's direct out into your headphone amp or IEM transmitter to your SE535s? Take the janky juryrigged "headphone microphone" out of the signal flow and see whether good things happen.

    If your IEMs normally sound good but now sound brittle, then if you're feeding FOH from that same signal chain, it probably also sounds brittle, thin, and distorted. The IEM-reluctant BL will also get that same wounded bass tone. Time to troubleshoot.

    After triaging your bass feed to FOH/IEMs, you might still want to add some speaker sim, more me, and IEM-only control. But those add-ons won't fix underlying problems caused by daisychaining a headphone-level signal into an instrument-level or mic-level input somewhere between your amp's DI out and the FOH board.

    If after combing out your signal you still want to tweak your bass sound, TB can recommend some refinements. But first things first.
    craigie and Ricky Caboverde like this.
  13. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Remind him that he with IEMs, he can make his guitar (or the bass) as loud as he wants, without affecting others - it will be HIS mix, not the sound person's. Take some time at rehearsal playing a simple tune, so he can fiddle with the mix.

    I pity his eardrums, although I have a feeling they are already shot.

    If he needs to feel the bass, get a small bass cab and put it behind him.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
    TheBear and craigie like this.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Twisting the knobs on pieces of gear you already own is perfectly allowed; even encouraged. That being said, a low pass filter (Broughton makes one that'll work fine) can be used to take some of the click and clack out of your sound, and can be adjusted to taste. Alternatively, I have an Xotic ep pre that also takes a bit of edge off - it's more subtle than a low pass filter can be, but it helps. I play through a pedalboard on a weekly basis, and hear myself through IEM's - if it doesn't sound good in your ears, don't immediately blame the earbuds - try changing what goes into them. I can't seem to keep a pedalboard constant in terms of what pedals are on there - I'm always changing what's on there, but that little ep pre, as simple as it is, tends to hang on to its spot on the board. It got kicked off for a couple weeks recently (A compressor with some eq took its place for a bit), but yesterday, I was experimenting with things, and somehow it worked its way back on to the board.
  15. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
  16. Ricky Caboverde

    Ricky Caboverde Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I think most of what @derrico1 said will be very helpful. I will add that getting a good IEM bass sound will greatly depend on good isolation, and it doesn't sound like you are. Though SE535s have good bass, they are mainly known for their warm presentation, especially in the mids, which may affect perceived clarity in a noisy environment such as your stage. Also they're not the greatest at isolating (compared to Ety ER-4 or customs). If you're using silicone tips, switch to the included comply tips (foam) and see if that helps isolating; otherwise, try triple-flange tips (may be uncomfortable but isolate the most).

    Also, what headphone amp are you using?
  17. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    You gave me an idea although I hate to take away and then add EQ. I could make very minor adjustments on my amp and send a post signal direct to main mixer. Then use the channel strip EQ to adjust EQ for FOH with the aux’s set to pre EQ. I think it can do that. Would likely only take out a bit of top end and add back in as necessary.

    Lots of good points in this thread and I’ll keep them all in mind when problem solving this. First and foremost will be a good signal chain to the mixer.
  18. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    You have nailed it here. I was continually jamming them into my ears trying to get more isolation. I’m using the black foam tips. I’ll try the flanged. The big part of the problem is stage bleed. Maybe I need some over the ear construction muffs in addition

    Headphone amplifier is a behringer MA400
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
    CatchaCuda and Ricky Caboverde like this.
  19. SLO Surfer

    SLO Surfer

    Jun 3, 2009
    Los Osos, CA
    If you like your amp sound then mic it.
  20. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Don’t think we have an extra channel unfortunately but that is a great idea, thanks!
    Wasnex likes this.