IEM TRICKS - From Email requests.

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by MNAirHead, May 23, 2012.

  1. Howdy.
    I've received volumes of requests for information relating to IEM.

    Hoping this can address some of the phone calls and emails I receive.

    Commonly I'll note.. "use the main feed and a pass through mixer"

    I believe this may be confusing some readers unless you can try one (personal mixer).

    "Most" manufacturers will also sell a box that allows you to blend yourself into your iem. MOST IEM users are expecting magic by popping buds into their ears.. most IEM newbies do not take responsibility for the basics.

    My personal favorite is the Rolls PM351 as it can also be used for hardwired IEM+DI... practice amp etc.... they're super durable, small and cost about $60 used.

    I do own others (Shure P4M etc).. none of them are as good a value as the Rolls.

    IF you play with other acts, you then can use the personal mixer in conjunction with a powered monitor etc.


    I believe this is the single bigget failure on IEM. Folks will not spend a month acclimating to the IEM.... many do not have a ton of studio experience and not prepared for the different perception.

    This is the second biggest issue. Folks will buy an IEM and not plan for variables... they'll throw the box at the sound guy and expect magic. In reality much of the "more me mixing" can be done right next to us using a personal mixer for "more me"

    While most times IEM will reduce your gear required, it commonly will have other needs (cable options, di boxes etc). Many boards do not have the abililty to send an individual mix for every member of the band. Rare is the sound guy that can effectively check in on the mains... then have a 24x7 handle on what each of the players/vocals are receiving.

    After doing this for a ton of times (both playing and mixing), I've learned that 90% of the time, monitor changes are mains + "more me" instead of shifting this personal request to the sound guy - it makes more common sense to adjust at the point of use.



    IF playing with the same guys using the same gear, this does lessen the burden as many digital boards will save mixes etc.

    IF you play with mutliple bands, churches etc -- it is a good idea to NOT plan around a single setup. For this reason I always suggest you should NOT plan on a self-guided digital mix... instead have the option to just use the mains.

    IF you buy a digital... take the time to search Youtube for tech videos and read the manual top to bottom a few times.. most failures are from folks expecting magic and not doing the homework.

    When selecting a board, it's a beneficial feature to have a setup that DOES NOT require a computer to be turned on. This feature greatly reduces the options... and the risks

    MY PA SETUP(s)
    I get tons of requests about my personal gear selections.

    My bigger rack has a touch-screen computer permanently mounted to it.... the digital mixer will function instantly with the prior mix... no computer or Ipod required. We still have a rackmount 8 channel analog mixer that has real knobs on it. This is useful for announcements, kick drums etc... or when the digital mixer looses it's battery (will eventually happen)

    I RARELY bring the huge rack out as I commonly play classier places... in these events, we use a small footprint desk mixer (I own a few). We either use small monitors OR everyone taps off the main feed and personal mixes.

    Overall, I migrated most stuff to powered... my monitors..mains and subs... this gives me the most flexiblity to grab and go.

    Biggest PA opportunities most folks have is planning cases/storage, flexiblity, organization and cabling...


    Little depends on what you're doing and who you're with.. IF using a Personal mixer, you can commonly use a low-cost microphone to pick up stuff around you...strange thing is that cheap or VERY expensive mics seem to work the best.

    I have one that is geared for doing spectum analysis for high end stereo gear... has a 30 foot cord and looks like a hockey puck... I can tape it to a stand... put it on a monitor... leave it with the drummer etc.

    Most of the time, IEM will sound like being under a magnifying glass and you can hear folks whisper off mic... your audience will not notice as there's shuffling and chatter going on.


    Overall there is a bit of a "street rumor" that some are better than the next... this "may" be true... I own everything from IE-10 to $1000 setups. ... much of the time folks will pay for the earbuds and not the fitting -- kind of like being 1/2 the way there.

    Having them fit by an audiologist seems to be the single biggest improvement. The audiologist can help select a model that will coordinate with your personal hearing loss areas.

    Getting a tight seal is how bass is "really" produced. Smarter folks have pointed out that having a 5 driver IEM isn't nearly as beneficial as having it sealed to your ear.... you can get a temporary tight seal through BUYING high end disposable foam tips.... for some reason the mfg always send a lesser type of tip.

    Cords---the second consideration is a true cord setup... there are some high quality retail store buds that are better than my $$$$$ setup... where the fail is in the cords.. they may not swivel... be durable.. have loops ... be replaceable etc.

    ERGONOMICS.. there are some that just aren't as sleek to use... they may not fit inside your ear... may be cumbersome etc. I have a few models that I have had mounted in my head for a week strait and never fall out (yes even sleeping)


    2 EARS RULE....
    Overall... while it "looks" cool to have one in...there is a "2 ears" function of hearing that makes this not a smart way to go...


    I have a magazine article I wrote for a sound enginers magazine somewhere floating around the internet... lost the link... if someone has it, please post a follow up.

    Hope this helps someone...

    slavetothegrind likes this.
  2. fab thankyou
  3. You're welcome...

    I spent a year scouring the world trying to find out how road crews consistently created success. I was fortunate enough to click into some pro sound managers etc.

    The most ineteresting thing I learned through this is there is a large ammount of touring acts that tour with a monitor producer... then send a premixed blend to FOH crew (from the host city)....

    I didn't spend a ton of time roughing out the above --- just random ramblings that were the success differences.

    When starting down the IEM path, I can't tell you how many folks had only tried it one way and put their trust into luck vs planning.
  4. Apologies again for not editing and just rambling...

    The intent was to address the commonly received questions.

  5. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    Good stuff!

    Getting the right mix is indeed crucial; in my lowly bar band world, I'll use wedges or nothing at all before I use in-ears without a good mix, meaning the ability to set my mix myself.

    Addional thoughts?

    Keep the things turned down! The whole idea is to protect your ears, by blocking out what you don't need and giving you what you do at a comfortable level. I know people that use them cranked up to "van halen", at which point you might as well go back to pummeling your ears with wedges.
  6. Hactar


    Sep 25, 2011
    Boulder, CO
    All hail the AirHead!

    Thanks very much, this is quite a nice little brief IEM primer.
  7. Please feel welcome to follow up questions....

    I found ist REALLY tough to find real world info on how to deploy.

    There's a ton of opinions on TB that are not congruent with how most of the real $$$$ touring world does it.

    There are a ton of methods that are very risky.... an ton more that have hidden costs...

    OVERALL the silliest notion is expecting a miracle from and underpaid or unequipped sound tech.
  8. "good mix" ... this is the abiltiy to control more me... pass through mixers give you this power.... .

    "hearing protection"... biggest failure in this arena is having one ear in and one ear out.
  9. First, thanks Tim for taking the time to inform and educate us all. I've been use IEM's for about 2 years now and have about 150 gigs under my strap using them. Here's my question, I use a Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3 with M-Audio IE 30 buds and comply memory foam tips (tight seal)...not the most expensive setup but I believe it to to be a better than average setup. No mater what I do I can't get a decent bass sound it always seems weak and distorted. I've tried both going direct from my amps DI to one side of the EW300 and from my aux mix on the mixer no real change in the sound of the bass. Any suggestions?:confused:
  10. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    This should be stickied.

    Although, no problem for me with with a computer. They are very reliable these days. Tablets like iPad are very convenient.

    Mackies new mixer uses an iPad as a control surface. Band members can add in their own iPads, wireless, to do their own monitor mixes. It's pretty cool.

  11. PGBM,

    Before Tim replies, I will give my thoughts.

    I use (used) M Audio IE-40s and found the same thing. When the bass sounds weak and distorted it is usually because you haven't got an adequate seal in your ears. Sometimes what sounds like distortion is actually air pushing past the buds in your ears. Getting the correct size tip and getting them in far enough is vital (and perhaps using a bit of lube?). I broke mine in the end, and ended up sending them to to get them turned into full custom buds using the same drivers etc. What an amazing difference. Full fat bass and top end clarity that wasn't there before.

    Some distortion can also be created be the signal coming into the transmitter too hot (from the desk) so play around with levels - running less signal to the trans and running your belt pack higher etc.

    Lastly, I put a little half rack compressor in line before my IEM with a stereo 15 band eq so that I could play around with compression of different freqs (I run it in the side chain of the comp) and shaping post compression and that has helps cut and boost what I hear.

    I hope that helps. :)

  12. Remember this is just diagnosis ....

    1-do you practice without an amp....

    2-can you recreate you desired sound without an amp

    3-have you tested going bass-board-buds

    Overall opinion
    1-your buds may not be sealing

    2-you may not be used to iem perception

    3-if you're not using a pass through mixer you aren't in control of your monitor chain--- you do not have the ability to mix your tone it to the monitor feed

    4-if your sound guy isn't on your iem chain they're guessing
  13. Thanks Tim and Rocksolid i'll try to incorporate your suggestions this weekend...i'll let you know how I make out.

  14. I'm not 100% against computers and ipods etc.

    When Designing your system, it is kind of smart to account for a graceful computer failure.

    Some digital mixers do not need a computer to run. In worst case scenario, we're "stuck" with a bad mix.... some of them require a computer to function... the computer goes down and we're all scrambling.

    I can't tell you the number of times I've been on a gig and the operator is clueless how to run their system without ipods, computers etc. Some are "enabled" to do cumbersome management without a computer. These are the guys without a backup plan and end up stressed and lackluster.

    About 1/2 of you will think this is silly or unnecessary. You can charge and use an ipod at the same time. On my pedal board I have USB chargers.... When I first started down this road, I found that 3hours of battery life wasn't useful for a 4 hour set.... I found 6 foot ipod cables on ebay for $3 each.

    I've seen the unit... my feeble opinion is that if someone were to go down this route, they should dedicate an ipad to the function and disable internet access and other apps.

    It kind of sucked setting up my bigger rack mount system I drew out the entire signal chain in Visio... then had the diagragm laminated.... each of the cables was then labelled as to what/where it goes. The issue with many digital mixers etc, is you can "reroute" to different outputs... some can use an input for an output etc. When the excrement hits the propeller it's nice to know how the software was set and cables positioned.
    Forgot about something that is on my wireless IEM pedalboard.

    Installed a headphone amp. I then have a nerdy looking set of cables that can go from most sources to the amp.... one of my "easiest" is to have the mains/monitors on the right channel of the mains... Monitors takes left.... normally ensures they're not sending a hot power signal.

    Why the amp? Another volume control.... it can split for 4 users..... Reduces cabling when we're in a hurry or ht esound guy can't send individual mixes (more me through the pass through personal mixer)

    I can also quickly put my buds onto the main source feed before any other gizmos are attached... the sound guy can tap in and hear with me what's coming out.

    About 95% of the sound guys I work with have no way to monitor what's coming out of their Aux send.
  16. Billy K

    Billy K

    Nov 5, 2009
    North Bay Marin
    I've posted for help with your above post MNAirhead. I need some more volume so a preamp between my bass amp and the wireless to kick up the volume a bit. When the GK MB 200 is up to say 3 o'clock on the gain I hear perfectly but I don't play that loud so if I turn down the volume on the bass well so goes the sound.Any preamp makers you would know about?
  17. Just curious, what do you use to split the main mix to each member of the band? Just the outputs from the FOH board? Or do you just send one stereo signal out to a splitter?
  18. Opinion - ditch the mb200 - use it after a quality di/pre

    I own one (and a ton of other amps)

    Kind of the trick to making iem and di work is to doth the amp - think of it as an optional monitor
  19. Split to each member - a headphone amp is the easiest splitter (and lowest cost)

    As noted personal (more me mixers) added to the mains is a proven reliable solution
  20. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Great information.

    On the Mackie, correct set up a private network.

    And sure carry a spare of anything that is critical to your setup. I've never had a problem, but there's a chance for any piece of gear to break down.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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