In-Ear Monitor Blues...

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Christcr, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. Christcr

    Christcr Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    Maybe it's just me, but are any of the rest of you not so fond of in-ear monitors?

    I realize there are some advantages. I have a good set of in-ears and a sub-mixer that gives me complete control over all channels of the board in my personal mix. I use the in-ears when called for in bands I sub with. My regular band does not use them.

    It's getting to the point that I just do not look forward at all to gigs where I need them. Yeah, money is money, but I just really cannot get into my playing when I have in-ears in. It makes me feel like I'm sitting at home playing along with MP3s. I feel detached from the crowd. The channels are completely dry and devoid of effects--generally sounds lackluster. My bass sound sucks--at least in the in-ears. I realize I can't get the bottom through those little puppies, and it sounds different through the mains, but if I don't sound good to myself, my playing is invariably going to suffer. I can't hear the room and ambient sound. I can't hear the crowd. I find myself thinking that I hope the crowd is digging it, cause I sure am not and I can't wait for the end of the gig.

    I guess I just need to blow off some steam. It's not like I'm going to quit or anything. Yet, the other day, one of the members of a band I fill in with mentioned that he wanted to go back to wedges and amps. I nearly creamed myself right there. It was all I could do to refrain from cheering at the top of my lungs.

    Honestly, the sound just seems completely "sterile" during the gigs. And I know it's not my gear because when I am amped up, I always manage to get a kicking sound or even through wedges. And maybe I do have a kicking sound out front (I have good DI/preamp and effects for direct to the board gigs) when using in-ears, but if I can't hear it the same, I have a hard time getting into the music. Blah.

    Am I the only one, or are there other bassists who really just cannot get on with in-ears, even though we have to use them if we want the gigs?
    el jeffe bass likes this.
  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    IEMs in no way impede my ability to groove/rock.
    musicman7722 and StyleOverShow like this.
  3. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    If your earphones are blurry sounding or bass-anemic, then yeah—that'll suck all the soul out of the night. You say you've got a good set of IEMs, but you also say that they don't deliver any low end, so the problem might be simple. How's your IEM chain sound through good headphones? The same, or does the low end suddenly reappear?

    Can't get a good bass sound through your DI chain into your IEM mix? No FX or processing in your IEM mix? Want to hear some of the ambient sound on stage and from the audience? Those issues have solutions.
    s0c9 and lz4005 like this.
  4. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    In the end, after you've checked your ear molds and made sure everything in the chain is up to snuff, it's totally possible that IEMs aren't for you.

    I love mine, I have being without them. But they are like everything else in life, some things are your cup of tea, some ain't. Just be sure to give yourself and the IEMs a fair try before you write them off.
    s0c9 likes this.
  5. Christcr

    Christcr Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    Yeah, if these were my regular bands, I could dedicate a channel to effects return, another to a condenser mic to the audience, etc. But they are usually sit-ins for missing bassists. So I can't really expect much of anything to be dialed in the way I'd like to hear it. I guess mainly, I like to "feel" the sound (bass). If I slip one of the EIM slightly out of my ear so that it lets in some of the ambient noise from the room, it actually sounds tons better to me, and I get a tiny bit of an idea of what the band sounds like through the mains. And it generally sounds pretty good. It's just a shame I can't join in (and hear) the party out there. It's like sterile as an operating room the way I'm hearing it.

    And, yes, my regular headphones at home do sound better as far as bass response. Problem is, there is no seal and I wouldn't be able to hear them at all in a live setting. Oh well.
  6. Christcr

    Christcr Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015

    That's really what I think it is. They just aren't for me in general. Unfortunately in this day and age, you really can't get away from them unless you are in bands that do not use them. My main band doesn't, thank god. Although, on the other side of the coin, IEM do prevent volume wars onstage. Our regular guitarist and keyboardist tend to do battle like that. I wouldn't mind if they were relegated to IEM. :D
  7. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    Here are some tips that may help:
    - I usually bring a small amp so I can get some rumble under my feet.
    - An Amp simulator like the Sansamp Bass Driver does wonders for your sound with IEM's
    - A little overdrive helps to wake up bass thru in ears
    - A little compression can help fatten your sound with IEM's
    - Lows distort kind of easy in IEM's. Don't overdue it. Low mids can give you a fat and punchy sound.

    The bottom line is playing through IEM's is a lot like recording in that you don't have the luxury of room ambience. Therefore, you need to learn how to produce a fat sound just as you would when you record. When you figure out how to do that you'll begin to appreciate the advantages of IEM's
    s0c9 and Geri O like this.
  8. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Maybe it's just that we're playing on small stages where there's a good amount of FOH bleed on stage but I'm not lacking any ambience/stage vibe with my IEMs. I'm using the Shure SE215 universals which by no means are a perfect fit, so there's always some bleed. Never had the need to run an ambient mic as the three vocal mics, the guitar mic and the drum mics pick up more than enough stage noise for my liking.

    At this point, I prefer the custom control of my mix - and the ability to actually hear my vocal monitoring - over the "vibiness" of wedges. I also find I don't have to play as hard when I use IEMs.

    I did a sit-in gig this past week with a heavy rock band - small stage, loud amps and wedges. I couldn't hear my vocals let alone know if I was in key or not. I'm assuming that I was playing every song in key, but I couldn't tell you for sure. My arms and hands were hamburger after a one hour gig. I'm used to playing four hour gigs so this was not a lot of fun...
    tshapiro likes this.
  9. Try these, they let ambient sound in too, putting you more in touch with the music going on around you, as opposed to what gets pumped into your ears only.

    Guys who usually only wear 1 IEM at a time seem to like these.

    Westone Ambient earphones.

    Westone Am Pro 30 Ambient Earphones - Clear
    tshapiro and Christcr like this.
  10. Christcr

    Christcr Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    Now THAT is something I am definitely going to check into. Thanks for the link!
  11. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab HELIX user & BOSE Abuser

    Feb 11, 2004
    IIRC Journey's drummer and other drummers use similar IEM's that let them control how much "bleed" they get so they can hear their drums better(LIVE).

    @Christcr your bass should sound the same in IEM's as it does good headphones and FOH mains. Replacing Aurisonics/Fender's silicone "seal cap" with Comply's( Comply Foam Premium Earphone Tips - Isolation T-400 (Black, 3 Pairs, Medium): Home Audio & Theater) was night and day for mine. My bass sounds exactly like it does in good headphones or through ACME B2's(home practice rig and big stage live rig).

    Current stereo IEM mix is:
    FOH mains left/right
    My vocal panned slightly left, a very small amount of reverb on vocal
    Bass panned slightly right(Line 6 HD500X graduating to a Helix in 2 weeks)
    My two signals are slightly louder than the FOH feeds I get.
    No room mic yet as I got mine to save my hearing. 99% of the time I am stuck between a VERY LOUD guitarist/keyboardist and drummer's cymbals. For now I'm glad to go home with no ear ringing and less fatigue PLUS I can hear myself perfectly no matter where I go on stage or off.
    tshapiro likes this.
  12. jaymelewis


    Jan 6, 2010
    Fillmore, CA
    Not trying to self promote here, but I recently did a video describing how I cope with this scenario. Often, the problems related to bad experiences of playing with IEM's is poor mixes. As you've noted already, you will loose the crowd interaction (can be remedied with room mics, but still not the same) and there's some sterility from not feeling the other players directly, but getting a GOOD MIX will improve your experience 100% of the time. Just my 2 cents :)

    tshapiro and s0c9 like this.
  13. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Nice video! Thanks for sharing. I unfortunately use a mono feed from an analog mixer for my IEM'S (sure SE215) But have simpler needs with just two vocals, one guitar, bass and backing tracks. Wish it sounded as good as your mix! The biggest problems are blocking out the wedges, clarity of bass sound, balancing the vocals so I can hear both especially the relative levels of each, and all the while not blasting out my ears.
    Definitely worth saving my ears from more tinnitus though.
    Don't want to detail the thread on the OP though.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
  14. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Yep.. a good mix is half the battle.
    Nothing quite as bad as a flat, sterile mix to drive all the "go" out of you.
    My 1964 A8's have "pressure equalization diaphragms" in each ear, which sort of act like ambient ports.
    With that, the venue subs, the open vocal mics, some effects on the IEM mix and I'm a happy as a pig in sh*t!!
    It's also a good thing to remember (my own personal opinion, and nothing formal) that you are there to do a job, not listen to a CD.
    If you can GET a CD quality IEM mix, awesome but it's NOT needed to do you job.
    What is needed is what you need to hear to do that job.. things you play off (kick, hat, snare?) like lead guitar that let you get into it.
    For example, I NEVER put drum O/H's, cymbals or toms in my mix !! Why? I don't need them to do my job and they add clutter to the mix. Besides, even on large stages, they bleed !!
    At church - where we often have 2 electric and 2 acoustic guitars - I take out the ones that are filler/background noise and only add those I need to hear.
    Another approach is to pan instruments and vocals (you need stereo IEM mix tho') to the side of the stage they are on.
    Helps with the reference points.
    I also try to keep the IEM volumes as LOW as possible, to allow for ambient noise bleed. I find this helps. If I turn up the volume, I find that after a while, I'm much more isolated.

    To be sure, everyone's needs are different.. and sometimes. IEM's simply don't work for folks.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
  15. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Well the choice is IEM'S, earplugs or hearing damage (OP described some volume wars). You'll be singing the hearing damage blues someday if you give up....
  16. jaymelewis


    Jan 6, 2010
    Fillmore, CA
    Thanks Craigie! Ya, mono is rough but I've had to do it many times before. I'd highly recommend getting molded ears - you won't have any problems blocking out the wedges at that point :)
  17. musicman7722


    Feb 12, 2007
    Hampton NH
    I have the 2.0 version and they only let in Ambient sound at low volumes. As the SP increases they seal up so you can hear the bass. I went back to my UN 2's. Now maybe the 3.0 are better but I have never used that version.
  18. if you want to feel the bass, get an Eich Bassboard to stand on. I made my own for $50. I can dial in a queasy-inducing amount of rumble under my feet, but totally silent on stage.
  19. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    above all else you have to fix this part.

    better ears (i say dual-drivers at minimum) and a source bass tone that you actually like direct. for me it's triple driver westone universals and a pedalboard with a compressor into a sansamp BDDI, with all that my bass sounds nice and "amp-like" in my ears.
    s0c9 likes this.