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In-Ear monitoring on the cheap - my successful experiment.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Petebass, Nov 4, 2006.

  1. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Many of the in-ear threads on TB have a theme that implies lots of us would consider in-ear monitoring of our basses if the price wasn't so prohibitive. In Aussie Dollars, an entry level system such as a Shure PSM200 with E2 earphones as standard costs upwards of $1,200. Add the cost of a bass-capable set of E5 earphones and you’re looking at a small fortune. I’ve just made a successful attempt at doing it on the cheap and spent less that $200 AUD total. The result was good enough that I have to share!

    When I say "successful", so far it's only been one gig, but it worked so well I'm prepared to call it a success already.

    First of all, this idea may not work for those of you using wireless systems for your bass. This system works best if you’re like me and prefer to plug your bass into your amp via a cable. This is NOT a wireless in-ear monitoring system. I did however manage to make the cables for this system disappear by simply attaching them to the existing cables in my bass rig.

    OK here’s how it works. It starts with one of these:-


    I cost me $110 AUD. Similar products can be found by other manufacturers (e.g. Rolls, ART). It has two inputs (Mic XLR, and ¼” stereo jack) and I was able to get good results by plugging into either. I tried feeding it my bass signal 2 ways – firstly from the send on my amp’s effects loop, and secondly by plugging my bass straight into it then through to my amp – and both methods worked well. The ¼” jack input is stereo and when you plug in to it, it only feeds one earphone. The trick here is to not plug it in all the way. By pulling it out a click, both earphones get a signal. Oh and the ¼” jack isn’t as hot as the XLR input because it doesn’t have a pre-amp booster as needed for a microphone signal. If fact when I fed the Samson via the effects send, the XLR input was too hot. I had trouble getting the level in the earphones quiet enough.

    Then it’s a matter of getting headphone extension cable and plugging in a set of these:-


    They’re surprisingly good for just $80 AUD. To be honest I’ve been trying to save up for a set of Shure E5’s but at $650 AUD and my wedding coming up soon, the spare cash hasn’t been easy to come by. The Sennheisers were recommended to me by someone who uses them as a backup to his E3’s, and to my surprise they did the job. The rubber seals to a good job of reducing the level of the rest of the band, making it easier to hear your bass coming through the earphones. As a result you don’t have to turn them up all that loud so your ears take less of a beating that they used to.

    Every note I played came through the earphones fat enough and cleanly enough that I reckon I could have turned my amp off altogether and I still would have been able to play along comfortably. I was able to get the earphones to distort but only when I turned them up to ear-splitting levels which probably would not have been achievable via the amp alone. Considering the whole point is to reduce the overall SPL hitting your ear drums, it shouldn’t be necessary to go that loud – nor is it advisable.

    Disclaimer: - Please be warned that this simple system does not have any built in limiting of the sort you will find on a typical wireless system. The Samson unit is capable of accepting a vocal mic as well and suddenly, there’s potential for feedback squeals. With no limiting, and when they hit your ear drum from point blank range, they could do some damage so please be careful. If all you’re doing is running bass through it like I am, this isn’t much of an issue provided you keep the volume to respectable levels.

    I’ve got another gig tonight and another on Tuesday so I’ll be able to post “warts and all” updates soon based on real world performance. Stay tuned.
  2. Cramming experimental mini-loudspeakers in my ear canal...man. I like having unprotected sex with cracked-out prostitutes and driving really fast on the freeway in reverse, but I'm not sure that I'd personally take that risk.:D

  3. Barfly


    Dec 27, 2000
    GTA, Canada
    Cracked-out Prostie's rock!
  4. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Yes but used properly, this little setup will SAVE your hearing. That was the motivation behind it in the first place.

    If you're worried you can always add a limiter or compressor and still have saved a small fortune.
  5. arjosy


    Jan 4, 2006
    New Joisey
    You could also replace the Samson box with one of these http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Rolls-HA43-Stereo-Headphone-Amp?sku=483850 running from the line out of your amp, if you have one. Using a regular instrument cable from the line out to the headphone amp will "bridge" the stereo input into dual mono. You get the benefit of a volume control and no need to futz with no fulling inserting the plug. I use my headphone amp with a monitor output from our mixer for rehearsal. Can also provide 3 other feed for whoever. All with separate volume controls. Cost about $40 US.
  6. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    wow. funny thread. if youre really that worried about your hearing, why not drop the cash and protect it the correct way.
  7. Apparently he found a way to do for cheaper.
  8. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Tell me why this wouldnt work.

    I have a Jensen wireless reciever/headphone unit. Basically you plug the base unit into your home stereo headphone output and the mobile unit, which is the size of a pager, goes onto your belt loop with the headphones plugged into it. So this gives you a wireless system where you can walk around your house, take the garbage out etc, but allow you to listen to cds or whatever your home stereo amplifier is connected to.

    Could you not just hook this type of unit up to your bass amp using the bass amp's headphone output? (provided it has one, and that the amp's speaker still works at the same time the headphone output jack is engaged). The headphones I use are the "rubber seal" type as well, but I am not sure how effective they would be as "earplugs" to attenuate the volume of the other instruments in the band.
  9. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I've got something similar and I have actually tried this. It didn't work. They let in way too much ambient noise, which means you have to turn them up very loud. That's bad enough in itself but I couldn't get them loud enough to get over the top of the ambient noise without distorting badly.

    Besides, big cans on your ears "looks" funny on stage IMO.

    Your headphones might be diffent so it's probably worth a try. Just be careful not to blast your eardrums. Bring the volume up very gradually.
  10. GOOD ON YOU!!! -good ol' Aus. version= goo-orn-ya!!!
    Thanx for posting those links too. I for one was never gonna outlay 1000+ for in ear..., but If I need it in future & for others that do need it NOW- grat stuff!!! Thanx, ROD.
  11. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    The headphones I have are the type you put in your ears. I think they may be more accurately called "ear buds".

    I think that your right about the ambient noise as they dont work very well as earplugs so the other instruments are probably going to be too loud.

  12. MarkMyWordsXx


    May 17, 2006
    thats a really interesting experament, thanks for sharing
  13. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Northumberland, UK
    You can buy noise-cancelling earbuds.
  14. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Hearos musician's ear plugs are approximately $15 at any guitar center. Saves your hearing without revamping your rig. I started using these things here recently, and I love the suckers.

    I second the thought that in ear monitoring without a limiter is dicey at best. I'd rather just pipe myself through the monitor wedges up front and then pop in some hearos to tame any excessive volume.
  15. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Nothing wrong with this arrangement either. I did something very similar for years but eventually decided I needed to hear myself a little better, hence the search for a way to feed an audio signal of my bass through those earplugs at a polite SPL level.

    Update after 2nd gig:- the sound can get a little trebbly while slapping, but not enough to warrant changing anything yet. The band and sound guy are all loving the reduced stage SPL. After the gig I was able to lie in bed without any ringing in my ears for the first time in years, something that not even earplugs could manage.

    Another gig tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it!

    Speaking of noise cancelling - I had an interesting conversation with our sound guy. He knows people who use the 2nd channel on both wired and unwired in-ear system to connect a couple of out-of-phase microphone inserts. They pick up the ambient noise of the band/PA/crowd, reverse the phase therefore cancelling out that noise as it hits your ears. The result is a further reduced SPL in the earphones. At this stage I don't feel the need for this but I might give it a try just for kicks.
  16. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    To those of you who have sent me PM's regarding this thread, I will get back to you when my schedule allows. I can understand that people are reluctant to post here given the negative coments in this thread, but there's no need to be shy. Please feel free to post here in public and add some balance to the discussion.

    Gig 3: - I'm loving the system even more. My zoom multi effects has a compressor built in and I activated it for the first time at a mild setting that only kicks in on the signal spikes. The benefits were 2 fold - I now have limiting protection just like a "proper" IEM system, AND it fixed the trebbly sounding slapping. It now sounds much nicer.

    The system is now flawless!

  17. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    The inclusion of that compressor, properly implemented, makes this a much more attractive idea to me. Way to DIY an in-ears system. One of the acts I play with has talked about wanting to go in ears for a while. Might think about trying to rig up a comparable system, but for the whole farkin act.
  18. thejohnkim


    Sep 30, 2003
    hey guys, i've done very similar things with the same set of earphones, along with sony mdr-700dj's, akg k81dj's, and ultimate ear super.fi 3 studio's. with my $30 behringer UB502 (highly recommend this metal beast) mixer with very good results as well.

    i feed it with one of the outputs of my Aggie DB659, mix in a monitor mix from the main board, and i'm golden and don't even need a cab or power amp if i want to travel with just my bass and a small pack.

    works like a charm!
  19. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    I've thought of having custom earplugs made with a 9 or 15 db reduction. A friend of mine did this (9 db) and said they were great. You hear the full frequency range - but softer. About $150.

    For wired IEM, I think a small mixer would be a great alternative. Get a cheap 4 channel mixer, run a bass or two through it, add a monitor mix from the FOH, blend how you want for yourself and send your basses to the FOH. You could even add a vocal mic to it and have your own personal mix.
  20. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I figure I should give another update now that I've got 20+ gigs under my belt with this IEM set-up.

    I really should have done this years ago. I can hear every part of every note I play and as a result I play better. I also notice I don't feel as tired after a gig, an unexpected result which is probably a combination of factors - partly added enjoyment of playing, partly no longer stressing about damaging my ears, and partly the knowledge that I didn't have to spend over $1,000 to obtain such a system.

    I haven't tried the "2 mic's out of phase noise-cancelling" trick yet. I plan to, but it probably won't happen until after my wedding, maybe even after New Year.

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