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:- http://www.samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=1696&brandID=2 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:- http://www.bestheadphones.com.au/sennheiser/cx300/cx300.html 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.