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The danger of IEM’s

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by tshapiro, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    Cymbals and guitar amps cause hearing damage. Loud snare drums too. Get yourself a good IEM setup and guess what? The cymbals go right into the vocal mics and that sound gets amplified right into your ears. If you take protecting your ears seriously and want to use EIM’s to do it (highly recommended) take these precautions:

    Be very careful making the transition to IEM’s. You need to gain awareness of exactly what is being pumped into your ears and that can take some learning. For beginners, I highly recommend having your own small mixer where you can control the EQ, balance, and volume of what goes in your ears. Consider lowering the highs on your monitor feed. Consider a separate line in for your personal sound (instrument and or mic) that can be eq’d separate than the other vocal mic’s. Remember, your ears go ‘numb’ with loud music so you’ll be tempted to turn up. Get in the habit of turning down a notch now and then. Start out by treating your IEM’s as earplugs and slowly add volume over time. Remember, you will feel bass from the room, don’t try and replicate the entire low end spectrum with your IEM’s - roll off some low end.

    IEM’s are absolutely a necessity for life long musicians who want to avoid permanent and instense ear ringing. Spend the money to get a high quality setup. And, be very careful to avoid hearing damage in your first couple of attempts by keeping your IEM’s levels low until you gain experience with the process. Remember, hearing damage is often caused by a single event - you can NOT count on any warnings. If your ears ring from a loud show for more than 12 hours you may have damaged your hearing nerves. You have 2 days to let the ringing stop or it could become permanent. So avoid loud exposures at all costs until it stops. If your ears are ringing after 72 hours than it’s likely permanent and will gradually subside over the next 3 years (but not go away)

    Rock on!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  2. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    well, yes and no. Vocal mics also pick up guitars, bass and other stage noise. Putting a gate on the vocal mics will cure that, so will gain staging them correctly.
    If others are running your IEM mix, then yes.. I totally agree.
    However, a lot of the bands (including my own) that I run sound for, bring their own IEM rig that lets them control their own mix, so FOH can run FOH and they can run their IEM's.
    And there too.. gates on the mics will counter any random cymbal noise. Plus, if there's drum OH's.. take them out of your IEM mix.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
    pcake, Old P Bass Guy and craigie like this.
  3. Medford Bassman

    Medford Bassman Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Medford, Wisconsin
    with 4 AUX outs, i can set the IEM levels for each band member exactly how they want them. Me personally? I run my IEMs like I'm wearing an iPod, I don't play it very loud but enough so I can hear everything. I also use a Shure PSM200 series wireless transmitter/receiver. It allows two inputs. So, I feed the monitor mix from the mixer into one channel and then I sent a bass signal to the other channel that I can control input level in, so I always hear my bass the way i want it. It's worked pretty well for me over the past 5 years.
    craigie and s0c9 like this.
  4. NailDriver


    Dec 27, 2008
    With today's digital mixers, you can EQ your monitor mix. I make sure to roll off some highs, so the cymbals don't get in there as much. I want to hear vocals, mostly, some guitar and my bass. I don't need the drums at all. They're bleeding through everything anyway. I focus on midrange, not a full spectrum of sound, so I can save my ears. Previous to digital, I used a rack EQ (later a guitar EQ pedal) between my monitor send and the IEM transmitter. Old EQs are cheap these days.
    s0c9 and craigie like this.
  5. MoeTown1986

    MoeTown1986 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2010
    SoMD (Mechanicsville)
    If the cymbals are that loud on stage, your drummer needs a lesson or two. There is no need for drums to be that loud.
  6. iem with your own personal mix via iPad or your phone. Only way to go.
  7. I would rather earplugs than any IEM with no hard limiter in place.
    White Funk and Zbysek like this.
  8. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    I have not found a wireless IEM system that does NOT have a limiter in the receiver pack. The upper end models have adjustable limiters and the lower/entry-level are fixed.
    With wired systems.. absolutely need a brick-wall limiter in line between you and the source.
    saabfender likes this.
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    i can honestly say i've never had a problem with drums and cymbals getting into the vocal mics enough to be any kind of concern in my IEMs.

    my own vocal is the loudest thing in my mix and it's just loud enough that when i sing right on the mic i can hear it clearly. the stage wash doesn't come nearly as loud through my own vocal mic and everybody else's vocal mic is well lower in my mix. if the drummer is right next to me and kinda loud i might have no drums at all added to my mix, if he's further away and/or quieter i might have a pinch of kick and a pinch of hi-hat.
    DirtDog, fauxtoe, Lesfunk and 4 others like this.
  10. ^what Walter said^
  11. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO properly using multi-band brick wall limiting is the gold standard. Many IEM belt packs have built in limiting, but IMHO they don't provide adequate protection for various reasons. 1st, the built in limiters are wide band so it not really possible to set them in a way that allows low frequencies to pass while providing adequate protection across the entire frequency band. Multi-band limiters are better because a different threshold can be set for each frequency band, so the limiting tracks better with our actual hearing response curve.

    2nd, operator error is often a factor. Many belt packs apply limiting to the input. Some have a fixed limiter threshold. With these devices, the audio tech increase the input signal till the limiter occasionally engages on the loudest musical peaks. The problem here is most audio techs don't really keep very tight control of signal levels or know the necessary levels to engage the limiters on everyones' IEM belt pack. If the signal level is set too low the audio will sound great, but there will be no protection. If the signal is set too high the audio will sound terrible because it will be continuously limited.

    Other devices have a variable limiter threshold on the input, so the user can adjust the limiter regardless of signal level. If the limiter threshold is set to high, the audio will sound great, but there will be no protection. If the limiter threshold is set too low, the audio will sound terrible, but at least the user will be able to adjust his/her belt pack.

    3rd, calibration error is another factor to consider. Some belt packs apply limiting to the output and all the examples I have seen use a fixed threshold. With these devices, the limiting is calibrated to work with the specific sensitivity of the ear buds being used. If different earbuds with significantly higher sensitivity are used, the limiter will not engage until dangerous SPL levels are developed.
    s0c9 and mikewalker like this.
  12. RickyT


    May 29, 2015
    Dee Why
    Yeah....nah they aren't a "necessity". I have a pair of musicians ear plugs, moulded to my ears from an audio clinic, that cut the sound by 15db and I honestly can't remember the last time I've had ringing in my ears and I've played in some stupid loud bands.
    getbent, JimmyM and SLO Surfer like this.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm 57, never used IEMs in my life, and my hearing is fine because I'm not the least bit interested in blasting insano.
    RickyT and mikewalker like this.
  14. SirMoak


    Jan 6, 2017
    I think this is overcomplicating things a little bit. My band doesn't use IEMs but I wanted to experience what it's like so I did our last gig with the following setup:
    - got a single XLR feed from FOH
    - plugged it into an Art tube mic preamp with a limiter engaged
    - ran it through a dbx di4 as a mini mixer on my board (with a direct feed from my board as well, so I could mix FOH feed and my bass to taste)
    - ran it into some KZ earphones (phone extender cable attached to my instrument cable) with MEMORY FOAM tips on the earbuds

    Cheap and great solution. The key is to have such a high degree of isolation from the earbuds (hence the foam tips) that they isolate most of the live sound. This way you can run the IEM at extremely low volume. Gig volume in my ears was something like listening to music on a home stereo. At these volumes you only need the limiter in case something horrible happens with the IEM feed.

    Also keep in mind that when you listen to a record you hear the same frequencies and you still roll down the highs as they are not harmful at low volume.
  15. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    This. Any good IEM transmitter has a limiter. No lecture necessary.
  16. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    No lecture given.. Many folks are simply unaware that limiters are built into wireless IEM RECEIVERS.. NOT the transmitters. :)
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
    Wasnex likes this.
  17. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    And the op completely ignored that fact. Like I said, lecture not needed. Furthermore, his fix is much riskier than the real problem

    But hey, you got me naming the wrong end of the system at 05:00. That should make your day! :)
  18. I get the vibe the op has had a bad experience in the past and it has him super paranoid. I have had zero of the issues listed personally if you eq properl knowing how to mix and you are not using antiquated gear with no eq or limiters ect. these shouldn't really be issues imho. Maybe this is more of a concern using a mono mix. I'm currently running my iems stereo hardwired via a behringer p16m personal mixer into a behringer x18 air digital console. We run backing tracks for drums, keyboards, click track, and samples off the cubasis app on a ipad and my band play with a very dense mix utilizing full symphonic/ orchestral arangements and idustrial keyboard lines in other words there is a insane amount of stuff going on that we need to hear.
    s0c9 likes this.
  19. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I play in ear all the time. It's personal responsibility that matters. In ears can be abused, but so can anything that makes loud noises. My rule of thumb is that, even though there are no amps on stage (a relatively quiet stage), I run my IEM's so that, if I take them out, it gets louder - I'm not adding noise, but subtracting it.

    The first lesson in mixing audio is if you can't hear something, don't turn it up, turn the other stuff down. That and common sense can get you where you need to be.
    walterw likes this.
  20. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    This is really an issue with small stages. As a drummer, beyond personal playing styles that fall on all ends of the dynamic spectrum, there are situations beyond your control. The worst is being backed up against a wall (or in a corner of a room) that is entirely reflective, made of brick, glass, wood... Even the dark and dry cymbals that have been the style for the last decade get focused and hyped and sound extra loud and bright because all the sound goes forward and then into the mics. Playing with rods or brushes totally changes the feel and response of the kit and cymbals. It's like the sound engineer says your roundwound bass is too bright, so we are going to put tape wounds on it and a pillow in front of the cab.
    I won't get into the fact that outside of voices, drums are usually the only truly acoustic instrument on stage and modern ones are designed to project. Add an inspired performance with the player getting into it and it can get loud. Plus, we play off the band, if the guitarist has his amp right in front of my kit and is playing loud, I'm going to play up to that level.

    This is exactly how I run my IEMs. I am able to have my overall mix level just up enough to get over the ambient noise that leaks through the earphones. Some of my earphones isolate better than others. My overall mix is pretty quiet. I also get to mix on our A&H QU system via my phone, so I'm able to get into the parametric or graphic and cut out any offensive upper and lower mids, making my mix really comfy feeling.

    Plus, my receiver limiter is on, as is a limiter at the board on my send.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018

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