General tech questions

In-ear monitors?

1

What is the deal with in-ear monitors on stage taking the place of ANY actual sound on the stage at all??

Saturday night I saw Chris Isaak play a small venue (maybe 600 capacity?), from the second row. I was really excited to be that close to the Isaak action for the first time ever. But the sound was totally perplexing.

There are monitors and amps on stage... but nothing coming out of them. I guess they're only there for backup in case the in-ears malfunction?? All the sound for the audience was coming out of overhead speakers pointed towards the back of the room, so it was going over our heads. There were no speakers directed at the first four rows and we couldn't hear anything coming directly off the stage! The venue was sold out and packed hard, so moving backwards would've been impossible save for an emergency. The bass amp and Chris' amp were mic'ed (though I don't think anything was coming out of those amps) but the guitarist, Herschel Yatovitz, had two Fender Twin Reverbs side by side, completely un-mic'ed, directly in front of us. The lights were glowing on them and there were cables plugged into them, and cables plugged into the instruments, but we were not being hit with 200 watts, or 100 watts of sound... we weren't being hit with any sound at all, as a matter of fact. Because of the small venue, the drums were behind a plexiglass drum shield, so we couldn't even hear those as well as we'd hoped!

Please tell me this is an unusual occurrence, and not becoming the new norm???

3
**This post has been deleted**

How come?

If it is the new norm, is it only for small venues or are we talking for all types of gigs? And most importantly, WHY?

(And I agree with the comment that it was bad sound engineering.)

4

You will see in-ear-monitors becoming the norm for most musicians. They are smaller, easier to transport, set up and consistent. You can dial in what you want to hear and it won't affect anybody else. Ever. No feedback problems either. Easier on the hearing too.

A lot of bands don't use active amps on stage. I saw Chris Isaak last year with Brian Setzer. Although Chris was using IEM's, he still had monitors on stage. I was too far away to see if the monitors were active or not. I don't remember if I saw mics on the amps that night or not. They could have been micing them from behind. Sometimes they will have the real amps off-stage and the amps that are on the stage are either backups or for look. ZZ Top is famous as are many other bands for having GIGANTIC amp set ups on stage, but actually play thru a much smaller amp.

Most of the time, there will be front fill speakers. If not, then the FOH totally failed. IEM's will rarely fail. Most monitors for a touring musician of Chris' caliber will be redundant or will provide some sound in case they aren't 'feeling it' thru the IEM's. They are different and take a bit to get used to and dial in. Sometimes if they have guests who sit in, it is for them as well.

I am going to see him up in Napa in April. Too bad I couldn't get better seats. Oh well.

Sorry you had a sucky sound experience.

Johnny

6

live music shouldn't be any louder than your stand alone t.v. past memo 02 :(

i never liked the idea, then i heard a buddy got his ears blown out by a pair,lazy sound man didn't zero board) =(

7

If you watch the Blu-Ray of "It's Gonna Rock..." Setzer is clearly wearing them. Or, flesh-colored hearing aids.

8

Most IEM's (quality ones) have built in limiters and getting your ears blown out by one is hard to do. Not saying it's impossible, but the ability to damage your ears are much higher on regular floor monitors vs. IEM's. Since the design of the IEM buds cuts out ambient sound, your monitor mix is so much better, you sing better and notice the nuances of your performance that you never were able to do before.

I think Setzer wears custom molded ear plugs. Those don't look big enough to be IEM's. IEM's will usually stick out a bit more and you'll see the wires going around the back of the ears and down the back of the shirt or into the collar. I think most of the horn players are on IEM's and have been for quite a long time. At least the last 10 years IIRC, maybe longer. As much as he moves around on stage, I would figure he would be a prime candidate for IEM's. But, he probably is too old school for that! :) IEM's will also keep your mix the same no matter where you are on stage. The other advantage is you can keep the stage volume much lower, since you don't have 10 monitors blasting 120 db's plus side fills etc across the stage, the mics are picking up a much truer sound. They're not picking up all of that stage wash. Much easier for the FOH guy to contend with.

Johnny

9

Johnyon, For his application the earplugs would make perfect sense. Those horns are insanely loud. I did notice the horn guys use IEMS. I used them for a couple of years in a 6-piece band. They improved my singing a lot, but I was often pulling one out, so I could hear the stage and the room better. And by "stage", I mean my guitar amp. ;-)

10

JB-Was your amp mic'd? Did you run other ambient mics to add in to the mix? It definitely takes a lot to get used to. I know a lot of bands go thru a huge insane process to get the mix just right. It takes a bit of a mix of ambient mics and a touch of reverb etc. One of the audiologists that post on the Harmony Central Live Sound forum said that pulling one IEM out is a huge no-no. IIRC, it ruins the ears perception of loudness, so you drive the other earbud louder. I used to do that too and notice a lot of musicians do that too. I remember this one guy who was clearly getting a bit frustrated with his mix. His amp was mic'd and behind a baffle. He pulled his buds out and during a solo, he knealt down by his amp, turned up the volume, and pulled the baffles out of the way to get the guitar to sound right. I guess that takes the place of guys with hand signals and the monitors going crazy with feedback!

I remember Setzer saying something about his hearing loss becoming more and more of a problem. I figured that that would have prompted him to go In-Ears, but not yet.

Johnny

11

Yeah, my amp was mic'd, but the mix way dry and we didn't have much ambient coming through. I tried several brands of buds, too. I am in favor of the idea, but that band implemented it poorly.

12

Our mix was really dry too. Tough to try to do it when most aren't set up to accommodate the IEM system. Really need a dedicated mixer to do it right if you have a lot of people who will have separate bud mixes. We had a mix of IEM's and floor monitors. 3 had floor monitors and 2 of us had IEM's. Plus, it just plain costs money to do something like that. Each mix needs it's own EQ, reverb send/receive etc. Oh well.

13

Setzer wears plugs for tinnitus and was suffering from Tinnitus so badly he almost cancelled some xmas gigs at one point.. here's a quote from him back in Oct 04' regarding this debacle

"I have a hearing problem. It's a condition that's very common, not just among people like heavy metal players who use extreme volume, but even classical musicians. It's called tinitus. I have a constant ringing in my left ear. It's a very loud ringing which also happens to be an incurable condition. I recently went for a hearing test and also found that I am half deaf in the mid-to-upper registers in both of my ears. So basically, I can't hear women and kids. So I said to the doctor, "What's the problem?" (laughing) Seriously though, I have nerve damage. I know a lot of people who have it from Dave Edmunds to Jeff Beck.

I've ordered special ear plugs with filters in them and right now, I don't know how easy it's going to be to perform in them. I DO know that singers have a problem with them although I know I can play guitar with them. They insert all of the way into your ear, almost down to the eardrum. Doctors say that if I perform without them, I could risk the chance of the tinitus getting worse or perhaps even go completely deaf. So at this point, I'm getting these ear plugs just a couple of weeks before our Japanese tour and I'm hoping that they'll be comfortable enough to wear. Imagine trying to sing with your fingers stuck in your ears, that's how I'm told it might feel.

So....if this all means that I can't play anymore, I've had a great 25 years and God has blessed me with a real talent. I've made a lot of great friends and I've had a hell of a career...I mean if what this means is that I can't perform anymore.....but I'm thinking positively that I WILL be able to play. So, the answer to your question is, I don't know if I'll be able to play live anymore at all. In the next month or so, I'll be finding out the answer to that. People live with a lot worse than this though. People live with ALS, they live with cancer, so.....This is just a condition that I've developed by standing in front of a guitar amp my whole life and we'll have to wait and see what happens."

14

ummm and pete townsend?

my company makes and i design a lot of the drivers and such that go in to in-ear monitors for Shure, Ultimate, etc.

There are a few different directions to go with this. You can have straight ear plugs. those little roll up and twist and insert into your ears. they filter and protect, but it's a bit of an across the board "filter".

Then there are custom fitted ear plugs. The short version: A doc pours latex in your ear, it makes a mold, they have a hole in it. In there, you can place in filters that take out the notch of frequencies that you want to black/pass through.

related to that, instead of the filter, you place a driver (hearing aids call them recievers) in there. That's hooked up to the monitor mix. So it's like performing, but listening to the band on yoru iPod.

15

Or the pictures of Mission of Burma where's there's a plexiglass wall between the guitarist and drummer.

16

so1om, I had no idea we were in the same trade. We make IEMs here in the UK.

17

*so1om: I did the upgrade path from Shure E3 to E4 to SE530 and I must say that each was a major improvement! I am currently still using the SE530, but coupled to a Ray Samuels P51 Mustang portable amp with slightly modified triple-flange sleeves. Outstanding in-ear monnitors!

18

Deke, I'm at Knowles Electronics/Acoustics.. and now we have Sound Solutions too. Small world, indeed!

It's a peculiar line of work. It's very subjective in that we can measure frequecy response, curves, distortion and all that stuff. Then someone listens and they're like "yeah.. that sounds like crap." And no matter how much people say "but technically, look at this response and the specs that it meets!!" they'll say "ok.. fine. still sounds crappy!" Then someone else will say it's the best ever.

For low cost readily available general purpose ear buds, i stick with Apple earbuds.. the white ones. they fit, they stay in, they're not sticking in like my Jays Djays -they bother me after a bit. someone else will argue. Like Herm saud, you have to upgrade or try a few different ones to what sounds good to what you like. it's all subjective.

19

Deke, I'm at Knowles Electronics/Acoustics.. and now we have Sound Solutions too. Small world, indeed!

It's a peculiar line of work. It's very subjective in that we can measure frequecy response, curves, distortion and all that stuff. Then someone listens and they're like "yeah.. that sounds like crap." And no matter how much people say "but technically, look at this response and the specs that it meets!!" they'll say "ok.. fine. still sounds crappy!" Then someone else will say it's the best ever.

For low cost readily available general purpose ear buds, i stick with Apple earbuds.. the white ones. they fit, they stay in, they're not sticking in like my Jays Djays -they bother me after a bit. someone else will argue. Like Herm saud, you have to upgrade or try a few different ones to what sounds good to what you like. it's all subjective.

-- so1om

Definitely subjective. I currently have Westone UM-2's which I really love. I listen to them just about all of the time at work. The Apple earbuds are o.k. Now, THOSE hurt my ears after a while. A friend at work just got a different set of earbuds and so far he loves them! 4 drivers I think? Said he likes that the vocals have a bit of a presence rise to them. Brings them a bit forward in the mix vs. a set that would be totally flat.

But oddly, I still like to listen to music when it's "open". I like the sound and feel of the music when there are 2 physical speakers and there is sound bouncing off walls. Gives you a sense of 3D. Kind of like having a big amp pushing a lot of air vs. a tiny amp being mic'd and the sound coming back at you thru the monitors. Similar, but different. I even like listening to regular can headphones vs. the IEM's because of that. More open sounding.

That's my 2 cents...(Of which the 1% will take 99% of). :)

Johnny

20

I agree with you Johnny. Space and naturally occurring dimensions are critical. The ear buds and in ears are too uncomfortable for me. If they're not back ported you can really damage your ears too, if not used properly. Drivers drivers 2, 4... Still subjective!

21

I know that Shure has their PSM200(?) IEM line that has a 'line-in' feature on their belt pack for a lavalier mic. You put a lavalier on your shirt or wherever, and then you can hear people shouting your name etc and the sound that is being directed towards you. So, you can hear your bandmates yelling "YOU'RE IN THE WRONG KEY!!!" :)

22

My Shure SE530 came with the PTH (Push To Hear) device that is a inline mic and volume control so that you don't have to remove the monitors to hear people talking to you. It is like a $50 option by itself. I don't even use the thing since I only use my in-ears when I don't have to be aware of my surroundings.


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