Custom Ear Monitors: Are They REALLY “All That”??!! (Part 1)


You see bands using them all the time (or hopefully they are), but is the investment really worth it and should you take the plunge on going “all in” or work your way up?

Let’s look at few different scenarios and figure out what is best for you and your bandmates. You obviously need the money to make the purchase and you need to make sure your band is ready for them… ah the most important part. Is your band ready for them? Let’s be honest, not everyone is ready or needs them. Wait! What? Not everyone needs them? Aren’t you a company that sells ear monitors? Yes, but the short answer. No, not everyone needs them. There are times where hearing protection is a better way to go then a full on custom ear monitor.

Scanario #1: The Coffee Shop
How many times have you been to a trendy purveyor of fine java-based beverages with live music and seen a three-piece in the corner with their ear monitors in, not many! In situations like this a good pair of custom fit Musician’s Earplugs are the way to go. You may not realize it, but that crash cymbal you are sitting next too is doing more potential damage then you think. A simple 9dB filter can do wonders for your ears and still allow you to hear everything clearly. If you’re all acoustic and using a djembe or cajon and not using a drum kit, you’re probably all good.

Scenario #2: The ‘Bar Scene’
Now, if you are playing a small bar, where it’s probably more rock’n rock inspired, you’d better be wearing some hearing protection! That 2 hour set you just played to a bunch of folks partaking in hops and barley probably was louder than you think. We’ve been in small bars/venues with a 100 people and still had levels over 90dB. (If you did not read our post Hearing 101: How Loud Is Too Loud, we mentioned that at 90dB hearing damage could begin after 30 min). This may also be a good time to at least get your drummer on a set of custom monitors and playing to a click track, while the rest of you are using Musicians’ Earplugs. Yep, that’s a big step for the ‘weekend warrior’, but we’ve talked with dozens and dozens of small bands who are going this route and not looking back. We enjoy your music, but if you cannot hear and going deaf, you’re going to sound…. well, crappy!

Scenario #3: The Small Venue/Beginning to Tour
So you’ve bought that $1000 ’95 white Dodge 15-passenger van, packed it up with your gear, a few changes of clothes, a case of Mt. Dew, a few bags of Doritos and a 2lb. bag of Twizzlers are going to set out and own the music scene. Things are starting to get serious for you and your bandmates and you want to make sure you put on the best show you can night after night. If you are finishing up a show and your ears feel ‘muffled’ or your hearing seems a little ‘cloudy’ you might have the onset of Temporary Threshold Shift which can lead to hearing damage. Again at a MINIMUM you should be wearing hearing protection, probably around 15dB or more to help protect against that. We’d recommend that the drummer (at least) is on ear monitors with a click track or house mix and it would be a good time to start getting the whole band on them. Yes, it can be a big expense at this point, but if you want to stay around for a while and not go deaf by the time you are 30, you really should start to research it seriously. An entry level custom ear monitor like the JH5Pro will run you about $399. Cheap, no, but isn’t your hearing or your career worth it?

Next time we’ll talk more about the options for ear monitors, some good belt packs and what an established band should be looking at.

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