Custom Ear Monitors: “Are They REALLY All That??!!” (Part 3, or revenge of the belt pack)


 So we’ve covered the need for custom ear monitors in our last two posts, when hearing protection is the best solution and some suggestions on which models will help you out as you move along in your music career or with the instrument you play, but you’re probably wondering “Yeah, great, but how do I get the sound to my ears??!!” Magic pixie dust.. duh! Sheesh, everyone knows that!

There are two ways one can get their signal. Wired and wireless. A wired system usually consists of a cable running from either the front of house (FOH) sound board or from a monitor board usually just off stage to a unit that you control the volume level on. There are even some bands that will have a personal mixer for each member of the group (that’s a horse of a different color, and we’ll cover that in a later post).

We talked to Jerry (AKA, Mr. JH Audio) as asked him what he would recommend folks use   if they need to be on a wired system. “The only real option for a hardwire is still the Shure PSM 600hw. Anyone that does not need to be wireless should use this unit. Drummers should try to never use a wireless unit. When using very narrow transient spike signals, like click track, the compressor degrades the over all audio quality by over compressing the signal.” Well there ya go drummers, stick with wired! Oh and for the love of the rest of your band, use a click track. They really can be of benefit. Unless you are Larry Mullen Jr. (The Human Metronome), you probably need to be using one.

Wireless systems are usually a little more complicated. The signal is sent from either the FOH or the monitor board to a radio that transmits the sound to a belt pack you are wearing. One thing to be wary of is radio interference, so have a back up plan unless your system is ‘the shizzle’ and can do freq. scans to find open channels for you to use. Don’t be fooled by the “budget” $200 wireless systems, it’s the age old, you get what you pay for. Chances are you will either destroy it during the show, or by hucking it against the wall due to the poor sound quality. Do some research and if you invested in good ear monitors, there is no reason you should not do the same with your wireless system. Don’t cheat yourself.

We talked with Jerry some more about what he uses with his clients on tour. “As far as what I use live, I only use the Shure PSM 1000. As a pro unit it is as good as it gets. On the last Van Halen tour we had a 96ft video wall that created a RF nightmare and the Shure 1k was the only unit that worked flawlessly. My second choice is the Sennheiser EW300 G2. These systems work great and are available used on eBay for a good price.

 I’m sure that there are other units out there that will work for a working musician but these are the ones that I use myself.”
The best advice we can give you about wired and wireless systems, is do your research. Don’t rush into it. Talk to local sound folks (Guitar Center does not count) or crews that are coming through your town on tour, see what they are using and what they have heard. Talk to fellow bands. If they are not on ears (first have them call us), chances are they know someone who is. Listen to the gear at the store with YOUR ear monitors. We cannot stress that enough! Most places will allow you to do this to test out the quality of the products. Drop us a line. We’ve got some pretty knowledge folks at your disposal and we’ll do our best to get your questions answered.
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One thought on “Custom Ear Monitors: “Are They REALLY All That??!!” (Part 3, or revenge of the belt pack)

  1. I’m a drummer and I use a wired solution along with my JH 16. Another (and cheaper) solution is Jump Audio’s RXM cable/box… It does the same as the Shure, but is way cheaper 🙂 just my 2 cents

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