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In-Ear Monitors: Are They Right for Your Ministry?

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If you can answer “Yes” To any of the following questions, then the answer may be yes.

  • Does your church suffer from excessive stage noise?
  • Does your sound guy have difficulty establishing a decent mix?
  • Does your sound (especially your music) always sound a bit muddy?
  • Does your talent always complain about the monitor mix?
  • Does your talent wish that they had “more me” in the monitors?

Ok, so I answered yes to ALL of those questions… but what in the name of sound reinforcement are ‘In-Ear Monitors’?

Good question! Basically, an In-Ear Monitoring (IEM) system provides the talent with a personally adjustable monitor mix sent to a set of earbuds worn in the ears instead of the traditionally used loudspeaker wedges found on stage. IEM’s can either be wired or wireless.

Some advantages of IEM’s are:

  1. Lower stage volume. Since fewer wedges will be needed on the stage, the overall SPL level on stage will be considerably less. This lower stage volume will provide for a cleaner, more intelligible house mix.  It will improve the effectiveness of any monitor wedges left on the stage.  It will also improve any audio recording due to less acoustic leakage into any open mics on stage. And less stage noise will also lead to fewer instances of acoustic feedback. Yay!
  2. Greater Flexibility and Mobility. With wireless IEM’s, the talent can move anywhere they see fit without any noticeable change in their monitor mix. If a personal monitor mixing system is also used, the sound engineer will no longer hear “I Need More ME!” because the talent can take care of it on their own (more to come soon on personal monitor mixing).
  3. What?! The use of IEM’s requires a lot less volume than your typical stage monitors and can save your hearing if worn correctly. If you value your hearing, then this is the way to go.
  4. Pssst. The use of IEM’s allows for discreet communication from FOH. You won’t ever have to worry about getting the attention of the talent (or the first 6 rows) when trying to fix a sound issue on the fly.

Tip: If you decide to use IEM’s, place a couple of ambient mics around the room and feed the signal to your IEM’s, or you’ll have talent taking one of their earbuds out of their ears because they feel isolated from the congregation. The practice of wearing only one IEM will in most cases require an increase in SPL, resulting in an increased chance of hearing loss in that ear.

Stay tuned for more information on this and related topics… we’ll be exploring the benefits of personal monitor mixing soon.

Image courtesy of Shure, Inc.

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