As more and more churches expand their worship ministries to include multiple stage inputs, the need for personal monitoring has increased significantly.  Traditionally, there are basically three ways to do monitoring:

A.  Traditional Wedge or Flown Monitors, through passively amplified or self-powered speakers
B.  Wired or Wireless In Ears from Board Mixes
C.  Personal Monitoring

The whole purpose of monitoring is so the worship leaders and team members can hear, right?  What they hear, How they hear, and Where the mix originates are very important.  Besides bringing much more clarity to each person’s ears, one of the biggest reasons churches move to In Ear Monitoring is so they can reduce the stage volume generated by traditional wedge or flown monitors.  IEMs make the front of house sound system much more clear because there is no longer a competition between reflected stage monitors and the main house system.  For each church, the needs might be unique, so here are a few important factors to consider:

Wired or Wireless?  Sometimes, the assumption is that In Ear monitoring is automatically a wireless solution.  When the budget is available and mobility is required, this is some church’s desired option. That said, unless the Instrumental or Vocal Musician must be mobile, a wire is usually best because it’s cheaper, more dependable, and less links in the chain to troubleshoot if something goes awry.  Unless the wireless system has rechargeable batteries, there’s also the cost of keeping the packs powered, too.

At this time, only a few companies are delving into Digital Wireless Systems for IEMS, and up to now, most analog systems have been costly and don’t always transmit audio with full frequency range and the clarity that some desire.

Simple or Complex?  There are numerous ways to do wired and wireless systems and we’ll cover that in this section. Each Worship Band’s needs determine how you should approach the solution.  Here are several different ways to accomplish the task:

A.  Simple Mono Aux Sends.  The source of the mix can be as simple as using a single Aux send on your mixing console.  It feeds a Wireless pack, a personal Headphone Amplifier, or a multi-channel headphone amplifier so several people hear the same mix but have individual volume control.  This can also be done by sending two aux sends as a stereo mix.  For Example, Aux 1 is fed to the Left Channel of the headphone amp and Aux 2 is fed to the Right Channel.  Instruments or vocals that that need to be centered are fed by Aux 1 and Aux 2.

B.  “More Me”  This is one of our favorite cost effective solutions.  It uses a “pass through” small mixer like the Rolls PM351 or PM50s.  A good, balanced, stereo mix is sent from the mixing console and then a local mic and separate mono or stereo instrument with built in Direct Box can be locally controlled relationally to the stereo mix.

C.  Multi-Channel.  There are numerous companies who make these systems: Allen & Heath, Aviom, DBX, Elite Core, HearBack, LiveMix, MyMix, and Roland.  They use hardware to convert Analog to Digital and then redistribute Digital to Analog over Cat5e or Cat6 Cable and a POE (Power over Ethernet) switch/distributor.  Some Digital Mixing Consoles have card slots that interface with PM manufacturer’s products to directly send the channels over the Ethernet cable to the stage distributor. From 8 Channels all the way up to a whopping 32 Channels, based on your needs, it allows each “performer” to control their own multiple channels independently from their location.

D.  BYOD.  There are numerous manufacturers of Digital mixing consoles who provide free downloadable Apple and Android applications to control their mixers.  When you Bring Your Own Device, your mix can be controlled through a wifi router from the console.  It can be a simple Band/Me or all the way up to 32 channels. You’ll need a localized headphone amplifier to drive your listening devices, but this is a way to really keep the stage clean and use hardware that most worship team members already own to control.   Almost any mixer brand you can name can do this, but some stand out user friendly brands are Presonus, Soundcraft, and Yamaha.  Pivitek specializes in this solution and doesn’t provide any local hardware for control.

When choosing a new personal monitor system, some of the most important factors to consider are:

  • How many channels do you need to control?
  • How much control does each person need?
  • How will you distribute the audio-Wired? Wirelessly?
  • What kind of budget do you have?
  • Do you currently own a digital mixer?  If not, then some systems are better than others to transfer your signals to the digital domain

As always, Church Audio Video is here to help you make wise and practical decisions about any of your technical and media needs.  Next time, we’ll discuss some options for Listening Devices…

Photo courtesy of MyMix.