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If required I can add & connect a RCF M18 digital mixer to the rack +£280
Sonifex 1U headphone amp for wired monitoring ...I have a 1 or 2 output available... +£150 each
WELCOME TO THE IEM BIBLE! - a beginner's guide to IEMs.
- IF YOU READ THE MAIN POSTS, CHANCES ARE THAT ALL YOUR IEM QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED. IF YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFICS OR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS, FEEL FREE TO DROP ME A PM.
After a recommendation to me, I decided that I would start a new thread that is born out of the old super thread at : https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/205633-in-ear-monitors-help-needed/
That thread contains a whole wealth of information – however, over time it has naturally become quite fragmented or lost when the Basschat migration happened, a lot of information has been superseded and of course, recommendations change. This thread, I'll summarise everything and try and keep all the important stuff in the first few posts of the thread. I'll do a few posts on IEMs, hardware, radio, tips etc.. and build it up from there and keep chopping and changing stuff in the main posts as it happens...
SO PLEASE DON'T QUOTE THE MAIN POSTS AS THE INFORMATION MAY GET CHANGED AND REFINED OVER TIME - thanks
What I’ll do, is try and keep this opening posts updated with all the relevant bits and try and tie any bits of interest to posts in the other thread. This should make it easier for people looking to quickly digest information around IEMs than reading the other thread and no doubt bailing out before getting what they need out of it. I'll try and keep it at a fairly high level to make things easy to consume for the complete starter... so let me know if things aren't clear and I can refine them.
So, without further ado.
1. IEMS (this post) https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/
2. Wireless vs Radio https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944326
3. The source (e.g. your mixing desk) https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944327
4. Haptic feedback for the feeling of "big air" https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944328
5. Integrating a monitor solution with other house systems https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944330
6. Concerned about "spikes"? - what about limiters? https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944331
7. Some thoughts on silent stages https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944337
OK, so you are here probably because you are interested in finding out more about IEMs or have decided to purchase some and are looking for additional information.
1.1 WHAT ARE IEMS?
IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) are basically a set of earphones that are intended to replace the traditional monitor wedge. They tend to range from single driver (single speaker) through to multiple driver units and can be either referred to as a generic/universal fit or a custom fit. As the name would suggest, generic/universal fits are intended to be able to used by everybody, independent of their ear shape, whereas the latter is an earpiece that has been crafted to fit an individual’s ears perfectly (and hence cannot be shared between users).
1.2 WHY USE IEMS?
Like traditional monitor wedges, IEMs are intended to provide a musician with a monitor mix that can be tailored to their individual needs. Unlike monitor wedges, as you move around the stage, the sound doesn’t change. (e.g. standing off axis to a monitor wedge, or perhaps moving around the stage and standing in front of an amp’s cab or the drum kit can significantly impact how well you can hear what is coming from that monitor). Additionally, you can run more complex stereo mixes, which can’t be replicated anywhere near as well using wedges. This is particularly good if you are running lots of vocals or stereo instruments where panning the signal can help with the perception of width and stereo position of instruments and vocals. For example, being able to place vocals to the left and right of the central position can help with pitching and clarity in the monitor mix.
IEMs are a safer way (assuming that you control the volume of the IEMS sensibly) to protect your ears. Like earplugs, IEMs significantly reduce the Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of the sound entering your ears from the stage. With the ambient volume reduced (e.g. the volume that is present on stage, coming from the amps, drums and any other source of noise), a monitor feed can be fed into your ears at a safe volume, resulting in a clear mix, keeping your ears safe. Running IEMs at a safe volume means you can kiss goodbye to post gig ringing ears – which in turn to lead to chronic tinnitus (for which there is no cure). Protect your ears at all costs!
The removing of monitor wedges from the performance area means that you can achieve a significantly higher level of gain before feedback. Less sound on stage means a reduced chance of sound from the monitor wedges entering open mics and causing the feedback loops that we all hate. Cleaner sounds onstage (or even a silent stage) can make your sound engineer happy and ultimately, your band will sound a lot better out front for it.
When running a band on IEMs, you tend to close mic what you want to hear (hence taking the room out of the equation) and the monitor mixes tend to stay pretty similar from gig to gig – leading to quicker setup times and a more consistent and familiar sound in your ears.
IEMs have a certain cool factor. Turning up to a gig with IEMs make it look like you know what you are doing… even if you don’t. What is also cool, is that unlike the rock n roll dinosaurs, you’ll still be able to hear in your advanced years. Another big plus - even if you aren't a confident singer, a set of IEMs will mean you can hear your vocals more clearly - and everybody else's vocals a lot clearer. Your ability to sing and tune with other vocalists will no doubt improve significantly - they really are a bit of a secret weapon on that front!
Here's the thing though - IEMs can be expensive, especially if you go down the custom route. When considering IEMs, I always ask people to think like this - consider buying a wedge. What's the cost of a decent wedge than can cope with a bit of bass? Well, you're looking at circa £300. Now purchase two so you have one for each ear. Now look at a set of professional custom ear plugs (e.g. for general ear protection, with no electronics inside) - they will cost you circa £100. So in essence, a non portable version of CIEMs that don't sound as good comes in at £700. Now those ultra portable customs aren't looking quite as expensive as you first thought...
1.3 NUMBER OF DRIVERS… and DRIVER TYPE?
IEMs tend to be made up of drivers, from a single drive per side, up to 12+ drivers per side. Typically, the drivers used will be one of two types, namely balanced armatures and dynamic drivers. IEMS can come loaded with just dynamic drivers, balanced armatures, or a hybrid setup of dynamic drivers and balanced armatures. Most professional IEMs are at least two drivers - and at least one of them will be a balanced armature.
Dynamic drivers are typically found in cheaper units or as a hybrid setup with balanced armatures. The difference between dynamic drivers and universal drivers can be quite significant, however.
Generally, dynamic drivers tend to have more headroom and have a better bass response than balanced armatures and come with a lower price tag than balanced armatures. They do, however, give up a little in detail but are perceived to have a warmer tone, or bloom in the mids, which some people can prefer. In contrast, the balanced armature is more clinical and precise in its sound but not as good at reproducing bass. Unless you are close A/Bing units of differing driver types with each other, the vast majority of people would not be able to recognise the difference between driver types.
For a bit of additional science-y information, dynamic drivers are effective a miniaturised speaker as you would find in you traditional hifi, speaker cab etc. They have a moving coil, connected to a diaphragm, that moves throughs a magnetised gap, subject to the voltage that is applied to the coil. This assembly of components then moves the speaker cone that effectively vibrates and delivers the airwaves to your ear drum - which is then interpreted by our brains as sound. The way that a balanced armature operates is significantly different; there is a reed that moves within a stationary coil. This reed has a rod attached to it, which in turn is connected to a diaphragm, which consequently, like a dynamic driver, vibrates air to deliver what we perceive as sound.
The physically smaller dimensions of a balanced armature, allow for more drivers to be packed inside those IEM cases - which gives a greater scope to the designer for tuning and headroom. The smaller unit allows the sound source to moved closer to the ear drum, which improves the quality of the sound and allows for greater fidelity, especially in the higher frequencies. In contrast, dynamic drivers are larger, tend not to be able to be positioned as close to the ear canal, require a greater number of coils turns (increasing mass - reducing high frequency response) and consequently lose the ability to reproduce those high frequencies to the same capacity as balanced armatures. By their nature however, dynamic drivers are very good at handling bass frequencies, so where they can't deliver in the high frequency department, a combination of driver types can make for some exceptional, low driver solutions.
Adding drivers primarily adds headroom and by mixing driver types and models (e.g. treble, mid, bass focused units of both balanced armature or dynamic driver types), a better response and superior sounding IEM can be built. It should be noted however, that this is not as straightforward as simply putting in extra drivers and hoping for the best. Great IEMs are the result of hours of R and D to developing crossovers and tuning the units for a desirable, great sounding output. Additionally, all these drivers must be phase aligned and most importantly, the left and right need to match - so the attention to detail and accuracy of the IEM build is of upmost importance. Of course, all drivers have their own responses in terms of how they sound, despite dampening, there is the chance that there is a limit to how good a sound a multiple driver unit can sound. The larger manufacturers then turn to custom orders of drivers to engineer their way out of the constraints that physics have put in the way of standard off the shelf drivers. This is one of the multiple reasons why the market leaders of IEMs tend to sound the best – but also have a higher price tag. All of this superior quality comes at a price! So, in short, adding drivers can improve the sound… but in some cases can cause all sorts of phasing issues if not done correctly.
It should also be mentioned that adding drivers has an additional advantage. By increasing the number of drivers, the less hard the drivers must work to get to working volume. The less hard the drivers are working, the less chance there is of distortion - whether it be audible or not perceivable. The latter is quite significant; even if you can’t hear it, if distortion is present, it will fatigue the ear a lot quicker. As the ear fatigues, people tend to push up the volume to compensate – and again, this increases the risk of hearing damage. If an IEM is distorting, chances are there is something wrong with the gain structure, or you are simply pushing the IEM beyond its limit and hence into distortion. This is not a good thing for your listening enjoyment or your physical ear health - or the IEM itself! Think of it like this - which is going to distort easier - that single 1x10 cab that you are running your bass through, or that Ampeg 8x10? Obviously the 8x10 will have a lot more headroom and will be able to be driven a lot harder before it goes into distortion. This doesn't mean because you have a 8x10 you have to drive it as hard as you can until it distorts - it just means that for that clean bass sound, the drivers are not taxed very hard and everything is super controlled with lots of headroom - the same physics applies with IEMs.
As we are on a bass forum, I tend to recommend at least a quad driver IEM (treble, mid, bass, bass) as the driver count to aspire to. This reduces the chance of distortion as the work is being shared between the drivers – and the drivers that are reproducing the frequencies that we are most interested in (those that are also the most difficult frequencies to reproduce) are given a helping hand by being doubled up. There is an exception to this in my opinion, and it’s a unit that I tend to recommend for its performance vs price point - and that is the UE6. The UE6 is a triple driver – but has dynamic drivers in the mids and bass. There is a balanced armature in the high. In short, the dynamics provide greater headroom and better bass response in the lows, whilst the air and detail that is most importantly found in the highs, is retained using a balanced armature. The UE6 custom gives a performance comparable to a equivalent quad balanced custom – but without the price tag.
You can begin to guess (to a certain extent) what an IEM is going to sound like by it’s driver count. If there is an equal number of balanced armatures in the treble, mid and bass range, it’s likely to be more flat response than say a different unit that has a higher driver count in say the bass. That latter unit is likely to have a slight kick in the bass and additional headroom. It’s probably worth mentioning though, that due to tuning and different driver types, if you are really fussy about the native response of your IEM, you should A/B them. It’s rare for IEMs to be tuned to a reference or flat response – because mostly flat sounds boring… and each manufacturer has their own take on what an IEM should sound like. Additionally, if you want to use IEMs for critical mixing, you are probably better getting a set of headphones. You’ll pay less for not going small and portable and will certainly get a flatter response for a lot less money. I will say one thing though, once you are on stage, the native response of the IEM becomes less important. I always say I will take the IEM with headroom and are in phase, as opposed to an IEM that is reference quality but lacking in headroom or has phase issues! In short, from the larger manufacturers at least, you can’t really go wrong… they are sound great, just a bit different from one another. This also counts for drivers. As soon as you get over 4 drivers, you are looking at diminishing returns… and higher driver counts don’t necessarily sound better (they could sound worse due to poor crossover design or phasing issues) – they just sound different. Don't forget - if you have a nice digital desk with a master EQ on the aux, you can tailor the frequency response at the desk!
1.4 UNIVERSAL/GENERICS VS CUSTOMS
Universal IEMs as stated above, are intended for use by anybody. In a lot of cases this is true… but for some people, universal IEMs just don’t stay in some people’s ears. This is largely down to potluck; some people just don’t have ears that are well suited to a one size fits most IEM. Some IEMs can be overly bulky or simply not shaped in an appropriate manner that fits well with your outer ear.
Universal IEMs will come with tips. Some fit issues can be addressed with changing the tip size or tip material… or both. Tips generally come in two flavours, silicon and foam. Neither are inherently better than the other, they are just different. You need to find the material and size that best suits you. There is a trend on musician’s forums and Facebook groups that Comply foam tips are where it’s at. This isn’t necessarily true – foam tips can disintegrate very quickly with sweaty ears… likewise, silicon tips can easily slide out of sweaty ears. Again, it’s about finding the right tips to fit your ears (if they exist). For silicon tips, I like Spinfits (other tips are available) - they've got a good range to go through to try and find that perfect fit... and of course, if you look on something like Amazon, there are lots of cheap (and expensive) tips that you can try if you are struggling with fit.
The fit - and uncomfortable or troublesome fit with generic IEMS - is the primarily reason why people tend to move to custom IEMs. Having a custom IEM made for you means that there are no fit issues - you'll be able to shake your head, do windmills, cartwheels and whatever you could ever imagine - and those custom IEMS will stay firmly in place.
The commonly mentioned universals include Shure SE215s and MEE6 inears. I have to say, these aren’t the best by a long stretch, especially when you consider what you can get for your money. They are single dynamic drivers earpieces, with not a lot of headroom and a less than adequate bass response. Whilst they may sound OK listening to music that has been processed and mastered but remember live music is full of transients and not given the post processing and mastering process that recorded music has (unless you have a separate monitoring rig for your mixes – which is not likely if you are using budget IEMs for listening to your monitor mix) and a lot more taxing on IEMs. For those on a budget or taking their first steps into IEMs, I’ll tend to recommend ZS10s – they are a 5 driver per side hybrid setup that can be had for typically less than £40 and will slay most of the competition. Even a move from 215s to ZS10s will immediately show you the benefit of headroom, especially as a bass player. Whilst the ZS10 may not be the best sounding IEMs in isolation, on stage, they have bags of headroom and great low-end response, so for bass players especially, they are a much better investment than many of the common mentioned alternatives you see time and time again. Just remember to buy the version without the mic control for on stage use (the mic version being for mobile phones). Other alternatives to look at are the AS10s (non hybrid, 5 balanced armatures per side) or the new AS12 (6 drivers per side) and AS16 (8 per side, flatter sound signature).
Custom IEMS are made by taking an impression of you ear canals and concha and then building the drivers inside a custom casing that fits perfectly in your ears. This impression needs to be taken by somebody suitably qualified or an audiologist. Before the impression is taken, the ear is checked for being healthy and free from wax. If there is too much wax build up, an impression cannot be taken, and your ears will need to be cleaned by a professional. This is usually called micro suction or an “ear toilet”. It doesn’t hurt – it’s literally a little vacuum cleaner that sucks wax out. I’m a bit weird and like it (and I also like impression being taken also!). If your ear is all looking good, an impression can be taken. This is quite a straightforward process; a gauze is pushed into your ear to stop the silicone going too far into your ear (don’t worry, there is a string attached to it so that it can be retrieved post the impression) and then your ear canal is filled with medical grade silicon which is left to set. Once set, it’s still flexible enough to be removed from your ear. The impression is then sliced and diced appropriately before being sent (either physically or as a digital 3d model that has been created via a laser scanner that scans the physical impression) to the manufacturer to be used to make your final custom IEM. There are two important things that must be observed when taking impressions. First of all, the impression needs to go past the second bend in your ear and secondly, a one inch bite block should be in place when the impression is taken. This bite block is to shape your ear canal such that the resulting impression will enable you to be able to sing and smile without the seal on the custom IEM being broken. This is really important as if the custom IEM does not seal, you will get stage sound leaking into your ear and you’ll also lose a lot of bass response… which isn’t great, especially when you have spent a lot of money ensuring that you have lots of bass drivers to give the bass response you'll be looking for. Final thing, when taking impressions, make sure you keep still. Don't talk, don't move, don't do anything... be wary of people taking your impressions and not observing these rules - you will end up with a rubbish impression that in turn will lead to a poor fitting custom. Oh... and beware, you will drool when having your impressions taken, it's normal, don't be embarrassed! (When your impression is being taken, you'll probably be given a tissue in preparation for the drool!)
Essentially all IEM casings, independent of model, are the same, it’s the inner electronics (e.g. driver count and crossover) that largely separate them. Not only do you get a perfect fit but because the fit is so much better than a universal IEM, the isolation tends to be better (typically around -26dB) – this is the equivalent of putting your fingers into your ears. This of course, has major advantages; this means that less ambient noise from your surroundings is passing through into your ears… but also means that you don’t have to drive you IEM's drivers as hard to get over the ambient sound from the outside world.
Customs are generally made of silicone (flexible) or acrylic (hard). Having had both, there is no notable advantage of one over the other, certainly in terms of fit, comfort or real-world isolation. Silicone is not more comfortable than acrylic – if it is, the acrylic mould is not a good fit in your ear. Silicone does have two disadvantages over acrylic. Over time, it tends to shrink a little and if you have clear, it tends to discolour and go cloudy (choose a smoke colour if you want a translucent colour that doesn’t show the yellowing over time). In my experience, silicone is more prone to cable failure due to the additional flex on the cable attachment.
Talking of fit, customs tend to fit well for circa 5 years. After that period, they may need adjustment, a reshell or a replacement. It’s worth noting, however, that due to your ears constantly growing, this can vary from person to person… and things like losing or gaining a lot of weight can influence the fit also. Generally, for acrylic at least, adjustments can be achieved by removing or adding acrylic to perfect the fit, so isn’t really that big of a problem (although it can be a little annoying if you want to use your new IEMs straight away!). For most people, fitment is perfect the day your custom IEM arrives, however the odd fitment issue can occur – and is not something to get overly worried about – it’s fixable without too much of an issue!
Modern technology has really been beneficial for the creation of acrylic custom IEMs. With the advent of 3d printing becoming more mainstream, the laborious hand pouring of moulds is a thing of a past. This means that custom IEMs are made with greater accuracy and precision than ever before and at a much-accelerated pace. Customs IEMs used to take months to arrive - now, with the improved manufacturing techniques, IEMs are typically at your doorsteps in under 3 weeks (and typically 2) from the impressions being received by the manufacturer.
One of the additional appeals of custom IEMs is that they can be cosmetically altered to your design. Whether you want them made from bits of diamond, wood, bullet ends, right down to custom colours, most of the larger manufacturers are willing to entertain all sorts of design details, images, logos – but be warned, for a cost - and some of these costs can range from very reasonable to very significant! Whatever your design choice, I would always recommend clear or a translucent colour for where the bit which inserts into your ears open out - purely because it allows you to see into the IEM tubes and makes it easy for you to clean and retrieve stray bits of wax which should not be there!
Other customisations that you may see, include things like soft tips on acrylic IEMs (as the name suggests, the tips that enter your idea are soft whilst the rest of the IEM is hard acrylic) that can aid comfort for those with sensitive ears (although I have never heard either complain about pain in that are, or likewise, rave about the inclusion of soft tips). Another common (albeit becoming less common) addition, is the inclusion of recessed cable connectors - the idea being that a typical two pin connector that is recessed in to the main IEM housing is more protected to those that are mounted on the edge of the IEM.
1.5 CUSTOM IEMS FROM OVERSEAS
Lots of people have a worry about buying IEMs not from the UK or their home territory. A lot of IEMs originate from the USA. The world is now a small place. A build from UE and JH Audio for example, is about 2 weeks, 64 Audio about 3 weeks. The build process is not so automated compared to just a few years ago, the turn around times, as mentioned previously are now a lot, lot lower.
What about any repairs and warranty work? Pro IEM builders appreciate that musicians can’t be without such an important piece of hardware. To have some sort of idea of what you can expect, I had a wax blockage in a pair of JH Audio Roxannes that had to be sent back to JH Audio to be cleaned out. They were back in my hands in less that 10 days – including the days that it was in the hands of the postage service. Not too bad considering!
1.6 AMBIENT PORTS? LIVE SYSTEM?
A lot of people get anxious about being isolated from the outside world. There is a transition period as you get used to the different sound – but as a rule of thumb, I would always recommend that you want to block out as much ambient noise as possible and work on the premise of if you want to hear something in your monitor, you’ll need to mic it up. So, if you want to hear all the guitars and drums on stage, mic them up. if you want to hear the audience and the room, mic them up. Send those feed into your monitor mix and front of house - but obviously in the case of the audience feed, that should not go out of the front of house mix.
So even though I’m not a fan of ambient ports, what are they? Well, as the name suggests, they add a port in the IEM that allows stage sound through the casing and into your ear canal… but at a semi reduced volume. Whilst it does put the feeling of being in the room back, the big disadvantage to having an ambient port installed is that it effectively breaks the seal in your IEM – resulting in a loss of bass, which is obviously not the best for bass players or bass junkies.
You may have heard of the ACS Live! System - but what is it all about? What’s the Sensaphonic 3d sound about? They’re actually pretty cool concepts to be honest. Instead of ambient ports, these systems utilise binaural microphones that are installed in the ear pieces. The cables to the ear pieces are fed into a belt pack mixer that sums the monitor mix with the signal from the tiny microphones to enable you to blend in the ambient sound received from the mics… without having a break in the seal. Whilst this is all good in theory, its best suited to those on big stages with low SPL. I have found that with my ACS Live! system, the mics distort very easily, even when the pad on the pack is applied to them to reduce the level from the mic. I would imagine they would be great if you were a singer in the West End or similar – but for me, the results have been somewhat disappointing. If you feel that this is the system for you but don't want to go down the custom route, ASI Audio (by Sensaphonics) have released a universal system that includes the same technology that is included in the custom ear pieces.
Personally, for ambient feeds, I have found that a couple of condensers in XY configuration on stage to mix in a little ambient sound is preferential – although I actually prefer the isolated feeling to be honest - it's like listening to a studio CD, which I love. You have to experiment and see what works for you. Adding external mics is not a big issue - and a single or pair of cheap condensers (for stereo) will get your great results. A set of Behringer C2s on a mic stand can be had for less than £40 and will do the job just great. For a great alternative approach, check out section 3.4 under this post https://www.basschat.co.uk/topic/389429-the-iem-bible-thread/?do=findComment&comment=3944327 which provisions an ambient mic setup but also allows for auxiliary monitoring feeds from your mixer (section 3.1).
You may have seen Apex/Adel modules on IEMs. These are not ambient ports as such. They are primarily there to reduce any extra pressure that is present in your ear canal and also meant to widen the sound stage. There is some physics behind it but to some it’s snake oil. Make up your own mind. I find my IEMs equipped with the Apex modules do fatigue less – but that may be a placebo effect in action. They don’t really impact any of the bass levels – but you can block them off totally if you think they do.
1.8 WHAT ABOUT SLEEVES FOR MY SHURE 215s ETC?
Yes, you can possible get sleeves that fit on your universal/generic monitors. Theses essentially replace the tips and are custom moulded to your ears. People tend to go for these after dipping their foot into the IEM game. Do they work? Well, yes... kind of. They will fit better - but still won't get you in the ball park of a true custom. My advice, given that you most people that get sleeves very quickly move onto customs anyway, is to skip this step. Given you'll have to pay for impressions (which are getting pretty expensive now anyway - London prices are now topping £80) and the cost of the sleeves themselves (circa £150), I would always recommend in saving that money to put towards some customs where you are more likely be able to negotiate some free impressions as part of a custom IEM deal.
1.9 IEM CARE
Keeping your IEMs clean is very important. There are two main things that you can do to keep your IEMs clean and your ears healthy and free from infection. First up, alcohol wipes are great for cleaning your IEMs and keeping any nasties at bay.
ALWAYS keep the tubes of your IEMs clean. Get into a regular cycle of cleaning your IEMs after every performance. Wax build up is the number one problem associated with IEMs. If you don’t keep your IEMs cleaned, the audio tubes can get blocked. If they get too blocked, they can’t be cleaned with a wax pick. If you can’t clean them with a wax pick, they will need to be vacuumed. If the wax has gone too far, it can damage the driver, which will require the case opening (e.g. return back to the manufacturer) and the driver to be replaced. In short, for the 30 seconds it takes, just check the IEM tubes are clean after every gig and fish out any stray wax with a wax pick. Some IEMs (e.g. 64 audio, have a gauze over the tube ends to attempt to stop the ingress of wax - beware however, if the wax melts into the gauze, it's very difficult/impossible to remove in situ - so the same applies with IEMs with this in place... clean regularly!
For the obsessive, you can get UV baths which both dry and kill any nasties that may be residing on your IEMs. These are just little cases in which you put your IEMs, air circulates to dry your IEM (any moisture is taken out of the air via silica gel) and the UV light zaps any potential sources of infection.
Overall though, keeping your IEMs in a clean bill of health is easy. Wipe them down and clean out any stray wax after EVERY use (without fail!).
I see people mention cable upgrades. In short, yes, you can get better cables… and very expensive cables… but what I will say, in a band environment, are your ears really bothered or able to distinguish between minute details? If you feel the answer is yes, then by all means, upgrade… however, to really be able to distinguish the difference I would say you should be an environment that is quiet and suitable for critical listening.
For onstage use, any upgrades I think, should be down to stock cables being too springy, or prone to getting tangled. Most of the big manufacturers now use cable where this isn’t an issue any longer.
Other things to consider when ordering cables, is to ensure they are the right length. Don’t get too long a cable such that it is dandling around your kneecaps when you are performing. Doing that is more likely going to cause the IEMs to be damaged by avertedly being yanked out of your ear. A drummer, however, may want to use a longer cable to plug into a nearby mixer.
Always coil you cable properly after IEM use. If anything is going to fail on an IEM, it’s a cable. Make sure you look after the cable, don’t just shove your IEMs and cables in your pocket, take time to store them properly in their cases and you won’t have any issues.
One last thing for those people with OCD. Silver cables look great but do tend to go green over time as they age. If you can’t cope with that, play it safe and go with black sheathed cables.
Finally, If you do go for an aftermarket cable, ensure that you put a set with the right connector type. Both JH Audio and Ultimate Ears make IEMs with proprietary connectors - so make sure whatever cable type you buy are compatible with your IEM's connectors.
USEFUL LINKS :
http://www.custom-inearmonitors.co.uk/ - UK based dealer for primarily JH Audio, 64 Audio and Ultimate Ears
https://jhaudio.com/ - JH Audio website
https://www.64audio.com/ - 64 Audio (formerly 1964) website
https://pro.ultimateears.com/ - Ultimate Ears
https://www.acscustom.com/uk/products/in-ear-monitors/live-series/ - ACS Live! system
https://www.sensaphonics.com/products/3dme-music-enhancement-system-asi-audio-x-sensaphonics - Sensaphonics 3DME music enhancement ASI Audio X
https://asiaudio.com - ASI Audio 3DME - same tech as above but housed in universal fit ear pieces
http://www.kzacoustics.com/ - Home of ZS10s
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en - Spinfit silicone tips for generic IEMS
https://www.complyfoam.com - Comply foam tips for generic IEMS
https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0263 - Behringer C2 condensers - great for ambient mics on a budget
http://www.robinsonhealthcare.com/5885 - Alcohol wipes (I use these alcohol wipes because they are just the right size and great on computer screens too!)
*other IEM manufacturers available, these are the ones that I have used/bought etc. Paul at CIEM tends to help a lot of Basschatters out with their custom needs and you'll tend to find me at the shows with Paul to help him out. I am not employed or have shares in or anything like that with CIEM company - it's just a great and rare place in the fact that you can try all the models of CIEMs out from the top 3 manufacturers. Testing out customs you say?? How can you do that? Well, the manufacturers provide test models with tips (like on universal/generic IEMs) so you can get a flavour of their sound signature.
I've recently been looking into the possibility of acquiring a pre loved Line 6 Wireless system, from their G-series range.
In the last few minutes, I've been on to Anderton's website (to check the RRP) and noticed the following disclaimer on the G-30; "please note: Line 6 Relay transmitters are NOT compatible with active pickups."
Which is a blow. But begs the question: what are those who have gone wireless using? and/or - is there a work around we should know about?
Me and my band are straying into the realm of using IEMs to eliminate the need for onstage cabs and sound. I today just bought a pair of Sennheiser SE535s and the SubZero SZ-IM2 transmitter & receiver and, I don’t know, I’m disappointed. Admittedly I’ve never tried IEMs before so I didn’t know what to expect, but for hundreds of pounds worth of gear, I expected better sound quality. I get better clarity from my Apple earphones frankly, please someone tell me I’m doing something wrong?
Classic Smoothhound wireless system.
Transmitter bug case is broken, hence price, but it all still works as it should.
Any questions, fire away.
If you can pick it up, then £40. Otherwise £45 includes postage.
Note: Smoothhound will repair the bug for around £20 if you send it to them, so this could be very cost-effective to get an essentially 100% system.