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IEM misconceptions?


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I’ve been really interested in everything people are saying in the various IEM threads that are currently running. It’s become a really polarised debate with maybe a bit more heat than light. I think that there is some confusion too. People are confusing using in ears with the demise of the bass amp and then moving on to confuse that with silent stages. They are three different things.and there is a fourth thing too, putting everything through the PA and giving the audience a fully mixed sound. You can do all four of these things or most combinations of any of them. Each change will help solve some problems and maybe create others but the basic issues are simple: how do you give the audience the best sound and how do the musicians get to hear what they need to play well? In ears ae only about the musicians. 
 

So here’s the problem I experienced when I started playing. You are on stage with a drummer and as bassist you are already struggling to hear anything else, so you turn up your bass, the guitarist starts and has to hear themselves above the drums too, the poor old singer doesn’t have a volume control so has to have a floor monitor or two. The drums are producing 100db on average at your ears and peaks in excess of 120db. Meanwhile you are all going harder as the adrenaline rush kicks in, each of you edges up the volume just to pick yourselves out of the mix and you have a volume war.You also have permanent hearing loss. ironically the volume means your ears do their best to reduce the. damage by filtering out as much as they can and you can hear less than if you had all turned down.
 

If you’ve any sense then you will turn down to let the others hear and/or start to use musicians ear plugs. You still have the problem of picking yourself out of the mix, no-one can really have more-me and it is still too loud without ear protection.

 

So, in ears are there to protect your ears and then give you the sound you want; the sound of the band with a little more-me. They can only do this if they cut out sound as well as the best ear plugs. If you’ve had a bad experience of in ears my guess is that’s down to a poor seal. I’ve even seen people using them in one ear. Damaging levels in the unprotected ear and even louder into the other ear. Why would you do that? Why would you do as one of my guitarists does and pull his in ears out so he can hear his amp and then add in extra volume from the phones so that the overall sound is even louder than before?

 

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My experience. My main band used to be the typical ‘too loud’ band. Twin guitarists equipped with 100W Marshall valve amps coupled with 4x12 cabs. I was using a 1500W amp head coupled with two 4x10’s to keep up. First step for me was universal ear protection which worked in terms of lowering the overall volume but didn’t help with hearing what I was playing over the rest. Next step was ACS custom moulded hearing protection which I initially struggled with  as the attenuation (34db) was just too isolating, even though for the first time I could actually hear what I was playing. A change of drummer brought some sense to the on stage volume levels, 4x12 became 2x12, then became 45w combos. Sound on stage cleaned up beautifully to the point where the only ‘damaging’ or ear fatiguing level came with from the drummers cymbals. At the same time we moved to everything through the PA so FOH levels were now much louder than the on stage levels and the out front mix was much much better. 
The drummer then wanted to try in-ears as he still struggled to hear his bass drum. Prompted by all the good stuff on EBS Freaks IEM mega thread, I recommended the Behringer P2/KZ combo which he immediately loved. Next to go IEM was our fiddle player using the Behringer P2 coupled with custom moulded IEM’S. As I run sound whilst playing, I decided that I needed my own IEM setup to learn how to mix them best for the other two. I went KZ with X-Vive U4 but struggled with the isolation despite trying a few different tips. On Warwickhunt’s advice, I next went Shure IEM100’s which fit my ears much better. After trying my X-Vive, our singer/guitarist was the next convert to IEM. 

Now, I vary between my IEM’s and my ACS custom plugs that are now equipped with 17db filters. If I’m doing the sound, I will most likely use my IEM’s, if I’m not then I’ll most likely use my ACS plugs. 
The fifth and final member of the band has no interest in IEM’s and finds the on-stage volume acceptable. Our PA will need significant upgrade if we were to go silent stage so I do not see that happening in the medium term. I have played two venues where the stage arrangement (one a corner stage with a hollow stage riser, the other a three-sided alcove) meant the drums are so dominant that only the ACS plugs work as otherwise I need the IEM volume to be maxed to hear the rest of the band which rather defeats the point of IEM’s in the first place. 
Next step for us is getting the IEM users taking charge of their own mix using their own phone apps. 
For me, I need to work on my own IEM mix and as isolation, though much improved, is still an issue, custom moulded IEM’s are definitely in my future. 

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11 hours ago, JPJ said:

For me, I need to work on my own IEM mix and as isolation, though much improved, is still an issue, custom moulded IEM’s are definitely in my future

Me too, isolation in terms of shutting out the sound is everything. Imagine using your custom ACS and then adding in the sound you get in a studio. I’m working on improving the (sound) isolation having gone all the way to the triple flange tips that are used in my most effective ear plugs.

 

The psychological isolation from the audience and the rest of the band I’m getting used to. I wonder if that’s partly due to comfort? If the in ears are really tight or so loose that they need constant attention I find it quite distracting. The same if they are uncomfortable. 
 

You get used to anything though, you do gradually forget they are there and the proportion of gigs where you feel engaged in the event has increased for me because the sound I’m hearing is no longer dependent upon the venue acoustics. It’s always good leaving one less variable to worry about.

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I've shared most/many of the experiences of the above @JPJ / @Phil Starr and in a very short 12 month period went from 'old school' backline projecting to FOH for guitar + bass + loud drummer (I've worn custom plugs for 20ish years... still lost a bit of hearing), to silent stage, IEM, PA carrying everything; in the process I've also ran bass/others through monitors +/- IEM +/- backline etc etc (as @Phil Starr suggested).  Some/most of these have 'eventually' worked for me but my main two caveats have been that your IE have to isolate effectively (designs/shapes vary and make this tricky) and more importantly the person working the initial PA/mixer set up has to know what they are doing!  I spent many frustrating months trying to get a sound through my IE that even resembled bass never mind MY bass tone.  I dabbled with all sorts of pedals / DI's et al to no avail, eventually establishing that the mixing desk had some architecture that had (guitar) pre-sets integrated into the desk/interface input I was using.  I was all but ready to say 'stuff it' and I remember reading all the threads and thinking many on BC were putting up with rubbish tone for the sake of the Emperor's new clothes... but it worked for me eventually!  

 

As it happens I am now happier that I do not have to go down any one route; I now regularly swap between ALL combinations depending on the situation - there is no right/wrong!  ;)

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I have to admit this thread is  breath of fresh air. I mistrust evangelists, except myself that is. The  from loud onstage sound to silent stage/full IEM is too big to achieve in one step. My band of dinosaurs are unlikely to go full silent stage anytime soon so I am trying to change them very gradually. Reading  other people's experiences,

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Up to a certain size venue it is still possible to do it 'old school' in a sane manner.   I have done the 'too loud' band thing which required ear protection,glad to leave that one behind.  My first line band plays venues of 100 - 200 currently. No mixer, pa vocals only, horns not miced, guitarist with 40W combo.  Plenty loud enough for our audience and 'show'.  The key to this has been discipline, get a good mix at a sensible volume (lighter drumsticks I am told by the drummer) and do not change it.  So far so good as we are all old hands at this.  If we get to bigger venues needing full pa support this method will hopefully still work, the pa being louder than the band.  I would miss the physical feel of my bass going full silent stage however I fully understand the reasons why many do.

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I’d love to try IEMs out. Whilst I love the old school feel of big cabs etc I can’t say it’s my preference when in comparison to something I’ve never tried.

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9 hours ago, Lozz196 said:

I’d love to try IEMs out. Whilst I love the old school feel of big cabs etc I can’t say it’s my preference when in comparison to something I’ve never tried.

If you've ever been into a recording studio you probably have tried it, sort of. The drummer may have been in a booth of course but when recording almost all engineers are going to want a clean recording of each instrument/voice as a starting point so it tends to be headphones all round. If the engineer is good and takes time over your monitoring then that's the sound you'll get on stage. In-ears are just headphones, but little.

 

If you want to try it without hassling the rest of the band you can simply try some cheap in ears like the KZ ZS10's plugged into a recorder like the Zoom H1 Using the recorder just as a convenient mic and headphone amp. If you choose the tips for the headphones carefully they should block out most of the band sound (like ear plugs) and then you can feed in the normal band sound but at lower levels. You'll instantly find everything is a lot clearer just because you have reduced the volume.

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I went IEM nearly 2 years ago. Most gigs are with my Duo and I have an outfront mix. Works  for me

I have depped in a mates classic rock band, all amps and cabs, no monitors. I just put my ACS custom moulds in and tough it out. I don't really enjoy this gig but they're mates and it's easy.

 

I have done two bigger gigs with IEM and a proper sound system/ monitor man etc and wireless. Both gigs were amazing because I coud hear everything I needed, where ever i was on stage, with the added bonus my bass sounded awesome (so did the drums)

 

They won't be for everyone buy they work for me. My Police tribute has also gone IEM in the recent months and the drummer is loving it

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I've been IEM for about 18 months now, and unless there's a change of band bringing in the money, I won't be going back. Oddly, the band I'm in only myself and the drummer are IEM (and he went there because there's a single song to a click, which he needs to hear), the other two (singist/geetard and percussionist) aren't. Luckily we have a good desk which allows individual mixes, so I have just what I need (kick and snare and me, mostly, with a guide-level geetar and vox, and not much percussion) at the volume I need from the lovely dial on my P2...  The PA isn't massive (just two RCF 745s, and the singist/geetard has a RCF 12 monitor), but it's more than enough for the pubs and clubs we play...in fact I think we're always too loud FOH, but that's another story...

 

I've done a few bits with an originals band (see the album launch thing in the gigs thread), but it's a country band, so no massive volumes needed, and I go into the desk from my Stomp and rely on a monitor. If required, I'll use a stage monitor (I have a modded Rumble 100 on a stand, or for more ooomph a QSC 12.2), but I'd much, much rather use the inears. A personal mix of the band where you can hear everything clearly at a reasonable volume? What's not to like?

 

The isolation thing I've become used to, tho there's still a decent level of ambient stage sound from the mics, so it's not extreme at all.

 

Oh, and the load in and out? A struggle of the past...plus whenever we're jammed into a corner (and with a drummer and 3-conga/2-bongo percussionist, that's exacerbated) there's more stage room without backline.

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For me the misconception is that in-ears are about replacing back line. It's actually primarily about managing the noise levels on stage down to levels where you can hear clearly without damaging your hearing. Mine is really damaged because this wasn't an option when I started out and I worked away at in-ears to preserve as much of my hearing as I have left.

 

The secondary benefit was a better mix with more me, that wasn't an issue with bass but it's let me do more backing vocals. Removing just some of the sound from the on-stage mix then helps the rest of the band especially the singers. The final benefit was realising I can leave floor monitors and backline behind. As you say space becomes an issue so anything less on stage helps at many venues.

 

I still own a bass amp and speakers and they go along to any gig where someone isn't using in-ears. You can have both but it becomes a choice.

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I've used IEMs exclusively for the past couple of years, and have no desire to go back to monitors if at all possible.

 

When my originals band did a theatre tour, wed took our own system and engineer with us (and no support, so no changeovers!), so we had sorted mixes in rehearsals, and they were saved for every show (Allen & Heath SQ5 system). For festivals / other gigs, I've sorted an IEM rack for us using my Soundcraft UI24R, using splits if provided at festival, or bringing our own if not.

 

We've just done a couple of shows where our IEMs were mixed by the festival sound crew during very quick changeovers - far from ideal, but still better than poor monitors.

 

For me, the advantages are consistency, hearing protection and less to carry as I don't use an amp (I use a HX Stomp). Personally I enjoy the isolation, though I accept many struggle with it. It focuses me, and since I can hear myself properly, I play better. And personally, I'll do anything to make the sound/show better for the audience rather than myself- I don't care about the 'pleasures' of having a bass amp moving air behind me if it causes problems elsewhere.

 

For me, the enjoyment comes from delivering something to the audience, and my bass is just part of that package - the whole thing needs to be delivered as one thing, and as good as possible. I don't really get pleasure from 'just' playing bass - I get it from playing a part in a cohesive ensemble that's delivering something for an audience to enjoy. It's about sharing a moment, as it were. Of course, that's perfectly possible without IEMs, but in my experience both on stage and behind the mixer, and from mixing recordings of our shows the sound is usually much cleaner and better if the band are on IEMs, so the whole show benefits.

 

I'd argue that maybe, perhaps, just possibly that a very good monitor mix in a good sounding venue is more exciting than playing with IEMs, but that's a rare thing, and I'd rather have consistency from gig to gig - and the worst I've had with IEMs was still a 1000 times better than the worst I've played with monitors.

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Posted (edited)

I'm fairly new to using IEM's (only five gigs with them so far).  I'm still using my amp and cab and everything including my bass goes through the band PA.  

 

My misconception was that I thought I just needed to replicate the EQ settings used for my bass in the FOH mix to make it sound great in my in-ear mix.  My bass EQ for FOH is relatively flat (slightly boosted mids and high frequencies) with a HPF set to remove low end 'mud'.  In reality I found there was too much bass guitar low end in my IEM's for my liking and I've needed to remove more lows to clean up the sound and improve the definition.  The inherent sound of my IEM's (64 Audi A4s) could be contributing to this but I suspect it's unlikely as it doesn't seem to affect anything else in the same way.

 

i'm sending the bass guitar input out into our desk to two channels to enable me to EQ my bass differently for FOH and my IEM's.  It's still a work in progress but improving gig my gig.  Does anyone else EQ their bass differently for FOH and their IEM's?  if so, are there any tips you could share please?

Edited by gazhowe
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56 minutes ago, gazhowe said:

Does anyone else EQ their bass differently for FOH and their IEM's?  if so, are there any tips you could share please?

Very much so. The problem stems from a few things but mainly the bass from the PA. However good your in ears are they are probably only going to reduce the ambient sound by 20db give or take 5db, maybe a little better if you have customs. the trouble is that it is often less than this for bass frequencies. The PA meanwhile is omnidirectional in the sub bass frequencies of 40-160Hz  so if you are 2m behind the PA you hear s much bass as if you were standing 2m directly in front of the PA. If your PA is banging out 110db of bass and your IEMs are trying to feed you 90db of your monitor signal then with 20db of attenuation you already have 90db of bass from your PA leaking past the IEMs and you need no bass at all. (very rough figures here but you get the point.

 

On top of this most venues have you hard up in the corner of the room and in spaces prone to low frequency resonances.

 

So, I now HPF the bass at 80 Hz  and then also shelve it down a minimum of 6db below 200Hz for my in ear channel. I also boost the mids a little and roll off the highs at 3kHz. If anything in most venues that still leaves me with a bass heavy sound so I'm considering raising the HPF even higher. I'm not claiming any expertise here though so hopefully others will come in with suggestions. The same thing is true if you are using floor monitors so maybe we should run a separeate thread.

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7 hours ago, Ramirez said:

I'd rather have consistency from gig to gig

this is the other driver for me to use in ears, Floor monitors are so depenedant upon the acoustics in the pokey little 'stage areas' we often play in. As is our bass sound whe using back line. IEM's give you pretty consistendt monitoring.

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10 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

Very much so. The problem stems from a few things but mainly the bass from the PA. However good your in ears are they are probably only going to reduce the ambient sound by 20db give or take 5db, maybe a little better if you have customs. the trouble is that it is often less than this for bass frequencies. The PA meanwhile is omnidirectional in the sub bass frequencies of 40-160Hz  so if you are 2m behind the PA you hear s much bass as if you were standing 2m directly in front of the PA. If your PA is banging out 110db of bass and your IEMs are trying to feed you 90db of your monitor signal then with 20db of attenuation you already have 90db of bass from your PA leaking past the IEMs and you need no bass at all. (very rough figures here but you get the point.

 

On top of this most venues have you hard up in the corner of the room and in spaces prone to low frequency resonances.

 

So, I now HPF the bass at 80 Hz  and then also shelve it down a minimum of 6db below 200Hz for my in ear channel. I also boost the mids a little and roll off the highs at 3kHz. If anything in most venues that still leaves me with a bass heavy sound so I'm considering raising the HPF even higher. I'm not claiming any expertise here though so hopefully others will come in with suggestions. The same thing is true if you are using floor monitors so maybe we should run a separeate thread.

Thanks for the advice @Phil Starr. The HPF on my bass is at 80hz for FOH which works well.  I've found that raising this to 110hz for my IEM feed gives me plenty of low end in my ears and has improved the clarity of my bass a lot. It's still a work in progress but a big improvement on where I started from. Next step is to try subtle adjustments to the mids and highs to see if that further improves the bass guitar tone in my IEM's. 

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Posted (edited)

The differential sound in IEMs vs FoH is a really interesting one, I very much relate to.

 

I've a particular "presence" patch on my Zoom B1-4 which cuts through the FoH mix really well (boost at 1.6 kHz and 3.6 kHz) but sounds unpleasantly harsh through my IEMs, whereas a non-presence-boosted clean tone sounds really good through my IEMs but is less good a cutting through.

 

I'm seeing if a half way house patch is going to cut the mustard in terms of FoH mix and IEMs - will be able to give it a road test tomorrow night.

Edited by Al Krow
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21 hours ago, Al Krow said:

I'm seeing if a half way house patch is going to cut the mustard in terms of FoH mix and IEMs - will be able to give it a road test tomorrow night.

 

Good luck with the gig tonight :)

 

Anything is worth trying, it's a bit like cookery. get to know your ingredients and come up with a recipe that tastes good for you. In general though if you have a flexible mixer I think it's better to have a target 'sound' that suits your band and then feed that to your PA and then equalise the monitors for the optimum on-stage sound. I'd always prioritise the mix for the audience so a clean feed of the sound you want to FOH comes first. You've got great PA speakers too so you don't need to compromise that.

 

What mixer are you using Al? Obviously if it has no eq on the monitor channels then you are stuck and a compromise is necessary.

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Regarding the separate EQ and HPF thing - a quicker/more practical solition might be to apply a HPF to your aux output instead (effectively cutting the lows out of everything in your IEMs, rather than just the bass), and let the FOH subs fill in thay low end, retaining clarity in your IEMs. Less hassle to set up than splitting your bass channel to two channels on the desk, and possibly more effective too.

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20 minutes ago, Phil Starr said:

 

Good luck with the gig tonight :)

 

Anything is worth trying, it's a bit like cookery. get to know your ingredients and come up with a recipe that tastes good for you. In general though if you have a flexible mixer I think it's better to have a target 'sound' that suits your band and then feed that to your PA and then equalise the monitors for the optimum on-stage sound. I'd always prioritise the mix for the audience so a clean feed of the sound you want to FOH comes first. You've got great PA speakers too so you don't need to compromise that.

 

What mixer are you using Al? Obviously if it has no eq on the monitor channels then you are stuck and a compromise is necessary.

 

Thanks Phil! 

 

Soundcraft MTK12. It's pretty decent and good value for money but not the ability the tailor that a good quality digital desk would provide and certainly no separate EQ for the monitor channels.

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On 18/05/2024 at 11:30, Al Krow said:

 

Thanks Phil! 

 

Soundcraft MTK12. It's pretty decent and good value for money but not the ability the tailor that a good quality digital desk would provide and certainly no separate EQ for the monitor channels.

I guess a digital desk is your next purchase? I lucked out and made my purchase just before the price hikes. £330 for mine and the Behringer XR18 was only £10 more at the time. If mine ever goes down I'm looking at the A&H CQ20 as a possible replacement at £780, it's a bit more flexible than mine but that is a huge price hike. The XR18 is now £550. However being able to mix and eq their own monitor mix is probably what you need to do to persuade your band to fully embrace in-ears.

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I agree the that the CQ20, or more likely CQ18 for me, does look like a tasty piece of kit! The one thing that my cheaper Soundcraft MTK can do though, is multi-track recordings.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 20/05/2024 at 07:32, Phil Starr said:

it's a bit more flexible than mine but that is a huge price hike.

The CQ20 does have multitrack recording capability and 96KHz sampling. On top of that it is so quiet. Noise wise that is. It is also much smaller than it looks and seems really robust. I chose it over the CQ18 because I wanted all my main outputs on XLR rather than TRS.

 

On the subject of the HPF frequency, if you have an adjustable one, move it slowly up and you will be surprised at how little of your tone and sound comes below 100Hz  in most forms of music.

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