What Are the Benefits of In-Ear Monitors?
"In-ear monitors," or "in-ears," are a special category of headphones used commonly by live performers. But while traditional headphones deliver sound through earcups on the outer ear, "in-ears" deliver sound through tiny earpieces that fit into the ear canal. Because these earpieces slide into the ear, they create a barrier to any outside noise - offering up to 20-40dB of noise reduction. At the same time, they allow live performers a customized mix with only the instruments they want to hear. In-ears, then, are half-headphone and half-earplug; they offer both isolation and a crystal-clear listening experience, in even the noisiest live stage settings.
While most in-ears are designed for a universal fit, some professionals choose to invest in custom-made in-ears. A molded impression of the individual's ear canal is used to create perfectly-tailored in-ears, offering the greatest possible comfort.The idea for custom-fitted in-ears is actually credited to Alex Van Halen and his monitor engineer, Jerry Harvey. On a 1995 Van Halen tour, Alex was having trouble hearing other band members amidst the overwhelming stage noise. When he voiced his frustration to the band's monitor engineer, Harvey began tinkering. Harvey installed tiny speakers (designed originally for pacemakers) into earpieces molded from impressions of Alex Van Halen's ears, and voila; Alex had the first-ever pair of custom in-ears. The difference, in the drummer's words, was like "night and day."
Of course, in-ears can also be used outside of live venues; listeners rely on in-ear monitors in recording studios, radio stations, or even on their morning subway commute. But in-ears' discreet size and powerful isolation make them especially popular in the world of live performance. In settings where onstage monitors are unreliable, noisy, or visually distracting, in-ears guarantee that musicians hear the mix they need to deliver the best possible live show. In-ear monitors do such an effective job of blocking external noise that musicians are literally deaf to audience applause, even at stadium shows. So if musicians want to hear the audience, the mix engineer will position mics facing the audience to pick up applause and send the "audience" sound directly into the band's in-ears.
In short, in-ears take the guesswork out of live sound monitoring; they offer consistency, precision, and dependability to performers all over the world. And as an added benefit, in-ear monitoring gives artists total mobility on stage. And with a wireless system, a perfect mix goes wherever a performer goes: no more worrying about stage monitor "sweet spots." Not to mention - a live setup with fewer stage monitors means a sleeker look, and less hassle.
Finding Your Perfect Pair
Sweetwater's selection runs the gamut of in-ear monitoring; we carry everything from earpieces to transmitters, receivers, and accessories. If you're looking for professional in-ear monitors, the Shure SE215's are a great place to start. These single-driver, lightweight in-ears connect to any 1/8" input, and are surprisingly affordable. On the other hand, live venues might look into a more comprehensive package - like the Sennheiser Evolution Wireless 300 IEM G3. Sennheiser IE 4 earphones plug right into a bodypack receiver, while the 300 G3 rackmountable stereo transmitter comes with a built-in limiter. Don't hesitate to call one of our sales engineers for advice; we're happy to help you find your perfect in-ear monitoring solution. Our staff can even help order your own pair of Westone custom-molded in-ears.