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Alternative to IEM's on stage?


MrVegas
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About a month ago our church's "pro team" rolled out a new in ear monitor system.  All the floor monitor wedges were removed from the stage.  Each of the musicians has their own wireless transmitter and a crappy little pair of ear buds with a 3.5mm mini-plug for the transmitter.  I didn't like how the ear buds made me feel detached from the aliveness of the live performance.  I also tried some Sony closed-back headphones and did not like how everything was in my head, almost as if I wasn't even there in the midst of the musical experience / celebration / worship time.  Last Sunday, on a few occasions I reached up and moved the earcup over my right ear a little so I could hear what was happening in the room and it was better (this was better but less than ideal because my ability to really hear what I was playing on keys was diminished quite a bit with the right earcup adjusted away from my ear).  I think the solution might be a decent pair of open-back headphones such as the Shure SRH 1840 open-back headphones.  I'm looking for feedback and recommendations on open-back, over-ear headphones for my dilemma.

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2 hours ago, MrVegas said:

About a month ago our church's "pro team" rolled out a new in ear monitor system.  All the floor monitor wedges were removed from the stage.  Each of the musicians has their own wireless transmitter and a crappy little pair of ear buds with a 3.5mm mini-plug for the transmitter.  I didn't like how the ear buds made me feel detached from the aliveness of the live performance.  I also tried some Sony closed-back headphones and did not like how everything was in my head, almost as if I wasn't even there in the midst of the musical experience / celebration / worship time.  Last Sunday, on a few occasions I reached up and moved the earcup over my right ear a little so I could hear what was happening in the room and it was better (this was better but less than ideal because my ability to really hear what I was playing on keys was diminished quite a bit with the right earcup adjusted away from my ear).  I think the solution might be a decent pair of open-back headphones such as the Shure SRH 1840 open-back headphones.  I'm looking for feedback and recommendations on open-back, over-ear headphones for my dilemma.

Conundrum.  Even more bizarre feeling if you are used to acoustic playing, with no or just vocal amplification.  Are you able to adjust what you are hearing and set your own level?  That’s important.  When you have it to your liking, try open back or closed with one ear off, or partially off an ear.  
 

Also, discuss with the sound mixing engineer the possibly of replacing your IEM with one micro monitor.  They are very small and you can face toward you specifically so as not to interfere with the FOH mix.

 

https://www.galaxyaudio.com/products/mspa5

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Here's some advice you didn't ask for, sorry. I never used in-ears until pretty late in my musical travels, after my tinnitus got worse. It took a while to get used to hearing things so differently, but it can be done imo, if you hang in for a while. Two things that I think would help are first, have as much stereo happening as possible - I monitor my keys in stereo but everything else comes in on one XLR so it's mono. I live with that but it's not great. Second, assuming you can do #1, is to ask the soundperson to get a stereo "ambience" feed to you -  two room mics or stage mics, to get a stereo image of the space that you can dial in to taste. Does your new in-ears system give each musician an Aviom or similar box to let you adjust your own mix, or are you dependent on the sound person? Do you at least get your own mix?

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2 hours ago, MrVegas said:

I'm looking for feedback and recommendations on open-back, over-ear headphones for my dilemma.

What's your budget? Sennheiser 280s, Yamaha HPH 200s and AKG K240s are good and cheap.

 

A back of room microphone sent into one of the IEM channels can help give that "room" feeling. It doesn't work for everyone but it may help many team members.

 

In my humble opinion IEM's when used in a disciplined way, are an excellent tool for making a good band better. In untrained or indisciplined hands however, they can encourage the most selfish behavior. The previous offenders, will often just boost their own channels, resulting in a band which more than ever doesn't listen to each other. Let's hope that isn't your experience. High downside. High upside. Both are possible. 

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This is lots of good information to digest.  

 

If I decide to go with open-back headphones, do you think I will be able to use a pair of 300 ohm cans?  A friend of mine has a pair of Sennheiser HD 650 and they are 300 ohm impedance.  I'm wondering if the wireless transmitter has enough oomph to make those headphones sound reasonable?

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Kronos 88, Korg CX-3, Motion Sound KBR-3D

 

 

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3 hours ago, ElmerJFudd said:

Also, discuss with the sound mixing engineer the possibly of replacing your IEM with one micro monitor.  They are very small and you can face toward you specifically so as not to interfere with the FOH mix.

 

https://www.galaxyaudio.com/products/mspa5

 

That's what I do. Most of my country band has gone IEMs, but somehow I've resisted, and they are fine with me using my Behringer powered spot-monitor. I feed my own keys into it, and our sound guy feeds vocals into it. I can reach over and adjust it as needed, without effecting FOH. Drums, bass, and guitar I can hear just fine as is (stage sound). I like the open air sound without earbuds in my ears.

 

Pic below shows my rig with the Behringer spot-monitor attached to my keyboard stand with some clever rigging...

halloween_gig_2019.jpg

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8 minutes ago, synthizen2 said:

 

That's what I do. Most of my country band has gone IEMs, but somehow I've resisted, and they are fine with me using my Behringer powered spot-monitor. I feed my own keys into it, and our sound guy feeds vocals into it. I can reach over and adjust it as needed, without effecting FOH. Drums, bass, and guitar I can hear just fine as is (stage sound). I like the open air sound without earbuds in my ears.

 

Pic below shows my rig with the Behringer spot-monitor attached to my keyboard stand with some clever rigging...

halloween_gig_2019.jpg

Yep. Preferable if you just don’t get on with IEMs.  

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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The ambience mic is a big deal.

 

Another consideration: if your "IEMs" are just crappy run-of-the-mill earbuds, you're not really getting the true experience. Granted, a great pair of IEMs will run you back a fair bit more than some K240s or Senn 280s. But there are still some very decent offerings from Shure/Westone/JH Audio etc which won't break the bank and will make a sizeable difference in sound quality and playing experience.

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This is the link to the CAD system ...

 

https://www.cadaudio.com/products/gxl-series/gxliem4#specs

 

For what it's worth, this is basically a piece of sh*t system, but it's what we've got to work with right now.  The little transmitters seem to kick out a reasonable amount of volume into my closed-back Sony headphones, by the way.

 

 

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Kronos 88, Korg CX-3, Motion Sound KBR-3D

 

 

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Here's a few thoughts, in no particular order:

 

1) it may be worth a conversation with your "pro team" (as you call them) if you could use a small personal monitor like a hot spot or similar. While they may say "no"...all they can say is "no".

 

2) I would never, never, never use "ear buds" for IEM. At least, if by "ear bud" you mean the kind of Apple EarPods kind of hard plastic bulb that "rests" in your ear without making a good, sung seal. With in-ears, the quality of the seal with the outer ear is EVERYTHING. Even a $$$$ pair of multi-driver IEMs will sound crap if not properly fitted - the entire frequency response depends on an appropriate bass level - and that's entirely determined by the seal. If that's what your "pro team" gave you, you may find that even an inexpensive pair of better fitting IEMs (like, single-driver Shure SE215s) may significantly elevate your experience.

 

3) It sounds like you're dealing with a couple of different issues - and it may be helpful to isolate them. First is the isolation and weirdness every first-time IEM user feels. The second is lack of customized mix. The first goes away with time - you just get used to it, as others have noted. The second I overcome with a "more me" solution. I always have the ability to balance two channels - 1: whatever the house gives me, and, 2: just me. If I have the ability to run my own IEM mix (one outfit I MD for uses the Personus stuff, so I have the iPhone apps to customize my mix), I can customize the stereo field. But in a pinch, I can always hear what I'm playing.

 

As far as your actual question (recommendation for open back), I wouldn't recommend going audiophile-money, and also running into possible high impedance "can I drive them" issues, if you're spending yourself. I can personally commend the Philips Fidelio X2HR, which are comfortable, sound great, don't present a "juiced" sound signature, are easy to drive at 30 ohms, and won't break the bank at less than $128 on Amazon.

 

 

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Does the "pro team" adjust everything you need in your ears, or is it one size fits all?

Next the sound engineer should have 1 or more ambience mics that are fed to the monitor system.

 

That's how we do it.   The two ambient mics pick up the room or audience, and I can dial how much or how little of that I want in my ears.   As such, we never feel disconnected.

 

If you ever decided to go back to in ears, take the advice others of given, and get a set of earbuds designed for musical in ear monitoring.   For non-custom molded, I am a huge fan of the Shure SE-425. Really good clarity and separation of highs and lows.   I carry a set as backup.   My current ears are a set of Ultimate Ears where you get a mold taken, and they build them. They are $$$$, bus justifiable based on what I do.

 

The open back over the ear cans sound like they will/are work for you.  If so, that's good!

 

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a set of customs, but I no longer  use them because I can't sing with them in (occlusion pressure issues).  I've tried inexpensive KZ 5 drivers and don't care for them so I'm back using my Shure 215s, with a new cable.  They've done at least 300 gigs but I wouldn't mind a bit of an upgrade; I am keeping an eye out for a sale on the 425s or maybe Westone 30s.

It's an interesting issue, if the stage is truly silent that kind of removes one reason for using IEMs (ear protection) and I could see open back headphones working.   I've read to never put one earbud out, you tend to crank up the one that's still in too much--though that is mostly advice for a loud stage.

We still use an acoustic drummer and normally have at least one wedge, but lately that wedge holdout is trying to use IEMs as well--which makes for a really interesting situation when your IEMs don't work, as happened to me with my Behringer P16M monitor mixer (darn thing just didn't have any headphone output).  In a pinch I could have heard enough from his wedge to limp by, but the stage was basically just drums.  I had backups for just about everything but didn't have AAA batteries for my backup back, luckily the band had an extra wired pack that I used.    I ended up buying a Rolls PM55 and so far I really like it, it allows stereo keys monitoring from my Key Largo.  I lose the stereo for everything else, but a big plus is that I could use this same rig with any mixer.    Moral of the story, verify that your backup plan is actually fully in place :)

 

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If you’re willing to stick it out and try to like in ears, I suggest getting custom ear molds made. Try calling around to places that sell hearing aids. Some will do molds of your ears to use with in ears. Prices vary greatly.
 

I you don’t want to go that route, a small personal monitor is a good bet. I use a TC Helicon VoiceSolo XT with a breakout box, which is no longer made, but others above have noted some good choices.
 

I use both methods, depending on the band I’m playing with, and am happy either way. They both take time to get used to, in ears maybe take longer for many people.

I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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If its a paying gig ... Assuming everything is setup relatively okay then I would just keep getting on that horse until it feels like normal.  But that is just me.

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"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

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7 hours ago, stillearning said:

If you’re willing to stick it out and try to like in ears, I suggest getting custom ear molds made. Try calling around to places that sell hearing aids. Some will do molds of your ears to use with in ears.

MrVegas is on the record as not liking in-ears too much, so shelling out for custom molds seems far fetched in this particular situation. I had custom molds made once, for earplugs. They had removable filters with different attenuation levels that you could swap out. I found the molds uncomfortable after a while. My cheap Shure in-ears may not sound the greatest but imo the Comply foam eartips are easier on my ear canals and provide a pretty good seal. I tried the silicone tips too but preferred the foam to those.

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A few questions:

- I wonder if your sound crew prefer you to have IEMs because of reduced risk of feedback on stage? The answer to "can I bring a hotspot monitor" will reveal that

- Is on-stage volume too loud? I went to IEMs (like many others) to protect my hearing in that situation.

- Will closed-back headphones present the wrong "look" for the band? ("Keyboard player looks like a DJ" or similar)

 

Cheers, Mike.

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12 hours ago, Reezekeys said:

MrVegas is on the record as not liking in-ears too much, so shelling out for custom molds seems far fetched in this particular situation. I had custom molds made once, for earplugs. They had removable filters with different attenuation levels that you could swap out. I found the molds uncomfortable after a while. My cheap Shure in-ears may not sound the greatest but imo the Comply foam eartips are easier on my ear canals and provide a pretty good seal. I tried the silicone tips too but preferred the foam to those.

There are also many players who didn’t care for in ears initially, but after trying custom molds, ended up liking them better. In the rest of my post I also offered if he genuinely didn’t want to go with in ears, I suggested using a personal hotspot type of monitor. As someone who uses both in various situations, I realize there’s not one right answer for everyone.

I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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Well, as I mentioned above, I also don't like customs.  Or at least the ones I got, and I'm not throwing good money after bad risking it again (since obviously I can't sell them).  I found customs uncomfortable but also I can't sing with them because the occlusion pressure.

I do seem to be in the minority though it must be said.  Most people who got customs do like them.

I've found that with reasonable stage volume I not only don't need customs but you rarely get feedback.   Most gigs I play now, reasonable stage volume is a requirement and I've very, very glad about it.

In-ears definitely take time to get used to.  I reckon it was at least five gigs before I could even tolerate them, I came very close to ditching the idea.  Only ringing ears after shows made me stay with it, because it was either reduce sound levels or quit gigging.

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An option I haven't seen anyone mention so far is buying 'open back' IEMs that allow for some noise to bleed through, I know Westone makes some, not sure the model number though.  This would allow the OP to be able to hear what is going on around him while still sticking to IEMs, and would get rid of the 'underwater' effect.

 

EDIT: They're called the Westone AM series

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I am considering those, though now that we are down to one wedge (acoustic drummer's) there really not all that much to hear :)   Back when we had a few amps and some wedges, that would have made more sense for me, that indeed might be a compromise.  Keeping in mind they don't keep the db down nearly as much, but that might not be a factor for the poster.  It definitely was for me, we had a caveman drummer at the time and everyone else had to be louder accordingly.

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44 minutes ago, GotKeys said:

They're called the Westone AM series

 

I remember looking into those, but I needed in-ears more to protect my hearing than anything else; maximum isolation was what I was after. They do sound like a good fit (sorry!) for MrVegas though. Looks like the cheapest model is a little under $200, not too bad.

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45 minutes ago, GotKeys said:

An option I haven't seen anyone mention so far is buying 'open back' IEMs that allow for some noise to bleed through, I know Westone makes some, not sure the model number though.  This would allow the OP to be able to hear what is going on around him while still sticking to IEMs, and would get rid of the 'underwater' effect.

 

EDIT: They're called the Westone AM series

I have multiple pairs of in ears, and one pair is the Westone AM Pro 20 ‘open back’ style. You’re right, these do allow just enough ambient stage sound to bleed through, while also offering a degree of hearing protection.

I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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I used custom moulds with Etymotics for awhile, but as I preferred them for musicians' ear plugs, I bought Shure SE535s for monitoring. The best solution for me was a small mixer (Mackie 402) that I used for personal IEM/keyboard mix – perfect for my needs. There's basically no difference for the sound technician to run a lead to my mixer than to a stage monitor, plus as a keyboard player I had to be wired up anyway.

 

Open back sounds like a nice idea, but really the secret to all this is to have control over your own monitor mix, whether it's to headphones or to a micromonitor. If everyone's going straight to the board, no onstage amplification, obviously headphones are your best and only option.

 

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victoria bc

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Well...we all are direct other than drums and you can do mix and match.  Some gigs we have three wedges (guitarist, singer and drummer), most have been two but lately it's just been one (drummer).  As you say though ideally you'll have some control over your mix no matter what you are using.   Our drummer doesn't play loud so stage volume is never an issue at gigs. Nothing is worse than being told to turn down after you start...

This weekend will be the first use of my Rolls PM55, so far it has tested out very well as a headphone amp.  I'll be mounting it next to my Key Largo and no matter what PA we are using it should work.  As you also said, the tech can just hand me a send.  The only case where I'd have to switch up would be unpowered monitors but those are almost always outdoor things where we can spread out and I just use a wedge.

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Just to add to the excellent suggestions above:  It took me a while to warm up to IEMs and there is definitely a transition curve.  Been using them for 16 years now but hated them for the first year.   The ambient mic/mix  is key.  Even if there's little on stage volume, it helps to not feel cut off.   I know for many singers,  the occlusion effect of hearing your own breathing  and swallowing can be weird. 

 

At my church, I recently bought a bunch of the Chi-fi 5 driver offerings  on Amazon for our guest musicians who don't have IEMs.  I was very pleasantly surprised how great they sounded.   As one who has stepped on and lost my Westones,  and had Shure on speed dial for my E5's I think these are superior to any ear bud and a great way to get in the door.  I'm now using a pair myself. 

 

Fit is everything.   Highly recommended the Comply memory foam earbuds- get the assortment pack- not everyone's LH  and RH  ear are the same size. 

 

Like Drawback posted above:  When I do gigs  that are not set up for IEM,   I get a line feed from FOH, and run a  cheap Tascam stereo condenser mic that feeds stage sound to me (but not to the house).    A little goes a long way.   "More me "  things like that rolls pm55 let you do a mic in the mix. 

Chris Corso

www.chriscorso.org

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Very long thread, lots of good advice, apologies in advance if this has already been discussed, etc.

 

Faced with a similar situation, what would I do, assuming you can't change your feed from your Pro Team, you want to keep a silent stage, etc. -- try to make the best of it while staying within the lines?

 

I'd bring my Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs for starters.  They are not the "best" in any regard other than their ambient design lets in enough that I don't feel sealed off, can have conversations, etc.  Unlike headphones, you don't look so much like a geek.  They are a bit light on bass, but otherwise very enjoyable for extended use after you get used to them.  You can easily get lost in the sound.

 

Next, I'd bring two mixers or similar.  For my outgoing signal, I'd split it with a small mixer or passive DI -- one set of signals goes to the house, the other set goes to a second mixer.  On that second mixer, add the keys and the house monitor mix, feed that mix  to your IEMs and now you can easily add "more me" at will without affecting what the house is hearing.  Blast away, baby.  This is not difficult or expensive to do once you've seen it.

 

Best of luck!

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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