Everyone has those gigs where things don’t go quite as well as you’d expect, and many times it comes down to a poor foldback mix. Fortunately for live musicians, the cost of in-ear monitors has reduced significantly. Back in the 1980s though it was a different picture, with iems (as they are sometimes known) being only within the reach of rockstars or the filthy rich.
Why you need in-ear monitors in your life
So maybe your friends are using them, or you’ve seen some acts down your local rocking out with in-ear monitors and it got you thinking, “Will buying in-ear monitors really make a difference to my performance, and is it really worth the investment?”
Let’s take a look at the top three reasons why more and more artists are choosing wireless monitors over a traditional foldback mix.
When you’re performing on stage, there’s nothing more satisfying that when the engineer gets the monitoring right. The whole band buzzes because you can hear each other with clarity and everyone locks in together.
In-ear monitors give you the opportunity to create that separation gig after gig without the risk. That means you’ll only hear what you need to hear to nail the performance, be that vocals, guitar, drums or any other instrument.
In addition to hearing yourself clearly, in-ear monitors will also cut out some of the unwanted frequencies, like screaming guitar solos or the almighty clatter of an overzealous drummer.
Protect your ears
Musicians themselves through the paces quite a bit. Walking off stage after a hefty set can leave your ears ringing for some time afterwards, so it’s understandable that performing night after night can lead to long-term damage. Take the average gig sound level, that’s usually between 92dB and 98Db; the suggested exposure time for that kind of volume is between 30 minutes to one hour. So taking preventative measures is imperative if you want to have a long career playing music, and in-ear monitors are an excellent way to do just that.
Freedom to express yourself
Humans are highly visual creatures, so it makes sense that as well as performing well you want to provide a stage show worth talking about. In many circumstances that means being active, which comes with a drawback, moving about makes it hard to hear yourself. This is especially true on larger stages; step too far from the monitor and you might just lose your pitch or timing.
Wireless personal monitors provide a great safety net, you could be in with the crowd howling in the faces of your fans, standing on top of two kick drums or running like Axl side-to-side across the stage, and you’ll still hear your voice, flawlessly.
What are the best in-ear monitors for me?
There are lots of different brands making in-ear monitors, each has their own benefits. So we’ve chosen the most affordable options that will get you rocking without breaking the bank.
ISK SEM9 Professional In Ear Monitors
ISK SEM9 In-Ear Monitors are an excellent sound isolating system and the lowest cost of all the products we tested. Their dynamic custom built microdriver delivers a warm and detailed sound that you’d expect from something that is far more expensive. If you’re a vocalist you’ll be blown away by just how clear you can hear yourself. Add in all the extras; a range of different earbud sizes, clothing clip, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adaptor and a pouch, and a mini-hard case to carry it all in. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything like this quality in this price range.
Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones
Everyone and their dog has heard of Shure, they are the darlings of the live industry, so it makes sense that their sound isolating earphones are up there with the best. Shures SE215 In-Ear Monitors are a midrange product that offers a whopping 37 decibels of isolation, which means that you can play out night after night without fear of damaging your hearing.
The most impressive feature though of these monitors is the full frequency range output from 22 Hz to 17.5 kHz, meaning no matter what audio source you want to tune into, you’ll get it with perfect clarity.
Shure SE315 Sound Isolating Earphones
Shure’s SE315 in-ear monitors come with all the bravado of your cool uncle who visits you once every five years, turns up in souped-up sports car and showers with fine beers from around the world. In other words, they are beastly. Just like the SE215s you get all the decibel reduction and advantages of the full frequency range spectrum, and then some. Let’s start with the bass response.
Unlike most in-ear monitors on the market, the SE315s come with a tuned bass port which transmits rich and accurate bass straight into your body. That means for low-end player or musicians who really want to feel the music, they’re a must. In addition, they are designed for the rugged road with a bullet-proof Kevlar coating on the lead which means you’ll get many years of performance out of them. One further notable addition is the mix of different earbud sizes and material choices (foam or silicone), it’s those small details that make a good product great.
V-Moda Forza Metallo In Ear Headphones
Although not a name many people are familiar with V-Moda Forza Metallo in-ear monitors are something special. They are made to the most rugged design specifications we’ve seen. Forged from Thor’s hammer into aluminium alloy, they are super durable as well as being sweat and weather resistant. We think these bad boys would be excellent for drummers who play with power and aggression, not only because they can withstand a good beating, but they come with sports fins and ear hooks. They are going nowhere.
So there you have it, four in-ear monitors with are ideal for every situation, from ultra-quiet performances where you need to hear every subtle note through to durable, hardworking tools that will last you for years to come.