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The perfect in ear monitoring mix

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  • The perfect in ear monitoring mix

    Hi Folks my name is Darrell Ross and I am a worship leader from Northern Ireland. My backround is I am a Maths teacher/ I play at several churches leading worship/ and I do live sound for bands and functions.

    I have been hooked on in ear monitors since i started to use them over 4 years ago and I am only now confident that I have got the right mix. There is very little help on Youtube or other forums in actually getting the right blend etc and the biggest issue... getting vocals to sound good.

    Let me talk you through my bands current gear and then ill get into the breakdown of what I feel is essential....

    My band use a presonus 16.4.2 mixing console (we love it) this is a digital mixer with an analogue feel it has 6 aux sends that we use for 6 mono IEM mixes. We have wireless packs ranging from sennheiser ew300 iems to even cheaper 200 thomann kits (which i highly rate for signal and quality). IF YOUR BUDGET IS SMALL YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK.... I have used little Behringer MA400 headphone amps and they are crystal clear especially for behringer gear!

    The earphones.... I use Alien ears CFR3 custom moulds, I changed to these from a set of ultimate ears that I smashed up and I love them. My other guys use shure se215's which pack a great punch.... we got them for around 60 a pair.

    My problem was even with all this gear... if i sound too close to my mic with the volume up at a level i needed my shells were vibrating and the sound was poor..... I now have added 3 things to the mix that will solve this...

    reverb ..... I have a thick plate reverb on mine... this is my preference!

    Delay.. I have a short slap delay, this really helps add a natural surrounding sound.

    and lastly ambient room mics, we use either AKG c1000s or even little cheap behringer c2's or c4's for the money and their purpose they are great! this helps you feel less isolated from the congregation and also gives a natural sound of the room.

    The one thing I would advise as I have been here...... so you have an analogue mixing desk, you are at a small church that stage monitors can't be blasted but you can't hear yourself.....

    Get a small headphone amp like the behringer ma400 (they are 24 on ebay) get a headphone extension cable (a good one on ebay will set you back 10) don't cheap out on this as if it goes bad you will have to buy a new one and you will go deaf if it cuts out live. Also invest in a set of earphones that suit your budget.... shure se215's are great the whole shure se range is amazing. If you cant afford these even try something like the se electronics m6 (you can get them new for 25 and the clear ones sit like custom iems) I use these for running and some of my band have played live with them.. they can be bass heavy... but they isolate well. The last bit of kit I would advise is some small effects unit that offers reverb and if possible delay. On a side note, if you have drums even an overhead mic and a kick one if you can just to help you hear as you will want to stay in time.

    PLEASE PRACTICE using in ears SEVERAL TIMES before going live as if it goes wrong I can honestly guarantee you will not want to ever use them again. For around 100 yo could buy some basic gear that will do the job for one person (even less if you have or dont want a reverb unit).

    I plan to make some videos showing all this in motion over the next few weeks...If you are interested or find this useful let me know... follow me on twitter @darrellross87 I would be more than happy to help you or your church out getting the right sound as it is something that I have had to spend hundreds of hours researching.

    If people have information they would like to add to this I will gladly hear it as I feel I can always better myself!

  • #2
    Mixes are relative, so I'd say that the perfect IEM mix is also relative. I will throw my 2 cents into the discussion and realize that some of this will be contradictory to what you've shared, and that is OK, there are many approaches.

    I think the most important thing in an IEM mix is that it is STEREO. It makes a world of difference if you've ever had the opportunity to switch from mono to stereo. Our set up at SSCC fluctuates depending on how many people are on stage but everyone knows immediately when they've got stereo and they like it a lot more.

    Second to stereo for me would be compression. You've got a lot of signal going straight into your ears with no easy path to getting it out of your ears. You can't lean back, turn away from a wedge, or cover your ears. Compression on all the inputs with any dynamic range that you're monitoring is key for a safe and quality mix. That being said, poorly set gates or compression will wreck a musician too.

    Next I'd say, YES to ambient mics and along those same lines a passionate PLEASE NO to vocal effects in the IEMs. We've done a lot of experimenting with mic type and placement in the house and still haven't found something we love, but we know its crucial to a mix that our band is comfy in. We have a stereo pair of mics hanging out in our room, they sound good, but the size of our room really calls for at least 2 more mics.

    With regards to reverb, I'm from the school of thought that a vocalist hearing reverb on vocals in their monitors is a formula for disaster. Effects are a BEAUTIFUL thing in the mix, they pull vocals together and cover a multitude of sins. We refer to is as "annointing" at SSCC. However, those same impacts in a monitor mix make it far harder for you to know what you and your other vocalists are really doing. I can tell you that almost without exception when vocalists have reverb in their IEMs, they get muddy as a group and more pitchy. I've also worked with pros that have reverb in their monitors and sound great but they are just that, seasoned pros, they sing the same stuff every show AND they are usually the only vocal in the mix, so there is nothing they have to blend with or match.

    So that's what I'd add to the list, for now.
    Travis Paulding,
    Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


    • #3
      I suppose stating the perfect in ear mix might have been cheeky! I have felt for me reverb in the mix through effects and natural reverb blended is a force not to messed with, even with a tad of delay! I love the sound it creates!

      I think compression and gate are a given... the beauty of presonus desks are the fact that the presets are decent for novice users but can be easily tweaked! I hear you on stereo and I am totally with you however for me stereo has no chance as we use the majority of our aux sends for mono feeds! I have never felt I needed stereo the only think we do is have click to one ear and loop to the other through split channels panned.

      I don't think there is an exact science to this but we have had great results on stage with this, I do not think the reverb has been muddy as we have it subtly and has not affected our playing!