Can’t hear anything on stage? Try in-ear monitoring

We get asked about what in-ear monitoring system we use. It’s most important for singers who can’t hear themselves singing amongst the drums and all the guitars turned up to eleven on stage.

Here’s a brief explanation of how we chose our in-ear monitoring systems.

Black Rain Sky uses Shure PSM packages but there are other brands like Sennheiser, so shop around and decide what works for you in your price range.

Shure PSM 200 mono vs Shure PSM 300 stereo

The PSM 200 is a mono transmitter/receiver set whereas PSM 300 model is stereo. There isn’t much noticeable difference in sound but there is a significant price increase for the stereo model, so if you are on a tight budget then go for the PSM200 mono version.

If you are particular about setting different levels in each ear then go with the PSM 300 stereo models. It’s better if your whole band uses the same model so they can switch channels to listen to each other’s mix feeds if needed.

Earpieces

The ear pieces are a matter of personal taste. The Shure SE215’s usually come free with the package but we’d suggest spending extra on one of the higher range models. For singers, try using the SE535’s to get extra mid-frequencies. For bass players, use no less than the SE846’s. They are significantly more expensive but handle bass frequencies noticeably better than the cheaper models. The cheaper models can sometimes clip if there is too much bass, and reducing the gain from the desk sometimes isn’t enough to compensate.

Most of the ear-inserts attenuate to around 30 decibels. Select an ear-insert that you are most comfortable with depending on how much attenuation you need and your ear canal shape.

Shure SE846 ear-piece

If your budget is tight then we suggest getting the best ear-piece you can afford and then saving money by buying the mono receiver/transmitter units.

Batteries

In-ear monitors drain batteries fast. Best to use new batteries for each gig, than risk running out of battery during a gig. We find that you can get about 2-3 hours use per battery but all models will vary.

Weighing up benefits and disadvantages

Setting up in-ear monitoring systems will take up extra time during sound check, and not all venues provide sound engineers, so be prepared to plan for extra time to set up before the gig. Some venues’ sound mixing desk may not even have enough auxillary out channels to cope, so be sure to do some research or a site visit beforehand.

If in-ear monitoring is not practical or affordable for you, and you are still struggling to hear on stage, then our suggestion is for all members to get used to keeping their stage volume as low as possible, but as loud as required given the stage and venue. Then setting vocals accordingly becomes easier.

We think it’s worth the extra effort to use in-ear monitors, and it has helped Black Rain Sky improve its performance.

Disclaimer: Black Rain Sky has no affiliation or endorsement agreement with Shure.