Monitors > In-Ear Monitors
One of the biggest issues that we consistently find amongst churches is that their platform monitoring system is causing them no end of grief. The main issue can seem at times to be one of historic proportions, as it is the source of what can sometimes be a fierce feud between the sound operator and the musicians. The issue is that musicians by nature want more than to simply follow along with the music, they also want to "feel" the music - to be inspired while playing, and be able to hear all the instruments and singers in full. It is not a musician's vanity that is at play here, rather a natural instinct - as musicians by nature feed from an emotional artistic source within them. What makes this an issue in live sound however, is that by cranking up the volume on the monitors, it creates what is referred to in the industry as a "wall of sound".
As one musician needs more sound, it drowns out the feed for someone else, which then makes them require a louder mix. It is a vicious cycle that continues to build and build until the monitor mix on the platform is so loud that it infringes on the main mix, which the operator is trying to balance for those in the seating area. Furthering the problem is that monitor feeds are often not equalized, meaning that not only is there a loud wall of sound pushing off the platform creating reflections and distortions, but is also not even matching the natural acoustics of the room, creating frequency spikes and dips in the main room EQ. The feud really begins at this point, as the sound operators insist on turning the levels down - much to the dismay and frustration of the musicians.
In all of this, it is important to understand that a monitor feed is both extremely important to the musician, allowing them to follow each other and stay on beat, and at that same time should never give the musician more than a reference point for themselves and a few others that they need to stay in rhythm with. Often, the compromise is something that neither the musician nor the sound operator are ever truly satisfied with. So... what is a good solution?
In-Ear-Monitor (IEM) systems provide one the most effective solutions both in practicality as well as cost-wise. Although these systems can be a bit more expensive than a floor monitor system, they have, and continue to, come down in price. By the time you add up all the floor monitor speakers, cables, amplifiers, jacks and wiring, there may not be as much of a cost difference as you might have thought.
An IEM system consists of a single UHF transmitter that utilizes an auxiliary/monitor output from your mixer, and sends a wireless signal to a beltpack receiver worn by the musician. From there, a set of earphones run up to the musicians ears, often available in a stereo configuration but rarely used that way. Multiple beltpacks can then be tuned into a single transmitter, providing the feed to as many musicians as needed. Furthermore, three or four transmitters can be employed, utilizing four auxiliary outputs, to provide four completely independent feeds to the beltpack receivers. The beltpacks would simply switch between the four different frequencies to tune into the mix they require.
The implications to this solution are astounding. Not only does it completely eliminate the wall of sound from the platform, but it also allows the musicians to hear exactly what they want, at exactly the levels they want to hear them at. No more loud muddy sound emanating from the monitors, no more struggling with volume levels, and most importantly no more monitor frustrations between the sound operators and the musicians. Adding to this the fact that it goes a long way to reducing feedback issues between the monitor speakers and stage microphones, it is easy to see why this technology is extremely popular in professional shows and is likewise an excellent solution for Church monitor problems.
A fantastic way to start incorporating this method of monitoring into you sound system, is to begin by purchasing a single transmitter with two receivers for your bass player, as well as the drummer. These instruments are typically the two hardest to provide feeds for, as drummers need a lot of volume, and bass players always have trouble hearing themselves due to the low frequencies. The result is that bass players crank themselves up, making the main mix too muddy, and the volume of the drummer's monitor coupled with the drums themselves, creates a measuring stick that forces all other instruments and monitors to be turned up. Therefore, by providing IEM's for those two sections, you would give yourself a great start with integrating the system, not to mention immediately helping to decrease the monitor levels.
As with all professional sound equipment, we are constantly testing new products. At the present time, we consider the Shure PSM200 and Galaxy AS-1100 to be the best in terms of cost / performance. The following links will provide you with more information on two different systems that we often sell, however there are many more enhanced models, and much higher quality earphones available as well. For more information on those systems, as well as anything else, please feel free to contact our office to discuss your options.
Shure PSM200 Wireless In-Ear Monitor
The Shure PSM200 is a relatively low cost Wireless (or wired) Personal In-Ear Monitor system. It operates in the UHF band and provides good quality, reliable, interference and dropout free sound. The system consists of a radio transmitter with two separate inputs, a belt pack receiver and earphones. One input on the transmitter can be used for a general monitor mix, and the other input can add more of the individual user's instrument or vocal. The belt pack has its own volume control and the earphones come with several different ear tips to ensure that they are comfortable for everyone. Although you can operate as many receivers as you wish on one transmitter, this defeats the possibility of giving each person what they want.
Galaxy AS-1100 Wireless In-Ear Monitor
The ANY SPOT AS-1100 is the latest monitor from Galaxy Audio. The ANY SPOT is easy to use. Simply plug the ANY SPOT into a 'monitor out' jack on a mixing console, create the desired mix, and it's ready to deliver quality sound. The ANY SPOT has 120 selectable UHF frequencies to help locate the best and clearest one to transmit signal. The transmitter (AS-1100T) is selectable to either mono or stereo.
The ANY SPOT is also a great assistive listening system. The AS-1100T will transmit to numerous receivers. Simply patch the program signal to the transmitter and give each parishioner or attendee a receiver so all can hear clearly.