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In Ear Monitoring Review

shure_e1_n_rolls1.jpg (23530 bytes)In Ear Monitoring [I.E.M.]

Shure E1 In Ear Monitors with custom moulded ear pieces

Tony Hillhouse (c) 2002

Independent Objective reviews by an end-users of the product


Please forgive the long post, but I wish I would have known about these things YEARS ago.

 

As a singing drummer in a loud rock n roll band, I've constantly been faced with the challenge of being able to hear my vocal monitor over the rest of the band (and my own drums), while protecting my hearing.  I went to the Westone custom molded musicians' earplugs (with the 25dB filters) about four or five years ago, and have loved them pretty much, but still I've snickered at the audacity of putting 25dB plugs in my ears, then putting an 18" and 2" horn by my head and cranked it up to overcome the plugs.   And still my ears ring a little after gigs at night.

But I sat in with a friend's band one night about a month ago, and he stuffed his Shure E1's with the universal fit foam-type ear pieces into my ears while I was playing (which was sorta strange in and of itself), but I thought, these sound kinda good.  Then I sang a tune, and I thought, how easy is this!  There's plenty of isolation, but I can still hear everything, and my voice is perfectly clear, and not hindered by a 25dB Westone filter. I must check into this.

His system is the Shure PSM-400, hardwired version (non-wireless).  The cheapest I could find these was 850 or so--too much for my cheapskate budget.

A Google search led me to www.sensaphonics.com .  Their client list reads like a who's who of the entertainment industry.  The site had no prices, so I dropped them an email.  Within a day, a rep emailed me back pricing on their different models of custom-molded monitor systems--750 and up.  I was bummed--but then she said at the bottom, as I had mentioned that I'd tried out some E1's:  "E1's sound good, but with a custom mold, they can sound even better.   We make a custom mold that interfaces with the E1 for $100." This is a no-brainer.  Off to the audiologist I went--$40 and an hour later, my impressions are off to Sensaphonics.  As an added bonus, they sell the Shure E1's with the molds for a flat 225 (the best price I could find on the E1's was 155).

In the meantime, on the advice from our keyboard player who uses one, I ordered a little Rolls mixer, an MX28,  that would allow me to a) control my own total volume at any moment; b) mix between up to six different inputs (I only wanted two); and c) keep the cost down--the Rolls mixer was a whopping $75.  It has three mixes, but they have seperate L-R inputs, and you can pan them within each channel.  So you could do six seperate mono inputs, and pan them to taste.  Also--if you just use one side of the channel, it puts it in both sides for you, so you don't have to Y-cord it to get it into both sides.  Kewl.

They came in last week.  After spending 15 minutes with them in the basement, playing/singing along to a CD player mixed thru the Rolls piece, I'm thinking this is the best money I've ever spent.  Today, after having two full nights (9-1am) at a loud club, I can say confidently that these are THE BOMB as the kids say today.  The plugs themselves are soft silicone rubber, and while they do fit snugly, they are comfortable.

Mix one was my usual monitor mix--mostly my vocal, some kick, snare, hat, and overhead, with some of the other three singers in there, but not much as I can usually hear _their_ floor wedges pretty good.  But I killed everything in this mix except my vocals and the drums--because I wanted to be able to control my voice independently of everything else.  Mix two was a feed off the side-fills--has a little of everyone in it.  I was hoping this mix didn't have too much of my voice in it to hurt the fade-ability concept I was hoping for; as I can't mess with this mix much (there are eight other people to please with this mix--I'm lucky to have _one_ of my own!).

This setup worked like a charm.  I could hear everything, but not too loud at all.   There were just enough drums in my vocal mix to sound good, but not overpower anything, just a comfortable, listening level, and I play pretty hard when things get rockin'.  My voice was _easy_ to hear--and it wasn't even loud.  It was just that everything else was quieter.  If I was having a hard time hearing a guitar part or something, I just turned up the sidefill mix a little, and it became present.  Not loud or overpowering, just present.  I can't stress enough how easy it became to sing, because I no longer had to strain, concentrate, or sing really hard to hear my pitch.  It instantly became half as much work, and I have no doubt my pitches were more accurate since I could hear every single thing I was singing.

An added bonus:  I could hear my kick drum better than I ever have been able to from my 18"/2" horn monitor.  Granted, these in-ears don't do much 25Hz, but it was nice to just hear what I was doing, and it made me more aware if I became sloppy in a kick pattern.

Do yourself, and your hearing, a favor, and buy some. 

  • Impressions:  $45.
  • E1's and custom molds:  $225. 
  • Rolls Mixer:  $75. 
  • Total investment:  $345.

In Ear Monitoring Review[token nod to Mastercard's omnipresent ad campaign goes here] The Perfect Monitor Mix Every Gig, with no feedback and no lost hearing due to ridiculous SPLs:  *priceless*.

Talk to Doris Bell at Sensaphonics.  She's at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Please tell her I sent ya (Tony Hillhouse in Nebraska).  This lady, and the company she works for, are professional, trustworthy and efficient.  The turnaround time once they got my impressions was less than a week (!), the prices were reasonable, and emails regarding information, inquiries and updates were returned quickly.

More info on the Rolls piece can be found at www.rolls.com .  It's an MX28. I bought mine from Musician's Friend.

Even if you don't sing, if you play live and have a monitor barkin' at you all night, I encourage you to think about it, especially if you ever have any ringing in your ears at night.  Like I said, I wish I would've known about these things a few hundred gigs ago.
Any questions, e me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Cheers

Tony  





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