Cutting Through The White Noise Of In-Ears

Because the sonic isolation is so great, Richardson is thinking of setting up an ambient mike to hear the stage, the audience, and what her bandmate may be saying to her. John, who has dozens of input channels at his disposal, sets up talkback mikes for all the musicians and sends those out to just the monitor mixes, keeping them out of the mains so that everyone can communicate discreetly onstage and stay connected.

To keep the band in touch with the audience, John will set up four audience mikes in larger venues: an XY pair at the front of the stage to get the folks on that end and two shotgun mikes on the sides of the stage pointing out at the crowd. This lets the band hear the audience reactions and can help inspire a better performance. To keep the crowd sound from mucking up the mix while the band is playing, John kills the audience mikes by essentially automating a compressor to cut out the crowd when the band starts up.

He does this by inserting a compressor on the audience mike channels and sending a mix of the band into the side-chain input to trigger compression on the audience feed as soon as the music starts. “When the band plays, you can’t hear the audience, but the second the band stops, the compressor will let go on those mikes and the crowd will come in,” John explains. He sets a pretty hefty ratio, around 8:1, and a fast attack with a slow release of 3­—4 seconds to trigger -40dB of compression on the crowd when the band plays.

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In the end, your best IEM approach is up to you and your wallet. On one end of the spectrum, you can get into in-ear monitoring for as little as $60 and a tiny budget mixer. At the other end you can spend upwards of multiple thousands of dollars on quad driver custom-molded earpieces and a fully featured wireless transmitter/receiver setup. And even more if you are driven to mix every sound source for your monitor mix yourself by incorporating a multichannel mike splitter and multichannel console with associated dynamics processing and effects gear. The downside of the latter is that you’d have to lug all that gear around and set it up before every gig – as if it isn’t challenging enough hauling a full drum kit and setting that up and tearing it down for shows. 

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