We’ve had a few updates & upgrades that have significantly benefited IEMs and figured this would be a good place to start getting back into this post the past few crazy months. So here we go…
First, a few weeks before Christmas we were finally able to upgrade from wired IEMs driven from a headphone amp to Sennheiser EW300G3‘s. The difference has been awesome in a few ways. First, the sonic quality of the 300s is nothing short of amazing. The low end is tight, the top end natural. When paired up with a good set of ear pieces, I’ve been blown away by the mixes some of our guys are dialing in. Second, not being tied to the IEM wired cable has made a big difference in the comfort level of our artists. Often times we had to be very careful in how the service was programmed to make sure artists had ample time to get on stage, plug in their ears, put on guitars, tune, etc. If something went wrong plugging in their ears or they accidentally pulled the cable out, we were in trouble. Along with using more wireless instruments (I’ll write about this soon), the result has been a much smoother & more polished presentation.
We purchased 4 transmitters & 6 receiver beltpacks. For the majority of things we do, we will use the 4 transmitters/beltpacks, along with our existing PSM600 and 2 wired mixes for keys & drums. With some extra beltpacks for the 300s and our PSM600, we can easily expand by adding a few more mono mixes the few times a year they are needed. It is so hard to justify extra transmitters in a rack if they aren’t going to be used very often so this seems like a reasonable compromise.
A big surprise is how much some of our female artists enjoy the bundled Sennheiser ear bud – the IE4. The sound quality of the buds is probably on par with a Shure SCL3 or good set of iPod buds. What is appealing about them, though, is how well they seem to fit smaller ears. Our vocal director, who’s been wearing our generic Shure pieces for a year and a half or so, felt like these were the most comfortable thing and for the first time she can actually forget she’s wearing them. Definitely a good problem solver.
Another important piece of the puzzle is the addition of some Westone UM2′s to our inventory. After someone recommended trying them out, I’ve finally found something to make me give up my Future Sonics that I’ve had forever. These are the most comfortable universal fit I’ve ever worn and they are the first universal bud that I’ve heard with really natural midrange, which is really important for vocals & guitars. The Shures, Future Sonics, and Ultimate Ears I’ve heard all can sound really nice in the low and high ranges, but often times feel a little scooped, honky, or just otherwise unnatural in the midrange. The Westones seem to bring a lot of that presence back. Best of all, the Shure foamie’s I can purchase in bulk fit on these as well so its a win on all fronts. Adding Westone’s into the mix have brought 2 of our hold-out musicians into the IEM fold. Finally they feel like the guitar sound they hear in the ears feels like what it should actually sound like.
I’ve been really disappointed with the build quality of the Shure SCL3′s and 4′s so time will tell if the Westone’s can withstand heavy use.
So from a music team standpoint, we now have 100% of our band members transitioned to IEM. Next time I’m going to outline another addition to our monitoring system that feels like its filled in the missing link in the chain.