It’s 2017 and there is still plenty of buzz about IEMs (in-ear monitors) and floor monitors (“wedges”) circulating in the worship world.
It may seem as if "everybody" is on in-ears, but actually, there are many churches still looking to make this transition. If your worship ministry is considering jumping into the deep end of the IEM pool, fear not! The time (and cost) has never been better.
Conventional monitor speakers come in a variety of sizes (from huge wedges that sit on the floor to small hotspot monitors that can mount to a mic stand.) If you're old enough to have played on a praise team in the 90s, you are well acquainted with these! Regardless of the type, they possess inherent deficiencies but a few pros as well.
Usually bulky (heavy)
Usually relies on a sound tech to dial in each person’s mix
Produce environments of high stage volume which can damage eardrums and create an unmanageable mix for your front-of-house sound tech.
Everything comes at you out of one speaker (no stereo separation, usually).
Singers/players can share a monitor mix easily
You can hear your congregation better
Ambient sound from other instruments/singers can be heard without putting them in wedge
A feeling of being “in the room” and not isolated like IEMs
In-ear monitoring can be accomplished a variety of ways, so instead of chasing rabbit trails, we’ll look at the good, the bad, and what gear works for me on a weekly basis.
Feeling isolated/not being able to hear the congregation/not feeling present in the room.
Learning curve (w/ new technology)
Investment of money from your ministry budget or team members.
Replacing wireless system batteries.
Feedback issues are greatly minimized.
Many digital boards and monitoring systems allow team members to save presets.
Sound techs can focus on front-of-house while team has control of their own mix.
You can hear yourself and your mix clearly (in stereo!)
Much better for your ears
GEAR I TRUST:
Monitor mixing: The AVIOM A-16ii allows us to save presets for different team members. It features stereo output and a pan control for each channel. The only con is it doesn’t allow each channel to be EQ’d individually. It does offer an overall EQ on the unit. My other recommendation is the P16-M if you’re running a Behringer X32. It’s a no-brainer.
Wireless: I use the Sennheiser EW 100 G3 which consists of a rack-mountable transmitter and a bodypack receiver. In my early years of ministry I tried to use cheap wireless systems and paid the price of dissatisfaction with my mix, constant dropouts, and annoying signal compression. Spend the most money you can on a solid unit if you have to go wireless. If a player doesn’t need to be mobile, hard-wire them into an Aviom or headphone amp. But if you lead or move around, you probably won’t find anything better than the Sennheiser. Pick one up on eBay for around $600.
Earpieces: For your band, I recommend the MEElectronics M6 PRO. For $50, they sound good, come with gobs of accessories for the price, and have a build quality that rivals Shure earbuds that cost twice as much. I’m an audio snob that requires very detailed audio, so I use the 64Audio (formerly 1964Ears) V6-Stage which I just sent off for an upgrade to make them an A6. Yeah, they’re expensive, but I sweat so much that universal-fit headphones always fall out of my ears. That, and the detailed sound, make it absolutely worth every penny. If you get customs, be sure to take good care of them and use a dehumidifier in the case any time you’re not using them.
Anthony Croff is a worship leader at Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, TX. He's the co-host of the Average Everyday Worship Leader and an avid vlogger. Search YouTube for his new series, "The Croffumentary."