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In Ear Monitors: Wired or Wireless?

Brian Fligor, ScD, CCC-A

March 22, 2010

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Question

I was approached by a band that is looking for In Ear monitors for on stage performances. What are the pros and cons of wired v. wireless systems?

Answer

Thanks for your question.

In-Ear monitors are a sound system like any, and as you know they can be wired or wireless. For the front line folks, wireless is great, since it allows total freedom of movement. And since you are acoustically isolated from the system, you can absolutely go anywhere you want and be able to keep your monitor mix in tact! Many drummers, even those in large bands, use wired systems. They don't move around, so there is no advantage to go wireless. The downside of wireless is dealing with reception and interference issues.

These are pretty well known and there are lots of publications on the topic. Shure and Sennheiser are probably the best manufacturers of wireless systems and they offer lots of tutorials on the subject. The main thing is that in large cities, there's lots of "wireless traffic" and you have to be sure you are out of everyone else's way. In Japan, there are many cities (Tokyo among them) where it's illegal to use wireless systems in concerts! The airwaves are just too crammed. In the US and Europe, the big tour companies will do "RF sweeps" to find open frequencies for them to use, since they are often running a dozen or more channels with wireless microphones and guitar and bass lines ALONG WITH their in-ear monitors!

Wired systems are simply . . . Well, more simple and one less variable to deal with in the midst of getting your system up and checked. The downside to wired is, well, the wires!

Some bands prefer to deal with wires initially, to save money. Then when they can afford a good wireless system, they take that plunge!

I hope this information is helpful - best to you!

Benj Kanters earned his BS in Speech and his MM in Music Technology, both from Northwestern University. He has been on the faculty of Columbia College since 1993, after twenty years in the audio and music industries, including fourteen years as adjunct professor of audio with Northwestern University's Schools of Speech and Music. Through the 1970s, he was partner and sound engineer with the Chicago area concert club Amazingrace. During the 1980s, he was partner and chief managing engineer of Studiomedia Recording Company in Evanston. His experience also includes;concert production in large venues;audio engineering for live, and broadcast media, and advertising and public relations to both the professional and consumer audio markets.

After studying hearing physiology in graduate school, he continued to research developments in the field, and found an equal interest in hearing loss and conservation. In 2000 he developed the course Studies in Hearing to teach hearing physiology to students majoring in audio and acoustics, the only such course offered in any college program of its kind. In 2007, he founded The Hearing Conservation Workshop, visiting colleges and universities to teach hearing physiology and conservation to future audio and music industry professionals.


brian fligor

Brian Fligor, ScD, CCC-A

Director of Diagnostic Audiology, Children’s Hospital Boston

Brian Fligor, ScD, is Director of Diagnostic Audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School. His primary research interests are investigating causes of acquired hearing loss from ototoxicity and noise. Dr. Fligor’s work on potential for noise-induced hearing loss from using portable media players with headphones has received considerable popular media attention, including being spoofed on David Letterman’s show in 2005. He is principle audiologist in the Children's Hospital Boston Musicians’ Hearing Program (www.childrenshospital.org/MusiciansHearingProgram), a clinical service geared toward enrolling musicians and music enthusiasts in hearing loss prevention programs.


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