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How to set up In Ear Monitoring for under $110

In ear monitoring does not have to be expensive, and in this video & post, we’ll go through all the gear you need to set it up for under $110 (as of Jan 5, 2016).

A few notes…

This guide assumes you already have a few things.

First, you’ll need to have a sound board that supports at least one sub mix. Most boards that are 16 channels or more have two more more busses (or sub-mixes). These mixes that are completely separate from the main FOH (front of house) mix, and you can send them anywhere you want. They can be used as recording mixes, monitor/wedge mixes, or they can be used as your in-ear mixes. Typically the board will have mono outputs for these mixes that can feed any kind of setup you’d like. We’re going to use them for in-ear mixes.

Next you’ll need to have a set of headphones. We recommend either the Shure SE215 or the Westone UM-2 headphone, both coming in right around $100. Any old set of headphones will work, but if you’re using click tracks, it’s important to use headphone that go deeper into your ears, rather than something like the buds that come with your iPhone. Those will bleed, and everyone around you (including the congregation) will be able to hear that click track coming through your headphones.

This is also a wired setup. Wireless in ear monitoring is significantly more expensive due to the cost of the wireless units themselves. And if you don’t buy really high quality wireless gear, a wireless setup won’t sound as good, either.

The Gear…

I’ve set up an Amazon list (click here to see it) containing all the gear in this guide. Your first reaction when looking at this list may be, “That’s way more than $110!”. Please read carefully below – I’ve included extra options in case you’d like a more robust system that can handle up to 8 people.

The “under $110” setup would accommodate one musician.

Headphone amp – Rolls PM50s. Currently $44.00

Buy it here from Amazon

The basics of this setup is a headphone amp and cables – that’s literally all you need. I’ve used these Rolls headphone amps for years, and they are still in use at the church where I lead worship. They are extremely reliable and very affordable.

These headphone amps have a feature where you can run your own mic or instrument through it (that’s the ‘mic input’ and mic through’) and mix more of yourself into your mix. I’ve personally never used this feature, but I’ve been told it works well.

They accept a stereo input, which is why I’ve included a stereo cable…

Stereo 1/4″ male to male cable – 50′. Currently $26.65

Buy this cable from Amazon

I’ve chosen a cable made by Monoprice. They make budget cables that are fairly reliable. I have used (and currently use) a lot of mono price cables. For the most part, they are very reliable, but I have had one or two go bad on me, so you could choose to buy a higher quality cable here if your budget allows.

This cable connects the monitor/bus output of your board to your headphone amp, so you’ll need to make sure it’s long enough to run from your board to your stage (where your headphone monitor(s) will live). You may need 100′ – it’s a good idea to measure before you buy :).

I’ve chosen a stereo cable because the headphone amp will accept a stereo input. Some boards may offer you the ability to run a stereo sub-mix out. Even if everything is mono, a stereo cable will work just fine. If you have the opportunity to run a stereo IEM mix, do it. It’s a glorious thing.

Headphone extension cable – 25′. Currently $6.99

Buy this cable from Amazon

The last essential piece of gear you’ll need is a headphone extension cable. This will run from the headphone amp to you. The idea is that the headphone amp lives in the back of your stage somewhere and you’re tethered to it via this cable. This may sound cumbersome, but I’ve used this exact setup for years. It’s not that bad having this cable attached to you at all – just remember to unplug it before you walk off stage!

If you play an instrument, there are cables out there that combine an instrument cable with a headphone extension cable. It’s an elegant solution if that’s something you’re looking for.

Take it to the next level: Multitracks

For many people, the desire to use in ear monitoring is so you can run multi tracks (or just click tracks) in your services. This is actually really easy, and all you need is an iOS device and one more cable (and the multitracks themselves).

First the cable…

1/8″ stereo to dual 1/4″ mono cable

Buy this cable from Amazon

This cable connect the headphone out of whatever device you’re using to play tracks and gives you a Right and Left channel input into your board. You’ll want to make sure the click track is panned hard Left, and the tracks are panned hard Right. Now whatever channel you plug the black cable into is the ‘Click’ channel, and the channel you plug the red cable into is the ‘Tracks’ channel.

Loop Community Prime App on an iOS device

Get the Prime app here

If you’ve got an iOS device, you can use the free Prime app by Loop Community to run full multitracks. The click/cues will automatically be panned Left and the tracks will be panned Right. You will have the ability to mix the tracks (and mute any instrument stems you don’t want) to fit your needs.

We have a full tutorial on how to use the Prime app with any multitrack (including ours) below:

And now that you’re ready to run multitracks, you can check out our collection of multitracks here.

How about more people?

This guide will set you up for one person running IEM’s. You can duplicate it as many times as you’d like for more people (assuming you have that many bus sends on your board), but if you want to scale it up, here’s a better option.

Behringer Pro-8, 8 Channel Headphone Amp. Currently $149

Buy the Behringer Pro-8 from Amazon

I know we’ve said ‘Don’t use Behringer products’ before at Worship Tutorials, but they do make some really solid pieces of gear, and this is one of them. The Pro-8 is essentially 8 headphone amps in one box. You can run 8 completely different mixes into it (or you can run one mix into it and send that to 8 different people).

If you want to scale up, this is the way to go, in my opinion.

That’s it – in ear monitoring (and multitracks) does not need to be expensive to be done well. Good luck! If you have any questions, please ask below.

 

8 Responses to How to set up In Ear Monitoring for under $110

  1. Russell Jan 8, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

    Q: Total more-me control by each individual musician including both main mix PLUS your vocal AND your instrument? A: Use the Rolls PM351 ($81 dollars also at Amazon.com). Also, we just implemented Behringer’s X 18 Air Digital Mixer at our small church (for under $500 dollars) and this includes six individual aux-outs as well as two separate inputs for acoustic and electric guitars (with tons of effects) so we didn’t need to buy guitar amps either (and we’re ready to adapt to any musician’s needs). We opted for the table-top version (the X 18) but they also have a portable stage box (the XR 18) but its a couple hundred dollars more. Further, these mixers allow you to control the mix from your iPad, and/or your Android Pad of Smart Phone and/or your laptop from literally anywhere in the house–the ‘sound man/woman’ isn’t tied down to a board anymore! Awesome resources Brian. Certainly we live in wonderful times as technology for musicians go, don’t we? God Bless You Brother! Keep sending that ‘Message’ to the corners of the earth folks!

    • Russell Jan 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

      One more thing about the Rolls PM351 … you can ditch the power supplies for these as there is also a feature with the Rolls which allows you to power these directly from you mixer right through the main-mix line-in cable! Be careful to follow the directions regarding this though. Even though the PM351 does come with the power unit these can cause quite a mess on stage, the power cable can also work itself loose by accident, and they can use a lot of electricity if you have a number of musicians. Rolls is a solid company and their equipment is built like a tank.

      • josh Jan 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

        Russell, did you experience excess noise in your system? I bought a couple of these guys several years back thinking I was so smart to come up with such an affordable in-ear system – but I found they added way too much unwanted noise. I tossed these and then saved up to upgrade our old analog board and analogue snake to a digital behringer x32 compact with digital snake and headphone amps at each station. We don’t have much of a budget.. so it took a while, but the wait was well worth it. Each member can connect in via phones/devices and modify their own mixes… FULL system upgrade digital snake (reducing unwanted noise inherent in analog systems) WITH in-ears for about $3000.

        • Russell Jan 10, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

          Josh, we actually implemented the PM351’s along with the new Behringer digital mixer (balanced aux-sends to the PM351’s). And no, I have no noise whatsoever. I’m not certain, but I don’t think its possible to have line noise using balanced connections as that third wire provides for a ground–that could in fact be why I have no noise, I don’t know. I actually picked up on the use of these because we wanted to switch to more-me setups with in-ear monitors and found a guy on youtube who showed how to do it with the Behringer mixer. Nothing but good things to say about this setup.

    • Brian Jan 11, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

      Thanks Russell! At our campuses, we use the Behringer X32 along with their iOS app for mixing in-ear mixes. It works very well, and the sound quality is quite good. We run them into either wireless unites (Sennheiser EW300’s) or the Rolls boxes I’ve linked to here. Behringer buying out MIDAS has been quite good for budget-minded production teams. Their MIDAS acquisition is where the X32 and similar products came from.

  2. Wilson Jan 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Another option to headphone amp is the Samson S-Phone

    My church both recently and I be surprised with the quality

    Take a look on specs, it’s practically the same setup

    • Russell Jan 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

      Wilson, yes in this case you’re speaking about a single 4-station headphone amp (presumably at the mixer) and while true, it is another option, this places control of the headphone mix in one central location. Further, in your case, any of your musicians needs / wants to modify the mix at their headphone, they need to physically walk over to the amp to make the change or have your dedicated mixing engineer make the change. Whereas with the PM351’s, you place one of these on the musician’s mic stand–then the musician can change the headphone / IEM mix any time they want (even during the performance). In my case for example, I sing and play guitar and so I like the idea of changing my in-ear mix myself (with a PM351 on my mic stand I can change the volume for the click / queue, the main track, my guitar, and/or my own vocals). And, on another note, one of the reasons we switched to the digital mixer was so that any one of us could control it right from a tablet or smart phone right at the mic stand. So, now with the PM351’s and this new mixer we don’t need a dedicated sound engineer and our performances are much better than they used to be.

    • Brian Jan 11, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Cool – thanks Wilson!

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