In a previous article, we talked about the benefits of using in-ear monitors and some starting points to building a good in-ear mix. Today we will look at different ways that you could implement using in-ears into your church’s setup. There are 3 main buckets that you can think about these systems in: headphone amps, personal mixers, wireless systems.
1. Headphone Amps
The most cost-effective way to move from floor wedges to in-ears is to buy headphone amps that receive an XLR input. You can simply plug the XLR that you have been using for your wedge into the headphone amp and run an 1/8” cable out of that to your headphones. Level adjustments will be made from the auxiliary sends at the front of house console either by the front of house tech or, if you have a digital console, with an app that each band member uses to control their own mix. The adjustments may also be made from a monitor console that is side stage. Utilizing headphone amps requires no new wiring or additional systems to be purchased, or added to what you already have. The headphone amp simply replaces the floor wedge.
2. Personal Mixers
Personal mixers come in all shapes, and sizes, and prices. These are units like the Behringer P16, Aviom 360, LiveMix, or Roland M48. These units function like personal sound boards for each band member to control every element of what they are hearing. Some allow for each channel to be EQ’d from the unit. Some even have built in reverb that can be added to each channel. However, these units are more costly, and some require a separate central control hub or "brain" to run the mixers. There is increased flexibility, control, and audio quality with these mixers, but these increases are accompanied by increased cost.
3. Wireless Systems
Wireless systems can give users the most freedom physically, because they aren’t tethered to a hardware unit. Users also are able to listen to what is happening in the room without being on stage, if room mics or the pastor’s microphone are being sent to the in-ear packs. Many new digital consoles allow for team members to adjust their own mixes from console specific apps on their phones or tablets. Using wireless systems also allows for a front of house person to "listen in" to your mix and make adjustments for you as well. Wireless systems can be expensive, but they afford many practical benefits.
Much more could be said about these kinds of systems. But this brief overview is meant to simply be a primer as you think about moving to an in-ear system. Any of these systems would be a great improvement from using floor wedges and would help musicians be able to hear one another better, and therefore play better. Do what would be wise for your congregation. Don’t get something you don’t need or overspend. Seek to acquire resources that would practically help your team, as you seek to love and lead your congregation.