What is a wireless personal in ear monitor. Perhaps the easiest way to answer this question is to understand music from a historical perspective of stage performance and amplification.
Before the introduction of microphones and PA systems musicians would need to develop skills to get the most volume out of their instrument and retain a musical sound to be enjoyed by the audience. Hence, Opera and Show singers developed styles that used their entire body to resonate to its most optimum capacity to project from the stage. Not to mention, the halls used for performance before amplification were designed to be acoustically favored for sound to travel long distances without much coloration or negative impact on the different frequencies typical of vocalists and supportive or solo instruments.
One could very easily point out that many of the styles of music before amplification were a product of their times. The Symphony Orchestra, the jazz big band and the choir were all holding fast to doubling instruments to produce more volume to fill a concert hall, dance hall or out door event.
The Microphone was invented by Emile Berliner for Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. It did not take long for singers in Broadway style shows and big bands to realize that a microphone would allow them to project their voice on top of the instrumentation with out working so hard, and allow for expression in the voice never possible before. Instrumentalists also found it possible to take a “solo” in a large group and be heard over the back round of all the other instrumentation.
Ultimately this led to sound equipment and professional companies setting up large systems which include front of house speakers and monitor speakers on stage. The Monitor speaker on stage allowed for performers to hear themselves better. For example a vocalist or soloist even though amplified in the front of house speakers, would not necessarily hear themselves any better on stage due to the house speakers pointing out into a large room. The stage monitor gave these performers more volume on stage.
So what does this have to do with the Personal In Ear Monitor? Well, the biggest challenge ironically faced on any stage is the volume issue. -Not loud enough is bad but to loud is also bad. The microphone and monitor system allowed bands like Led Zeppelin to play in large outdoor stadiums but also introduced the problems of over amplification which have been going on for decades. How many times have you gone to listen to a band and it was just too loud? .
Ironically, there seems to be an optimum point in any genre of music, where the musician is most comfortable hearing themselves on stage. For example a Broadway singer may want it to be as close to “acoustic” or no amplification as possible, or slightly amplified. A rock band may want a real punch however not so loud that the stage becomes a big mess of sound interacting to a point that it is no longer musical. -What is commonly known as feed back.
The personal in ear monitor solves this issue because it helps to keep the stage volume lower. Stage monitors are typically medium throw speakers designed to fill typical stage sizes with sound. Obviously the larger the stage and band the more stage monitors are used. Just like when you have 10 violinists in a orchestra Vs. one, the volume rises. When the sound is put directly in your ear instead of a stage monitor, the musician can hear the group and himself without doubling or tripling the stage volume. Often the louder one needs to play on stage causes each instrument to respond differently and especially for non rock oriented performances and instrumentation, there comes a point where the volume detracts from the performance.
As a result of the electronic technology boom in the past 10 years it is inexpensive to produce wireless transmitters and in ear “monitors” often called earbuds, sound isolating earphones and earbud earphones. It does not take long on any given day to see someone walking around with an ipod and earbuds.
For some older performers it is a bit of a challenge to use the personal in ear monitor. It is closer to wearing earplugs as you have an isolated feel, and the sound of the band is not a seamless blend with what is in your ear. However, with the right adjustments and a bit of patience one can easily adapt. The first musicians to use amplification also had to adapt to the challenges of listening to themselves in a different sonic state than pure acoustic.
At BirdlandMusic.Net we offer a variety of solutions for in ear monitoring.
Jay Schultz, Pro Audio birdlandmusic.net