How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer

How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer
Flying Solo on the road? Ultimate Ears helps you get the most out of your UE PRO in-ear monitor system – even without a dedicated monitor engineer in tow.



As live players and worship teams gear up to take the stage again, a question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: how can I keep my monitors sounding great while keeping as lean a team as possible? 


Slimming down could mean not bringing on a dedicated monitor engineer and relying on in-house venue sound wherever you play out. After all, you don’t have to be a huge performer with an enormous road team to get the most out of IEMs. 


Ultimate Ears makes monitoring solutions to reach artists and groups at any stage in their careers. Not only do these powerful personal monitoring tools pay real-world dividends, but they can also be a lasting investment in your performance potential.


With a wireless in-ear system and a little preparation, you’ll have the tools you need to create great-sounding monitor mixes from venue to venue. 



“Why In-ears? Can’t I Just Monitor on Wedges?”


Great question. Touring with in-ear monitors (IEMs) will ensure all performers on your stage or platform get a consistent monitor mix night after night, Sunday after Sunday, even when traveling, touring, and playing in unfamiliar settings. 


Yes, many house engineers do a great job of accommodating performer mix preferences using traditional stage monitors. Still, it can be a challenge for every performer to get their say in during the course of a half-hour soundcheck. And even then, fighting for monitor space presents a unique set of challenges – like creating a stage that’s too loud or butting heads with overzealous lead players. 


Our advice: if monitor mix is a priority, invest in a set of Ultimate Ears IEMs and a full wireless in-ear system of your choice and make sure everyone on your team knows to re-create their custom mixes every time you play out. This will prove a key ingredient in creating a quiet stage wherever has the freedom to play at their peak.



Know the Gear You’ll Need


First importance in creating solid in-ear mixes is knowing the tools for the job. Your custom-molded UE Pro in-ears are just the tip of the iceberg. You’re also going to need the following:

  1. A wireless bodypack receiver for every performer onstage. Bodypack receivers receive audio being sent from a mixing board to the performer for monitoring. Premixed audio is fed from the bodypack to the performer’s in-ears by way of a slim, discreet cable. The bodypack clips onto the performer’s belt or slips into their pocket to keep in-ears from yanking and tugging through movement. Options come as simple as the Xvive U4 wireless system (which can send up to six bodypacks a shared mix from a single XLR output) or as sophisticated as a fleet of Sennheiser Evolution Wireless bodypacks, each with their own mix.
  2. A ready-to-rock rack of wireless transmitters. In order to receive a monitor mix on your in-ears, your bodypack must first be transmitted an audio signal from the board. This is called a transmitter. Most times these devices will need to be tethered to a stage box or soundboard. You can also streamline your setup by putting together a pre-wired rack with all your receivers tooled up, labeled, and ready to.
  3. Cables and accessories. Whether it’s XLRs for wireless receivers, BNC cables for wireless antennae, or Ethernet cables for personal monitoring devices, don’t assume the venue will have the accessories you need for your wireless systems. Always bring these in abundance. That goes double for power supplies!
  4. Behringer/Midas/Presonus board? You’re in luck! If you’re playing a venue that uses an X32, M32, or X-Air digital mixer—and many do today—you’re in luck. Behringer’s PowerPlay distribution systems and P16-M personal monitor mixers give stationary players (drummers, keyboardists, etc.) studio-like control of every sound source sent to their ears directly from their stations onstage. No wireless transmitters or receivers are required here. Your Ultimate Ears IEMs plug directly into the P16-M boxes like a standard set of headphones.


How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer



Make Arrangements Ahead of Time


If you’re using a venue’s house PA and provided sound person, you’ll want to make contact well before soundcheck to let them know you’re packing in-ear systems and wireless units. This will give your engineer the best chance of knowing how to accommodate your group. Take it from sound engineers at Ultimate Ears: nobody likes to be put in the hot seat. The last thing you want is to drop a bombshell on the person who’s your direct link between your music and your listeners.




Learn the Lingo


“I need more me!” is the battle cry of every stage performer fighting for real estate in a bustling mix. Unfortunately, it does little to clue in the sound person what’s keeping you from hearing yourself in your in-ears.  Learning how to communicate with your engineer will give you the best chance of being able to hear yourself clearly onstage. Try to be as descriptive as possible, like:

  • “Stage-left vocal needs less bass guitar in her monitor mix.”
  • “Keyboard player needs more kick drum in his ears.”
  • “Guitar player’s amp sounds too dry in the monitor. Can I get a little monitor reverb?”
  • “Horn section only needs backing tracks. Mute everything else.”
  • “Lead vocalists voice sounds muddy onstage. Can you use a high-pass filter?”


Naturally, there’s a level of diplomacy and grace that’s needed when communicating with your engineer. Be willing to roll with the punches, but also learn to speak up when poor monitoring is putting a damper on your best performance.




Know the Software


With a little pre-planning and a couple hours logged in front of an iPad, you’ll be set to start creating custom in-ear mixes for your next performance from the comfort of the stage. Most digital mixers on the market today have companion apps that’ll give any device with Wi-Fi direct access to their essential functions – including monitor sends, channel panning, and more. Just find out in advance what soundboard the club you’re playing uses and make arrangements necessary to connect. You’ll probably need to know the venue’s Wi-Fi password and mixer’s IP address to get started. 


Sound complicated? Don’t worry. Once you’ve got a mix or two under your belt, you’ll be flying through soundchecks.  


Here are the major mixers and companion apps to know today:

  • Behringer X32 and X32 Compact – X32-Mix (iOS) and X32-Q (Android) apps
  • Behringer XR12, XR16, and XR18 – X AIR app (iOS/Android)
  • Midas M32 and M32R LIVE – M32-Mix (iOS) and M32-Q (Android) apps
  • Yamaha QL1 and QL5 – QL StageMix (iOS) and MonitorMix (Android) apps
  • PreSonus StudioLive Series – UC Surface app (iOS/Android)


Don’t know where to start? YouTube tutorials are a great way to learn the ins and outs of each app!


How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer



Understand What Makes a Great In-ear Mix 


As the honorary mix engineer for your group, your bandmates will rely on you to help them set up their own in-ear monitor mixes at the gig. This means you’ll want to learn each member’s personal preferences and have some handle on what makes for a workable in-ear mix. Some good rules of thumb are as follows:

  • Keep an eye on input gain as you build monitor mixes. In an ideal world, you’ll want the meters of the console, transmitters, and receivers all peaking just below “0”.
  • Use each player’s instrument/voice as the foundation of their personal monitor mix, then blend complementary sources to taste. Every player will most likely want to hear themselves loudest in their mix at all times.
  • Decide to mix in stereo or mono. Stereo in-ear feeds sound great, but they may double the number of aux outputs you need from the board. If you can get by with mono mixes for most performers, aim for simplicity. 
  • Learn which players key into which sources. It’s common practice that a drummer will want to listen to the lead vocalist for cues, the bass player will need to hear the kick drum for rhythmic tightness, and the keys player will want to hear the bass to build walking lines.
  • Trim the fat where you can. Too many sound sources in every players’ ears can cause clutter. Only feed performers the sound sources they need. 
  • Bring your own ambient mic. Molded in-ears can be disorienting to greenhorn live players. You can help free them from their mix prison by routing a dedicated crowd or stage mic to everyone’s ears. 
  • Check in often. Make visual contact with your bandmates after the first song to make sure everyone’s happy with their mix. If a bandmate is urgently vying for attention, you can be sure they’re having trouble hearing themselves.


How to Mix In-ear Monitors (IEMs) Without a Dedicated Tour Engineer



Ultimate Ears Pro: In-Ear Monitoring You Can Trust


Wherever you are in your career, you can count on Ultimate Ears Pro in-ear monitors to tighten up your performances and make taking shows on the road manageable again. Ready to take control of your live monitor mixes? Shop UE PRO IEMs today!

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