We highlight 5 major benefits of in-ear monitors and why you really need to start using them instead of relying on monitor wedges

There are loads of benefits of in-ear monitors, so if you haven’t already tried them out, you should seriously consider using them as they not only encourage a better performance but can actually save your hearing from irreversible damage. Today we’re looking at the key benefits of using in-ear monitors, in particular the Shure SE range, and will highlight the damage you could be doing to your hearing – chances are you’ll be surprised at what that snare or loud guitar amp is really doing to your ears.

Why should I use and what are the benefits of in-ear monitors?

1. You can actually hear yourself

When you’re a gigging musician, one of the biggest struggles we face is the endless battle with the onstage sound. When we’re on stage, we’re often asking the sound engineer to “turn me up” just so we can hear ourselves through the monitors over the guitarists cab or the drummers super-loud snare! And if we can’t hear what we’re doing, it can mean we have a disastrous gig. Monitor engineers only have so much they can give you based on the limitations of the speaker systems.  They have things like the power amplifier size to consider and how the monitors affect the rest of the band – the more they turn you up the more they have to turn someone else down. The major benefits of in-ear monitors lie in the fact you can hear yourself clearly without the need for wedges. The monitor engineer doesn’t need to turn you up on stage and can give you as much volume as you need directly to your ears. This means you can hear everything you need to straight away and enjoy studio quality live sound choosing exactly what you want to hear. No more arguing with the drummer to stop hitting so hard! The Shure SE range of in-ear monitors in particular provide fantastic isolation from outside noise, effectively placing you directly in the mix and blocking out any unwanted sound - like your bass player for example.  

2. They’re better for your hearing

Perhaps the most important benefits of in-ear monitors come in the form of protecting you from permanent noise induced hearing loss. According to Action On Hearing Loss, prolonged exposure to any noise at 85dB (around the sound of a freight train or idling bulldozer) and above can start to cause irreversible damage to your hearing. Considering most gigs operate at 110dB and most PA systems can operate as loud as 130dB which is the sound of a jet taking off at 200ft away, you’re really risking damaging your hearing if you’re exposing yourself to a loud onstage sound. A set of earplugs can really help you reduce the chance of noise induced hearing loss as they can reduce the volume around you, although in-ear monitors do a better job of delivering the noise you NEED to hear, like your vocals or your guitar for example. A set of in ear monitors puts the control in your hands, allowing you to adjust the volume at which you’re hearing everything, almost eliminating outside noise and ensuring you’re not cranking everything up on stage just to hear your own voice or instrument.

3. They help to reduce vocal strain

When we’re singing on stage and we can’t hear ourselves we have a tendency to push our vocals harder, which will eventually damage our vocal chords over the years and potentially shorten the gig if we blow our voice mid set. This happens all because we can’t hear ourselves in the mix and have to try and sing louder. In ear monitors allow us to hear everything that’s going on, whether it’s just our vocals or a stereo mix of everything on stage, all at volumes we can enjoy. A personal mix directly to our ears ensures we’re not screaming over wedges and competing with other instruments on stage. The more we hear, the more in tune we’ll be and the less we have to strain!

4. Control over your sound

We’ve mentioned it a few times here, but in ear monitors offer up complete control over what we hear on stage. Yes, we still need the monitor engineer to help with the finer adjustments when it comes to the overall mix, but with the likes of Shure PSM series in-ear monitor systems you can increase or reduce the volume of what you hear instantly via your bodypack. Stereo mixes allow us to hear the same thing in both ears but allow us to pan left and right, whilst systems with MixMode let us adjust which instruments are heard in each ear effectively allowing you to have vocals and keys on one side, with drums and guitar on the other, for example.

5. No more feedback

Let it be known that monitor and sound engineers work really hard at gigs. One of the major problems they face is taming feedback onstage and in front of house - and they do it all without you knowing. However, when we ask for more sound in our wedges and there’s a microphone nearby – basically every gig ever, they have to wrestle with the PA so it doesn’t feedback and cause us to grab our ears in pain. This happens because an amplified sound is being picked up by a microphone and then re-amplified in an infinite loop. When everyone onstage wants their mic louder, feedback will naturally creep in. However, a set of in-ear monitors completely eradicate this problem as the monitor mix is going directly to your ears and nowhere near the microphone – so no feedback loop!

Which in-ear monitors are right for me?

There are many options out there, but when it comes to your hearing you want the best possible option at all times. We recommend the likes of the Shure SE in-ear monitors which offer up a range of different options and sonic features for musicians of all levels. You can find out the differences between Shure SE in-ear monitors in our blog to give you a good idea about pricing and differences in sound quality. If you're serious about your onstage sound, then check the Shure SE range out. Shop a full range of Shure In-Ear Monitor Systems over at PMT Online or call in to your local PMT store to speak to one of our experts about your onstage monitoring needs.