I'm playing in a band (drums, bass, guitar, keys + 2 singers), and we are considering putting together an in ear system.

The main problem is small venues, everyone is close to the drummer, and we can't really hear ourselves. Wedges are not always an option, the volume is also not great for our ears. This is the worst for singers as they need to "intonate themselves".

I spent the past few days exploring the options, and I can't really see a good solution without a copious amount of gear (not even just price, but sheer amount of stuff). To understand my frustration with this, I'm the guitarist, for now I go there with a modeller unit and my guitar, hand the output to the sound guy, and I'm set.

My goal is to allow everyone to listen to the mix of instruments they preferr in their monitors.

My understanding is, that to achieve this, we need:

  • A digital mixer with at least number of musicians + 1 (to front of house) outputs.
  • 1 transmitter for each musician.
  • 1 receiver for each musician.
  • 1 pair of in-ears for each musician.

My question is, is there any way to simplify this? For people who are playing with in-ears, how would you get started with this?

  • 2
    The main problem could be solved by getting a drummer who can play less loud. It's entirely possible - rutes are quieter than stick s, as a start.But quiet quality drummers are a rare breed. I just hope they keep on breeding... And- one transmitter for drums - asking for extra problems, unless they're electronic, in which case, there's no excuse anyway!
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 10:33
  • I assume you as guitarist, don't have a backline, so rely on foldback or simply listen to p.a., but what about everyone else at the moment? (Including monitor for drums).
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 11:20
  • I either just listen directly to the PA or if the sound guy has wedges, I listen to that. Same for keys. The bassist uses an actual amp, which is mic-ed. Drums don't really need amplifying, and singers are in the most trouble :D A quiet drummer would be great but I gave up on that. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 12:47
  • 4
    You say “drums don’t really need amplifying” and in some rooms they don’t but if you go to in-ears the drums will also need to be miked at least for the purpose of monitoring or you will only be hearing them acoustically and very muffled leaking in through your ear buds. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 14:03
  • 4
    You can mic a kit with one good omni
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I'm an instrumentalist, not an audio engineer; I'm writing from my consumption of sound systems, not experience running them.

Let's agree that the ideal, if you had unlimited funds and unlimited time and space to transport and set up gear, would be in-ear monitoring with a system like Aviom that gives each performer direct individual control of their own mix, with their own personal unit to adjust the level they get of every signal. These are often paired with in-ear monitoring, but as far as I know there's no reason they can't be used with wedges, or that the "old way" can't be used with in-ear.

There are probably many other benefits of this kind of system, but as a performer, the main thing I experienced was "cutting out the middle man." In the days of wedges, I always had to bug the sound guy for "a little more of me... ok, a little more yet... well, maybe that's too much... Oh holy crap the guitarist just showed up late and plugged in and he's incredibly hot, can you pull him way down?... well, I didn't mean all the way out of the mix..." Multiply that times each person on stage, and it makes for a very long sound check, and invariably I'd wind up just shutting up and making do with something less than ideal. This issue, of control, is separate from the issues of in-ear monitoring vs wedges (you can't both get your mic hot enough, hear enough of yourself, and avoid feedback).

Now, as far as I know, there's no reason you couldn't use in-ear monitoring with the "bug the sound guy" model. As long as the mixing board has enough aux sends for everyone, you simply run those to the stage and plug in in-ears where you would have plugged in wedges. (Plus probably some consideration that's beyond my knowledge about accounting for impedance difference.) Price: difference in price between wedges and in-ears. Bulk of gear: reduced since you don't need wedges.

I have a feeling you're looking for even more creative solutions, though. "Get the drummer to play quieter" is good for a laugh. Jokes aside, sometimes this suggestion betrays an ignorance of genre (not looking at you, Tim, more at actual conversations I've had). Someone says "Well I know it's possible for a drummer to play quietly enough for the space and for the rest of the band; I was in a coffeeshop the other day and there was a jazz combo and the drummer was just using brushes, it was so delicate and tasteful!" And doesn't recognize that if you're working in a pop-rock, vaguely Blink-182 context, it's essentially a different instrument, just as much as the coffeshop's upright bass is from the electric.

I've always found that the solution that fits the room and the style best is to fully enclose the drummer in a drum shield—you know, Lexan around the front and sides, padded panels behind and on top. Then the drummer can wale away to their hearts content, the output can be miced, mixed, and balanced perfectly to suit the space, and the monitors can contain as much or as little of the drums as needed. These shields certainly cost something (and might mean buying more mics as well, which at some point might start meaning a mixing board with more channels), and they certainly take up some space and time to lug around and set up, but still less of both than an Aviom system.

  • 1
    Thanks for the get-out. Having played with scores of drummers over time, pop/dance/jazz, most couldn't play quietly, so the rest had to come up to their level, which then made them play even harder. Only a handful could get a good balance, and still play in the pocket. I like the plexi-box idea - could they be made airtight - that would of course help keep the sound in too..!
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 15:22
  • 2
    One downside to drum shields, especially with tops, is they can put early reflections into the mikes and affect the sound quality of the drums. For lots of shows, the difference may not be big enough to matter. Just something to bear in mind before going through the trouble. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 15:51
  • 2
    IMO there's something inherently wrong with wanting to play stadium rock in a coffee shop. We want to have the cake and eat it too, we're used to technology making everything possible... "making do with something less than ideal" should be the ideal, in my opinion. You're at a small venue, so play small-venue music. This probably doesn't help the OP though. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 18:16
  • I like the drum shield idea too. Going to check out the Aviom you mentioned, but you scared me with the price. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 21:08
  • 2
    @BalázsÉdes: Aviom is (or rather used to be) the gold standard. Nowadays, there are competitors like the Behringer P16 system (or whatever the newer, more powerful one is called), where the entire system costs less than just the Aviom hub alone. Commented May 1, 2022 at 16:37

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