We all know that in-ear monitors (IEMS) were designed to solve two issues: Save hearing and improve audio quality on stage. But if used incorrectly they may actually fail to do both. It is far too often that we see musicians and performers with one earpiece dangling on their chest. While it works as a nice wardrobe accessory it is actually dangerous to your hearing health. We’ll try to explain. There is a known phenomenon call binaural summation. You don’t have to remember the words but rather understand the concept. When you take one earpiece out, you lose 6db of perceived loudness. To compensate, most musicians will turn the volume up by about 6db (twice the loudness), which can be fatiguing and damaging to the ear. Furthermore, the “open” ear is also subjected to dangerous sound levels. As you can see this is a lose-lose situation. Here are some suggestions how to avoid the “one-ear-out” situation:
1. Make sure you have a stereo mix. Most performers feel disconnected and isolated with a mono mix.
2. Use panning to create a spacious, realistic mix. Panning instruments as they are naturally found on stage will help you forget you’re wearing IEMs.
3. Incorporate FX or ambience. Our brain is used to hearing ambience. Don’t be afraid to put a little reverb on sources or blend ambience mics to put “dimension” into your mix. Note: FX must be stereo.
Of course a great mix is more complicated than these three factors, but they can help in making mixes that will help you feel comfortable on stage and keep both earpieces in. This is the only way IEMs will truly protect your hearing while you enjoy great audio fidelity. ♦♦ 64 Audio is a Vancouver, Washington based manufacturer of professional, custom in-ear monitors for musicians and audiophiles. Founded in 2010 by Vitaliy and Anastasia Belonozhko, the company has equipped high-profile touring artist worldwide with their hand-crafted custom monitoring products.