So, you’ve purchased a pair of in-ear monitors (or maybe you are thinking about it). They fit well, the seal is just right, you’re getting the isolation you desire, and the music clarity is out of this world. But you want to know more. How do you keep them clean? What other audio equipment do you use them with? How high should that volume really be? What kind of accessories can make my experience better? We thought we would share some of our industry secrets on how to get the most out of your in-ear monitors (IEMs).
Let’s Start with Gear…
You will need a quality pair of in-ear monitors that fit well. The seal on an IEM is a big part of its power and can have a huge impact on the quality of the sound. Even if you have a high-quality piece of equipment, if the earphone does not seal well in your ear, you will end up losing isolation and a lot of the clarity – particularly in lower frequencies, where the bass may really lose its punch. Side note: here at 64 Audio, we offer a 30-day fit guarantee on all of our custom products to ensure the best fit possible. We want you to hear everything!
If you intend to mix in stereo, which is widely recommended, make sure you have a mixing console that has plenty of auxiliary sends. To mix in stereo, you will need a stereo transmitter/receiver combo and a stereo auxiliary send from your mixer. Generally speaking, we have found that hard-wired systems will almost always sound better. This is due to a loss of quality in the signal when it’s transmitted through the radio signal. In densely populated areas, free radio frequencies can also be a bit difficult to find. That being said, wireless technology will continue to improve in quality and does offer an additional degree of freedom on stage that can be incredibly beneficial to some performers. As a happy medium, we are releasing the MagPack, a personal monitor amplifier system that has a magnetic “snag-free” input connector. That way, if you decide to run across the stage or if the cord gets snagged, the cable breaks away from the monitor using a magnetic mounting system. You can have all the benefits of the hard-wire without the potential damage to the cable.
Making Them Last…
High-quality equipment is an investment, and we want to make sure that your products last as long as possible. There are a lot of little things that you can do to help your IEMs last.
First, listening to your IEMs at high volumes not only puts your ears at risk but can also damage the drivers inside your earphones. Keep your ears safe and make those drivers last a long time by keeping the volume at appropriate levels.
Second, use a shirt clip to help secure your earphones while in use. This helps reduce the risk of your cable snagging on equipment and pulling your IEMs out of your ears. Should your in-ears become dislodged from your ears, the clip will also be an added measure of safety to prevent them from hitting the floor. Less impact means less damage.
Third, be sure to properly store your IEMs in a protective hard case whenever you aren’t using them. Especially if they are being stored with other audio equipment while on the road or traveling. We ship a hard case with every earphone order and its also available as an accessory on our online store. Proper storage helps to prevent accidental damage (including dog, cat, and washing machine related fates).
Fourth, we recommend that you look into purchasing a large dehumidifier jar. Placing your earphones in the jar overnight helps prevent moisture damage, which is especially common for active performers or those who wear their earphones at the gym or while performing on stage. Drying your IEMs out will also make them easier to clean.
Fifth, clean your earphones regularly (preferably after every use). 64 Audio includes a cleaning tool in the original merchandise package and we also offer them through our store. Cleaning is easier and more effective when any wax residue has dried, so be sure to have them sit in the dehumidifier before a good cleaning. When you clean, make sure the canal of the in-ear is facing downwards so that any dislodged debris will fall out of the bores instead of getting pushed towards the drivers. If the bores in your canals are too small for the wire loop of the cleaning tool, you can pinch the loop closed for a smaller tool. For simpler and more thorough cleaning, we recommend the Jodi Vac, which does most of the work for you with suction.
Finally, another surefire way to keep your IEMs clean is to clean your ears regularly. This will reduce how much you have to clean the earphones afterward.
Some Extra Tips…
Always wear both earphones. ALWAYS. Using only one can lead to an overcompensation in the single IEM, which has the potential to cause damage to both your hearing as well as the internal components of the earphone. Plus, if you are listening in stereo, removing one earphone will mean losing clarity and a perception of the soundstage. If you tend to take one of your 64 Audio in-ears out because you want more ambient sound, you can purchase a different pair of apex modules that offers less isolation. Another potential solution is using reverb or room mics in your mix. Because they do similar things, it’s best to implement one of the two. When mixing you can add these in last. They help to recreate that ambiance that makes the mix sound more natural therefore making you feel less isolated from your surroundings.
Also, be sure to mix using a stereo signal. This will also make your mix sound more “realistic.” We hear in stereo in our daily lives, so it sounds more natural to our ears. Most professionals generally agree that stereo is the way to go. If you have a stereo transmitter/receiver combo and a stereo auxiliary send from your mixer, then it’s the way to go. You can use left and right panning to create separation between instruments with similar frequencies (guitars and vocals, for instance).
And finally, always be aware of volume. After plugging your in-ears into a headphone jack, make sure to turn the volume all the way down on your sound source. Custom in-ear monitors are much more sensitive than traditional full-sized headphones. Long exposure to high sound pressure levels can result in permanent hearing loss. You’ve got to protect your ears, they are the only ones you’ve got!
If you have any more specific questions regarding your experience or your personal IEMs, please feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 503-746-8510. To see what other members of our 64 family do with their IEMs, check us out on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.