In a live setting with 4 singers and 5 musicians we are really having trouble hearing ourselves with our current 2 floor monitor setup. One suggestion I have heard was to consider using in ear monitors. This definitely seems like it would help but seems like it would also be very expensive. What are some alternatives which can allow people to hear themselves and others well without increasing the on-stage sound too much.
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We just went down this road with my tribute act. Doing up the entire band with wireless IEMs was going to be well beyond our meager means. So I've got a "budget IEM" setup that tries to capture the spirit of the idea without breaking the bank.
Let me go over my setup.
We're use our own Behringer console just for doing our monitor mix. It's a Eurodesk SX3282 -- not the greatest board but it has enough Aux sends to get the job done and we got it used, in a flight case, for CAD$500 -- deal. We run split a minimal drum mic mix, vocal mics, bass signal, my guitar (I run direct out of an AxeFx), the keyboard, our backing track unit, and a room mic for ambience in to this board. And then we do 6 sub-mixes, one for each guy in the band. The sub-mixing is a bit tricky because you can only use 6 auxes on a channel strip at any one time and two are always post-fader which is annoying, but so be it. Some day we'll graduate up to a proper monitor mix matrix mixer.
We run all the aux mixes in to a headphone amplifier. We're using an OSP HPA-400 to drive the cans for everyone but the singer. The singer's IEM mix we run straight to his wireless transmitter unit.
Only our singer has a wireless IEM and mix. We all play wired instruments so we figured that wired IEMs wouldn't actually be a big deal and that's turned out to be mostly true.
From the headphone amp we run long cords to our IEMs. We all bought our own. I picked up some Ultimate Ears 600s on sale for ~$70. I have the IEM cable and my guitar cable tied together over their lengths and I loop a bit of the IEM cable over the guitar strap button my guitar to keep myself from accidentally yanking on it too hard. From there it runs up the back of my shirt just it would from a belt pack.
It sounds awkward but once you work out keeping the guitar and IEM cables connected (I used some velcro bands along the length of my cable) it's really not noticeable. You're used to managing your guitar cable so this just piggybacks the IEM feed along for the ride.
And once you go IEM + personal mixes, it's so hard to go back to stage monitors and a shared mix.
All that was put together for about $300/member in our 5 piece. The singer did buy his own wireless unit and I'm not including that in the price. And the nice thing about it is, as we build gig money, we can all expand to wireless with our gig money when we want. The way I see it is there's no point in my going wireless IEM until I can also afford to go wireless guitar -- so I'm banking to buy both solutions at the same time.
IEMs need not cost very much if you are on a budget. I mix sound in a church and when we had a strings section in a large carol concert, they were struggling to hear the lead, but if we turned up their monitors we quickly had issues with isolation and even feedback. So I got the FM transmitter I use for listening to MP3s in my car, and asked if anyone in the band had an FM radio in their phone. Several people did, and the feedback from the players who tried them was very positive.
The other option is to not go wireless. I've heard of a hi-fi amp being used along with a load of splitters and extension cables. If you go that route, do put a compressor/limiter in the signal chain to avoid risking damaging peoples ears.
2 monitors for 9 people doesn't sound like very many. Ideally get 1 monitor each and get them as close as possible unless they are standing very close together, e.g. 2 backing singers. Make sure they are pointing in the right direction. You don't need to give each monitor it's own separate mix if you don't have enough AUXes on the desk.