Implementing In-Ears At Church
I've had this conversation several times lately, so I thought I'd post my thoughts here as well, in case it's helpful. Here are some of my thoughts on implementing in-ears in smaller churches:
Do you need them?
In-ears aren't ideal. They take getting used to. They can create an emotional barrier between a performer and the crowd. They can be expensive. They're difficult to share in cases where there are multiple bands at a given church. If implemented improperly, they can do more damage than good.
BUT, they can also be a lifesaver. I've been using ears for about 10yrs and wouldn't go back, because for my purposes, I truly do need them.
Here are some ways to tell whether or not in-ears are a good move for you at your church:
If you don't have a full band (5+ members, drums, amps, etc), maybe not. In simple, quieter setups, a couple of stage wedges work just fine, and you avoid the negative aspects of ears.
If none of your team has a technical bent, maybe not. Ears take some work to set up. If you set them up wrong, your musicians can end up not hearing entire portions of the mix. At least with wedges, you hear a little bit of everything, even if it's through the mains off the back wall.
If your stage is super loud to where your sound guy can't make a good mix because the stage monitor mixes are interfering or to where your band members can only hear mush on stage and are afraid of losing their hearing, then ears may be a good thing to look into. From my experience, most small churches who do a full band setup are in is camp to some degree.
Which ones to purchase?
Assuming you do feel you need to move to ears, what should you purchase? There are so many components to an in-ear system and so many options when it comes to each component that it can be overwhelming to the point where we just forget it and deal with the wedges. While there are a lot of options and while new stuff is coming out all of the time, let me piece out a system I feel would work very well for just about any smaller church. After everything I've tried over the past 10yrs, here's what I'd be confident recommending to you.
(disclaimer: this is not the best-ever system. you can spend a lot more money and get a higher quality, and much more confusing, system. But this, IMO is your best bet for ease of implementation and value for your money. Let's try to keep a clear head - you don't need the latest and greatest. You need something that works will and get out of the way, so you can get back to making music. Forget about the last 2% of sonic quality - spend your time and energy making your music better, not researching gear.)
Yes, there are cheaper options - they're a pain to use. Yes, there are higher fidelity options - they're a pain to use. Avioms have had the quickest learning curve for the broadest range of musicians in my experience. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough.
Get one aviom unit for each band member. Get one head unit or aviom card (if you have a digital board) to get audio into your avioms. Get the distribution hub. It means you don't have to daisy chain the units or plug power into them.
20' RadioShack headphone extensions
Don't go wireless unless you absolutely have to (you don't). 99.9% of church musicians don't move around enough to necessitate wireless ears. Wired connections sound better, require infinitely less setup and upkeep, and have infinitely less drop-outs than wireless. There is no sonic benefit to going wireless. Our church and Hello Industry do wireless for he front guy. In most cases, even that is unnecessary. Go wired. You can always go wireless later. These work fine.
While my favorite ears are from Sensaphonics (see my top 3 favs [here](http://nathanpeterson.tumblr.com/post/18511346392/in-ear-review-and- the-winner-is)), the [Shure 215 ears](http://www.amazon.com/Shure-SE215-CL- Sound-Monitor-Clear/dp/B004PO10E2/ref=sr_1_2?s=musical- instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605868&sr=1-2) for $99 are a great option for most musicians. At Richwoods we ask our musicians to purchase their own but buy them a pair if they can't afford it.
There's your shopping list. By going wired, you end up spending half of what most churches or bands pay, and you end up with less than a quarter of the headache. Refer to aviom's documentation for installing and implementing. I may do a post at some point about affectively implementing ears in small churches as well - would that be helpful?
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