In this article, we’ll show you how to set up in ear monitors and give you some recommendations on the equipment that will work best for you.

Quick Answer: Connect your digital mixer monitor out/s to a wired or wireless headphone amp, set levels, and mix as required. 

Benefits of In Ear Monitors

Before we show you how to set up an in ear monitoring system, we want to tell you about the benefits. There are two main reasons to switch to an in ear monitoring system.

  1. To reduce stage volume
    With on stage monitors, you have to push the level of the front-of-house mix to overpower what’s happening on the stage. In smaller venues, this can push you over your max volume limit.

    A “silent” stage gives the audio engineer the opportunity to deliver the perfect, clean front of house mix that you want
  2. More options for your monitor mixes
    A great example of what we mean is adding a click track. You can’t do that with a floor monitor because the audience would hear it. With in ear monitors, the audience will never know.

Use a Digital Audio Console

We don’t recommend you attempt setting up in ear monitors without a digital mixer. Why? Well, a digital console gives you a couple of things.

  1. More monitor outputs
    Our 16 channel Allen & Heath QU-16 digital mixer has 10 monitor outputs; 4 mono and 3 stereo.
  2. Stereo monitors
    Great if a drummer likes to have click in only one ear or you need to pan audio for any other reason.
  3. Allows you to save your mixes
    For touring bands or other setups requiring the same monitor mix regularly, you can save and recall your settings, saving you a lot of time.
  4. Individual monitor EQ
    You can apply individual EQ settings to each monitor output.

Wireless vs Wired In Ear Monitors

Wired in ear monitor amps are cheap and great for drummers and people that don’t move around a lot. But they are restrictive for anyone else.

We recommend a wireless solution like the Shure PSM 300 system for vocalists or guitarists that like to move around a lot on stage. Budget around $500 for your wireless monitor system and stick to the established name brands like Shure and Sennheiser. They offer the best performance and long-term value.

Types of Headphones/Earphones

The type of headphones or earphones you choose is down to your personal preference. 

  • Custom in ear monitors
    Companies like Westone and Ultimate Ears produce custom molded in ear monitors. These are by far the most popular in ear monitor earphones.
  • Over the counter earphones
    Shure, Beats, or any high-quality earphones. These can be in ear or over ear depending on what you prefer.

Setup a Limiter

Safety is another huge advantage of using a digital mixing console. With a digital mixer, you can set a hard limit to make sure you’re not sending too much signal to any one headphone amp.

We like to plug our own headphones into the wireless pack first, set the limit and then hand the pack over to the artist.

How To Setup In Ear Monitors

We’ll talk you through setting up in-ear monitors using the Shure PSM 300 wireless system, but the steps will generally apply to most equipment.

Time needed: 2 minutes.

  1. Connect the mixer to the wireless IEM system
    Plug an XLR cable into the desired monitor output on your mixer. Convert the cable to 1/4” for the input on your IEM system using an XLR to TRS adapter.
  2. Position IEM system within 10’ to 30’ of the artist
  3. Plug your headphones into the wireless pack
    Set the levels, limiter, and mix according to the artist’s preferences.

Audience & Ambient Mics

One downside to in ear monitoring, especially with custom-molded earphones, is that artists lose out on feedback from the audience. They can feel isolated and detached from the experience.

One way to make up for this is to point some mics at the audience and add this audio to the monitor mix. Just make sure you don’t feed it to the main PA!

How To Setup In Ear Monitors (IEMs) Pricing & Specs

How To Setup In Ear Monitors (IEMs) Topics

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 0:22 Benefits of In Ear Monitors
  • 1:25 Use A Digital Audio Console!
  • 2:25 Wireless vs Wired In Ear Monitors
  • 3:12 Types of Headphones/Earphones
  • 4:00 Setup A Limiter
  • 4:44 How To Setup In Ear Monitors
  • 7:05 Audience & Ambient Mics
  • 7:35 Final Thoughts