How To Setup In Ear Monitors (IEMs)

In ear monitors are a practical solutions to improving the control that musicians and performers have over their monitors.

Benefits of In Ear Monitors

There are three main benefits of having an in ear monitoring system when you are on the stage:

  1. Reduced Stage Volume
  2. Portability
  3. Click Track

By reducing the stage volume, you give your front of house audio engineer a much better chance at achieving a great mix. One of the biggest struggles with running sound in smaller venues is competing with the volume from the monitors. Once you remove the sound coming from the floor monitors, the audio engineer is able to get much better results.

One major drawback of traditional wedge monitors is that your mix is only on one location of the stage. This can be good for some musicians, but for lead singers who typically move around the stage a lot more, having a portable system is a huge improvement. No matter where you are in the venue, your monitor mix will be exactly how you want it!

The ability to play a click track through your monitors has changed almost every touring act since in ear monitors became popular. Previously, you were unable to play a click track through wedge monitors because the click would bleed from the stage into the audience. Now you can put click track, audio cues, reminders, etc. in your monitors without your audience noticing.

Use A Digital Audio Console!

Personally, I wouldn’t event attempt running an In Ear Monitoring System without a digital audio console. Digital audio consoles have many benefits over analog audio consoles, including:

  • Number of outputs
  • Stereo monitor mixes
  • EQ for each output
  • Limiter for each output
  • The ability to save each monitor mix

You would need a truck load of outboard gear to achieve the same features that come standard with almost any digital audio console.

Wireless vs Wired In Ear Monitors

When you’re setting up your in ear monitor rig, you will need to decide if you want to have a wireless in ear monitor system or a wired in ear monitor system.

Typically most musicians will prefer a wireless system, but drummers and keyboard players may choose to have a wired system since they don’t move around as much.

We recommend sticking with popular brands. Below are some recommendations for in ear monitoring systems that we recommend (amazon affiliate links):

Types of Headphones/Earphones

Anything with a 1/8″ Headphone Jack will work with most in ear monitoring system. That being said, we don’t necessarily recommend using your low quality earbuds that you have kicking around. Below are some recommendations for high quality headphones (amazon affiliate links):

Custom Molded In Ear Monitors

Over the counter IEMs

Setup A Limiter & EQ

Since you’re using a digital audio console for running your IEM setup, don’t forget to setup a limiter and basic EQ for each monitor mix. This will keep the IEM system operating at a safe level and keep the musician much happier.

How To Setup In Ear Monitors

Technically speaking, you generally just connect the XLR output from your digital audio console into the back of your IEM system. You may need some type of XLR to 1/4″ adapter depending on the in ear monitor system that you’re using.

As a general rule, all IEM transmitters should be setup side stage or as close to the performer as you can get. You don’t want your transmitter setup at the front of house position because the audio signal will be less reliable.

Audience & Ambient Mics

A common complaint with in ear monitoring systems is that the sound is too “dry” and the performer will feel disconnected from the audience. To solve this, we recommend putting a pair of condenser microphones on the stage, pointed toward the audience. These microphones can be added to the IEM mix to help connect the performer to the audience.



Kettner Creative is a full service audio visual (A/V) company located in Vancouver, BC. We rent AudioVideoLightingDrape and LED Furniture for events. If you’re interested in our services for an upcoming event – Please contact us!