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Custom Made In-Ear Monitors for Musicians

Finally - a blog post about in-ear monitors!


I recently bought 2 new sets of earplugs, with different attenuation filters, and Evolve in-ears from ACS in London. Full disclosure, I got an artist discount, that said everything I’m writing here is my true opinion.


I previously used Shure SE215s as a drummer and bass player, and used these in different situations like functions, pop gigs, musicals and recording sessions. Before that I used to use Sennheiser over-ear headphones, though these days bands often specify to bring in-ears. The Shure ones were not custom fitted, and none of the provided foam or soft-flex sleeves gave a perfect fit. The slightest movement would change the bass level I was hearing, meaning I was constantly adjusting them to hear my bass properly. The upside is these, and the over-ear headphones, let in some ambient sound so you can still hear people talking around you without needing them mic’ed up + coming through the in-ear mix.


Why ACS?

I’m a Musicians’ Union member and used the Help Musicians offer for £30 custom moulded earplugs a few years ago. They can be fitted fairly centrally in London at the Kings Cross ACS office. You can try out demo in-ears and can ask for advice directly from ACS staff, as opposed to buying online and getting moulds made at a 3rd party shop. I already had 3 pairs of fitted earplugs with different filters that I use for different gigs and rehearsals and was happy with ACS customer service already. If they don't fit right, they are happy to redo them until you are happy. I saw an audiologist who recommended ACS even though he sells a competing brand of in-ears, because their customer service and options to demo models are a bonus when you don’t already know what model you want to buy.


How many drivers?

For playing drums with just a click and a basic in-ear mix, one or two drivers should be enough. You won’t get the best bass sound though. I went for 3 drivers as this provides a good bass sound. When I compared the universal fitted demo models, the 5 drivers Emotion model had a slightly more impressive overall sound and it seemed more ‘spatial’ + surround sound, but the 3 driver sound was very impressive and I didn’t feel the 5 drivers adds enough wow factor. There is a few hundred pounds price difference for the 5 drivers compared to 3. The main reasons I went for 3 drivers are:

  • I have small ears and the 3 driver Evolve model is less bulky, there was a chance the 5 driver model wouldn’t fit my ears, and even if it did I’d rather a less bulky model with an almost equally good sound.

  • For use as a bass player I wanted a very strong bass sound, but not overwhelming. One of the ACS staff who was at the office is a bass player and said he switched from the 5 driver to 3 driver model, because the 5 drivers had quite a boomy bass sound whereas the 3 drivers gives a flatter output. This will probably be down to personal preference.


Vented/unvented?

The vented option comes with a filter like the earplugs, to let in some ambient sound at a reduced level. I went for the non-vented option, as I wanted full control over the mix I’m hearing without bleed from on-stage. Ideally, I’d also have a set of the vented in-ears, as these would be useful for some situations too. I sometimes sing backing vocals and think the vented model would be better for this, and it’d be helpful for ambient sounds and hearing people talk to you on stage.


The dehumidifier box. I haven’t used this yet, I use little packets of alcohol wipes to clean them and let them air out a bit before putting them away.


So far I’m very happy with these. The next show I’ll be using them on is Defying Gravity - West End Women, which is touring around the U.K. this year.





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