You have gone to music concerts, right? Then you may have noticed that all the artists – singers and musicians – wear earphone-like equipment in their ears. Ever wondered why?
In case you didn't know, they are not earphones. They are earpieces or in-ear monitors.
We all know that music concerts can get loud. In such high volume scenarios, singers and musicians need to listen to all the instruments in order to perform better.
Earpieces and in-ear monitors are a pinnacle of technological advancement.
Want to find out how?
Just sit back and read on:
To understand the importance of the in-ear monitor or earpieces, you first have to familiarise yourself with the problems that are associated with stage monitors or sound monitor wedges.
The volume level of wedges has to be increased significantly higher in order to drown out the noise coming from the audience. Sometimes, to minimize the acoustic problems that occur because of the type of venue.
Under such high volume levels from these sound monitors, singers and musicians can suffer from ear fatigue. Worst case scenario, they might even end up damaging their hearing ability.
Similarly, if the monitors are too loud, it will also hamper the audiences' perception of the performance.
Plus, portability issues are a major concern with stage monitors as they take up a lot of space on the stage. They have to be placed in the direction of the performance at all times. Singers and musicians may even get hurt by tripping over stage monitors.
So what is the solution?
Enter in-ear monitors. Here's why singers and musicians prefer wearing them:
Sound quality is a top priority with audio equipment. In-ear monitors are great for eliminating almost all the audio-related issues during live performances.
The in-ear monitors have been designed with precise engineering. Once put inside the ear, the earpieces create a seal and restrict the outside loud noise or any form of sound interference from entering. It also has the ability to bring down the sound levels by more than 30 decibels. So the singers only hear the dedicated music without any meaningless sound.
When it comes to live performances and stage concerts, singers and musicians have to move around the stage quite a bit for showmanship and crowd interaction purposes.
As in most cases, in-ear monitors are wireless, performers can move about freely on the stage while singing or playing an instrument. This is not so much of the case with stage monitors. They take away the freedom of movement from the artist.
And there's more. In-ear monitors hit the aces when it comes to portability. They are best to travel with and go to any place. You can actually fit them into a briefcase and tour the entire world if you want to as they come in all shapes and sizes.
Ears are the prized possessions of every singer and musician. It's literally their bread and butter. So for performers, protecting their ears and hearing ability is a top priority.
If you can recall, you may have the experience of feeling a ringing sensation in your ears after coming back from a live concert. That usually fades away after a day or two.
But imagine the condition of singers and musicians who have to deal with stage monitors night after night after night! They run a high risk of suffering from permanent ear damage.
This is why in-ear monitors are such a blessing for performing artists. They not only allow them to listen to the monitor mix in high-quality but also protects their hearing by canceling the excessive loudness and noise coming from the loudspeakers.
Every singer and musician on stage has their own set of in-ear monitors. But it's not absolutely necessary that each individual wants to hear all the instruments being played.
In-ear monitors offer tremendous personalization for singers and musicians. They can change the monitoring according to their needs and requirements.
For instance, if the singer wants to listen to the guitarist and bassist mainly while lowering the volume of all the other instruments on the in-ear monitor, he/she can easily do that.
All they need to do is tell the sound engineer artist which elements of the sound mix they want to be focused on in their earpieces and, voila! It's done!
To ensure that the music that is being performed does not drift out of beat and tempo, singers and musicians do a little metronome trick.
While it is mostly used by a drummer, the singer also benefits from this ear monitor technique.
They keep a metronome clicking in their in-ear monitors to keep the beat and tempo for sound consistency. So the singers and musicians can maintain a perfect rhythm and time by following the metronome. This makes the overall songs very tight and professional sounding.
The earpiece used by a singer is very different from the ones we use to listen to music or answer phone calls. The onstage name for an earpiece is in-ear monitors or IEMs.
In-ear monitors have been designed to provide consistent sound playback to the singer, musician, and even the sound engineer. Most modern systems used in live shows support IEMs.
The basic function of the in-ear monitor is to block out the background noise coming from the outside environment. At the same time, the monitors also filter out the odd-sounding elements of the audio spectrum that are not part of the actual performance. It helps the singer to focus on the music performance.
From a technical point of view, an in-ear monitor used by singers and musicians has two essential parts. The first one is the transmitter and the other one is the receiver. The transmitter sends a signal to the receiver wirelessly with the help of a half-rack unit.
If you have noticed in live concerts, singers and musicians wear a belt-like item around their waists. That is the receiver. The in-ear monitors allow them to listen to the transmitted signal.
Did we solve the mystery of earpieces and in-ear monitors? We hope we did!
If you were curious and wanted to know the reasons why the singer wears earpieces and in-ear monitors, now you know why.
Stage monitors and wedges are good for small, controlled venues and locations such as office parties, parks, in-house gatherings, poolside parties, etc.
But earpieces and in-ear monitors are inevitable for live concerts with huge crowds.
So the next time you visit any live show and any person asks you why the singer or musician is wearing earplugs, you have the answer!