The original in-ear monitor for drummers was one Clair Brothers 12AM stacked on top of one Clair Brothers ML18 subwoofer. Put one stack on either side of the drummer and presto, you have a stereo in-ear monitor circa 1995.
Times have changed and so have in-ear monitors for drummers, keyboard players and other musicians relegated to staying stationary during a show. We decided to take a look at some of the top headphone amplifiers, hardwired in-ear monitors and very personal personal monitor mixers. If you have a favorite hardwired in-ear monitor pack, let us know and we will add it the list.
Elite Core PMA: Headphone amplifiers are known for their simplicity, and the Elite Core PMA follows suit. Features of the PMA are limited to exactly what a drummer or a musician using hardwired in-ear monitors would need—easy-to-grip volume and pan buttons make accurate adjustments a cinch, input connectors are combo balanced XLR/¼” connectors for flexibility, and a stereo/mono switch on the top of the unit makes switching between the two modes easy. As far as functionality is concerned, that’s about it.
MV Pro Audio Stage Buddy: The Stage Buddy personal monitor system is an expandable personal monitoring system. A basic Stage Buddy system consists of one MASTER unit and up to four (4) REMOTE units. Each REMOTE Stage Buddy unit is a little wonder in itself! The REMOTE offers two combo XLR or balanced ¼” inputs with an ultra quiet microphone preamp, tone control, reverb, limiting, and a powerful and a pristine headphone amplifier with plenty of gain. The special and ingenious “MORE ME” control is a standout. What could be easier than simply turning up the MORE ME knob when you want to hear a little more of yourself?
KLANG: Fabrik. KLANG:fabrik is a 3-D in-ear monitoring system. The KLANG website puts it like this: “KLANG:fabrik takes the incoming audio signals (from an audio desk to KLANG:fabrik) and places them 360° in the virtual acoustic room. It then sends an individual mix to the headphone amps and radio transmitters of up to 8 musicians.” In layman’s terms, the KLANG:fabrik transforms a flat stereo in-ear mix into a 3-D representation of the stage.
PreSonus QMix-AI: The Presonus QMix-AI gives band members the ability to do their own personal monitor mixing by using their iPhone or iPad Touch. The QMix-AI only works with the StudioLive-AI systems. The PreSonus QMix-AI controls monitor auxiliary mixes directly on your StudioLive-AI mixer over a wireless network connection, and unlike expensive personal monitor systems, there is no additional hardware to purchase and you don’t need to run hundreds of feet of a cable. This saves your budget and keeps your stage nice and clean.
Rolls PM351: The Rolls PM351 Personal Monitor Station is a personal monitoring mixer/amplifier with a ¼” TRS stereo/mono line input, a single XLR microphone input with hard-wired XLR pass-through, and a ¼” stereo/mono instrument input with two transformer-balanced and isolated XLR outputs. But wait! There’s more! The PM351 is ideal for live bands and church musicians, as well as studio musicians and singers. Having the ability to monitor a main mix along with the musician’s voice and their instrument makes the PM351 an effective and versatile tool.
Shure P6HW: The Shure P6HW hardwired in-ear monitor pack is a two-channel stereo amplifier designed to replace stage monitors for onstage monitoring. The P6HW is built like a tank and is therefore ideal for drummers and keyboard players who want the audio clarity and reduced feedback of in-ear monitors but don’t need wireless mobility.
PreSonus HP2: The Presonus HP2 headphone amplifier is a great choice for driving wired in-ear monitors (IEMs) as well as headphones. The HP2 has 2 XLR line-level inputs and one stereo 1/8-inch headphone output with volume control. The PreSonus HP2 gear is built to take the rigors of life on the road. PreSonus HP-series headphone amplifiers have long been popular for their loud, clean, clear sound and roadworthy-built quality.