One small piece of equipment that can have a huge impact on the quality of sound on the worship platform is the in-ear monitor. In-ear monitors can reduce stage volume and provide precise monitoring for individual mixes. The challenge is finding the best in-ear monitors for your church’s budget. Within this guide, we’ll provide options for churches of all sizes and budgets.
Planning a transition from traditional stage monitors to in-ear monitors is an important step and there are several things to consider when setting up a new in-ear monitor system.
1) Who will use it?
It is not uncommon to see a variety of configurations that incorporate in-ear monitors and traditional stage monitors into the same system. Musicians may use in-ear monitors, while vocalists use stage monitors. Or perhaps the drummer or bass player prefers a large stage monitor and everyone else uses in-ears. Many experts recommend using the full in-ear monitor option, but different configurations will work for varying churches and worship teams.
2) What types of monitors are required?
Each user will likely require his/her own type of in-ear monitors. Vocalists will benefit from monitors that provide a clear and balanced sound. However, bass guitar players will likely prefer a rich sound with punchy low energy.
Various types of in-ear monitors and headphones will provide different tone qualities and technical performance, so it is important to select the right monitors for the right individuals.
The type of in-ear monitor desired will also have an impact on the budget. Universal fit monitors can be low cost, but there could be a sacrifice in noise isolation and comfort. Custom monitors provide superior noise isolation and are perfect for musicians and singers. Unfortunately, they come at a higher cost due to the custom manufacturing and high-quality components.
3) How will the monitors connect to the sound system?
While you can convert traditional stage monitors to work with in-ear monitors, it’s best to design the monitor system around the in-ear monitor components that will work well with the sound system.
It is important to determine how many individual monitor mixes you’ll need and if the mixing console is capable of supporting the number of auxiliary outputs needed. Some analog and digital consoles have a fixed number of output channels available, while some digital consoles can be expanded.
Another consideration is whether to use wireless or wired monitors. Wireless monitor belt-packs work in much the same way that wireless microphones work. This can be great for singers or performers that move around a lot, but there is also a larger cost that must be considered for those on a tight budget.
4) When will you expect performers to use the new system?
A transition period will give musicians and singers time to practice with the new in-ear monitor system. This also allows sound techs to get comfortable mixing for in-ear monitors and for the worship team to achieve a cohesive performance.
Some musicians or singers may immediately feel comfortable using in-ear monitors, while others may take time to get used to the sound and feel. Either way, planning ahead and communicating expectations is an important part of the process.
After addressing these general guidelines, the next step is to select the right in-ear monitors that fit the budget and performance requirements for each facility and user.
The following is a list of recommendations based on budgets and requirements for different sizes of churches and worship teams:
In-Ear Monitor Recommendations for Small Churches
Universal fit in-ear monitors and traditional headphones are the most budget-friendly options for a small church on a tight budget.
Universal fit in-ear monitors that perform well in the $25-$75 price range include:
For churches and individuals that can afford a little higher quality and durability, there are several great options in the $75-$199 range including:
In-Ear Monitor Recommendations for Medium to Large Churches
Churches with larger worship teams or louder stages can benefit from in-ear monitors that provide excellent noise isolation and dependability.
Worship teams may wish to standardize on a certain type or style of in-ear monitor for musicians and a different type for singers.
You’ll need to decide whether to go with a higher performance universal fit or custom in-ear monitors if the budget supports $199-$599 per person.
Custom monitors provide the ultimate in comfort and noise isolation, but several manufacturers offer lower cost universal fit models that are very competitive and deliver many of the same benefits.
Quality universal fit in-ear monitors in the $199-$599 price range include:
Custom in-ear monitors in the $499-$699 price range include:
In-Ear Monitor Recommendations for Megachurches
Churches with budgets that prioritize premium quality equipment can find great value in a variety of custom in-ear monitor solutions. Professional musicians and singers that are part of the megachurch worship team will appreciate and may even require a level of quality greater than what lower cost monitor solutions can provide.
Tour-grade and studio quality in-ear monitors start at around $700, and it is not uncommon to find high-end monitors in the $2,000-$4,000 price range.
The quality difference in this range is largely due to the electronics used and the level of precise tuning done to ensure each monitor produces the required sound signature and frequency response.
While most of the premium in-ear monitor options are custom fit, Empire Ears makes several models that are very high quality, starting at $699. The EP-series EVR and ESR models offer excellent performance in a universal fit package.
Several custom in-ear monitor manufactures noted above also offer high-quality models that deliver outstanding quality and dependability. The average price range for these monitors is $899-$1,999.
- Alclair Spire Six Driver for a versatile yet balanced sound
- Empire Ears ESR Custom for most members of the worship team
- JH Audio Angie for vocalists and the JH16 V2 Pro for musicians
- Ultimate Ears UE 7 Pro for singers and guitarists
- Ultimate Ears UE 11 Pro for drummers and bass players
- 64 Audio A4t for a variety of musicians and singers
Making the Right Choice
Budget is one of many factors to consider when selecting the right in-ear monitors for worship team members.
Good sound isolation may be a priority for a drummer, while a guitarist may want accurate frequency reproduction. And singers will require an in-ear monitor that fits deep and secure so that there is no occlusion effect (that “voice inside your head” sound).
Safety and durability is another important consideration when selecting the right monitor solution. In-ear monitors that don’t fit well can fall out or allow more noise to pass through the monitor into the ear canal. Some low-cost units can have poor quality components that break easily or distort at louder volumes.
Ultimately, the success of an in-ear monitor upgrade comes down to planning, budget, and practice. One size does not fit all, and there are plenty of quality options available for a variety of churches and budgets.