Walking breezily through the cacophonous halls of the Winter NAMM show, I was drawn to the Ultimate Ears booth manned in part by two “nurses” taking ear impressions. I had to check out the action. If you know me, you know I carry ear plugs in my purse and pop them in at the slightest provocation: restaurants, clubs, movie theaters. As a voice coach and recording engineer, I believe that my hearing is one of my most precious commodities and must be protected even if I look weird with Shrek-looking protrusions coming out of my ears. After taking out my ear plugs, I made it a point to get the skinny on in-ear monitors.
I was intrigued by UE’s new Vocal Reference Monitors specifically made to help singers protect their hearing while allowing them to hear themselves.
Many of my pro students and other professional touring singers I know swear by in-ear monitors. When you can hear yourself, you’re less likely to push or strain and more likely to have a voice at the end of the night and end of the tour.
Based on the input from UE’s clients (which include a large roster of household names such as Celine Dion, Brian Wilson, Bon Jovi, U2 and many more) acting as beta-testers, the company has created listening profiles for males and females resulting in a separate male OR female version of these in-ear monitors.
If you’re new to in-ear monitors, be prepared for a break-in period. By that I mean, this new way of hearing yourself on stage can take some getting used to. I noticed, during the thorough demo with which I was kindly provided, that within 5 or so minutes, I began to feel more comfortable singing through the mic to my ears. But rumor has it that it can take a week of use to hear and sing optimally and comfortably.
One benefit of the Ultimate Ears system for newbies is that ancillary instructional videos are provided on their UE University site. The videos show how to hook your in-ears to your wireless receiver, belt transmitter and mixing board set-up.
The Vocal Reference In-Ear Monitors are $999 but the company makes at least 10 different models of in-ear monitors ranging in price from $399 to $1999. Used by mixers and audiophiles in addition to live musicians, these tiny marvels have come a long way from the first electric hearing aid created in 1898 and are now as specialized, refined and high-tech as can be.
New at Winter NAMM 2013. Chuck Reynolds talks about the latest in ear innovation for vocalists
New at Winter NAMM 2013. Chuck Reynolds talks about the latest in ear innovation for vocalists.