I am a huge in-ear fan. I have been using them for the last 12 years. I started with some not so good ones but I didn’t know any better and I didn’t want to spend the money on a pro set. I went through all the levels of monitors out there both universal and custom fit and have finally found the set that I think are the best for me.
The Future Sonics new mg6pro 13mm Ear Monitors are the ones I’m using now and I’d be lost without them.
Being a bass player you don’t always get the best bass sound with some of the personal monitor earphones that are out there, and believe me I’ve tried a lot of them. I will say there was a learning curve with this model. Let’s explain a little…
There are two different types of mechanisms used in “personal” monitors. Most use multiple armature-type drivers and passive crossovers to send different frequencies to different armatures. This is kind of like your PA system or bi-amped stage monitors. Armatures were originally hearing aid technology that has been adapted and extended into personal monitors for musicians.
In the pro world only Future Sonics uses a proprietary dynamic driver. Which is basically a very small speaker. The difference in character between the two approaches is significant and hence the learning curve. I had always used armature-based in-ears and these took some getting used to. Marty Garcia (CEO and Founder of Future Sonics, Inc.) told me to give my brain and ears a chance to get used to the different sound I’m hearing. Now I don’t claim to be a rocket scientist but I was thinking “it’s just a set of headphones. What does my brain have to do with it?”
But I took Marty’s advice. I got my mp3 player out and plugged them in. For 2 weeks I didn’t listen to music without them. It was not long before I was thinking, “Great. These things kick ass.” The time had come to get these things on some gigs and really see how they do.
I brought them to every gig I had. Bar gigs, club gigs, casino gigs and a few outdoor festivals I was doing as well. I even used them in a very important recording session.
I always have the full band mixed in my monitors with bass and my vocal on top. Man, was I having a great time at these gigs. My monitors were sounding great. I had the mix and volume I wanted. My ears didn’t hurt and my monitors weren’t distorting because of my bass being too loud in the mix.
There is one thing that is unique to Future Sonics. When you check out the video, you may notice a thing that looks like a small rack of circular pieces of soft plastic in the case. And we neglected to include them in the video review.
Let’s go back to the speaker comparison. Designers of speaker enclosures put a lot of time and effort and math into determining the size, shape and placement of the “ports” in a cabinet. For those not of the tech tribe, ports are those holes with no speaker in them in loudspeaker cabinets.
Well, all FS monitors have ports on the back placed behind the dynamic speaker. The size of the port can significantly change the character of the sound. Those little pieces of plastic, which they call “vents”are different sizes to change the amount of air movement and the amount of perceived bass in the overall sound. As Marty said to me, “It is not what we hear, it is HOW we hear via the brain”.
This “vent” thing is really indicative of the difference between the Future Sonics dynamic driver approach and armature-driven monitors. Dynamic speakers actually moves air. And a speaker moves air in BOTH DIRECTIONS. When it pushes forward it moves air and when it pulls back it moves air. The size of the vent will change the power and “tightness” of the bass. Smaller=tighter. I’m a bass player and I want a lot of bass power. But I still use the medium vent inserts and I get plenty of low end.
One more note on vents: One of the big advantages to using a custom fitted in-ear system is that they block out a ton of stage volume. For some people the isolation is actually too much and some companies makes models with holes to allow some ambient sound in and some really pricey units even have mics built into them for adding ambient sound to the mix. The vents on the mg6pro, although not intended as an ambient feature, do not block as much ambient sound as a totally sealed unit and may offer a more natural open sound. I personally like it but this is totally a matter of taste.
I will admit they are pricy for the average working musician, but not any more so than any other custom-fit personal monitors. And when it comes to your ears, can you really be cheap? You only get one set of ears and they can’t be replaced so why not get the best monitors possible? And especially singers… Spoiled! I am a bass player and a band leader and I have a lot of money tied up in gear. Singers tend to maybe–MAYBE–have a mic and a stand. But being able to hear is part of the gig. Singers should not count on someone else providing the means for them to do that. This is all a roundabout way of noting that the cost of a good set of custom-fit in-ears is actually LESS than the cost of a pro, touring-grade wedge. By a lot. So just keep it in perspective.
The thing about all good in-ear systems is that they allow you to do gigs without excessive volume. I mean the mg6pros can get plenty loud. But the beauty is that I find myself actually turning them DOWN. As Marty told me, the idea is to provide low end power and a PERCEPTION of volume without having to listen at levels that can damage your hearing.
For those who are still hesitant to make the financial leap, there is a way to check out the basic sound without dropping a grand on customs. Future Sonics makes a line of universal-fit in-ears called Atrio. They are not the same model as the mg6Pros. But they will give you a basic idea of the typical Future Sonic sound signature. And you can find them online for about $100. And once you decide to go to custom fits for your gigs (which you WILL end up doing), the Atrios make a rocking back up set or for use with your iPod at the gym.
I don’t want to forget their service as well. I had a minor fit issue when I got mine and FS suggested for me to send them in, get them fixed and they’d have them back to me within a day or two. This is one of the reasons Future Sonics is one of the top companies making personal monitors for the pro touring market. If you are on a tour and something goes wrong, very few players carry a spare set of in-ears. If they need to visit the shop, the turn-around needs to be very fast. There are a few companies that specialize in that kind of service and they are consistently the brands you see on pro tours.
As I told Marty, I hate doing gigs without the mg6pro 13mm Ear Monitors and I meant it! On all my gigs I make sure I let the sound guys know I need to use my ear monitors. They sound better than any wedge and I have total control over the volume. I don’t go home with ringing in my ears and I always hear everything with great fidelity.