VoiceCouncil will no longer be updated. Articles will still be available for some time.

The Perfect Performance Headphones

The Perfect Performance Headphones
The positives far outweigh the negatives of custom-molded in-ears – says Shlomo.

I’ve been through so many different types of headphones for my live stage work.

But nearly 4 years ago I found my perfect solution: custom, molded in-ear monitors or IEMs.

First the down side: in-ears are expensive; not only are the custom molded earpieces pricey, but the transmitter and receiver are also very expensive.

The upside: you can sing a lot better if you can hear yourself clearly. Oh, and there is that ‘little’ issue of hearing protection.

For me, they have changed everything.

If you are getting paid for shows and are singing in settings where it can be hard to hear yourself, then add these to your list of “must haves”.

The Gear and the Process

ACS T1 Live! Triple Driver In-Ear Monitor

ACS T1 Live! Triple Driver In-Ear Monitor

I use the “ACS T1 Live! Triple Driver IEM” which come with three drivers: that is a woofer, a tweeter and mid-range driver all embedded in each earpiece.

The result is that you get this beautifully clear sound – they are great on stage and also great when you’re on the move on trains or airplanes. You are totally in your own little bubble.

You’ll have to undergo the process of having your ears filled up with foam so that they can create a mold.

It is a very strange feeling – you literally have no air left in your ear canal – it’s the closest you’ll come to feeling deaf. It lasts for about one minute.

But, please, be more responsible than me: I’ve lost one pair and put another pair through the washing machine!

How In-Ear Monitors Work on Stage

IEMs help to eliminate feedback. Because you can hear everything crystal clear in your headphones, you can turn your stage monitoring right down – or even completely off.

Then, you control your own levels with the volume control on the beltpack receiver.

I perform with live looping and it is critical that my I can hear everything comng back from the PA. If I can’t hear clearly, the loops will go out of time and sound terrible.

I use my custom molded earpieces with a Sennheiser G3 wireless IEM system. This particular IEM system has two inputs, giving me even more control.

For example, you could have your band, or backing track, coming into one channel and your voice into the other. The controls on your beltpack allow you to mix and balance the levels between the two channels.

Dealing with the Isolation Factor

Molded IEMs double as hearing protection – they block outside sound. But the minute you put them in your ears you are isolated from the crowd – you can’t hear if they’re cheering or booing. That takes a little getting used to.

There are 2 ways you can deal with this. The first is to wear “one in and one out” – but then you start to negate the point of protecting your hearing – which is one reason why I use them in the first place!

It can be difficult to hear the audience

It can be difficult to hear the audience

The other option is that you can set up an ambient mic that doesn’t go to the FOH but right to your in-ears.

You can even buy in-ears that have little binaural mics built into them just for this purpose – so that when you turn your head to the left or to the right the audio image moves with you.

Unfortunately the pair I tried out had poor audio quality – so I’ve stopped using them.

So, sometimes I will ask the sound engineer to rig up an ambient mic and send that audio to my in-ears. That way I can still hear the crowd when I want to, and not feel like I’m performing in a different room to the audience.


My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Spencer Lord Spencer Lord - Let Her Go

Love your voice, it’s silky and soulful, and you sing with passion. I’d encourage you to build even more on your dynamics so we get more light and shade in your performance.

Why I chose Spencer Lord as a Finalist

I’m choosing Spencer Lord to move ahead as a finalist because I appreciate his delicate and soulful voice, and the passion with which he performs.

Vocal Coach in Residence January – ShlomoShlomo gave up astrophysics to perform his amazing vocal pyrotechnics. It was a good move. Since then he has won global acclaim and worked with some of the biggest names in music; he’s also won the World Loopstation Championships in LA.


  • Tikiman Gerry

    I made my own custom fit monitors using ear buds and two part Amazing Mold Putty. They don’t have three separate drivers, but work fine for m as isolation headphones. Great for home recording.