Saturday, 9 November 2013

In Ear Monitor Review pt2

So after a good while of using the system, I feel I can give a decent account of performing with it.  To recap, it's the LD Systems MEI One wireless UHF In Ear Monitor I bought second hand from Gumtree. I wont include pictures to save space. Just refer to the previous post for those.

Setting up during soundcheck is easy. The Mackie DL1608 our regular sound engineer uses is easy to work with and with the sender unit set to mono, all it takes is a 1/4" jack to jack from aux to left input and that end of things is ready once plugged into the mains and the arial screwed in. Only problem is that if the stage power goes down (which happens an unfortunate amount on outdoor stages) then the unit needs to be turned back on again. This is no big problem, but if you or the engineer don't realise it can lead to a confusing bit of trouble shooting.

The belt pack takes 2 AA batteries and is pretty good for consumption. Averaging about 4 x 2 hour shows before showing signs of death. There's a LED onboard to let you know you're running low so keep a spare pair in the box! The pack is light and has a belt clip, no more bulky than any of the others I've seen. The only problem with this is that the rubber volume knob on top seems to catch on my clothes occasionally and turn the volume down which is a mild irritation! Other than that, the rest is all good and I've not had any signal dropouts, lag or poor sound.

Ear buds however are another story. Whether the drummer I bought the kit from ran them at high volumes (don't worry, I did clean them thoroughly,) or whether they sounded like they do out of the box I'm not sure, but they aren't the best sounding examples. The top end lacks some crispness and the bass power isn't great either. They can pump out the volume for definite and you can hear what you need to over even the most ridiculous of stage sounds, but you're not going to get the delicate highs and lows.  I've tried them on other devices and they do still sound the same.  Still, the isolation is good and I come away from shows without ringing ears and having had a damned good monitor sound. Most irritating however is the fitting. The driver housings are metal and this means weighty, which means quality right? Fine, but when the ends are the same kind of rubber that the cheap high-street buds use, you find them falling out mid-performance at the mere hint of sweat or movement.

So, the supplied buds are fine, but if and when I have a spare £300-500 I'll definitely be looking at the Shure SE range. I've heard nothing but good things about them from session players and with 3 drivers per ear and an over ear fitment on the 535 model (Pictured) I believe this will make the whole system work on a par with the Sennheiser units still for a much lower price overall.

To finish, the iPhone compatibility with the Mackie sound system via the Mackie app allows me to manage my own monitor mix live. We've had a few teething troubles with mismatched updates between devices, but overall it's been fantastic as no-one is better suited to getting the mix I want than me and avoids the usual back and forth for fine tuning.

I'm definitely enjoying the fact I'm getting the mix I want when I want and protecting my hearing at the same time. Band mates occasionally say they feel I'm more isolated with them in, but I think it's something to get used to and learn to work with as my ears are important to me. Happy hearing!


Thursday, 29 August 2013

In Ear Monitor Review - LD MEI ONE

Hi, my name is Dan and I'm a Gumtree addict. There, I said it. The buying and selling website is a good place to find music gear at knock down prices, and I've done it again. I bought some IEMs.

As a working musician I've realised how important it is to protect my ears and recently with the more powerful sound system my regular band use these days I've been looking into hearing protection.

I've been doing a lot of research and not found many sax players going into detail about their monitoring setups and experiences so figured perhaps it was time I did.

I've tried plugs. Not expensive ones though as going full tilt into any form of hearing protection is costly and I've heard some horn players have some issues with plugs and the occlusion effect. The 'head sound' you get when pressure changes inside your plugged ears when you play.

Industrial foam plugs were ok, they're kind of like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut though and it really
isolates you from the rest of the band. They feel fine in your ears even if they do take a while to expand and settle in. You're definitely protecting yourself from high sound levels and you are able to hear the sax, but the cost is getting any real clarity from anything else and more often than not I'd find myself taking one or both out to feel more 'connected'.

The Christmas tree style ones often marketed as 'music' or 'surfer' ear plugs are more of the same. The plastic material they're made from makes them less comfortable and more likely to lose their place in your ears. Also, they seem to block less frequencies too. I still feel clear eared after a gig, but the sound is somehow 'off' when using them.

So, to the crux. I've been looking into budget IEM systems. As assured as I was that Sennheiser and Shure combinations are the industry standard, the wireless systems themselves cost £500 and the best earpieces are £300. This is great and I'm sure they're the best out there, but if I find out I don't get along with them I've spent close to a thousand pounds to get there.

T.Bone and LD Systems both make some budget IEM's and on doing some research online, I've found that they share a lot of components between both companies and their upper and lower price range models.

You can get brand new reasonable quality setups for about £350 from both companies with very similar specs. LD also do a super low priced one called an MEI ONE for £130. It was one of these that I found on Gumtree going for £90.

I figured that was a reasonable price and if nothing came of it, I've not lost too much. I also reasoned I could spend the cash I saved on some half decent Shure earbuds if all went well.

To the gear.....

Sender Unit:

Rear of Sender
Weighty, feels solid and made of metal which is good. I've felt plastic units similar to this before and they don't inspire much confidence. The aerial is separate and has an extension cable which is a nice feature. On the front are headphone out and seperate volume, an pair of AF input level meters to show how much audio is being pushed through the unit, and a power button.

Rear has two balance multi XLR/jack inputs for ya engineer to pipe stuff to you through. You can have stereo or mono and it's all switchable and the volume of both inputs is adjustable.

Belt Pack:

Belt Pack
Plastic, light, takes two AA batteries, which is nice because they're the same as the EWI so I don't have to carry around two different sizes. Small flexible aerial on it, 3.5mm jack input for your 'phones and a volume/power pot too. That's great, to give yourself a little more control if things get out of hand or the engineer falls asleep.


They feel really solid, far more than I was expecting. They're metal body and rubber cushioned, fit well in my ears and aren't too obtrusive. The jack is metal cased and once again feels pretty well built too.

The quality seems reasonable, I think this is possibly due to the previous owner (I did clean them thoroughly!) He was a drummer in a rock band and it feels like some top end has gone out for a while and might be some time. This could of course be the 'phones themselves, but the mids and bass sound great.

The whole thing:

Front of the Sender
I got my horn out in my studio and routed my mic (Rode NT2-A) and some jazz backing tracks through the MEI ONE and got to work. Getting the levels right was a bit of a pain, but that comes with practice. Sound was great and I can definitely work with this. No 'head sound' in there and once the mix was there it was a pleasure. There was nothing like the background noise of a real stage and the live test will have to wait 'til the weekend, but so far so good!

Mackie My Fader App
Our sound man, Mike Osbourne if you want to check him out, has started running a Mackie DL rig with an iPad controlling the whole thing. This means that with the My Fader app on my iPhone I can manage my own monitor levels without having to worry him. Looking forward to the weekend!

Rundown of how it was to come next week!

Hope that was of interest to you,


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Yet again I am an awful bloggist!

Wow, so yeah, this diary of musical escapades really hasn't worked very well. The problem with chronicling life is that you have to 'do' some life to chronicle it and therefore reduce the amount of chronicling time you have. Still, never mind!

So as you, dear reader, can imagine, plenty of things have happened since 10 months past. I'll try to compress things a little to save eye strain.

The bunch of funk meisters Freshly have been working on originals and we've got a small collection brewing away nicely. Our eminent Brazilian bassist Rokko and as we recently found out, producer, has been stocking up one some mean hardware. Neve and SSL mic pre's, AKG 414s, Logic interfaces and all sorts have been secretly piling up at his doorstep and he unveiled them to us not so long ago. Also, keyboarder Trip Hazard has the most awesome crib there ever was. Options of the piano room with choice of 2 full size grands and crazy sculptures and also a mill to ourselves.

Unfortunately a week before we were due to record our guitar/synth man Alik had his Novation Mininova stolen after rehearsal. This put a rather large downer on the whole thing, but being a small village and after a few heartfelt notes, the synth was returned by a mystery man, no questions asked. Pretty cool really.

With Rokko and Trip's powers combined we made a nice little studio for a week and got to work. We stayed up far too late and started way too early every morning, but in the end we've got something we're all hugely proud of. We couldn't have asked for better surroundings either, table tennis, chasing chickens, kayaking down weirs, playing Dungeons and Dragons (terribly and drunkenly) and to top it off Trip's dad is some kind of Czec master chef.

You can see what transpired here and the tunes will come soon.

The Seahawks love releasing new stuff and yet another tasty album us out with some mixes and remixes I've had the pleasure of playing on. Have a look at this beauty! Coloured vinyl to go with the picture disc from last year!

The Badcore Horns have been busy too and a fair number of works we've been on have been released to the world now at long last....

  • Granville Sessions have put their album Forward on Bandcamp, we laid down trumpet and saxes on this and there are some huge moments in the first track March and ridiculous baritone in The Next One.

  • We're all over Electric Swing Circus' release too and they've sampled us for live use meaning we probably featured a bit at Glasto this year ;)

  • The hush hush bit of work we did for Madness has now been released and you can hear us on their live DVD of Oui Oui etc... Links fail me but check it out for sure!

Our latest project was for rock band Canturbury. If you like a cross between good old British rock and Muse you'll be on to a winner. I spent a ridiculous night there with the usual crew, band and a London based string section. We ended up drinking wine and playing Countries, if you've never played it you'll find it the most irritating game 'till you get the rules. I was also coerced into waking Pete up with some sexy sax action (See Picture). He was not as excited as we were. We discovered Peter Miles, producer extraordinaire is also Peter Miles, Ugandan rapper. It kinda explains all the mystery hits on his website from Africa...

So, term starts again in a few weeks, I'm now teaching sax, clarinet, flute, uke, guitar, drums and piano. Worried much? Naaaaah!

Oh! Almost forgot, we got a jazz night started in the local pub following in the footsteps of local legend Tony Harris. It's started getting quite a reputation and we've had loads of guests get involved! It's pretty rough and ready and mostly a bit of fun. Check our version of All Blues.


PS, I'm going to be reviewing a wireless IEM unit over the weekend. Check it out!