Personal Monitor Earpieces

in Buyer's Guides
When people ask me what part of the live event audio world has changed the most in the past three to five years, they probably expect an answer like digital consoles or line arrays. Most would probably be surprised that my answer would be — hands down — personal monitors. They have come a long way since Marty Garcia used some Sony earbuds and denture cream for Todd Rundgren.

Today, there are at least a half dozen companies making full-on pro custom fit personal monitors, and while they may look the same, the differences are huge and almost totally subjective. Just like some of us prefer the sound of a specific FOH speaker over another that may be of equal or even greater quality, the best personal monitor for you depends on, well, you. But there are a few things to look for. Extended frequency response. Removable cables, so that if a cable goes bad you can replace just the cable. Comfort and fit are huge and very subjective.

While all of the big companies will work with you to make your PMs fit as well as possible, some brands extend farther into the ear canal than others, and some people prefer the material used by one company over another. It is totally subjective. The PMs I really like, you may hate, and vice versa. Sometimes your best bet as a MON engineer is to go with whatever your “star” is using so you hear the same thing he or she does in the mix.

But the coolest trend of the past few years has little to do with the pro market. The folks who make these products are not stupid and they know they can sell a hell of a lot more to iPod users than they can sticking just to the pros. And some of these “pro-sumer” models are pretty damn good. It is a lot easier to have three or four sets of universal fit PMs in your briefcase than it is to pop for multiple custom jobs at $500 per and up, plus the cost of impressions shot by an audiologist.

The following list is more than the tip of the iceberg, but it is still only a chunk. More lies below the surface, but it gives you a place to start.

Manufacturers featured in this month’s Buyers Guide:

Audio-Technica U.S. Inc.
Carvin Corp.
Etymotic Research
Future Sonics
Shure Incorporated
Ultimate Ears

To view the Personal Monitor Earpieces Buyers Guide, click here