The Case For In Ear Monitors (IEMs)

TLDR? Jump To The Video Below

In a lot of cases, the desire to transmit your audio signal over the wire is simply not attainable. Maybe it’s a great distance out, maybe the path to it would be potentially dangerous, maybe you have to go through walls, whatever the case you need to get the signal from point A to point B. There is a solution out there that covers this, and that is leveraging In Ear Monitors. Let’s dive into why you’d want to explore this option.

Name Your Price

Typically when one starts talking about a wireless solution to broadcast out to remote speakers it tends to become a hot topic. Part of the reason it’s so contentious is that In Ear Monitors (IEMs) tends to start around $1000 like the Sennheiser IEM 300 and up while some other options out there rest around the $400 mark like the Rode Filmmaker Kit and the Alto Stealth Wireless solutions. Many DJs ask what solution may work best for them and if they really have to invest in a fairly expensive piece of equipment.

The Rode Filmmaker Kit

The Rode Filmmaker RodeLink Kit

On paper, the Rode Filmmaker (RodeLink) Kit looks pretty good. With prices around the $359-399 mark, it is a pretty inexpensive solution. It’s actually made as a lavalier kit, but it functions as a simple transmitter and receiver and a couple of DJs that use it have told me they swear by it.

Positives:

  • Price is competitive with similar units in the space.
  • Ultra-portable with two lav pack sized transmitter and receiver.

Negatives:

  • The frequency response is listed at 35Hz-22kHz. Now, this is better than a lot in this space, but you still do lose a little bit on the low end.
  • It lives in the 2.4GHz spectrum which means battling everything from cell phones, Bluetooth, microwaves, wireless lights, security systems, and squishy humans. The higher the frequency, the more difficult it is to push through walls and people.
  • It’s limited to 8 channels meaning you have a greater chance of not finding a working frequency depending on your situation.

Broadcasting On A Budget?

The Alto Stealth Wireless

The Alto Stealth Wireless is a unit that has been out for some years now. I’ve personally owned this for about 18 months and had various levels of success with it. The price was right at $399 at the time, especially as a growing solo DJ business, it was hard to justify the higher cost of the IEM. Do I regret the purchase? Not really, however, with it batting around .600 in the success department, I lost a lot of confidence using it over time.

Positives:

  • Price is competitive with similar units in the space.
  • XLR Input does not require a typical converted 3.5mm connector.

Negatives:

  • While it is in a legal 500 MHz spectrum, it is limited to 16 channels of use. Greater than the Rode, but still way short of other options out there.
  • The frequency response is limited to 50MHz-17kHz. You lose out a bit on the low and top end.
  • It’s not rack-mountable without jerry-rigging it in. I did that with mine, putting velcro on the bottom so I could remove it and better position it in my more difficult situations.
  • And the reason to have to remove it from installation is has fixed antennas, so relocating antennas is not possible.
  • Personal experience is that this does not meet or exceed it’s 300′ reported range except in only extreme cases and sometimes even short distances just did not work well.

The Alto Stealth Wireless Pro

The Alto Stealth Wireless Pro

The Alto Stealth Wireless Pro is the next-generation solution from Alto that offers a mid-way point between a entry-level wireless transmitter and a full-on In Ear Monitor. Honestly, I thought this was vaporware since it’s been in the works for some years now, but here it is for your consideration. Improvements from its first-generation give a buyer more robust options to consider.

Positives:

  • True Diversity Antennas
  • Rack-Mountable
  • Frequency Scanning
  • XLR Input
  • M10 racking screw that allows you to mount on many top-cabinet applications
  • Delay option to better stage sound when speakers are placed in odd locations
  • Detachable antenna

Negatives:

  • The frequency response is limited to 50HZ – 17 kHz. This is not bad for say ceremony and cocktail, but you’ll miss those low frequencies in other applications.
  • 540-570 MHz range is somewhat limited and could create interpolation issues with the A and G bands of Sennheiser since the frequencies live in the middle of the two bands.

Unknowns

  • Unknown transmit power (not listed). Listed as 330 ft / 110m line of sight. Maybe 30mW of power?

The Sennheiser IEM 300

The Sennheiser IEM 300 series is the tank of the industry. If you go to many tours or other sound installations, the Sennheiser IEM is a staple and for good reason. But since it’s not cheap many (including myself at one point) turn to other less-expensive solutions.

Positives:

  • 25Hz – 15kHz frequency response. The top end is a slightly chopped off, but pretty solid low end.
  • Meets or beats reported range of 300′.
  • Rack-mountable to make it a permanent fixture.
  • BNC connectors allow for the relocation of antennas and the use of different antenna types.
  • Operates in the 470-608MHz spectrum inside three bands (A1, A, and G).
  • The display on “lav pack” and base shows signal strength and line output.
  • More channels available and the ability to auto-scan to get the cleanest frequency to work on.

Negatives

  • Price (but you get what you pay for).
  • No native XLR input on “lav pack”.

Range. Range. Range.

One of the biggest requirements of any mobile DJ is the ability to transmit some distance between your core system and a remote speaker. All three products listed here list as 300′ of range but I can tell you from experience at least the Alto (not the Pro version which I have no experience with) almost never would work inside those specs. And I am not sure of the Rode but given that it works in the 2.4GHz spectrum that distance would likely only work in a pure line-of-sight scenario (my 2.4GHz home wireless solution does not exceed 100′-125′). But, as the video shows, I was outside the 300′ zone with some distance I could still travel with the Sennheiser IEM and that was not in an ideal line-of-sight scenario. People, objects, doors, wifi, microwaves, all while inside my digital box with all the gear potentially blocking that signal as well, all with a stock quarter-wave dipole antenna.

Do Not Compromise

As a wedding DJ, I do not want my couples or their guests or the venue to look at me if there is a dropout of the signal. I am there to provide quality sound in optimal locations, and those locations many times are not hospitable to running wires. This is why I turn to the Sennheiser IEM 300, so much so that I purchased a second one for my ceremony rig so I can have a completely wireless and battery-powered solution to boot.

Watch The Videos

Updates

  • Updated on 2/24/2020 to include the Alto Stealth Wireless Pro option in the lineup.
  • Originally Published on 7/23/2018

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

The Reloop Elite Review

I’ve been looking for a new 2-channel battle mixer. Does the Reloop Elite compete in an ever-crowded market?

Denon Prime 2 Review

I’ve had my own thoughts and biases towards all-in-onea. Now that I have spent some time with the Denon Prime 2, has anything changed?

Follow Me On Social

Manage Your Events Better

Support Content Like This