It seems like every day there's a new major technological breakthrough that is an absolute game changer. For example, today in 2018 I can have a Big Mac delivered straight to my door.
Pretty soon I'll hopping in a car with no driver in it.
Pretty soon there will be a car with no driver AND it'll deliver my Big Mac to my door.
BUT all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to what I’m about to show you.
Now as a worship leader, I can stream my in-ear monitor mix over wifi directly to my iPhone and plug my headphones in and listen to my voice, my click, my guitar, my tracks and the rest of my band in worship.
We all know how important in-ear monitoring is because it’s how we hear ourselves, the band and even the congregation during worship. Setting one up can be overwhelming because there are multiple ways to build an in-ear monitor system for churches some of which I’ve already covered.
Here’s another solution that’s reliable and worth the effort.
In this article, you'll learn how to set up a wireless in-ear monitor system that runs on Mac and iPhones so that you can stream from your sound console, to your smart phones, over wifi.
What you’ll need
All in all, it’ll cost some money, but it’s pretty affordable. I understand that affordable is subjective so when I say that I’m talking from about $100-$2,000. That’s affordable for my context.
I highly recommend a digital sound console. I’ve made a lot of videos for that them and I used the Midas M32R at my church plant every Sunday.
You’ll want a digital sound console because a lot of these new mixers come with great digital sound cards built into them. You can do a lot with these like send out multiple systems of audio through USB.
2. Mac computer
At my church I use a 2016, 15” MacBook Pro.
It has 16 gigs of RAM, a 256 gig hard drive, and a quad core processor.
I need a relatively beefy machine because it runs Pro Presenter and Lightning and I can’t have it failing in the middle of a service running all of the media.
3. A powerful wifi router
I was surprised by this because I didn't know there's much of a difference in the different types of wifi routers.
I went to Best Buy yesterday and I got the Linksys AC 5400 tri-band router. It was around $330 which surprised me because I didn’t you needed to spend that much money. But you need to because you need really really good bandwidth for it to be able to send up to 16 channels of audio over wifi.
Sidenote: I did this with a cheaper, $50 wifi router, but the bandwidth is way too low and when I was streaming the in-ear and it had a lot of dropouts and pops. A powerful router is what you need to really make sure you have a great experience with this setup.
Each person who needs in ear monitoring in your band is going to need an iphone to stream the mix to their ears.
The up side and the pros of this setup is that probably a lot of people in your band have iPhones already so it's great they get to utilize the super powerful little computer we carry around in our pockets for their in your monitor mix.
The downside is there's a good chance that a lot of the folks in your band have Android devices and this system currently doesn’t work on Android
Sidenote: People get somewhat upset about Mac exclusives. It's not because the developers like have something against Windows and Android. It's just difficult for them to develop for Windows and Android because they're just not as consistent platforms as iOS and Mac are. Everybody hates Apple because it's so restrictive on its operating systems, but that also makes it easy for software developers to create an app for an iPhone.
A Few Little Things
Lightning to headphone adapter for iphone:
Apple doesn't like headphone jacks and it's the direction everyone's going these days.
USB-C to Ethernet:
I'm going from my laptop to wifi through ethernet and I need a strong connection.
Soundcaster app for Mac: Go to the Mac app store and download it. This is what you need to send sound over wifi to your phone.
Audio Fusion Performer for iphone: Free to download from the iphone app store.
On the SoundCaster app, you’ll be paying $100 per person.
Once you have the SoundCaster app open up on your laptop, go to the preferences section then go to upgrade Sound Caster to select how many people are going to use this setup.
I bought one license for one performer because I’m going to test this out when I lead.
The quick way to think about is if you have 4 people in your band, it'll cost $400 for software. If it's 10 people, it's 1000 dollars worth of software.
Compared to traditional in-ear hardware, it's a pretty good price because it costs $1000 just for a good, reliable, traditional wireless in your monitor system.
Get audio from your sound console to the Mac running the SoundCaster app.
If you’re like me and have to test this without a band, just play back a multi-track recording of my worship band that I have on the Mac in Logic Pro.
In Logic Pro, I had it routed so that all the outputs were mapped to the individual channels on my sound console (in most cases, you won't have to do this unless if you want to set it up at home like me and test it out, and get it all configured before you actually bring it to church).
When I played the session in Logic Pro, all the audio files were playing and I saw the little meters on my Midas board lighting up because it was being fed with audio like it would be in a live situation.
Get the audio back into the computer into the SoundCaster app
On my Midas M32R, I went to the routing section and used the “P16 Out” section to route the channels back to the SoundCaster app on my laptop.
The SoundCaster app can broadcast up to 16 individual channels to 16 people. 16 is the magic number which should be plenty of channels so I grouped all the drums together into one mix bus so it only takes up one channel on the SoundCaster app. I grouped the vocals, Ableton left, Ableton right, bass tracks, drums acoustic keys, left keys, right, our host and our pastor's mic.
I had these routed in such a way that some of these are just direct outs from the channels. Like I said with the drums, I created a mixed bus and I signed that mix bus out to one of these P16 outputs. That sent the audio back to the sound caster app.
Pro Tip: It's important if you make any routing changes on your digital console to make sure you restart the SoundCaster app so it detects everything properly. I had some issues, but I restarted it and everything worked fine.
Recap of Part 1
At this point, the audio is being sent out of the digital console back through the same USB cable.
Here’s what’s happening at this point.
The audio is playing from Logic Pro on the Mac.
2. Then it goes out of the Mac to the audio mixer.
3. Then it’s going back into the mac and it’s being played on the SoundCaster App.
Now all you need to do is go through the channels and label them the way you want them
Pro Tip: Make sure you disable the channels you’re not using so you don’t waste any processing power.
4. Now we need to stream that audio from SoundCaster on the Mac through wifi, to your phone.
Part 2: Broadcast the audio that’s in SoundCaster through wifi to your phone
This part was a bit tricky for me, but it’s definitely doable. I broke it down into 3 steps.
Connect your computer to the wifi router
Configure your router’s settings so it’s optimized to send audio from SoundCaster on your Mac over wifi to your phone
Stream to your phone and test
Connect your computer to the wifi router via ethernet
a. Go to wifi icon > Network Preferences
b. Turn off wifi on computer. Have your computer connected to the router. You may need to hit “Advanced…” and hit “Renew DHCP”
2. Configure your router’s settings
17:06-18:50ish (I kind of go onto a tangent about radiation poisoning around this time too.)
Now that you’ve connected your computer to wifi, you need to optimize the settings on the router itself. This is where things get a little technical, but again, it’s really not that hard.
a. Open up the Linksys settings.
b. On the left, you can give the router a name and password if you haven’t already done so.
c. All the way on the right, you need to select the Channel and Channel Width. 40MHz is good for the width.
d. You can figure out the best 5 GHz channel by going to Window > Scan. Your Mac will then tell you what the best channel is. In this case 161.
e. After you figure out the best 5GHz channel, go back to the Linksys router settings and select the proper channel from the drop down menu.
Stream and test
Go to your iphone and make sure you’re on the right wifi.
2. Open up SoundCaster and you’ll that it’s streaming music to your phone over wifi.
3. Now test.
Since it’s stereo, you can pan sound from the left to right.
Play with the app and test for dropouts.
What I learned
I'm still a little skeptical of how realistic it is, but I’m optimistic about the system I’ve created. I don't think it's right for everybody. But I think it is right for a lot of folks.
With all the right gear, the sound is crystal clear. It sounds a lot clearer than what I hear over my Sennheiser wireless and that's a pretty high quality system. I would say it's just as good as that, if not a little bit better. I also love having the ability to have a stereo mix in my ears.
The real test will come when I use this for the first time on a Sunday at my church which will happen soon.
Is this setup perfect?
No, nothing is perfect.
When I moved around a lot in my office, it would drop out momentarily for about a split second, which is a bit annoying because I really did follow all the instructions from the Audio Fusion Systems website.
I know the wifi isn’t the issue. I tried it with a cheaper one and it was dropping out like crazy. So the wifi router does make a difference. The dropouts usually came when I was using my phone a lot or just walking around a lot, in my office. Once you get situated on the stage and don’t move too much, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I think there's just going to be dropouts 2% of the time, but the quality of this mix sounds a lot better, so it’s still worth it.
Check out this update video where I test this setup on a Sunday morning with my band.
I'm really excited to try this setup out in my church and I’m going to document it for you so you know what it's like using it in a real worship leading context.
I'm also meeting up with Brandon Leafblad for a podcast session. He’s one of the team members of Audio Fusion and he’ll tell you the whole story about how the system works, and I'm also excited to troubleshoot some of those signal dropout issues with him.
One more thing
If you want to level up as a worship leader, check out my membership site for worship leaders, worshipleaderschool.com where you’ll find all the essential training, advice and support you need to plan and lead worship. I have courses on all things tech as well as all things pastoral in worship ministry and administration to keep things organized.
Don't forget to subscribe to the Churchfront channel, so you can continue to receive all of my latest content to help you and grow your church.