Customizing in-ear monitors can be a long process.
Will they fit me? Are they durable? Will I be able to hear what I need to hear?
It ends up being way more complicated than just going on Amazon, putting one in your cart and then shipping it.
It’s a process filled with blood, sweat and tears.
Okay–maybe none of the above, but it’s definitely filled with earwax.
LOTS of earwax.
All in all, it can be a long process so I decided to go through it myself and share what I learned. In this article, I’m going to walk through the benefits of custom in-ear monitors and then the steps of ordering them for yourself; from creating impressions and designing the in-ear monitor to choosing the right one for your role.
The benefits of custom in-ear monitors
I had never really felt like spending the extra money on custom in-ears because they cost more than the universal fit. I was originally using Shure SE315 but a few weeks ago the wire broke so I decided to take the opportunity to get some custom ones and make the Shure my backup.
My friend Johnny works for Alclair–the maker of the in-ear monitors I bought–and he stopped by the Churchfront office to talk about the benefits of custom in-ear monitors and share some advice on how to select the right model with the right amount of drivers (speakers) for you.
Alclair has reps in Denver, Minneapolis and Nashville. If you’re in those areas, their sales reps will come to you so you can demo the in-ear monitors and get those custom impressions made like I did.
Johnny’s great. He explained why these custom in-ear monitors are worth the price and how they can increase the performance of a band. I broke down what he shared .
Custom in-ear monitors close off the amount of volume coming in
Custom monitors will completely conform to your ear and fully seal them off from incoming volume. It’s a simple way to reduce noise (something churches often try to do), hear what you need to hear and protect your hearing so that you can keep doing what you love for longer.
More drivers=more clarity
A driver is essentially just a micro speaker within the monitor. While I was searching for new ones, I noticed that the more drivers in a monitor, the more expensive they are.
BUT it’s not all about having the most drivers. Choosing the best in-ear monitor for you comes down to what you need to hear.
There are 3 different types of drivers which pick up different frequencies:
woofer: picks up low-end frequencies
mid-range: picks up mid-range frequencies
tweeter: picks up high range frequencies
A lot of people say that the more drivers, the better, but after 4 or 5 drivers, there isn’t a huge difference in what you can hear.
Knowing how many drivers you need will help you save money and get exactly what you need to do your job right.
After figuring out how many drivers I wanted, it was time for me to make the custom impressions of my ear canal. After I got those impressions, I’d send them to Alclair where they’d attach it to the monitor for me and send me the final project.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Getting impressions is a 2 step process.
As I mentioned, if you’re in Denver, Nashville or Minneapolis, you can contact Alclair and one of their reps can meet up with you, not only to make the custom impressions, but also demo all of the different models of headphones that they have.
If you don’t have that option, then you can Google an audiologist or a hearing aid center in your area to get the impressions made and then send those to Alclair.
Before you get impressions made, you have to…
Step 1: Get your ear canals cleaned out
A little bit of earwax is fine, but I had a lot which was stopping Johnny from taking a full impression of my ear canal and also inhibiting my ability to hear properly.
So he had to clean it out.
And when he did, I could hear SO much better.
Like night and day difference.
Check out how much earwax was compacted in my ears.
Prop Tip: Make sure you don’t try to dig out the earwax on your own with a q-tip. That often pushes the earwax further in and you can damage your eardrum. Just buy a rinse kit at CVS or have your doctor do it for you.
Step 2: Get impressions
After Johnny cleaned my ear canals, I had to bite down on a foam pad so my canals opened up all the way which would prevent the seal from breaking when I sang.
Johnny then put the substance in my ears to make the mold.
It was a weird experience to say the least, but definitely well worth it to get something that was specifically suited to me.
Choosing the right model
Once the impressions were made, I focused on getting the right model of custom in-ear monitors for myself.
The best place to browse is Alclair’s monitor shop where you'll be able to scroll through their different models. as I mentioned earlier, usually the more drivers equals the most money.
My budget was between$500-$1,000 but since Johnny was with me, I figured I might as well try out the rest of them for kicks and giggles (and to help out you guys, of course).
1. Dual Driver Headphones
First, I demoed the dual driver headphones. They boost the upper-mids so they're great for vocalists and lead singers. They don't have a lot of bass to them, but the extra boost in mids will help your voice really cut through the mix so you can hear yourself well.
2. Tour Triple Driver
I tried their tour triple driver which has three drivers in it and this one has a really well balanced sound. It had more bass to it but it still had those upper-mids that were cutting through the mix.
3. RSM Quad Driver
I really like the balanced sound that these headphones had. I prefer monitors that have a flatter balance across the frequency ranges, and then I can just boost or cut different aspects of the EQ as I like.
4. Revx Ten Driver
I really don't want or need $1500 custom in-ear headphones. But it was a lot of fun to just hear them and they did sound amazing.
After testing them, I went with the RSM Quad Drivers. They were within my budget and the only difference between those and like the triple tour drivers is having a more balanced sound across the lows, mids and highs.
Once I had my model of custom in-ears selected, I went ahead and designed the look. I'm a pretty minimalistic guy when it comes to design.
I like darker colors so I went with smoke for the shells and bubinga wood for the faceplates. I'm confident these are gonna look sharp when I finally get them.
The last thing I needed to do was just send Alclair my in-ear molds that Johnny made for me. Within a few weeks I'll receive my RSM quad driver headphones and I can’t wait.
As I decided on what to buy and how much to spend, I developed some criteria to guide my purchase.
How often you’ll use them.
Not only am I using in-ear monitors for leading worship every Sunday, but I also do a lot of video editing and post-production work and it's good for me to hear what is truly coming from
whatever device I'm listening to.
If you’re only onstage once a month, it may be a good idea to purchase a less expensive pair. Which brings me to my next point.
1. Your budget
Even if you do buy a less expensive pair, I don't think you can go wrong with anything from Alclair in any budget and price range, they really do make a quality product.
So if you can only afford the dual driver headphones, go ahead and just get them. But if you have the budget for in-ear monitors with six to ten drivers in them, by all means, go ahead and get those!
2. Your role
It comes down to what you like best and what sounds good to you. Depending on your role on the worship team, you may need a less expensive or more expensive monitor. Don’t let a cheaper price or look stop you from getting what you need to do your job well.
To determine the right fit and model for yourself, I highly recommend meeting up with one of the Alclair reps if you’re in Denver, Nashville, or Minneapolis so you can demo these different models.
If you’re not in those cities, they’ve still got you covered. Just make sure you go to Alclair's website where they’ll still teach you more about selecting the right model for yourself.
This was a really fun way to choose a tool that’s right for me. I wish more products were this customizable and user-friendly as Alclair’s. I really appreciated Johnny’s help and guidance in this whole process and I highly recommend you reach out to one of their reps! Let me know what your experience was like and we can chat about all the gnarly earwax that was removed from our ear canals.
If you want to continue leading engaging worship then check out and enroll in Worship Leader School where I pour all of my knowledge into showing you how to lead worship–from the ministry aspect to the tech aspect. You’ll get a ton of great content like a course library of proven training, a community of worship pastors and my undivided attention during office hours.
See you soon!