In this article you’re going to learn about the best in-ear monitor systems for church worship ministries.
We’re going to cover:
Why your band needs in-ear monitors
Pros and cons of the most popular in-ear monitor solutions
Churchfront recommendations for in-ear headphones
After reading, you'll know exactly what gear and strategy you'll need in order to implement in-ear monitors at your church.
You may be wondering what the point of in-ear monitors is.
If you have any intention of running a click and tracks for worship, you have to get in-ear monitors because you can't really run a click through floor wedges.
In-ear monitors also reduce stage volume, so it's easier for your sound engineer to build a crystal clear mix for your congregation.
Implementing in-ear monitors and running a click and tracks in worship, will help your band sound significantly better.
You'll also have the capability to start automating lyrics and lighting with software like Ableton Live.
You first need to consider the type of mixing console you’re using at your church.
I highly recommend that your church invests in a digital mixer and companion digital stage box because in the end it will make it way easier and cost effective to implement an in-ear monitor system.
You can implement any of the in-ear monitor systems we are about to cover here with those mixing consoles and stage boxes.
Headphone amps are the first and probably the most affordable way to go.
You take an XLR out of a return channel on your stage box, plug it into the headphone amp and plug your headphones in.
At our church, the drummer and I use the Behringer P1 headphone amp which has a few mixing options on the amp. It can run a stereo mix, which is great for piano and the drums.
Since we run stereo, both myself and our drummer are using two mix bus outputs from our stage box.
The only downside of this headphone amp is that it limits movement and requires power, but you can use a power adapter or 9-volt batteries to power it.
(Just remember to turn it off to save batteries).
This is our second recommendation for headphone amps. We use this for simple mono mixes and it's a great deal, coming in at around 30 bucks.
Requires battery power.
The headphone amplifier setup is affordable and reliable, but the major downside is you'll have an additional cable.
We find this setup works great for musicians who are mostly stationary during worship, including the drummer, guitarists, and the keyboardist. But it still works great for worship leaders and vocalists. You just want to be careful as you move.
The best way to control your in-ear mix with this system is with the companion app that works with your digital mixing console.
Speaking of freedom to move about the stage, your next option is a wireless in-ear monitor system. This setup looks better (because there are no cables) and is super, super simple:
You have a transmitter sending your monitor mix from your mixing console or stage box
A receiver that clips onto your back pocket
Plug headphones in your receiver
Now you can hear your mix with no cables.
Cost: $1,200 (it’s wireless after all)
You can pick up a transmitter with two receiver packs for around 1,200 bucks.
And since we have two receivers for one transmitter, each receiver is getting a mono signal. So this is a great hack when purchasing wireless in-ears.
We haven't had the chance to get our hands on this monitor system, but from doing some research it really does seem like a great alternative at a similar price point to the Sennheiser EW System.
This is a great budget option.
You can pick this system up for only 150 bucks for one receiver and the transmitter, but there are options for up to four receivers for your band.
If you want to get started with in-ear monitors very cheaply, this is definitely a very viable option. We did have a few issues with it being a little staticky and there were no signal dropouts, but it didn't sound amazing, but it definitely did not sound bad.
Behringer P16 Personal Monitor System
This system works by sending digital audio to personal mixing devices that your musicians can control.
They'll plug their headphones into the device and hear a high quality stereo mix.
You'll connect these mixers to your front of house mixing console or stage boxes using an ethernet cable.
Since everything is digital, each mixer can generate its own unique mix. With this system you can daisy-chain as many personal mixers as you want together, so only one has to be connected to your stage box.
This option is great for several reasons:
It allows for each band member to very quickly access their own mix and to have greater control over set mix.
They don't need a companion app on their phone, and it's also great for a more permanent setup.
You also don't have to charge batteries nor do you have to plug anything in on any given rehearsal or Sunday. You just plug your headphones in and you have your in-ear mix.
They don't look that great.
If you're at the front of the stage, you probably don't want to have a mixer sitting right there. It's like the music stand debate, a cleaner setup with less stage noise will look better and cause fewer distractions than a stage filled with cables and personal mixers.
The model of personal mixer that you choose really depends on which type of mixing console your church uses.
If you have a Behringer or Midas mixer, then you want to use the Behringer P16 personal mixers.
The Behringer P16 has the ability to control 16 different channels with EQ panning, solo, and mute functions. This is pretty standard when it comes to personal mixers and it's the cheapest one out there without sacrificing the quality of the mixer's ability or its sound.
Allen & Health ME personal mixer
The Allen & Health ME1 allows for up to 40 channels, and the ME500 up to 16. Both work very fluidly with any Allen & Health digital mixer. You do have more control over the sound of your mix, and in my opinion, these personal mixes just look better, but they are much more expensive.
There's a really good chance that you've seen the videos on the Audiofusion System, and if you want to see exactly what it's like, you should check out his videos on it.
The gist of the system is that you can have a 16 channel monitor mix play straight from your iPhone.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Yet it works surprisingly well considering that all of the audio is sent over Wi-Fi.
The mixer sends the signal to a Mac running the SoundCaster app.
Then that Mac sends a signal to the iPhone over Wi-Fi.
Then you just plug headphones into your iPhone.
It's a pretty smooth system. And for only $100 per band member, it's surprisingly affordable.
We don't use this system at the moment and that's mainly because setting it up each week was pretty inefficient for our workflow, and it worked great about 90% of the time when Jake used it. Yet we still list this system as a recommended option because we've heard of it working perfectly from many other worship ministries who are able to get their wireless network dialed in.
You spent all this time looking into what system works best for your context, but your system is only going to be as good as the headphones that you are using.
These are our favorite.
They’re sound isolating with a single dynamic micro driver, which means that they sound great for how much they cost. They have a balanced sound and are a pretty good starting point for anyone looking to get into in-ears.
These are a cheaper line of in-ears ranging anywhere from 20 bucks to 60 bucks.
If your band has a lot of volunteers or you are just wanting to try in-ear monitors, then these headphones work really great. They're super cheap, but sound quality is not sacrificed, and odds are your volunteers are not audio files and really may not require the perfect sound that something like custom in-ear monitors would give them.
Jake has a pair of custom Alclair RSM Quad Driver monitors that are custom molded to his ears.
If you’re super serious about getting nice monitors, then these are definitely the way to go. These monitors have an extremely balanced sound that will allow you to pick out every single instrument in the mix.
The other custom route that you can go is with the 64 Customs.
They’re different from Alclair because of the Tia technology which delivers the frequencies to your ears a little bit more naturally.
They also have an apex system which relieves a lot of the air pressure that builds up in noise isolating headphones.
Both brands do have a lot of options, some cheaper and some more expensive that you can definitely take a look into for yourself.
There are so many options and choices when it comes to monitor systems and headphones, that it's easy to get analysis paralysis.
Our most important advice for you is to take action and be willing to alter your setup as you go along.
If you want to learn more about implementing the latest tech in your ministry, I want to invite you to check out Worship Tech School where we have courses on how to implement the latest audio, video, lighting and more so you can grow yourself and your worship ministry.