In-Ear Monitors on a Small Church Budget

Many church worship teams have transitioned from open monitor wedges onstage to using in-ear monitors (IEM) with systems (like Aviom) that allow each musician to dial in a personal mix just right for them. IEMs also cut down on stage volume, which can be an issue in many church sanctuary’s that were not designed for bands with a drumset, bass, and electric guitars (with amps made to only sound good turned up too high). This allows the sound tech more control over the mix, enabling them to create exciting mixes at lower overal volume levels, helping to bridge the gap between those who find it too loud and those who find it too tepid.

Another benefit of IEM is the ability to play click tracks or pre-programmed tracks for the band to sync to, and the ability to talk to one another during the service through a talk-back mic that is routed to everyone’s headphones but not to the speakers for the congregation. A downside is that it can sometimes feel disconnected from the congregation, but this can be helped by miking the congregation and routing it into the IEMs or by simply playing with one in-ear in and the other out.

Unfortunately, an Aviom system for IEMs can be really expensive—too expensive for many small and medium sized churches to afford. We just quoted one for our church at around $8,500 for 8 channels. To transition to wireless IEMs is another $1,500 per channel.

So we came up with a simple way to take a step toward IEMs without breaking the bank, while we save up for the full system. The mix is still created at the mixing console and share by a group of musicians—we used this just for our drummer, bass guitar, keyboards, and electric guitar—but it did cut down on our stage volume drastically. I thought I’d share it with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Here’s what we got:

(1) Samson S 4-Channel Headphone Amp: 49$

(4) Headphones or Ear Buds: $99 each.

(4) Headphone extension cables: $10 each.

We also used a female XLR to 1/4 TRS cable to go from a send on our stage snake into the headphone amp: $30 (for 30 foot cable).
The whole setup cost us $520. Try it out and let me know what you think. It could be a good in-between step as you decide whether IEMs are right for you and your church.