It’s a cliche that the performer will often be battling the worst sound in the venue during a gig, but the combination of adverse room acoustics and often muddy and aggressive on-stage sound reinforcement has led many musicians to investigate in-ear monitors in order to retain detail and nuance in their playing.
Many such systems have depended on balanced armature drivers which, somewhat ironically, is a technology that was adapted from the hearing aid industry. BAD’s are very small and often used in triple configurations to allow an individual driver to focus on a specific part of the frequency spectrum via an electronic crossover circuit. However, they are subject to phase issues, dropouts where the frequency bands overlap and the phenomenon of total harmonic distortion where, as the volume increases, so too does the level of distortion.
Sennheiser has brought 75 years of experience to bear in the production of its new range of in-ear monitors which use a single wide-band dynamic driver to cover the entire frequency spectrum. This eliminates phasey drop-outs and offers a clean sonic image with a remarkably low distortion level of only 0.08 per cent.
On opening the packaging, we’re greeted by an impressive array of accessories including five alternative sets of washable plugs in both rubber and memory foam. A cleaning tool is also included for those hard-to-reach areas.
The ideal set up for a system of this nature would include a wireless belt/strap-mounted receiver, and Sennheiser has a range to choose from. It’s worth remembering that if you’re changing guitars during a set then you’ll need to put these on before you strap on your instrument. Alternatively you could use the same strap and mount the receiver there.
The units look good and feel extremely comfortable, and we breeze through our listening session with no fatigue or discomfort, which is remarkable for a set of non-custom in-ears. In fact, with their braided cable and smokey black plastic housing they come across a lot more like bespoke moulded units than generic earbuds.
Determined to give the IE 500 Pro system as hard a time as possible we set up the sort of scenarios that in-ears tend to find challenging. In a heavy band mix, we’re particularly impressed by the separation of each element of the drum kit, allowing you to really lock in with the kick and snare. In-ear systems can struggle to provide enough detail for guitarists who also sing, but here we have enough clarity to help really nail that vocal line with a mic’d acoustic running in the background too.
Finally, as a treat, we run a selection our favourite reference tracks including songs from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and Rage Against The Machine’s eponymous debut. The results are spine-chilling and we see these units excelling in contexts where use of a high-quality near field monitor set up would be difficult – live streaming comes immediately to mind! – and they are detailed enough for any venue. Finally, the performer can have the best sound in the house.
- PRICE £529
- TYPE In-ear monitoring system, made in Germany
- FEATURES Wide-band single dynamic driver, memory foam and rubber alternative ear-cushion kit. Removable, washable plugs.
- CONTACT sennheiser.com
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