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High End IEM...Really worth it?

TrickRichards

Inspired
So I already have a pair of Ultimate Ears UE 5, which is a two driver configuration. Anyone here have experience with some of the high end stuff like UE 18+ or JH Audio Roxanne? As far as the guitar tones, I’m already pretty happy with the sound. It’s the full band mix that seems to always be muddy, even with EQ and panning. Wondering if more drivers helps with the sonic space. Thanks for any input!
 

jclemensfl

Inspired
So I already have a pair of Ultimate Ears UE 5, which is a two driver configuration. Anyone here have experience with some of the high end stuff like UE 18+ or JH Audio Roxanne? As far as the guitar tones, I’m already pretty happy with the sound. It’s the full band mix that seems to always be muddy, even with EQ and panning. Wondering if more drivers helps with the sonic space. Thanks for any input!
I guess worth is subjective. I have the JH Audio JH16s. Love everything about them. They reproduce tones beautifully.
They were expensive. But I'm not sad or angry that I spent the money.
Prior to that I had a pair of Alien Ears that cost $500 at the time. I thought they were fine. But the JHs are vastly superior.
Not sure how they compare to the UE5s. Maybe they are twice as good. Maybe they are three times as good.
It seems like you have already tried what I would suggest to fix a muddy mix. Panning is the magic that makes the IEM mix work.
Is there a specific aspect of the mix that you find muddy? Bass guitar? Vocals?
I know I have to specifically eq the bass guitar in our IEM mixes to keep it from being boomy and overtaking the mix. Not sure if you have the ability to do so, though. But cutting the lows on the bass guitar can help it find a place in your ears.
 

chris

Legend!
So I already have a pair of Ultimate Ears UE 5, which is a two driver configuration. Anyone here have experience with some of the high end stuff like UE 18+ or JH Audio Roxanne? As far as the guitar tones, I’m already pretty happy with the sound. It’s the full band mix that seems to always be muddy, even with EQ and panning. Wondering if more drivers helps with the sonic space. Thanks for any input!
have you EQ'd your IEM send to reduce low frequencies?
 

steadystate

Fractal Fanatic
I run my cheap IEMs through a cheap graphic eq to tame the low mids and slightly bump the highs. They are well balanced and clear with the eq. For me, expensive IEMs are not worth it for gigging. The acoustic bleed from the drums and FOH negate the fine detail that high end IEMs provide.
 

Muad'zin

Fractal Fanatic
I run my cheap IEMs through a cheap graphic eq to tame the low mids and slightly bump the highs. They are well balanced and clear with the eq. For me, expensive IEMs are not worth it for gigging. The acoustic bleed from the drums and FOH negate the fine detail that high end IEMs provide.
How cheap are they and what EQ do you use?
 

TrickRichards

Inspired
I guess worth is subjective. I have the JH Audio JH16s. Love everything about them. They reproduce tones beautifully.
They were expensive. But I'm not sad or angry that I spent the money.
Prior to that I had a pair of Alien Ears that cost $500 at the time. I thought they were fine. But the JHs are vastly superior.
Not sure how they compare to the UE5s. Maybe they are twice as good. Maybe they are three times as good.
It seems like you have already tried what I would suggest to fix a muddy mix. Panning is the magic that makes the IEM mix work.
Is there a specific aspect of the mix that you find muddy? Bass guitar? Vocals?
I know I have to specifically eq the bass guitar in our IEM mixes to keep it from being boomy and overtaking the mix. Not sure if you have the ability to do so, though. But cutting the lows on the bass guitar can help it find a place in your ears.

Good to hear from someone that uses the JH16’s.

Regarding the muddy mix, I play in a large band with vocals, bass, keys, drums, congas, sax, trombone, and at times drums samples like 808’s. By far the most challenging aspect is getting the keys and bass to work where I can really hear both clearly. Sometimes my guitar solos sound a little too buried as well. And all my tones have strong mids. I don’t have much of the drums in my mix, I get plenty of bleed through my vocal mic. Sometimes I’ll add a little kick. As for EQ, I set a HPF at around 80Hz and also cut a little at 100 and 240. The instruments are also EQ’d a bit individually. Nothing major, mostly subtractive EQ to avoid masking. in the stereo spread, the only thing that’s hard panned is my guitar. The bass and vocals are centered, kick just slightly off center, keys at 10 o’clock, horns 2 o’clock, percussion 3 o’clock. Would love to hear any feedback about how others might go about this. My thinking was that it might just be too much in the sonic spectrum for two driver IEM. Maybe I’m just missing something...
 

RoketRdr

Inspired
The acoustic bleed from the drums and FOH negate the fine detail that high end IEMs provide.

That is completely untrue. There is a night and day difference between cheap and high end IEM's with the latter doing a far more amazing job at shutting out any ambient noise and producing clarity especially with the "fitted" units. Cheap units are better than high end units? Not even close.
 

RoketRdr

Inspired
Good to hear from someone that uses the JH16’s.

Regarding the muddy mix, I play in a large band with vocals, bass, keys, drums, congas, sax, trombone, and at times drums samples like 808’s. By far the most challenging aspect is getting the keys and bass to work where I can really hear both clearly. Sometimes my guitar solos sound a little too buried as well. And all my tones have strong mids. I don’t have much of the drums in my mix, I get plenty of bleed through my vocal mic. Sometimes I’ll add a little kick. As for EQ, I set a HPF at around 80Hz and also cut a little at 100 and 240. The instruments are also EQ’d a bit individually. Nothing major, mostly subtractive EQ to avoid masking. in the stereo spread, the only thing that’s hard panned is my guitar. The bass and vocals are centered, kick just slightly off center, keys at 10 o’clock, horns 2 o’clock, percussion 3 o’clock. Would love to hear any feedback about how others might go about this. My thinking was that it might just be too much in the sonic spectrum for two driver IEM. Maybe I’m just missing something...

Two drivers wont get it done and will cause your sound to be muddy. Too much going on there for two drivers to accurately reproduce all the sounds. I suggest getting a minimum of four and more if you can afford it. A whole new world will open up to you once you hear the difference.
 

JoKeR III

Power User
I have 64 Audio A3's (3 driver) and they are incredible! They have adjustable ports that allow a certain level of ambient, outside sound in.
There IS a difference is sound quality with more expensive IEMs but they won't help a poorly eq'd mix. In a properly adjusted and eq'd mix, two drivers can be enough. Sure, more drivers can sound better but 2 higher quality drivers will always be better than simply more drivers. I've also found that with custom in-ears, I've been able to use lower levels across the board which has helped hear things much more clearly.

Regarding the OPs situation, do you have control over your monitor mix? Is your guitar rig stereo?
 

TrickRichards

Inspired
I have 64 Audio A3's (3 driver) and they are incredible! They have adjustable ports that allow a certain level of ambient, outside sound in.
There IS a difference is sound quality with more expensive IEMs but they won't help a poorly eq'd mix. In a properly adjusted and eq'd mix, two drivers can be enough. Sure, more drivers can sound better but 2 higher quality drivers will always be better than simply more drivers. I've also found that with custom in-ears, I've been able to use lower levels across the board which has helped hear things much more clearly.

Regarding the OPs situation, do you have control over your monitor mix? Is your guitar rig stereo?

Yes, I have full control of my monitor mix and I’m running my Axe III in stereo.
 

sskkmm

Power User
One of the most useful things at NAMM this year is that I brought my own music and my own cheap KZ iems to all the high dollar IEM companies.
In short, did the $2k JH Audio ones sound better? Yeah, but not $1950 better. ;)

I use good foam ends on two diff pair of KZ - the AS10s and the newer ZS10 Pros. They are killer and work great for music and live. I have had molded Westones before (they are like 10 years old and don’t fit my ears anymore) and these are so much better and imho for the price and my hobby the KZs can’t be beat.
 

JoKeR III

Power User
Yes, I have full control of my monitor mix and I’m running my Axe III in stereo.
Try moving your guitar as close to center as you can while maintaining the stereo image and move as many other instruments and vocals outside of this range and somewhat balanced as far as number left and right. Place anything you need in order to play your parts inside the range of your guitar. As with frequencies, instruments and vocals can fight for space in the stereo image as well.

The approach I use when teaching our team members is to create a mix, with their part, so it sounds like listening to a recording at a level they enjoy. Then, while leaving their channel alone, lower the overall volume @ 3dB. Now add volume in small increments to the vocals/instruments they need in order to perform their part. The thing that's difficult with a larger band is finding the balance between liking what we hear and hearing what we need in a monitor mix. There are usually compromises that need to be made, sometimes to the point of removing certain instruments or vocals.
 

RoketRdr

Inspired
One of the most useful things at NAMM this year is that I brought my own music and my own cheap KZ iems to all the high dollar IEM companies.
In short, did the $2k JH Audio ones sound better? Yeah, but not $1950 better. ;)

I use good foam ends on two diff pair of KZ - the AS10s and the newer ZS10 Pros. They are killer and work great for music and live. I have had molded Westones before (they are like 10 years old and don’t fit my ears anymore) and these are so much better and imho for the price and my hobby the KZs can’t be beat.

Theyre supposed to be fit to your ear canal so you didn’t get the proper effect because you didn’t have an ear mold done and the IEM’s cut from the mold. You werent in a venue to properly test them. And they’re not for listening to your favorite tunes like headphones. The purpose is to isolate your ears to protect them and then reproduce the sounds you need to hear. Play a large venue with massive power and the difference becomes very clear.
 

jclemensfl

Inspired
Try moving your guitar as close to center as you can while maintaining the stereo image and move as many other instruments and vocals outside of this range and somewhat balanced as far as number left and right. Place anything you need in order to play your parts inside the range of your guitar. As with frequencies, instruments and vocals can fight for space in the stereo image as well.

The approach I use when teaching our team members is to create a mix, with their part, so it sounds like listening to a recording at a level they enjoy. Then, while leaving their channel alone, lower the overall volume @ 3dB. Now add volume in small increments to the vocals/instruments they need in order to perform their part. The thing that's difficult with a larger band is finding the balance between liking what we hear and hearing what we need in a monitor mix. There are usually compromises that need to be made, sometimes to the point of removing certain instruments or vocals.
This is some good advice, but before I discuss it, I will tell you there is no substitute for custom molds. Yes, $2k is probably too much for IEMs for most folks, but dammit, I spent $2k on my amp and over $8k on the guitars! I want to hear how sweet sounding they are. Regardless, non-custom molded IEMs will always let in too much bleed, and cramming the foam in there ain't helping your sound either. I was stunned by the difference between a custom mold and off the shelf IEMs. No comparison. The drivers might be nice in a store or in the car, but in a loud band environment, there's not nearly enough seal.

As JoKeR says above, I would center your instrument and pan almost everything else. Don't be afraid to hard pan, either. I pan the drums like they are on the kit, floor tom hard right, hit-hats at 9 o'clock, toms around the clock. Try taking the bass and put it on one side or the other at 9 or 3 (wherever the bassist is located in relationship to you), having it in center will muddy the mix. The only thing I center is my guitar, the vocal, and the kick. Panning is your friend, and will more accurately mimic how your ears would normally hear on stage.

Don't be afraid to turn things down to improve clarity. You probably don't NEED as much percussion or horns as you think, or at least that is my experience.

Good luck!
 

RoketRdr

Inspired
This is some good advice, but before I discuss it, I will tell you there is no substitute for custom molds. Yes, $2k is probably too much for IEMs for most folks, but dammit, I spent $2k on my amp and over $8k on the guitars! I want to hear how sweet sounding they are. Regardless, non-custom molded IEMs will always let in too much bleed, and cramming the foam in there ain't helping your sound either. I was stunned by the difference between a custom mold and off the shelf IEMs. No comparison. The drivers might be nice in a store or in the car, but in a loud band environment, there's not nearly enough seal.

Yep...exactly this.
 

JoKeR III

Power User
I agree in part with the custom molds, they do make a big difference if you're struggling getting universals to seal properly. The best fitting universal I've used are Fender IEMs (formerly Aurisonics). They go deeper into the ear canal which helps them seal better, more consistently and are much more comfortable, easier to wear for long periods than most others. I had the dual driver version and they sounded pretty good, a definite step up from the Shure se215 that were provided.
 
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