In-ear monitors for worship bands quickly went from something that felt new, to very common, to prevalent in almost every church and worship team setting. In fact, houses of worship were a huge part of in-ear monitors overtaking the music scene, in sync with other timely advancements like digital soundboards becoming more accessible and personal monitoring systems designed to interface with them.
If you’re just diving into in-ear monitors or looking to expand your existing setup, we hope to share some valuable information that will save you time picking the best in-ear monitors for your church.
A few different ways to set up in-ear monitors for church
Before we discuss some great in-ear monitors for your worship team, let’s look at three basic ways to set up and configure in-ears with your existing sound system. The great news is that in-ear monitors can fit in any budget. They are not only reserved for more technically advanced sound systems or stages.
- Personal monitoring system – Complete systems like the Aviom or Behringer Powerplay P16 personal monitoring systems are designed to facilitate the entire process of routing audio from the soundboard to the individual musician and singer’s in-ears. These typically come with a rack-mounted unit that lives in the front-of-house tech booth or on stage and is connected either by physical patching from “aux mixes” from the soundboard or by a digital (ethernet) cable when compatible with a specific digital soundboard. Then there are individual mixer units on stage that each musician or singer will plug their in-ear monitors into and control their own mixes, using the built-in volume and other controls. With this setup, each team member will be wired to their mixer box, so you’ll need to purchase some extender cables to connect the in-ears to each box, so they will have enough length to move around the stage without being tethered to just a few feet from their mixer. This option is right in the middle in terms of cost and ease of setup.
- Multi-channel or personal headphone amps – Arguably, the least expensive and easiest way to implement in-ear monitors in any sound system, regardless of the kind of mixer you have, is to use a headphone amplifier. A headphone amp simply takes audio signal from your soundboard and provides enough power to it to drive small in-ear monitors or headphones. It’s just like having a headphone jack on your laptop or smartphone, but with inputs from your soundboard. You would connect the “aux mixes” for each musician or singer to different inputs on your multi-channel headphone amp (like this one capable of eight different mixes) and then connect each musician or singer to their own channel. The headphone amp would need to be in a central location on stage so you could use extender cables to reach each team member in their area on stage. You could also use individual headphone amps nearer to each position, like this one. This setup works best with a digital soundboard, as each musician or singer would download the soundboard’s app on their smartphone or tablet to control their own in-ear monitor mix, as assigned by the sound person. (Otherwise, with an analog soundboard, the sound person would need to mix for each team member).
- Wireless in-ear monitor systems – If you’re able to invest more into your in-ear monitor setup, it is very popular to utilize wireless systems for your worship band’s in-ear monitors. The wireless system, in this case, would just replace the wired connections with a transmitter unit and then a wireless pack for each musician or singer. Wireless transmitters will typically be rack-mounted and would be connected from each “aux mix” from the soundboard and a pack assigned to each team member for that corresponding mix and transmitter. This means the musician or singer would need to control their own mix using an app on their phone or tablet, or the sound person could control their mixes for them. We advise that if you do choose to go wireless, you should invest in a higher quality wireless system (like this one from Shure) to prevent any issues with odd sound compression or dropouts that can happen with less expensive wireless units. One great option to save on cost but still get the benefits of wireless would be to combine the wired headphone amp option above with the wireless option we’re discussing here. For instance, worship leaders and those who will move around more towards the front of the stage could be assigned wireless packs, but more stationary musicians like the drummer or keys player could be wired with a headphone amp near their spots on stage.
What in-ear monitors should I choose for my worship band?
Now that we’ve looked at how to implement in-ears for your church band, here are five great in-ear monitors that make it onto our shortlist of great options to choose from.
- Shure SE215-CL – These in-ear monitors from Shure are very much industry standard entry-level to medium-grade earphones. Based on their older “E2” in-ears that were so popular when the wave of in-ear monitors first hit, they are tried and true. And with a relatively low price point, you can’t go wrong. It’s great to have some of these around to provide for your team, even if some of them have their own personal in-ears, as these would also make great backups. The SE215-CL’s are “single driver” earphones, which means that one tiny speaker handles all the frequencies in the audio spectrum, but it’s very efficient and sounds natural and pleasing to the musician or singer who is using it. Shure also offers models in this line with more drivers, which increases the quality and cost.
- Westone Pro X20 – Stepping up just a bit in price range and in quality/features, we have the Westone Pro X20 earphones. These in-ears provide dual drivers, which means there are separate tiny speakers inside them to handle the lower frequencies and higher frequencies. This will allow for a cleaner volume and clarity across the frequency range. As with the Shure’s listed above, you can also upgrade to versions in this line of in-ears with more drivers for even more power and clarity, but it will increase the cost (or downgrade to a single driver version in this same product line).
- Alclair UV3 – Known for their custom-molded in-ear monitors, Alclair has also introduced a universal fit line of in-ears called the UV3. The UV3 earphones are triple driver, which means there are three tiny speakers in these monitors, splitting up the low, mid, and higher frequency range for great clarity and headroom volume-wise. At only slightly more cost than the previous two options we’ve listed, these bring a great quality that is slightly less universal and more tailored to the professional musician, though they are still universal in fit so any musician or singer can use them if you purchase several for your team.
- Alclair Spire – Alclair Spire six driver custom in-ear monitors are just that– custom. These earphones require each musician or singer to have their actual ears imaged and the earphones will be created as a custom mold in the shape of their ear cavities. While this sounds like it would be complicated, custom molded in-ears are very popular in the music industry and most any audiologist will be able to complete the process (usually with a silicon like substance that takes the shape of your ears) and send it in to have custom in-ear monitors made. With a slightly higher price tag, these in-ears bring absolutely stunning quality to the musician or singer using them and offer utmost clean and clear volume across all frequencies with six different tiny drivers covering the frequency range. The detailed and dynamic sound makes these the perfect in-ear monitors for worship leaders who need to hear a more complete picture of the mix while still having their voice cut through the mix. Note that Alclair also offers custom in-ears with different configurations (less drivers, down to two driver models) which are priced even lower than some non-custom molded in-ears.
- 64 Audio A4s – For an even more boutique set of in-ear monitors for your worship band if you have a higher budget, check out 64 Audio’s four driver set of custom in-ears called the A4s. These in-ear monitors are perfect for worship musicians, offering an immersive, full-spectrum sound with a dynamic mid-range and powerful bass. Like many other in-ear monitor manufacturers, 64 Audio has a ton of experience in the worship in-ear monitor arena and offers a wide range of products. So, if you want to upgrade to even more drivers, or go down to a fewer driver version to have the same 64 Audio quality but lower the cost, you can find a set of in-ears that will work for any worship leader or musician in their line-up. Some worship team musicians or worship leaders who lead very often may want to invest in their own in-ear monitors, even if more generic ones are available at the church. And for that, 64 Audio is definitely a brand to check out.
One more brand that has made a huge impact in the market of in-ear monitors for worship bands and happens to offer other commercial product lines like Bluetooth speakers and accessories is Ultimate Ears. Be sure to check out their custom in-ears, universal fit options, or an in-between option of a custom but more general fit available via their ear mold impression kit that can be done at home.
The benefits of in-ear monitors for worship bands are countless, like lower stage volume, increased detail for each musician or singer, and sometimes an even lower cost than having an actual monitor wedge speaker for each person on stage. In-ears are the way to go for any worship team. The question is simply this: Which in-ear monitors will you choose for your church worship team?