Many worship venues have made the transition from “wedges” to “ears” for stage monitoring purposes, and often find that this can be a surprisingly tricky process.
Essentially, wedges are loudspeakers that are laid sideways and angled up and at the performers.
The signal content, or “mix,” in each monitor or group of monitors is customized for the performer’s needs and sometimes will sound quite different than the house mix that the audience hears.
Wireless personal monitors have become popular in recent years.
These little monitoring earphones place the signal directly into the ears of the performer, usually eliminating the need for a wedge monitor.
There are several immediate advantages of such wireless personal monitoring systems, particularly wireless ones, as opposed to wedges, including:
• Lower stage volume (no open wedges blaring
• Better house sound, greater gain-before-feedback)
• Artist mobility (no sweet spot to stand in)
• Lower monitoring levels (hopefully) for better hearing safety
• The ability to listen deeper into the monitor mix
• A custom mix and volume for each user
• A discreet path for talkback to the user’s ears
• System portability (wedges weigh a whole lot more than bodypacks)
• Better aesthetics
• Improved acoustic isolation
Those last two points may be arguable as disadvantages too, but most users agree that earphones are less distracting than wedge monitors.
Worship leaders and techs transitioning to wireless personal monitors should plan for increased communication and expect to spend lots of time building the right monitor mix.
The acoustic isolation of wireless personal monitoring systems offers extreme control, but also requires more attention to detail in the monitor mix. But before going further into that, let’s cover a few things about hearing/monitoring.
Consider this scenario:
• A worship leader is on stage front and center with a single wedge monitor and his guitar and vocal mic. The tech mixes both signals into the wedge, plus any other signals he requests, which might include other instruments. He monitors comfortably.
• Does he hear in mono or stereo?
Well, it is true that a single wedge monitor reproduces a mono/single signal, but is that all he hears? No! He not only hears the sound from the wedge, but also the sounds from all around him including other performers, audience sounds, room reverberation, and more. He hears all these things with a true sense of space and dimension.
Next, consider this scenario:
• Your church buys its first wireless personal monitoring system to replace the worship leader’s front/center wedge. The tech removes the wedge, and routes the regular monitor signal into the new wireless personal monitor system.
At sound check, the worship leader puts his earphones in and starts to sing and/or play. He quickly says “my mix is different!” The tech responds “nope, it’s the same mix you’ve always had.” Who’s right?
They both are. With the wedge, the WL heard the monitor signal AND his acoustic surroundings as a total package. Now that his ears are essentially plugged by earphones, he hears only the monitor signal provided, and DOES NOT hear his acoustic surroundings. He relies 100 percent on the monitor mix he receives. For this reason, the transition can be startling and potentially frustrating for new wireless personal monitor users.