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Hands On With Personal Monitor Mixers

Handing off mix duties to the musician.

By Jeff Lange January 7, 2011

Praise and worship artist Charlie Hall performing live with an Aviom A-16II personal mixer.

Personal monitor mixing (PMM) has been around for some time now, but is still not “mainstream” for many live music applications.

The church market has readily adopted PMM, now followed by tours, Broadway productions, orchestras and TV shows with live bands that are all showing increased usage.

In a nutshell, PMM hands individual mix responsibilities to the musician, and when used together with in-ear monitors (IEM), it can present quite a few advantages.

However, to be clear, PMM and IEM are not the same thing, but are often lumped together because they’re typically used together.

A PMM system mix can be delivered via traditional wedges and self-powered wedges, as well as headphones and IEM (wired or wireless).

Simply, PMM allows the performer to create and maintain their own mix, often making for less work for the monitor engineer, while IEM can present greater clarity, reduced monitoring volume, more consistent latency, elimination of the elusive “sweet spot,” and a significant reduction in stage volume.

Together they can also reduce stage clutter, a particular concern in smaller venues.

PMM and IEM also foster a consistent monitoring experience from venue to venue.

Because the acoustics of the room are not part of the equation, the mixes are the same no matter what the venue is. And, like digital mixing consoles, most PMM systems have recallable presets that further promote consistency.

From the top, Aviom A-16II, Roland M-48, and Movek myMix.

Function & Application
In the 1990s, Intelix introduced one of the first (if not the first) PMM system, which is no longer available.

But about 10 years ago, Aviom introduced the Pro16 system, including the A-16 (now A-16II) personal mixer, and has sold almost 100,000 units to date.

More recently, Roland brought the RSS M-48 personal mixer to market, and it too is seeing strong use around the world.

And last year, Movek came out with the myMix personal mixer, and again, it has been well received.

The differences in the three systems are subtle, but they are fundamentally similar in terms of function and application. Most systems allow the performer to mix 16 different channels made up of direct sends or aux groups from the house or monitor console.

To make an informed decision as to the best mixer/system for your application, I strongly recommend arranging for demo units of each and then using them in realistic conditions, such as at a rehearsal.

There is also usually some type of input device at the console to feed discrete channels of audio into the PMM system. For example, the Roland M-48 can use its analog input device or be driven by a Roland digital mixer.

The Aviom A-16II also has an analog input device and is compatible with about a dozen digital consoles. Inputs can plug directly into myMix system, or into an analog input device.

Audio from the input device is transmitted over Cat-5e (or better) cable to daisy-chained personal mixers, or is first sent to a distribution unit that then feeds the mixers individually.

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weedywet says

“It’s not that emulators can’t create good sounds, but ...”

It is.

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