DJing with InEars Monitors

In-ear headphones are becoming ever more popular among DJs who, in growing numbers, are trying to protect their hearing from severe and long lasting damage. Although the protection of your ears is an obvious benefit of using In-Ear Monitors, there are in fact many more benefits. Read on to learn how In-Ears could help you.

Let’s face it, your hearing is as good as it gets. There is no technology out there (at least not yet), that can bring back damaged auditory neurons in your ear. The first and foremost reason for changing to In-Ears is that they lower the risk of long-term damage and other issues such as Tinnitus (ringing in the ear). The most common cause for tinnitus is noise-induced hearing loss. DJs are constantly exposed to noise and loud music, it’s a part of our profession. While constant loud noise is harmful, sudden changes in volume can also cause permanent damage to your hearing. “It’s All Gone Pete Tong” is a mockumentary that shows this, while deaf DJing is a fantasy, losing your hearing from this exposure is not.

DJing with In-Ear Monitors can protects your ears from the monitors in the DJ booth which often output high sound pressure levels (SPL) to compete with the clubs PA system. In-Ear monitors also protects you from the main PA and the general high noise level in the club. An In-Ear monitor can eliminate these high risk exposures.

Mixing with In-Ears

Most DJs using traditional headphones use the booths monitor as reference and the headphones for cueing up next track. As an In-Ear user you will need to revisit the “monitor mix” knob on your mixer. If you haven’t done it before – Cueing and mixing in your monitors will take some time to get used to. If you mixing internally in Traktor, you will need to set up controls to switch between the cue (100%)/master(100%) and a mix of both (50%/50%). What makes it especially challenging is that you don’t really have any idea of how your In-Ears translate on the main PA system. If you don’t know the system you are playing very well, unplug one ear for a every now and then to reference the system, just as if you were using regular headphones. Although this might seems to defeat the purpose of protecting your ears, it will allow you to adjust to using In-Ears over the course of a few months.

Types of Isolation

In-Ear systems vary in how much they protect your ears. Isolation is done with Foam, Rubber or Custom molds. The Foam ear pieces are great for blocking out sound, but custom molds offer more then just sound isolation. Some In-Ear Monitor brands (like the Ultimate Ears Pro series) feature an “ambient” option which let’s you regulate how much you want to block out the sound (with 5, 9, 15, or 25, db filters). This is a great option if you want to wear your In-Ears all the time, but still have a feel of what the sound and sound-pressure level is like in the venue.

Getting used to In-Ears

It does take a little time getting used to DJing with In-Ears. As a comparison, some In-Ear monitors isolates like Sennheiser HD 25 II – making it very hard to judge the main volume of the PA.  Therefor you will need to be more diligent paying attention to the mixers level readouts and the main volume knob. Isolating yourself from the main PA means that it is harder to judge how loud you are actually playing and raising the likelihood of damaging other peoples ears. Pay attention to the audience, especially those talking to each other – are they shouting into each others ears? When starting out with In-Ears, take them out now and then and inspect the level of the PA and the mixer readout. After using In-Ears for a couple of weeks, adjusting the volume of the PA will become second nature to you.

Getting In-Ears in and out of your ears will also take some getting used to. The custom molded models can be especially tricky to plug in and out, so you will need at least a couple of days, if not weeks, to learn how to operate a mixer with one hand and inserting In-Ears with the other. Many instruction manuals on custom molded In-Ears advice you to pull back your ear with one hand while turning and inserting the monitor with the other. After a couple of weeks of usage, it will become second nature to do it with one hand.

Longevity Considerations

Longevity is probably one of the most important things to think about when investing in In-Ear Monitors. Make sure that the manufacturer has a good warranty policy and take your time to find the repair price-list on the manufacturers website. Some headphone models can be quite expensive to repair.

While repair hopefully shouldn’t be needed, some parts of the In-Ears will without doubt have to be changed now and then. The foam/rubber tears, get smudged or dissapears. Check the manufactures price-list for accessories and factor it in to the price. While the cable on most pro models can be changed, there are still plenty of models out there that are “hardwired”. Being able to change/refit a new cable is undoubtedly one of the most important factors of In-Ear Monitors longevity. Don’t expect to get more then 2-3 years out of a “hardwired” In-Ears – especially with frequent use.

 

Manufactures & Models We Like

We have collected a list of manufactures & models that we recommend.

Ultimate Ears

Recently aquired by Logitech, Ultimate Ears offers a wide range of In-Ear Monitor Solutions. If you are going all in – UE 18 Pro ($1350 – Custom Molded) is as good as it gets. The Clarity this model delivers will give you an honest picture of the music. Where as the little brother UE-11 Pro ($1150 – Custom Molded) offers more bass – often a sought after feature among DJs.

JH Audio

Owner Jerry Harvey (wikipedia has quite some juicy stuff about that split up) is not only credited for investing a series of customized dual-speaker In-Ear monitors, but also for founding Ultimate Ears. So it should come as no surprise that the JH 16 Pro doesn’t sound drastically different. The big difference is the JH 16 Pro’s low end frequency response. This is beneficial to DJs who likes emphasizing bass (compared to the UE 18 Pro).

Shure

Shure has been improving their SE series of headphones. All the models now comes with exchangeable cables (retails $30) and a 2 year limited warranty. If the  UE 18 Pro or the JH 16 Pro is in the wrong pricerange, the SE353 might be an option for you (retails around $500). These headphones isolates well, and delivers nice low end. They do tend to get a little uncomfortable after long usage.

Monster

The Monster Turbine Pro Copper (retails around $400). While these headphones have great tangle-resistant cable and an emphasized bass response, they tend to isolate a little less then the SE535 and Custom Molded Headphones. This is not by definition a bad thing, since it might give you a better idea of how loud you are playing. The angled TRS connection is well suited for DJs.

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About Us PreservEars goal is to help DJs and musicians protect their most valuable asset. Their Hearing.