Chris Sharp, monitor engineer for Rob Thomas who is currently touring the U.S. with Sennheiser EW300IEMG2 wireless personal monitor systems and an SKM935G2 series RF microphone and EM550G2 dual-channel receiver, has observed several major improvements with the more widespread use of wireless monitors.
"This is the first time that I have mixed a band that is completely on ears," says Sharp, who notes that the only amp-driven monitor on stage is a drum thumper. But the difference between Thomas' Sennheiser personal monitor system—which includes Ultimate Ears molds—and the brand that the rest of the band is using is "a night and day difference," says Sharp. "I'm really impressed. I can hear things a lot more distinctly and everything sounds a lot wider. There's more stereo imaging. You can really put up a good mix because of the sound and the tonal quality."
As for the SKM935G2 wireless vocal mic, "We're really happy with the new capsule,” Sharp says, “and it makes life a lot easier, because now I don't have to mix around the snare. With the old capsule, I was picking up too much drum kit. Now I actually have to add a little bit of snare to the mix."
Sharp's goal is to get every musician on personal monitors, he says, not only for the health aspect, but also because of the control it provides the FOH mixer. "It could probably save lots of ears from hearing damage from loud SPLs onstage," he comments. "The more bandmembers on ears, generally, the lower the stage volume, which equals a happy front-of-house mix. It makes life easier for the front-of-house engineer who doesn't have to fight the volume of the wedges blowing into a mic."
According to Sharp, the increased use of wireless systems such as those from Sennheiser have had a major impact on touring, allowing for cleaner stages with less cabling on-deck. RF systems have also impacted the monitor engineer's workload. "I feel I constantly try to stay on top by learning new pieces of RF gear and new methods to improve their effectiveness,” he says. "You have to do your homework and know what frequencies you are using, as well as other bands on a particular gig site to avoid train wrecks."
But in another sense, wireless monitors have reduced the workload, he continues. "The main difference between mixing wedges and ears is that when mixing wedges, I tend to spend a lot of time setting delay times on crossovers. I time-align my center wedge mix to my sidefills so that I can increase my gain before feedback and keep the quality of my mixes without having to over-EQ. Ear molds take away the whole time-alignment issue."
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