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in Ear Monitors Invented

When were In-Ear Monitors invented and why?

If you are a musician, an audio engineer or even an audiophile, you would want to make your listening experience better. You don’t want one of those ‘audited’ headphones out there that make the music look better.

Instead, you would want something that gives you the right tones, and the real highs and lows. However, it’s not as easy to get one – and that’s what is sure to bother many music lovers.

Why not go for something that gives you just the mix of vocals – which you can use whether you love music at home or on stage for live performances? IEM’s or In-Ear Monitors are what you’re looking for, and you could customize them to fit you comfortably. You can also use them during audio mixing making them the perfect all-around solution. With noise reduction from your surroundings, you have nothing to worry about.

Sounds like such a sophisticated device, doesn’t it? Well, it is!


When Were In-Ear Monitors Invented?

However in-ear monitors(IEMs) were not invented until two decades ago. So how did live performances go on? Because the show must go on, right?

Well, the show did go on. Live performances, concerts; orchestras had begun way before anyone even thought that there was a need of in-ear monitors.

In Ear MonitorsThe live performances and music concerts used huge speaker-like devices called stage monitor wedges. These were large boxes these were placed in front of the performer, and a stage desk separately mixed the stage sound. And the result was, the stage sound was often not very high.

Also, there were orchestras. Oh! The grandeur! Substantial extravagant bands are comprising hundreds of musicians and thousands of people in the audience. That 60-piece orchestra had a charm of their own. How did they manage? They listened to each other.

The Top Problems When You Didn’t Have In-Ear Monitors

Sure, you may have had access to so many musicians even in the early 1900’s, but it surely wasn’t the same back then.

All these methods came with their share of drawbacks. Here is a look at all that plagued music lovers and musicians alike.


The stage monitor wedges could only be placed in front of one performer, so the others were at a disadvantage.

The stage monitor wedges significantly increased the onstage volume

While the stage monitor wedges amplified the noise, the musicians were not able to hear themselves. More stage monitors led to more amplitude and more stage noise.

The musicians in the orchestra often could not understand a lot of instruments. The musicians at one end couldn’t even understand the devices laying at the other end. It only makes sense since the orchestras used to be nearly 75-feet wide!


The Need for In-Ear Monitors

So, it was realized that there was a need for the more sophisticated system. History is a testimony to the fact that only when there is a need felt for something is it created; the same happened with IEM’s.

Homemade in-ear monitors did begin surfacing in the early 1970’s, and Chris Lindop made more effective in-ear monitors and used by Stevie Wonder in the 1980s.

DIY in Ear MonitorsStevie Wonder had a mobile broadcast-standard FM radio station Wonderland Radio while on tour with Chris Lindop for giving performances. On stage, Wonder used a standard Walkman FM Radio receiver tuned to Wonderland Radio which broadcast his mix to him via a pair of earbuds. It was his way of ensuring that he kept to the tune and that performers alongside him had no problem keeping track of it all.

This system allowed Wonder to walk freely around the stage listening to his mix while performing. It was from him that the idea of in-ear monitors was born – as other musicians saw how useful this was.

Chris Lindop, who was a sound engineer, went on to develop smaller systems for many artists after this. He established the Radio Station which was later manufactured by Garwood Communications.

But would be almost a decade before any significant development occurred.

In 1995, while Jerry Harvey, yet another sound engineer, while touring with Van Halen as a monitor engineer, drummer Alex Van Halen felt the intense volume of stage monitors were hurting his ears and making it difficult for the band members to communicate with each other on stage during their performance.

Alex expressed interest in personal in-ear monitors as a means of reducing volume on stage and Jerry started researching options.

After deciding no quality monitors were available, Jerry used his experience in the arena of sound engineering to create the first 2-way custom earpieces.

He found a high-frequency driver and after some searching added a pacemaker speaker designed to help users get a ‘zap’.

In-ear monitors were a natural evolution of not being able to hear. They blocked -26Db of noise while also providing a sound source that does not contribute to overall stage noise for other musicians. In turn, they delivered an exceptional private mix at safe hearing levels, something that both audiophiles and artists loved.

For music lovers, it meant that they could listen to all the music that they needed, quickly, without worries. For artists, it said that sound recording and mixing got simpler as they could hear the right tones. Additionally, when they were performing on stage, they didn’t have to worry about missing out on beats any more as they could listen to all that was happening, crystal clear.

In-Ear Monitoring

In-Ear Monitors Today

In-ear monitors have got popular in the last two decades among all musicians and music lovers.

With this invention, every band member has his or her monitor mix according to their performance of vocals and instruments. They decreased the overall onstage and improved the clarity of the mix for the performers.

And this is how in-ear monitor brought a revolution in the music industry. Do you use in-ear monitors for yourself too? Let us know in the comments below!

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