Which personal monitoring system is best for your needs? After working with both the Aviom and Hear Back systems in different churches, guest blogger Charlie Eaton gives a complete review of the Hear Back system…
So the church I am running sound for installed Hear Technologies’ Hear Back personal monitor mixing system. We are using them for an in ear monitor system instead of having noisy speaker wedges on the stage messing with the front of house mix. I am new to the Hear Back system; I come from a church that had an Aviom system installed. There are similarities and differences between the systems. Without going into the pros and cons of in-ear monitor systems vs. stage wedges, and not wanting to turn this into an Aviom vs. Hear Back list I am just going to cover some of the specific likes and dislikes I have found so far in using the Hear Back system.
CAT5e: I like that Hear takes advantage of networking cable same as Aviom does, well they don’t use A-net but you get the point. This can make installation simpler and sometimes cheaper depending on your setup. If your sound booth is a fair distance from your stage then setting a rack unit in the sound booth to grab your Aux channels then sending that over 1 CAT5e cable to another rack unit by the stage vs 8 XLR is cheaper. In most cases even running 8 CAT5e cables all the way to the stage is cheaper. In any case being able to link everything together with CAT5 is great.
Direct mounts to mic stands: Something Aviom likes to charge $30 per head unit for, after you have already paid close to $400 for the receiver. Hear Backs have a screw mount in the bottom of the unit so you just screw it to any standard mic stand and you’re done. The cheaper solution just got $30 cheaper.
Simple: I know that doesn’t sound like something to rave about, but I have bought some “cheap” solutions in the past and they were anything but as simple as the quality model I should have bought. That’s not true with the Hear Back system. It really is easy to install. We bought two of the 4 pack packages that have the rack unit included. You just take the provided 8-way cable and plug it into all your Direct Out / Aux channels on your sound board, plug that cable into the back of the rack unit, then plug in the provided 50ft Cat5e cables to the front of the rack unit, plug those Cat5e cables into the Hear Back receivers and your done. Plug in some head phones and turn up what you want.
Aux input on the receiver: The idea of being able to plug in an audio feed directly at your receiver is attractive. Especially if I am a drummer and want a clicktrack. Sure there are other ways to implement click track so that everyone can hear if they want, but being limited on channels (we’ll get to that in a minute) an Aux input on the unit is helpful. Also just a tip, the Aux input is what Hear Technologies advertises makes it a 10-channel system. The Aux is a Tip Ring Sleeve 1/8 adapter so you can run a stereo input into it, but you will only be able to hear that when plugged into that receiver only. It’s not 10 channel distributed to all receivers.
8 channel (no 6) max inputs: First the advertised limitation of 8 channels is a bummer but to find out that really it’s only 6 center panned channels is downright false advertising. Channels 1 and 2 on the Hear Back system are hard panned left and right. I am not exactly sure why, maybe the people at Hear Technologies haven’t heard of the panning knob on a sound board. If I want something to be left or right ear only I can do that on the sound board, but forcing me to put a snare in the left ear only is not a feature I am excited about. For us, fortunately, I am able to group our worship team down to 6 channels then put my talk back mic in one of the hard panned channels. But Hear Backs advertised 8 channels needs an * to caveat their little secret.
Numbering System: 3,4,5,6,7,8,1,2 (take a look) Yes sir that’s how I learned it in school. I don’t know how many times I have heard from the stage “1 is on the bottom” when they are trying to adjust audio in their ears. Maybe my heightened aggravation to that is due to my OCD when it comes to labeling things.
I have to say, for the budget-minded installation, this system is great. For 1/3 of the cost of Aviom it stands up pretty well for a personal mixing system. And if you only need 6 center panned mixes and numbering patterns don’t bother you then you shouldn’t have any complaints.
Charlie Eaton is a sound guy, IT professional, and a photographer. You can check out his personal blog at http://alt-road.blogspot.com/ as well as his photography site at Open Sky Studios.
Question(s): What type of monitoring do you use? Are floor wedges meeting the needs of the band? What’s your experience with Aviom and Hear Back? Musicians, what do you think?
Thought? Questions? Comments?