Buyer's guide: Live sound monitors

DPme.com's verdict on the best live sound monitors.
Analysis, Content production
Analysis, Content production
Analysis, Content production
Sennheiser SR2050IEM
Sennheiser SR2050IEM
Shure PSM200
Shure PSM200
Yamaha CM15V
Yamaha CM15V
Mackie SRM150
Mackie SRM150
Galaxy Powered Hot Spot
Galaxy Powered Hot Spot
Samson Resound
Samson Resound

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DPme.com's essential guide to the latest live sound monitoring technologies.

IN-EAR MONITORS (IEMs)

Pioneered by Kenny G/Michael Bolton-types in the 1980s, in-ear monitors have slowly infiltrated the mainstream as the cost of production came down and the technology behind them improved.

S&S roadie rating: Lilly Allen (popular, mainstream, questionable talent in isolation).

I can’t hear you!

While in-ear monitoring (IEM) has become quite the rage in recent years among musos including Green Day’s Tre Cool, the technology still has limited applications outside vocal monitoring. Stage monitors, fills and IEMs often prove a more worthy combination than a uniform application of just one of these technologies.

Stage wedges

The industry standard, stage wedges remain by far the most popular tool for live sound monitoring during live production.

Their size and profile also make them the ideal choice for leg-up lead guitar solos.

S&S roadie rating: Iron Maiden (old-school favourites arguably past their use-by date).

Stand-mounted

The favoured choice of rich kid garage bands, stand-mounted monitors can be placed on mic stands and positioned close to the performer on stage. Handy and easily portable, but not as brilliant as some fans of the technology might have you believe.

S&S roadie rating: The Strokes (derivative, uninspiring, ultimately irritating).

Side-fills

Particularly useful for smaller shows where volume output is restricted and the artist benefits more from an immersive sound experience. Best used in conjunction with stage wedges.

S&S roadie rating: Jeff Buckley (Live at Sine era, ie: low-key, quiet achiever).

S&S HOT PRODUCTS
WIRELESS MONITORING SYSTEMS

High-end
Sennheiser SR2050IEM

The SR2050IEM ranks as one of the best – and most expensive – IEMs on the market. The powerful, rackmountable transmitter comes complete with Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager software, an integrated 5-band EQ, backlit display, infrared receiver sync, and switchable RF output power. It has 20 fixed frequency banks with up to 32 presets, providing for up to 3,000 frequencies at 75MHz switching bandwidth.

Entry-level
Shure PSM200

Shure’s most-affordable in-ear monitoring system is also one of its most popular. The package includes a dual-function receiver that operates as a wired and wireless bodypack; a built-in limiter to aid hearing protection; LED indicators for power, RF (radio frequency) signal strength, frequency, limiter, and battery level; and a ¼-inch line input jack.

S&S HOT PRODUCTS
STAGE WEDGES

High-end
Yamaha CM15V

One of the best wedges on the market, the recently redesigned CM15V 15” floor monitor boasts larger enclosures for improved low-frequency performance, improved drivers for higher power handling, redesigned crossovers, stronger grilles, and dual Speakon and 1/4” connectors.

Mid-range
Mackie SRM150

The SRM150 combines Mackie’s mixer and SRM active loudspeaker technologies to create a powerful three-channel PA system that is ultra-compact, versatile and expandable.

S&S Hot Shots
Galaxy Powered Hot Spot

Delivering an impressive 100 watts of power and a maximum SPL of 114dB, the Powered Hot Spot offers considerable bang for the buck.

Equipped with a Neolite Neodynium driver, the PA features 1/4-inch and XLR inputs, each with its own volume control. Both inputs can accept microphone or line level inputs, maximising the signal-to-noise ratio of virtually any input source.

Other features of note include a three-band graphic EQ, SmartALIC circuitry, class H power supply configuration and built-in compressor/limiter circuitry controls.

Verdict: Monstrous power output from a relatively lightweight, compact stand-mounted monitor.

Entry level
Samson Resound

Each Resound Speaker features two-way passive design, dual 1/4” and Speakon connections, and 1-inch compression drivers with a 1.5” titanium diaphragm. A decent foldback for those on a budget.

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