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Author Topic: In-ear monitor tour tips  (Read 11865 times)

Dana Salminen

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In-ear monitor tour tips
« on: March 16, 2012, 11:41:19 am »

Hi Everyone,

Been lurking for a while, but this is my first post. Going on my first tour running monitors. Got added last second (and heading out in a few days), so I've had very little time to prepare or speak with the band/FoH engineer. Here's what I know:

- Arena tour
- PM5D-RH (I have a lot of experience with digital Yamaha consoles, but only used this board a few times)
- Instrumentation: DJ, Drums, Bass, Keys, 2 Guits, a few vocals
- Most of band on ears (Senn G2's), a few members on wedges (not sure who yet)

I was hoping that some of the more experienced monitor engineers can give me a few tips/tricks for getting this board set up and running for this kind of show.
- Any tips for getting everyone a good basic mix across wedges/in-ears during a short sound check?
- Do you generally start off giving everyone a full in ear mix?
- Do you start off with FX, or dial those in after you have a basic mix going?
- Do you compress your mix outs for the ears or try to keep more of the dynamics?
- Any specific precautions you take to make sure that those with ears don't get deafened by an errant unplugged mic/loud pop etc (besides obviously being careful not to let those things happen)? Do you set a limiter at the TX, the board output? Both?
- Any workflow tips on this board so that I can easily cue up ears or wedges?
- Any other words of wisdom to hopefully not get a "glare of death" from band or crew?

Thanks!
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Jelmer de Jong

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2012, 03:43:17 pm »

- Do you generally start off giving everyone a full in ear mix?

Yes. Most of the time I dial every aux to -10, but the drum-channels -3 to the drum-mix, key channels -3dB to the key mix, etc. At linecheck you turn the gain and everyone will instantly hear something. Ignore people telling something has to be louder or something is to loud, let them wait till you have gained every channel. Most of the time every channel they hear is to quiet or to loud, which can be simply resolved with the musician turning the knop on their receiver. This way you end up with a healthy gain-structure in every mix, which is nice when you switch between pfl/afl channel/mixes.

- Do you start off with FX, or dial those in after you have a basic mix going?

No FX, just get the mix going on. I use FX when everything else works.

- Do you compress your mix outs for the ears or try to keep more of the dynamics?

No compression to make things less bad. If there's something to dynamic, the person should learn how to tame his/her instrument. But if the musicians are top-notch a comp or gate can be a nice tool.

- Any specific precautions you take to make sure that those with ears don't get deafened by an errant unplugged mic/loud pop etc (besides obviously being careful not to let those things happen)? Do you set a limiter at the TX, the board output? Both?

When using digital its pretty easy to set a inf:1 comp on the output, just above playing level.

- Any workflow tips on this board so that I can easily cue up ears or wedges?

Not from me, sorry.

- Any other words of wisdom to hopefully not get a "glare of death" from band or crew?

Make sure the people on stage know how to communicate with you. Someone looking at you with a weird face isn't helpfull when you have 40+ channels, which can be both turned up or down ::)
Thanks!
This is how I do it.
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Jordan Wolf

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2012, 01:57:43 am »

- Any tips for getting everyone a good basic mix across wedges/in-ears during a short sound check?
AND
Quote
- Do you generally start off giving everyone a full in ear mix?
I'm not going to answer these both directly, but here's my take on mixing monitors consistently for any group:

As the MON engineer, you need to develop a very good relationship with the band.  One of the best ways is some one-on-one time with each member to discuss what they prefer to hear as well as what has worked well for them in the past and what hindered them or was lacking from past performances/tours.  You need to find ways to improve what they're used to in a way that suits their individual tastes.

With IEMs, it's much more of a studio-in-your-head environment.  You have control over so many parameters and, with IEMs that actually isolate well and have good fidelity, you can really tweak things for each person.  A little bit goes a L-O-N-G wayÖmuch more than you'd think compared to mixing wedges.

Quote
- Do you start off with FX, or dial those in after you have a basic mix going?
AND
Quote
- Do you compress your mix outs for the ears or try to keep more of the dynamics?
I tend to start with a dry mix and then add in reverb to help the overall sound seem more natural.  It's too sterile without any FX, in my opinion, because you don't get the reflections, etc. from the room.  This brings up another point: audience mics.  Use them, pan them, fade them in and out between songs.  You'll develop a rhythm as you go and will find the best placement from venue to venue, but they help open up the sound of the IEM mixes so that performers can feel more at home on stage.

Quote
- Any specific precautions you take to make sure that those with ears don't get deafened by an errant unplugged mic/loud pop etc (besides obviously being careful not to let those things happen)? Do you set a limiter at the TX, the board output? Both?
Well, I think most professional units out there have some form of limiting built in (some defeatable, some not).  There's a unit from Symetrix that works well for this job, but many units with DSP could work just fine, too.  It all depends on budget and rider requirements.

Quote
- Any other words of wisdom to hopefully not get a "glare of death" from band or crew?
Always keep a line of communication open between the band and you.  It's really nice to be able to pop into their IEM mix, ask them a question or inform them of something, and them give you a quick nod, etc. to know "message received".  It''s also really important to work out some visual cues with each member  that says, "Hey, turn this up" or "Turn this down" without it being obvious to the audience.  Hand signals, instrument movements, etc. are effective ways of letting you know something needs to change.  You need to figure that out with the group.

Above all else, have fun and enjoy the experience.  Remember that you are catering to the group as individuals and as a whole, so those people skills need to be exercised as much as, if not more than, your audio chops.
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Jordan Wolf
<><

"We want our sound to go into the soul of the audience, and see if it can awaken some little thing in their minds... Cause there are so many sleeping people." - Jimi Hendrix

John Neil

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2012, 04:19:20 am »

Dana,

I probably spend 1/3 of my show days working in a venue as the house dude, thus often being asked to be the monitor dude for the headliner, possibly more.  I'm also 5d fluent though most of my time on them is at FOH position.  We're on a run of shows where I seem to be mixing monitors including artist provided ears on a nightly basis.  Most of these bands are used to using the club dude and know how to work with a different deaf/difficult/indifferent guy each night to get mixes that are sufficient mixes.  Going into line check blind each time, I have a long list of pitfalls to protect myself from, each of which can force me into having a bad night.  As an example, last night I mixed monitors from FOH for the first of three, monitors from SOS for second of three (wedges plus fills), and monitors from SOS for the headliner (5 stereo mixes, fills, wedges, reverbs, etc.)

I'm aware that there are guys on this forum that mix monitors for a living and I'm not one of them.  When I meet those guys as a system tech, we usually get along pretty well.  SL wing is a place I can picture myself being happy on tour, so Iím jealous.  It's late and I just got home from the venue so I can't sleep.  If you're newer to 5d, new to the band, and newish to ears, here are my observations.  Please bear in mind I'm a guy that never mixes the same band twice because I work for providers, venues, etc. 

5d allows you to assign one of the stereo faders to the monitor bus and the other to the cue bus.  Do this, so you have a cue fader for each.  Just use the cue outs for your live wedge and the monitor outs for your pack, and then make sure to deactivate the "stereo to monitor bus" default feed so you don't get blasted in your ears/cue wedge when you clear the cue.  And don't forget that the monitor knob in the upper right hand portion of the console needs to be set to full to get your monitor/cue fader operational.

5d is going to split your life into two fixed layers of 24 channels each.  Build your show so that important inputs that you plan on needing a ton are on one layer.  IE, drums on the other layer.  Do all this in the soft patch.

User defined key 25 is easy to reach fast.  It's the one every house guy in the universe wants to use as a tap tempo...right above the center section.  At monitors I've used it both as a "cue clear" button ala LS9, and also as a fader flip button.  I prefer the second option as a short reach with the "mix selection" right hand is a much better alternative to the long reach with the left arm for the fader flip button.  Then I put cue clear on another UDK somewhere.  The ďset to nominalĒ UDK is a handy way to line up all your faders when you get ready to build your mixes post-fader.

Save often and save externally half as often.  There are too many stories about console crashes out there.  Youíll be prepared to bring in a replacement fast if you have your show in three places at all times.

On the user preferences menu there is an option that allows the "cue and mix select" functions to follow each other.  Thus, by hitting the cue button for a given mix while in fader flip mode (eight cue buttons are really close to you in the center section) the faders jump to the mix that also just popped up in your ears.  This is the fast way to triage a bunch of mixes but the mix send portion of the console is too.

The six layers of eight faders in the center section are custom assignable.  This way you can get important mixes on one layer, or perhaps wedges on one layer and IEM on another, or even get eight stereo mixes in one layer by only assigning the left channel (they'll still cue and edit as a stereo mix pair even if the right is hidden.)  If your most used channels are in one layer and your most used mixes are too, you'll have fewer layer flips between you and your targets.

My strategy is that each IEM mix gets a dedicated reverb routed to it.  Then I send each vocal into the reverb corresponding to that IEM mix and pull the faders down for those reverb channels.   When we line check that vocal all I have to do is push the fader up on the reverb once I have the vocal level set.  My goal here is to quickly get vocal reverb into the mixes (if needed.)  If other items need reberb I add those to the effect mix send later.  For artists not comfortable on ears, having some reverb on it (and having it fast) seems to calm the nerves before they give up, pull out one ear, and point to the sidefills.  I observe that I need to stick to longer predelay times relative to a house mixing situation, then adjust the decay time and high ratio of each reverb from song to song.  My goal is to keep the reverb from crowding the mix in a negative way.  My customers indicate that reverb on snare is fair game.  I also feel that when reverb helps, it usually only helps on a player's "self" items.  For instance, if joe needs to hear sam's vocal and sax, joe doesn't necessarily benefit from reverb on sam's vocal and sax like sam did.

Some artists with crowded mixes seem to benefit from mild panning across a stereo field.  Some are quick to make funny faces and call me out on it.  From there on in, they pretty much get everything down the middle.  Seems to be a "what you're used to" thing.

Most bands indicate that use of drum overheads (plus kick and snare) is the best way to get the drum kit into their earholes.  Here, panning seems to be liked by the drummer but less by other players. The cool thing with overheads is that now when the musicians talk to me, I can hear them...since overheads are generally a part of every mix and I constantly have a mix cued into my IEMs.

As soon as I meet the band's FOH, I have the names of the players scribbled on my hand in sharpie.  I also ask if any of the musicians are ďspecialĒ and what the deal on reverb is.  As soon as I can find a piece of paper, I have a map on the console so I can quickly refer to people I've never met before by name.  My talkback goes on a stand in front of me so I can work with two hands.  Later in check that switched mic sits in my lap.  Introducing myself to the drummer and the guy in keyboard world with 24 inputs for a quick strategy talk seems to establish a good working relationship where communication is open.  ďHey youĒ generally seems uncomfortable and inhibits collaboration.  Thatís why I try to shake every hand.  Don't ever let them tell you they're sorry for "all those additional adjustments." Sorry is not a word they get to use.  It's my job to facilitate their performance and their comfort in being able to reach out over their left shoulder is something I make an effort to build.  For you, this will look different.

When I'm having that conversation with the drummer and the key player they ultimately tell me that they need everything in their mix.  So the content of that conversation wasn't very important, but having it was.

They will play louder for show.  That means nobody will be able to hear themselves because of all the other stuff that's too much louder in the mix.  Ultimately I have to rebuild every mix at showtime by putting "self" inputs back on top of "other people" inputs.  Even after things have settled down, they go to the next song and a new sax comes into play.  I need to stay with the mixes to apply what I've learned with all those other adjusted inputs.  Leave yourself some transmit headroom at check so you can deal with this.

Even with bands Iíve never worked with before, I notice patterns of movement on stage.  Often when Iím about to get an IEM monitor call I can tell because the player has turned his torso or is looking strange towards another position.  Anything more than a quick glance across stage gets my attention.  By the time they look my direction I already have my cue on their mix and my hand on the knob.  I donít claim to be great at my job but it feels great when thatís the flow.  5d is a great tool for the job because you donít need the screen to mix.  Youíll catch more of those quick glances this way.

Wedges with IEMS.  Well, gain staging issues aside, I've learned that a kick drum eq that translates through the ears sounds horrible on my wedges.  So I have to double that channel up if the FOH isn't already giving me two channel strips of kick to work with.  I often wish I had doubled up a few channels in the mix so I could apply unique EQ for discrete mixes.  Often I find a comp on kick and snare helps them to sit into IEM mixes, but this gets complex when using wedges also.  Not using comps in monitors is a valid point with regards to facilitating good dynamic behavior on stage but input comps are worth considering when speakers are implanted into ear canals of performers. 

Yeah, gain structure.  My former method was to put every vocal into itís own mix at unity aux send and then encourage the musicians to set their pack volume accordingly.  This gave us a good reference point to build mixes around and also kept me mixing inside the audio taper sweet spot of the knobs.  If the drummer didnít sing then I needed a reference for him and used the kick.  I gave up on this process some time ago for rock and roll situations where the band is carrying transmitters and are used to putting the volume knob in the same place every night.  Now, I dump 15 db of output gain (or mix master volume) on the ear mixes as a starting point.  That gets me back into the sweet spot on both wedge and iem mixes on most systems.  Sometimes I need to give 5 db of that back, but those times are rare and Iíll know a channel or two after we begin check.  Take away from this what you will but compliant gain staging between visiting band IEM rigs and my wedges is a constant challenge. 

You'll notice huge variations from person to person on how much dynamic spread they want in their mixes.  I had a guitar player recently who I promise had his guitar 15 dB on top of his mix, yet he was very sensitive to the other elements of the mix and subtle adjustments of them.  Other times I end up with a happy musician when everything is the same level (and EQ becomes my main mixing tool.)  Once I place a musician on this spectrum I can peg pretty well what they want when they call an adjustment.

5d has a comp on every mix.  Iíd probably consider using them at a high ratio with a gentle knee as a limiter to protect my musicians.  I can see how rogue unplugging of instruments could cause some friction on the bus.  My observation is that my bands donít rely on me to stay on mute patrol, and often ask if they are safe to unplug.  However, my bands are dealing with a different monitor guy each night, soÖ

Finally, if someone looses their molds and has to use a set of $5 ipod buds, you're going to have a difficult night.  Don't ask me how I know.  I'd want to pack a set of high end earbuds ($100 to $200 kind of thing) as tour spares.

Your situation is different, but Iím anxious to see some discussion on these topics as full blown IEM mixing has largely been something I have had to learn by reading the faces of my customers.  Have fun out there.

Edit: wow, that got stupid long, fast.  Sorry.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2012, 01:26:38 pm by John Neil »
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kristianjohnsen

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2012, 05:07:35 am »

John.

Great post.  Thanks!
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peter dakin

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2012, 06:45:32 pm »

John.

Great post.  Thanks!
+1 for john, he's pretty much wrapped up everything on the 5D/Monitor job that I know. Especially fader-flip on UDK25 and getting to know the band.

If you chat to them first you find out what they want and can have a rough mix dialled in, way before soundcheck happens and helps keep everyone off your back whilst you get going. Also avoids the 'I said I didn't want X in my Ears' which you failed to hear as they mumbled it whilst walked onto stage.


A final little 'tip bit' I've picked from a old shure manual was to treat your RF as an actual broadcast, and to ensure your mix has the best preparation with which to broadcast.
In basic terms this means 'dumming' down your mix to 50hz-15khz, to leave a clean space for the 19khz pilot tone and the MPX (stereo multiplexed transmission) processing.
If the 19khz pilot tone isn't stable, then the stereo signal falters at the receiver, or worse case scenario, mutes.
Ensuring this clear area (with simple HPF/LPF EQ) for the pilot will not only give you better RF stability, but also gives you at the desk, a better audio representation of what the performer is hearing (if you haven't a RF cue pack).
As part of the MPX, hard panned regions of the stereo mix are difficult to encode and receive and thus can be lost, so try to avoid hard panned instruments stick to 9/10 and 2/3 o'clock panning.
The mild compression also aids encoding.

in terms of the 5D:
  • have the left 24 mix dials set to mix sends, for quickly sending instruments to multiple mixes, however I'm quicker with sends on faders.. its what ever works best for you.
  • I like to have top 24 meters set to mix masters, channels 1-24 or 25-48, this way you can keep an even eye on everyone's mixes
  • On a graphic EQ, hold 'shift' and hit A, B, C, D. This flips graphic to designated 8 frequencies (see bottom of graphic page for key)
  • Use the DCA's, they're not just there for FOH! ;) They can help for little rides of key instruments (solos etc), also useful in tight venues where FOH is boosting vocals massively for 'chatting' sections and just starting to 'excite' your vocals, couple dB pull on vocal DCA, no-one hears difference as its 'chat', but stops feedback kicking off and gives FOH a couple more dB. They're also great 'EMERGENCY' mute masters

Keep it as simple as humanly possible to start off with. Just get the job done, then work on making it sound better.
DCA's, MUTES, FX will only tie you up in knots and trip you up.. add them as you need them or feel bored! :)

Have fun, look after your ears both hygienically and sonically and make sure you clean yours and your bands IEM's regularly to keep them working, but also to ensure no ear infections.
Microfoam is a little snazzy mic sanitizers that leaves mic smelling nice and germ free. Alcohol wipes work just as well. Label everyones vocal mics, helps stop the spread of germs.

Save often as mentioned, but also SAVE TWICE!!! I like to save duplicate Scenes, in-case of stupidity.

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John Neil

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2012, 07:58:59 pm »

Peter,

Thanks.  Like I said I haven't had much guidance from successful MEs regarding IEM treatment.  Any strategy I have is largely guided by night to night critical examination of stage smiles and head nods from Stage Left, Clubland.

You bring up the 19 kHz pilot tone consideration.  As much as I see nice condenser mics used on hat and overhead and then routed to ear mixes I assume my ear mixes have content out there, especially when I sit behind analog hardware.  Even if my physiological ears could receive it, I doubt my cue buds could transmit at that end of the spectrum.

Generally I assume that the transmitters I'm working with (usually PSM900 or Senn G3) are smart enough to have a LPF on the inputs prior to stereo fm multiplexing.  Is this not a safe assumption?  Should a 5d user dedicate one of their eight bands of mix parametrics to a LPF for ear mixes?  Should I patch a graphic on ear mixes within my analog world and play death above 16k?  Generally my first priority for graphs is wedge and fill mixes, but...

This is largely my fault for not knowing as I have yet to spend the $600 on a RF setup for a personal cue and have been relying on the headphone jack.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 08:02:25 pm by John Neil »
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Ben Brunskill

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2012, 08:09:44 pm »


This is largely my fault for not knowing as I have yet to spend the $600 on a RF setup for a personal cue and have been relying on the headphone jack.

You should really get yourself an RF system, preferably the same system the band is using, (G3 or PSM900) so you can actually hear what they do. Even get similar IEM's, I know a monitor engineer who has UE10's, Sensaphonic 2X and a pair of non-custom Westone UM2. On each gig, he'll use the pair that are closest to what the band are using.
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John Neil

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2012, 08:46:04 pm »

You should really get yourself an RF system, preferably the same system the band is using.

Ben, if I were going out on tour...ever...to do monitors I would order them tomorrow.  The variety in my employment diet keeps my calendar full but makes staying ahead of gear acquisition syndrome a daunting task.  The list of nice things that would improve my craft but not get used daily to create more/better gigs is pretty long, as I'm sure it is for all of us.  It has been suggested that a G3 and UE7 setup is in my near future, a trigger I'd pull tomorrow if touring monitor runs were on the docket.  Electronics for occasional use are far more fun but a good raincoat and some fresh footwear for mud-fest season fall higher up the list...not that either of those will create additional customer traffic either.

That is, however, a completely an OT discussion about me.  Back to the OP.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 01:05:10 am by John Neil »
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peter dakin

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Re: In-ear monitor tour tips
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2012, 03:09:55 pm »

You bring up the 19 kHz pilot tone consideration.  As much as I see nice condenser mics used on hat and overhead and then routed to ear mixes I assume my ear mixes have content out there, especially when I sit behind analog hardware.  Even if my physiological ears could receive it, I doubt my cue buds could transmit at that end of the spectrum.
Its not a question of hearing it yourself, its a question of shaping your mix output, in such a way that the converter can do the best job, with the minimum of fuss. If you're sending info it can't handle, it has to sort it out, rather than giving it the audio, all tied up in a neat bow.

Generally I assume that the transmitters I'm working with (usually PSM900 or Senn G3) are smart enough to have a LPF on the inputs prior to stereo fm multiplexing.  Is this not a safe assumption?  Should a 5d user dedicate one of their eight bands of mix parametrics to a LPF for ear mixes?
As I mentioned, I gleamed the EQ moulding from a 2007 Shure article! So who knows what in the boxes now a days. If its there, then I've already taken that information out, so it hasn't hindered the audio. If it isn't there, then my EQ has done its job.
I keep my IEM outputs flat except for the said HPF/LPF, so doesn't worry me using 2 out of 8 bands.

Should I patch a graphic on ear mixes within my analogue world and play death above 16k?  Generally my first priority for graphs is wedge and fill mixes, but...
good point.. on analogue I tend to not bother, as dumping a load of faders down on a graphic is probably going to cause much more problems, and no-one ever has rack parametric, let alone enough to do all my mixes. I figure its an analogue desk, it'll probably sound better already!  ;D

This is largely my fault for not knowing as I have yet to spend the $600 on a RF setup for a personal cue and have been relying on the headphone jack.
Always try to keep the 'money' pack till the last second, its quite a revelation, comparing the desk output to a RF pack. By keeping the 'money' pack, you can check the differences between your desk and the RF and check the 'money' has a great sounding pack.
If all the band walks out at same time, you'll just have to get on with it, as you have been doing. 80% of my gigs I still use the headphone out for IEM cue. Budgets are always tight. However I always, when touring, specify at least one spare IEM pack if nothing else (I usually stamp my feet for 2xpacks and a transmitter). I then tune the spare pack into the 'Money' IEM mix.

I haven't gone down the line of buying my own RF unit. There's so many brands/models out there that chances of having the same as the band are slim. Its an outlay that's never really going to earn you money.
A much better way to spend your money is on IEM's, get some decent moulded ones and look after those ears.
I have a UK ACS T1's triple custom moulded ears that I wear on ALL shows, and a cheap pair of foam UM2's to EQ out/check gain structure when bands are on E5's/foam ears.
Its great having same IEM's as artist, but IEM's are like microphones, everyone has their preference and you'll generally find within just one band at least two different makes/models.

Depends how much disposable income you have I guess. If money's not tight, then go for multiple IEM's. I'd love a pair if UE's or JH's as they're all hard moulds, rather than my comfy soft silicon ones.
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