In-ear monitors. Most of us have them by now, and they have become an indispensable part of many worship teams around the world. The ability to organize a team around a click track, cues, and even supplemental backing tracks is extraordinarily useful. I began using them a few years ago, and it has made me a better player and has given me more freedom to lead worship, since keeping the band together is at least partly given over to the click track. When I began to use in-ears some fellow worship leaders were talking to me about custom, multi-driver, in ear monitors. I was very intrigued by this notion. The claim was their sound was so good that it defied description. My interest was piqued…I like stuff to sound good. But I was a little hesitant to invest hundreds of dollars for custom molded headphones because I had no way of confirming these claims of others. But in the end, I decided the leap was worth it. Although I looked around for a while, I eventually went with Alclair Audio. I had seen them at a worship conference a few years ago and looking at their stable of artists, it is clear they have an affinity for worship leaders and bands.
Before I go on let me say this: my decision to get custom in-ears was fantastic. It is like the first time I decided to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut…changed my life forever, and it ruined all other doughnuts for me (well sort of…I really like doughnuts so I eat a variety of them anyway…it can be a problem sometimes…even stale doughnuts are better than zero doughnuts in my book…glaze are my favorite…so classic and simple, but so delicious…I may have gotten side tracked a little too long talking about dougnuts). You could say that the in-ears are like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for my ears…they are that good.
Ordering the in-ears from Alclair was fairly simple, after I decided what to order. There are a host of options available including number of drivers, how those drivers are tuned, and a whole host of aesthetic options. We contacted Andy from Alclair to help us make the decision and he suggested their Tour Triple Driver as their favorite for guitarists. So that is what I got. And they sound fantastic. Before the custom in-ears I would have a very squashed tone from my guitar in my ears. Any amount of breakup would sound like a hot mess of fuzz. It was so bad I would often take my headphones out and double check to make sure my tone was better. Not with the Tour Triple Drivers. Everything is so true to form. I can hear the nuances of my amp again, bringing even more pleasure from playing on stage. The sound is so good, that I began to listen to my favorite albums again because I could hear nuances I have never heard before. The sound is so intimate, that when I listened to a Yo-Yo Ma album I recognized the sound of his breathing on the record. In fact, in some cases I could hear the sound of a compressor turning on and off of a vocal…pretty awesome. Needless to say the sound clarity is almost shocking. The bass response is tight and powerful. These are not going to give you a heavy bass tone, but that it certainly not the point. What I was able to hear, which is very good for me as a worship leader, is the punch and tone of thebass guitar (something very hard to do in the midst of a band with a standard set of ear buds).
Alclair did a fantastic job recommending the right monitors for me. They also crafted a wonderfully comfortable, and frankly, a really cool looking set of in-ears. You would think the hard plastic would hurt your ears, but they fit perfectly and are easily wearable all day with no fatigue. Their craftsmanship is great, their customer service is spot on, and the in-ears were delivered on time. I am now officially a huge proponent of custom in-ears. They will forever be indispensable for me, and I had a fantastic experience with Alclair. When and if these ones ever break down, I could not imagine not replacing them immediately. This is a must-have for serious musicians and worship leaders who use in-ears instead of the venerable (and often chaotic) stage wedge.