Headphone amplifier for IEM's

DomD

Junior Member
Hi everyone,

I just ordered a pair of IEM's (the "KZ ZS10 Pros" to be specific) and on another old post of mine someone recomended to me that I should get a headphone amplifier.

"...Now for in ears, unless your band has a PA then in ears will do you no good. If you do get in ears I would highly recommend a headphone amplifier that has a DB limiter on it so someone doesn't go stupid adjusting the board and send a huge signal boost to your ears. ..."

Since I have never played with a PA system and/or IEM's, I don't know what exactly should I look for.
Could tell me or recommend to me some companies or products?

I should also say that I am now tight on budget (that's why I bought the ZS10 Pros), so a cheap/value for money solution would be the best.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I can tell you, having been down this road myself, that there is one big consideration when it comes to what you need for your headphone amp:

What is the signal you're going to be able to get, and where is it coming from?

There are two basic signal strengths that you can get:

1.) Speaker level - this one will likely be problematic for you and will require some specialized equipment
2.) Line level - this one is a no-brainer. I'll touch on that in a minute.

When I started going down this road, my only option for a signal was to take an amplified signal that was powering a floor wedge monitor. Your typical small mixer can't handle that signal - it's too powerful, and it needs to be attenuated. I used a product called The ART HeadTap.

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/art-headtap-headphone-tap

(I left a review for this on Musician's Friend)

The "issue" is that although this little box takes any kind of signal and makes it usable, it doesn't contain a limiter. At the time I paired it with a FMR RNC Compressor to use as a limiter - I had a whole setup I used so that I could incorporate a click-track and all of that, and it was a bit of a pain, but it worked.

I've also used it without any kind of limiter - in that time I've gotten burned twice where someone screwed up and put a feedback spike right into my ear. Didn't cause any damage that I'm aware of, but I probably got lucky.

As long as you can conver the powered monitor signal to 1/4" input, it will get the job done, and it will also work with a line level signal - it just passes it through without attenuation.

With all of that said, I also have one of these:


This one DOES have onboard limiting to protect you from volume spikes. It runs one batteries so it's got enough power to bring volume up to a reasonable level for you with a basic on-off/volume knob, it has a belt clip, and it will take either 1/4" or XLR. With that said, you can't feed it a speaker level signal - if your only option is an amplified feed going to a passive floor wedge, you'll need something to take the edge off of that signal. I'm literally going to put velcro on my Behringer and attach it to my ART HeadTap. That will allow me to use whatever signal comes my way. (I should mention that part of the reason I needed flexibilty and carry a number of adpaters with me is because for a while, I was bouncing around, subbing at various churches, and every PA/Monitoring setup was different.)

Or....

You could do something like the RockOn Audio Tasty Blender V2 - it's designed from the ground up for exactly this kind of thing. It's also $200.


My setup does essentially the same thing, and although it's somewhat clunkier, it gets the job done.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I use a Behringer P2. Excellent & zero problems :) Cheap also.
Can you run an amplified floor monitor wedge signal into those? I was composing my post when you posted this.

When I built my first in-ears rig with the HeadTap and the compressor unit, I was dealing with a lazy POS church sound man who gave me every excuse in the book for why he couldn't send me a line-level signal to use, so I had to go out of my way to come up with something that I could use with what I was given - the amplified floor monitor signal. Initially I actually put an SM57 on my bass player's floor wedge.

The one nice thing the HeadTap allows is to be able to put it in the middle of a floor monitor chain - you can pass the signal through it.
 

Frosticles

Silver Member
Can you run an amplified floor monitor wedge signal into those? I was composing my post when you posted this.

When I built my first in-ears rig with the HeadTap and the compressor unit, I was dealing with a lazy POS church sound man who gave me every excuse in the book for why he couldn't send me a line-level signal to use, so I had to go out of my way to come up with something that I could use with what I was given - the amplified floor monitor signal. Initially I actually put an SM57 on my bass player's floor wedge.

The one nice thing the HeadTap allows is to be able to put it in the middle of a floor monitor chain - you can pass the signal through it.
We always have monitors from whatever PA the venue have. Be they big or small. I just always ask the sound person if I am ok to use IEM's Never had an issue. The lead that plugs into the drum monitor is used & plugged directly into the P2. Just adjust to the volume you want & away you go :) One of the best things I have ever bought.
 

rikguy33

Junior Member
I've been using the Rolls PM 50. https://rolls.com/product/PM50s
I take a signal from one the powered wedge monitors. This weekend will be the first using it with my new mixer (Behringer X16). I'll be able to controll my own monitor mix so hopefully the headphone amp works well with this setup.
 

ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
I use the Rolls PM50s as well with no issues, however I would advise you to buy one eith a built in limiter. All you need is a mic drop, guitarist switching to the wrong pedal, or a key player turning on a sequence cranked to 11 from another group he gigs with to have a really bad time. Trust me.
 

DomD

Junior Member
Thank you all for your responses, but since I have no experience with that kind of stuff I'd like to ask something more :

So if I got it right, I will face two scenarios

A) taking a signal from a monitor

B) taking a line level signal (that one is when the line comes from the main mixer??..)


So with the Behringer P2 I am protected against volume spikes, but I can't get a signal from a monitor.
With the RockOn Audio Tasty Blender V2 I am protected against volume spikes and I will be able to get any kind of signal?
The Behringer seems a nice value for money solution, but I'd like to be more flexible.

When I started going down this road, my only option for a signal was to take an amplified signal that was powering a floor wedge monitor. Your typical small mixer can't handle that signal - it's too powerful, and it needs to be attenuated. I used a product called The ART HeadTap.
What do you mean with "typical small mixer" ? Are you refering to the Behringer P2?

I use the Rolls PM50s as well with no issues, however I would advise you to buy one eith a built in limiter. All you need is a mic drop, guitarist switching to the wrong pedal, or a key player turning on a sequence cranked to 11 from another group he gigs with to have a really bad time. Trust me.
What do you mean buy one with a built-in limiter? You mean another product or are there different Rolls PM50s?
Can I get a line level signal with the Rolls?
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
What are you intending to listen to with your IEM's? I think when you determine what that is, then it's very easy to see what you need.

In a basic setting, if your band has a PA system with AUX outputs, then you want to take one of these outputs just for you, and then feed that output with what you want to hear. I'm assuming you'll at least be listening to the vocals if that's the only thing going through the PA system, yes?

OTOH, in one of my bands, everything is being fed into the PA system, and I can get a mix of every instrument and the vocals, and combinations of that. This is the ideal situation, because I noticed when I wear my IEMs (Ultimate Ears UE5's), just wearing those effectively seals my ears and I can't hear anything that isn't being fed into the PA to be sent to me. So I often tell bands, if they can afford a decent PA and want to do the in-ear monitoring route, then they ALL have to be on IEM's so they can all get their own monitor mix, and then the on-stage volume goes down, everybody can hear and relax and the audience enjoys the show too.

So just having in-ears isn't the answer. What you're doing with them will determine how far you have to go to make them work for you.
 

DomD

Junior Member
What are you intending to listen to with your IEM's? I think when you determine what that is, then it's very easy to see what you need.

In a basic setting, if your band has a PA system with AUX outputs, then you want to take one of these outputs just for you, and then feed that output with what you want to hear. I'm assuming you'll at least be listening to the vocals if that's the only thing going through the PA system, yes?

OTOH, in one of my bands, everything is being fed into the PA system, and I can get a mix of every instrument and the vocals, and combinations of that. This is the ideal situation, because I noticed when I wear my IEMs (Ultimate Ears UE5's), just wearing those effectively seals my ears and I can't hear anything that isn't being fed into the PA to be sent to me. So I often tell bands, if they can afford a decent PA and want to do the in-ear monitoring route, then they ALL have to be on IEM's so they can all get their own monitor mix, and then the on-stage volume goes down, everybody can hear and relax and the audience enjoys the show too.

So just having in-ears isn't the answer. What you're doing with them will determine how far you have to go to make them work for you.
At the time I need the IEM's for rehearsals, but we are now setting up the PA. We will probably be listening all the instruments throught the PA.
 

DomD

Junior Member
You take the feed directly from the monitor input lead.
...
With all of that said, I also have one of these:


This one DOES have onboard limiting to protect you from volume spikes. It runs one batteries so it's got enough power to bring volume up to a reasonable level for you with a basic on-off/volume knob, it has a belt clip, and it will take either 1/4" or XLR. With that said, you can't feed it a speaker level signal - if your only option is an amplified feed going to a passive floor wedge, you'll need something to take the edge off of that signal. I'm literally going to put velcro on my Behringer and attach it to my ART HeadTap. That will allow me to use whatever signal comes my way. (I should mention that part of the reason I needed flexibilty and carry a number of adpaters with me is because for a while, I was bouncing around, subbing at various churches, and every PA/Monitoring setup was different.)
What about this amplified feed going to a passive floor wedge. Is that a 3rd scenario?
 

trickg

Silver Member
What about this amplified feed going to a passive floor wedge. Is that a 3rd scenario?
That's exactly what the ART HeadTap is designed for - it takes the amplified feed and attenuates it down to either a line-level or headphone level signal - you can choose. You also have a volume control knob so that you can use it for monitoring. The only downside to The ART HeadTap is that it doesn't have an onboard limiter. It doesn't have to be an amplified feed either - a line-level feed will get passed through so that you have volume control with the volume knob.
 
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