Ensuring In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) are clean, holes unclogged and all drivers are working can save you precious troubleshooting time and gain some confidence in your mix –although not the most glamorous daily task. This quick post will show you how to clean IEM quickly with just a few tools and a bit of time.
My tools and steps to clean in ear monitors:
“Cleaning Solution” This concoction was recommended to me by my audiologist for flushing out ears — equal parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar. I dip a lint free rag into this and wipe down each IEM before attempting to clean out any impacted holes.
Tip: Be sure to warm up the solution for 10 seconds in the microwave before flushing out your own ears
IEM Cleaning Tool This tool, often included with your IEM’s, has a small loop and a brush. I dip the loop in the cleaning solution and clean out the holes. The brush is good for hard to reach places. I’ll then use the Jodi-Vac to suck out the remaining wax.
Listening Tube Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with her ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to accommodate not knowing the failure.
TIP: Be very careful with the metal probe — only do this once the ears are CLEAN. You don’t want to push a blockage deeper into the IEM canal.
The fine folks at Sensaphonics in Chicago also offer a nice molded version for their customers.
Jodi-Vac Cleaning Pump
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio recommended Jodi-Vac cleaning pump . I use the “Consumer” model which seems to work just fine yet the is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip and tube clean. I tend to dip the needle in the cleaning solution and then, while the pump is on, plunge the needle into the cleaning tube. Seems to do the trick.
Silica Gel Packets Desiccant Dehumidifiers
After the show, try to let your IEM’s air out a bit before putting them back in a case. I tend to throw a Silica Gel Packet (Desiccant) in the case. This helps combat moisture. Quick and easy. Tip: Grab the “Indicating Packs” if you would like to keep an eye on when the pack no longer is absorbing moisture.
Flashlight This process is best done in the daylight but the take away is you want to have plenty of light to see any other issues BELOW the hole opening. IEM’s come in many different colors— some easier than others to see the “tubes” within the IEM.
I hope sharing my workflow is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have some other tips for cleaning IEM’s.
Other resources for how to clean your in-ear monitors (IEM’s):
Always prepared! I found the following items keep me prepared, safe, and less stressed. Being able to pack these items easily in some mic bags and thrown in a backpack allows you to travel super light yet prepared! This list is always growing — I’ll add more goodies as often as I can! I’ve linked to Amazon to make it easier for you to grab something you don’t already have.
A proper case!
The Pelican 1510. Small yet roomy enough for all of these goodies. Plus it has wheels and perfect for that extra step needed to get on that drum riser. Opt for the lid organizer to keep your kit tight!
TIP: My latest find thanks to fellow engineer, Rob Durkee, is the handy battery powered, bluetooth connected, print from your phone Epson LW-600P!
I always have a handful of good ole’ 3M "foamies" for myself and friends. I use and highly recommend the higher fidelity solution of a set of custom Sensaphonics ER Musicians Earplugs which are molded to your own ear resulting in much better isolation than “foamies”. In addition, the amount of attenuation can be easily changed by just replacing the small filters — I prefer the 15db.
Tip: I just became a dealer for Sensaphonics — ordering through me could save you some cash. Just send me an email!
Tip: In 2006 I came up with a simple solution to not loose that adapter — you know the one.. (I’ll post a link soon for you to make your own!)
Microphone with on/off switch
A microphone with a switch keeps you safe from “leaving the mic on” and not needing to pull down the fader or engage the mute. Switched mics are made by many manufacturers although I stick with a switched Sennheiser 835 or Shure SM58.
Yes, keep em’ sharp and always assume once you loan them to another human, the Sharpie will magically disappear. Save money and buy your Sharpies in the 12-count boxes. Using the “twin tip” is pretty helpful, too.
Tip: Writing on gaff tape dulls the tip of your Sharpie faster!
Mechanical pencil & Ink pens
Being able to erase a note or make a change on a stage plot or input list keeps the document looking tidy. I’m a big fan of the auto-advancing lead feature of the Uni-ball KuroToga mechanical pencil. An ink pen is also quite useful.
Yes, the ultimate tool and punt for our entertainment world. Endless uses including a safe way to carry a knife. (photo). “Gaff” tape, or Gaffers tape (reference to lighting grip uses) secures well without leaving residue (if used temporally and not sitting in the sun on on a mic cable for years…).Tons of color choices yet I stick with 2” black and white as well as 1/2” yellow/pink “spike”. Keep in mind the width can modified to any width you like on the roll.
Tip: A handy solution for getting off your knees while keeping cables, and people, safe on carpet is the GaffTech Tape Applicator .
Yes, still a useful item in our digital world. 1/2” artist tape like Pro Art White Artist Tape seems to be perfect to mark mixing consoles, wireless sticks and packs, and other goodies.
Tip: Masking tape, painters tape and gaff seem to be inferior choices for the job.
Remember a cable is just a “pipe”. The gender of the “ends” can be adapted easily using this wonderful problem solver when working with XLR cabling. I always carry at least a few pairs of each gender.
Tip: Don’t forget to label these! Also, you can always make your own turnarounds.
I’ve referenced this handy device many times and I never leave home without a few. Great for splitting FOH and MON channels, adding a safe backup when using vocal FX pedals, and more! For best flexibility, make them yourself. If you’d rather buy them, I’d recommend these.
“Pin-1 Lift” and ISO
A “pin-1 lift” can get you out of trouble when faced with a buzz or hum. I make my own using a short mic cable and not connecting pin-1. A better solution is a proper in-line insolation transformer like a Whirlwind ISOXL.
It’s inevitable that tunes will need to be played and pink noise generated. Having a handful of these simple cables fills the need. I tend to have 1/8” to XLR and 1/8” to RCA with a few RCA to 1/4” adapters. As usual, making them yourself is much more fun. If you’d rather buy, I’d recommend this (XLR) or this (1/4″). Whirlwind makes a nice in-line stereo-to-mono 1/8″ to XLR (keep in mind, MONO output).
Short-ish xlr cable
Because short ones can be hard to find when you only need 4 feet! Just make one. I’d recommend a bright color (like orange!)
Screwdriver — many-in-1
Having many sizes on one-tool fulfills our need to keep it light! The Klein 10-in-1 will last you forever — just engrave your name somewhere! For those of you that fly with your tools in your carry on, TSA limits the max length of any tool to 7 inches. (I’m sure there is a joke here…)
In 2005, I came up with this solution to help me visualize how higher frequency sound is dispersing from a speaker cabinet. Setting the unit to the speakers rated dispersion (60×90 degrees, 45×90, etc..), I can see the general coverage as well as limit reflections. Send me a email and I’ll reply with how to make your own!
A great tool to confirm audio of many flavors plus the ability to send 1K tone, yet my Whirlwind Q-Box broke a few years ago after a short fall onto a coliseum floor.
By the time it takes me to pull out my phone and find the torch/flashlight button, I can see what I need much quicker with one of these good ‘ole pushbutton flashlight.
I tend to stick with mechanic gloves which seem to fit well and last a while. I manage to lose the left-glove on a regular basis. I’m sure there are many, many right-hand gloves, once worn by me, scattered all over America. Tip: Mark your stuff!
“Helping Hands” — Great for soldering. I use this one. Aspirin -Headaches happen Hat & sunscreen– That fireball in the sky is lovely but… Bug spray – Yes, essential. Flash drives Ethercon Barrel Speakon Coupler Extra RF Whip antennas
Much more to come. Stay tuned!
New live sound classes!
By popular demand, I’m developing a series of smaller hands-on classes covering one specific topic such as:
Live Sound for Musicians
Digital and analog console training.
If helpful to you, fill out the short form below and I’ll keep you in the loop on when registration will be open!