I’ve had the opportunity over the years to review in-ear monitors, or IEMs, more than once — and I’m definitely a fan. Having learned to DJ first for radio mixshows, using big can-style headphones was never part of my style, even after I started doing club work, nor today when I handle primarily mobile gigs. I prefer the passive noise reduction and audio quality of properly fitted (or custom-molded) IEMs.
One problem for DJs using IEMs, however, is having conversations with others, such as handling requests – you can’t merely slip off IEMs like you do with headphones. While I’ve gotten the hang of removing an IEM to talk to people, I was intrigued when I was introduced to a new IEM solution at this past Winter NAMM show back in January.
ASI Audio was demonstrating its new 3DME, an IEM solution with a unique attribute: on the outside of each IEM is a small microphone. The IEMs plug into a small body pack (rather than directly to a sound source), and at the press of a button, you can add ambient sound to the monitored mix, enabling you to hold conversations or easily hear what’s going on around you.
The third component of the system is an Android-based app that you can install on a smartphone or tablet. With the app, you can adjust the sound level of the mics, button behaviors on the body pack for enabling those mics, as well as a limiter, EQ and other options. The Android device connects to the body pack via USB, and once you have the settings you want, simply download them to the pack, and disconnect the USB.
The body pack is designed to provide up to seven hours of continuous monitoring, which should be sufficient for even the longest DJ sets. The included USB power brick and cable are used for charging, and LEDs indicate the charge level.
The monitors themselves are universal fit, and three sizes of replaceable ear tips are provided, with custom-molded ones also available.
In testing, I found the 3DME app and settings sync process took some getting used to, but it’s easy enough. And while my assessment is very much subjective, with the EQ settings left at “flat” in the app, I’m not convinced that the frequency response curve of the monitors was truly completely flat; perhaps it’s best described as “default.” Regardless, the fact that you can tune the curve yourself as desired means there’s no reason not to set things up to your own preferences and perceptions.
At press time, pricing is roughly $700, and includes the monitors, three sizes of ear tips, body pack, audio jumper cable, charging cable, programming cable, wall charger, cleaning tool, and shirt clip — all packaged in a terrific carrying case. More info at asiaudio.com.
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