For most hard-working journeyman musicians, in-ear monitoring is a pricey luxury like back stage catering--usually reserved for major gigs at big venues. The Shure PSM® 200 Personal Monitor System is for any musician or vocalist and offers affordable in-ear monitoring that's simple to use, easy to carry and connect.
Besides better sound quality than what you'd hear with wedges, the PSM 200 gives you full control over your personal-monitor mix and, when properly used, helps insure your hearing health with consistent, self-determined volume levels. The vagaries of live sound monitoring--sudden volume changes, monitor feedback squeals, extreme levels, bad or distorted floor wedges, the inability to hear oneself, and restricted stage movement (due to fixed monitors) are mere memories when using the PSM 200.
I tested a complete, ready-to-use PSM 200 system kit consisting of the P2T TransMixer transmitter, P2R hybrid body-pack receiver, and E2 sound-isolating earphones. The PSM 200 is a hybrid system: you can start out with the full wireless system or opt for the less expensive wired version that has the P2R receiver and E2 phones but no P2T. Shure's upgrade path allows future system expansion through the purchase of the P2T when you are ready to go wireless and through additional P2Rs and E2 earphones.
Getting Wired And Wireless
The PSM 200 System begins with the P2R hybrid receiver, a lightweight, cigarette-pack-size unit worn on your belt or guitar strap. The P2R runs for about six hours on a standard 9V alkaline battery. It has a volume control (mounted on top for easy access) and a sidemounted 1/4-inch input jack (Mix In) with Hi/Lo input level switch. For wired operation, connect a line-level monitor-mix signal directly to the P2R's input jack. In wireless operation, that jack is used for injecting local audio sources that mix with the wireless audio--a great feature for drummers who want to hear and play to a locally controlled drum machine or metronome click.
On the other side of the P2R are the channel-selector button and an LED indicator that goes dark once you've selected any of the eight channels. Next to the volume control are LEDs that indicate power, radio frequency (RF) signal strength, and the operation of the built-in, undefeatable peak limiter. Because the monitors themselves rest inside your ear canals, a peak limiter is an essential feature, protecting your hearing from pops, feedback, and other sonic hazards. The P2R also has a clever cord clamp/belt clip that keeps all cables neatly tucked away.
If you're using the PSM 200 in its wired configuration, simply plug in a line-level signal of your house mix from the mixer to the input jack on the P2R and adjust the volume. Select channel A and turn off the P2's radio-receiver section to increase battery life. Keyboard players and drummers will have no problem with a dangling cord as they are usually confined to a certain stage location anyway. Although guitar players are accustomed to being tethered by guitar cords, some may balk at adding another.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The wireless version of the PSM 200 adds the P2T TransMixer. The P2T is a frequency-agile transmitter that has eight channels to choose from and an audio mixer with two mic/line inputs. LED indicators show the transmitter channel number, selected by a push button (the same method used on the P2R), and audio input levels. I liked the way the tricolor input LEDs showed the 'yes or no' presence of input signals and overload peaks.
It's almost impossible to overload the inputs of the P2T; there's a built-in limiter and plenty of gain for working with either line or mic levels. The half-rackspace P2T has two front-panel 1/4-inch/XLR combo input jacks. (Incoming signals are mirrored at the back-panel XLR outs, allowing for a thru connection to a mixing console.) The P2T also comes with a rackmount kit for installing two TransMixers side-by-side.
The PSM 200 is a mono system and allows you to mix two mono audio sources using controls on the front of the P2T. The P2T is designed to work with any front-of-house (FOH) console or monitor mixer or right onstage.
In a typical P2T setup, you would use one audio input for a basic monitor mix and the other input for your own vocal mic or instrument audio. I call this the "more me" feature because while everyone is included in the overall monitor mix, you can adjust your own level on top of that mix. In an ideal situation, each member of a band would have his or her own PSM 200 system (up to four systems can operate simultaneously at one venue). However, a band could save money by using a single PT2 and running multiple P2Rs off of it. The disadvantage would be that the mix transmitted to the P2Rs would be the same for each band member.
Before my home and rehearsal-studio tests, I used the channel-scanning feature on the P2R (recommended in the manual) that "opens up" the noise squelch to check for other nearby transmitter signals that could cause interference. I live within 1,000 feet of two cellular telephone towers and the local police department with its radio antennas. In both locations the P2R showed good RF immunity (the ability to reject unwanted radio signals that cause interference) with no problems except for a low-level television video carrier on channel 1. With a fresh 9V battery in the P2R (supplied), the range of the system exceeded the 300-foot specification, allowing complete stage mobility with no loss of signal.
In Your Ear
The included E2 earphones are full-range stereo ear buds that sound great. With high-energy drivers and only 16-ohm impedance, the E2s will go louder than you'll ever need. The E2s come with three sizes of washable and reusable plastic flex sleeves, but you may prefer (as I did) the included foam sleeves that compress and form-fit to your ear canals. The very tight fit makes it difficult to hear conversation sometimes, but it's essential to block out unwanted sound and for proper bass response. In addition to onstage use, I found the E2s comfortable enough for listening to my portable CD player, and I have started to use them as an alternative monitoring method when mixing in the studio.
At rehearsal, Smooth Jazz saxophonist and recording artist Garner Thomas helped me test the system with his band at Valley Center Studios in Van Nuys, California. Thomas has a critical ear with wireless gear, having used many different high-end systems. His band lineup consists of drums, bass, guitar, and keys. He plays alto, tenor, and soprano sax--sometimes even plays two at a time.
I connected the P2T to Valley Center's Studiomaster Diamond 8-2 console using the 1/4-inch cables supplied with the PSM 200. The system worked well right off the bat. While the band rehearsed, I adjusted the levels listening on my own E2 phones and P2R. It occurred to me that it would be helpful if the P2T had an earphone jack and volume control so that someone positioned near the transmitter, such as a FOH engineer or monitor mixer, could plug in and hear the exact mix and quality of the sound being transmitted to the band without having to use another P2R. The sound quality was good, with a very slight rolloff of superhigh frequencies, so I added +2 dB of 12 kHz shelving EQ over the whole mix. Perfecto!
With my mix sounding good and in the middle of a song, I handed the P2R over to Thomas (who already had another set of E2s); he plugged in and didn't miss a beat. Thomas liked the comfortably fitting E2s, found no trouble with intonation, and enjoyed the pleasure of hearing himself clearly. He could set his own level at the P2T, hear accurately enough to make an EQ adjustment on his mic channel when he switched over to soprano sax.
Everyone Will Want One!
The PSM 200 is a worthwhile accessory for all performing musicians and vocalists. With its good sound and mix control, the system is easy to carry and presents no hook-up headaches to a soundperson. The PSM 200 is empowering for discriminating artists who seek a refined and predictable monitor mix with a clear sound. I recommend it highly.
The Shure PSM 200 Personal in-ear monitor system sells for $798 for the wireless system or $468 for the wired system.
PSM 200 System Specs
Frequency Response: 30 Hz-12 kHz, +/-3 dB (wireless); 30 Hz-20 kHz, +/-3 dB (wired)
P2R Receiver Specs
RF Carrier Frequency Range: 518 to 865 MHz
Frequency Selection: 8 per system, up to 4 compatible
Operating Range: 300 feet
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 80 dBA typical
Total Harmonic Distortion < 1%
Audio Input: 1/4-inch jack
P2T Wireless TransMixer Specs
Audio Output 1/8-inch stereo headphone
Power Requirements: 9V alkaline battery
Battery Life: up to 4 hours (wireless); up to 6 hours (wired)
Maximum Input Level: (switchable) 0 dBu (Lo); -10 dBu (Hi)
Frequency Response: 30 Hz-12 kHz, +/-3 dB (wireless); 30 Hz-20 kHz, +/-3 dB (wired)
Dimensions: 2.9" (W) X 4.8" (H) X1.3" (D)
Weight: 3.5 oz. (without battery)
Audio Inputs: (2) electronically balanced 1/4-inch/XLR combo
E2 Earphones Specs
Split Audio Output Connectors: (2) electronically balanced XLR
Modulation Limiter internal peak limiter (> 10:1 compression ratio)
Input Impedance > 1 kohm
Dimensions: 8.6" (W) × 1.7" (H) × 5.6" (D)
Weight 13 oz.
Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL/mW (@ 1 kHz)
Impedance: 16 ohm (@ 1 kHz)
Earphone Connectors: 3.5 mm stereo
Weight 1 oz.
Good sound with plenty of volume. Easy to carry and set up. Two-channel TransMixer lets you adjust the mix ratio of band to yourself. Lightweight body-pack receiver has excellent RF operation with good immunity to interference and eight channel choices. Additional audio input on each body-pack receiver opens up many monitoring options.
Mono only. No headphone out on P2T.
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