Hi, I see my name was cited above so I suppose I better step in and say something although I have to say, my rig is touring grade so it may not suit everybody's budget - but needless to say, some of my experiences may be able to help you.
I will state what I use and how I got there... and also comment on other things that I have found out along the way. Hope it helps and of course, feel free to ask me any questions - I'll help where I can.
OK, here is the setup I use in my function outfit (ranges from 5-13 in size)
IEMs, I use ACS T1 Lives. (www.acscustom.com
Monitor system I use the Shure PSM900
Desk I use Allen and Heath GLD80
The ACS monitors are a triple driver unit with an ambient mic option (not released yet - but allows the signal from inbuilt mic in the ear pieces to be blended with the incoming in ears mix to reduce the feeling of isolation that some people complain about using in ears. For example, the best in ears should have as close to as perfect isolation as possible - but this means you get the situation where you move around the stage and say, move closer to the drums but they don't get louder... or if people come to talk into your ear, you can't hear them. I can't comment on how good it is at this stage but I am interested in trying one out. Hopefully I'll be able to use them as fine tunable earplugs!).
After doing a lot, a lot, alot of research, I plumped for the ACS for a number of reasons. The primary one is for comfort. Most IEMs are acrylic which can be quite fatiguing on the flesh of your ears, ACS are silicon so move with the movement of your ears. On top of this, it's actually quite difficult (due to the custom nature of the product) to road test but the big gotcha seems to be the assumption that the more drivers in your ears, the better it sounds. To some extent this is true but it doesn't hold all the way up to the 8 and 9 driver models that some of the competition are churning out.
I went to ACS to talk to them at length and wasn't given the hard sell - they wanted to know exactly what I would use it for and I ended up with the T1s for the extended bass response. For example, they said that alot of singer actually like the T2s because of the way the voice sits in the mix. I really liked the honesty and the experience there... and to top it off, they sound amazing. The first thing I did was listen to my favourite reference tracks and they really do show up all the detail... to the point where some tracks do reveal the slight little imperfections.
Anyway, the key thing for bass players, is the depth of the tubing on the in ears - the further you can get the tube into your skull, the better the isolation and bass response. ACS appear to be better as the softer tube which goes deeper into your ears is good at reducing the coupling between the sound and your skull. (You know when you put your finger in your ear and then speak you can hear your voice being pulled towards that side of your head - that doesn't happen with the ACS monitors).
Sound isolating headphones will get you some of the way but from all the ones that I have tried, you will always comprimise on the bass response - and boosting the low end eq (if you can, more on this later) - only seems to wreck the sound, add distortion and kill your drivers.
With IEMs, it really is, you get what you pay for.
OK - the units. I've gigged a fair few - these are the latest I've tried out.
The Shure PSM900 really is the mutts nuts. It's also really expensive and when running on channel 38 will cost you a license to run. It's transmitting range is absolutely ridiculous and above all, crystal clear. Stereo loveliness! No intereference whatsoever and the sound quality is near enough damn it the same as a wired system.
Can't really say a great deal more about it - it just works, perfectly, every time without fail. Crystal clear, no hiss, buzz, rf interference, nothing. To all intents and purposes, it's as good as wire but without a wire.
I've also run PSM200s which are a league apart from the PSM900s. They are mono but also are prone to RF intereference. There have been some gigs where they can't be used because there is no clean space to enable a clean(ish)_signal. I say cleanish because there is always a hint of "radioness" about it. The fuzz, slight drop out, odd bits of distortion with are experienced with large transients - especially when the limiter kicks in. Also, the PSM200 seems really funny about hot signals... I've had to use an inline XLR attenuator to cut the distortion out of these units.
Senn EW300s - pretty much the competition to the PSM900. No complaints. I would be happy with this system alongside the PSM900. The main reason I didn't keep with this system is down to the lack of a removable aerial on a transmitter pack. I would be bummed to think there is a costly repair if the aerial got damaged. The Shure enables you to screw in a new one in seconds.
Audio Technica M3s (M2s with more selectable frequencies, a prettier interface and better aerials) - pretty good but the inbuilt limiter is not as pleasing as the EW300s or the PSM900. Lots of frequencies to choose from but we have had the odd venue (very occassional) where the unit found it difficult to get a signal clear of RF interference (but not to the point where you would consider not using them). The sound quality is a little more harsh than the EW300 and PSM900 also.
There is definately a noticable difference in the sound quality between the M3s, the PSM200 and the EW300 and PSM900. They are stereo though and bridge the gap between the PSM200 and the big boys in all aspects - e.g. sound quality, RF performance, build quality... but they still don't perform quite as good as the EW300 and PSM900.
A good desk is pretty much critical to the icing on the cake of your IEM solution.
The GLD80 can give me up to 20 dedicated mono auxes or 10 stereo auxes... or a combination of mono and stereo. The compressor on the desk is a far superior limiter to the ones built into the packs - so the band's packs run with no limiters and the desk takes care of the soft knee compression/brick wall limiting to protect the ears of everybody in the band.
The desk enables each user to have their own monitor mix to completely tailor their sound... and with each monitor mix, users can run a completely dry mix or reverb/gate/compress/eq each channel in their mix as well as EQ the final mix that goes to their ears. All very, very powerful stuff. So yes, I can get a completely mastered signal into my ears which is completely to my taste and completely different to FOH. Running a dry mix certainly feels very primative now in comparison. All of this is controllable via iPad too so I can mix on the fly mid set. Yes, it's a very expensive setup... but it certainly as good as it gets.
We could even free up all those auxes by runing the A&H ME system. Astonishingly good - similar to the Behringer system mentioned above or Aviom.
If you want to look at upgrading your desk to get somewhere near this functionality, there is the Behringer X32... or if 16 channels will do you, wait for the Allen and Heath QU16...Street price is about 1700 so just short of 500 quid cheaper than the Behringer... but obvs without the channel count.
Understanding that not everbody is going to be dropping the sort of money on a desk like that, I would have to say, if you are looking to do IEM systems on a budget... don't. Get some really good ear plugs instead - especially if you are looking at going radio. You won't be happy with the performance out of poor earbuds and a poor radio system. You'll end up struggling even with a localised mix.
100% I would invest my money into the IEMs you put in your ears (ideally molded, the best you can afford) and run a wired system unless you want to spend the money on the top end stuff. You won't get the problems associated with RF drop out and poor sounding systems.
I've had people report that their budget radio in ears sound amazing... then they try the PSM900s and somewhat rethink their definition of amazing. Something like the Fischer headphone amp is what I'd look at with a limited budget (important that it has a built in limiter! - especially if you are running off a desk with just an aux send on a rotary because you have no control on compression or eq!). Invest all you money in the monitors alongside a wired solution and it's going to sound as best as it can.
Unless you are running a wireless bass or a standalone singer, you aren't going to gain much by running a wireless monitor system (just don't forget to unplug yourself when you have taken your bass off and are walking off the stage!). You may think it's a pain - but it's quite easy to run up a stereo cable up to your bass and splitter it off into the belt pack or cable tie two cables together (one to your belt pack, one to your bass). Trust me... IEMS to a tight budget, this is the best way of doing it.
I love my IEMs, I can't imagine life without them now. Whistle free ears, CD quality monitoring. No stuggling to hear. It's an absolute dream... and if you are a singer... well, I can see why singers love them. Being able to hear yourself really clear means pitching is so much easier.
Oh - and in terms of batteries, I can get 5-6 hours approx out of the PSM900... Either stock up on Procells... or get some Eneloops. They can be charged days before the gig and they will hold their charge no problem... and they last nearly near enough as damn it as their non rechargable counterparts.
Any other problems, give me a shout. I've probably been there, done that. Hope this helps.
Edited by EBS_freak, 22 April 2013 - 01:28 PM.