I’ve done enough Rigged videos with bands at every level to know that the pros use in-ear monitoring whenever possible. Having a high-quality in-ear mix can elevate your playing experience significantly, and when you can hear yourself well, you’re gonna play better, and the audience is going to enjoy your performance more, and everybody wins. But constructing an in-ear rig can be elaborate and expensive, and even if you have a good set of custom in-ears, you’re probably still hundreds or maybe thousands away from being able to use them onstage. A good quality wireless system for you and the band is a pricey proposition.
Ultimate Ears knows your pain, and knows that not everyone has means or need for such an elaborate setup. It’s possible that you play in a cover band at a bar, or smaller stages where having a wireless rig doesn’t make sense. Whatever your situation, the UE Sound Tap is a very cool small-scale solution for getting the stage monitor mix into your in-ears without spending more than your gig is worth. It’s a device that allows you to unplug a stage monitor, plug the cable into the Sound Tap, plug from the Sound Tap back into the monitor, and then plug your in-ears into the Sound Tap – voila! You’ve got the stage monitor mix right in your ears. It’s battery powered (via two 9-volts), and it comes with all the necessary cables (an 1/8th” extension cable for a longer run to your in-ears, a second speaker cable, and a TRS to XLR to get your sound from a mixer or other audio source than a monitor feed).
The Sound Tap is roughly the size of a double-wide effects pedal, with combo jack in/out and Speakon in/out, 1/8th” stereo headphone jack for your in-ears, and Gain and Volume knobs. It’s incredibly easy to use – I tried it at band practice and it worked like a charm with no trouble at all. I plugged in my UE 18+ monitors and heard the full mix in glorious hi-fi, which made the rehearsal a great deal easier and more enjoyable (especially for anyone listening to me sing!). Having a good in-ear mix makes singing and playing infinitely easier, although it’s also very sobering – you’re not going to miss any of your mistakes now!
I think the primary intent of the Sound Tap is to give musicians an entry-level way to use in-ear monitors without having to conquer the barrier of an expensive and complex wireless setup. I feel like it accomplishes that goal in the simplest, most direct way possible for a price that puts it in reach. It’s not cheap at $250, but it’s a lot cheaper than any other system out there and a hell of a lot easier to use.
Some possible issues you could encounter –
- I imagine some sound guys might not take kindly to you pulling out their monitor feeds to feed your own – be sure to check with yours first
- Limited stage mobility vs. wireless units – the Sound Tap would not work if you play in the Dillinger Escape Plan or similarly energetic band, unless you have a REALLY long cable – either way, you are tethered to one spot by your ears, which would be a rude awakening if overextended
- Dependency on battery power with no option of power cable limits your play time
None of these should be enough to deter you – for smaller gigs or players who don’t run around too much on stage (or better yet – for drummers), the Sound Tap could be a godsend. The convenience of it, the versatility of being able to use both in-ears and wedges onstage with no fuss, and the not-astronomical price should make you at least consider this as an alternative to the typical route.