Top positive review
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THE Monitor System for Singing Drummers On a Budget!
on June 7, 2011
Over the years, I have transistioned from loud, hearing-wrecking wedge monitors to isolating full headphones to in-ear monitors. As a singing drummer, monitoring vocals (mine and everyone else's) as well as whatever else I can get from a monitor mix has always been a challenge. A few years ago, I started using a Mackie 1202-VLZ mixer, with an old DBX compressor/limiter and a complicated system of patch cables to get the desired audio (which sometimes included a click track) into my Shure in-ear monitors. This worked well, but required a lot of stuff to carry around, and a lot of time to set up and tear down.
About a year ago, I began to look around for an easier solution, and found the Rolls PM50S Personal Monitor Amplifier System. I was familiar with the Rolls line, as I have worked at radio stations that used their other headphone amplifiers, AM/FM receivers and other gear. I ordered one, and when it arrived, I was amazed at how compact--yet well-built--the unit is! The box is metal, not plastic. At first, the "jumpers" for changing inputs from stereo to mono, turning phantom power on/off, etc., seemed a little strange, but after reading more on their website about why they use jumpers instead of switches (the recessed jumpers are much less prone to breaking compared to switches), it made sense. I just carry some small needle-nosed pliers with me, in the rare event that I might need to alter a setting.
As a singing drummer, being able to quickly use the "more me" feature to boost or cut my vocal level balance against the monitor input is a God-send! The Line Input uses a 1/4-inch jack, but I have an XLR female-to-phone plug male adapter, allowing me to get a mix back from the board regardless of the output configuration. For some gigs, I also use a click track (which comes from the Tempo app on my iPhone these days!). I simply plug the 1/8-inch-to 1/4-inch stereo patch cable from my iPhone output into the Instrument input on the Rolls, and with the input on that set to mono, I get a great click track feed with its own independent level!
As for set-up/tear-down, I have gone from carrying around the Mackie (in a carry-on suitcase bag!) and a bunch of cables, to a very compact rig: I bought one of those aluminum briefcases they sell for around $25 at Harbor Freight Tools that has the customizable foam rubber cushioning on the inside. I created places to store the PM50S, AC adapter, a few cables, my Shure SM-58 bag, and a 20-foot XLR cable (coiled up after the gig). The case only weighs about 5 lbs., and it has everything in one case for my entire monitoring setup! Talk about easy!
I have had to get used to not having any compression or limiting, but that just requires some careful level-setting on my part. I believe Rolls makes a similar-sized compressor/limiter unit to work with the PM50S, and I may order one down the road; but for now, I give this 5 stars. It does what I need it to do, the sound quality is great, and the ease of carrying, setup and tear-down has made a big difference in the amount of time I spend assembling and disassembling my monitoring system. I highly recommend it to any gigging musician who doesn't have the big $$$ to spend just to be able to hear properly on stage!