A new addition to Sennheiser’s wireless range has arrived: the XS Wireless IEM set. Read on as we cut the cord and test out this in-ear monitoring system.
Hot on the heels of its Evolution Wireless range of microphones, Sennheiser has launched the XS Wireless IEM system. It’s a rig aimed at musicians who want to elevate their stagecraft by taking control of their monitoring on the stage and in the rehearsal studio.
Curious about ditching the dreaded wedges and getting more sonic clarity on stage? We spent some time with the XS Wireless IEM set and put it through its paces.
First impressions and setup
As you would expect from gear that’s designed to be effective and discreet for use on the stage, the XS Wireless IEM set has a stealthy look.
In the quite sizeable box, you’ll find a bodypack receiver that’s designed to be clipped to your belt. There’s also a transmitter with an aerial for sending signal via UHF to the receiver. The included in-ear monitors plug into the receiver so you can listen to the audio coming from the transmitter.
So how does it work in a live music situation? Instead of an auxiliary signal running from a FOH console or side-of-stage monitor console to a foldback speaker (or ‘wedge’), it goes to the transmitter’s XLR inputs.
From there you’ve got a couple of options for sending the audio to the players on stage. The transmitter is stereo, therefore you could split it into two mono mixes. One feature of note if you decide to go with this configuration is the ‘Focus’ and ‘Panorama’ modes on the receiver.
In Panorama mode, users can blend between mix one and mix two across the receiver’s stereo spectrum. In Focus mode, the level between the two mixes can be adjusted while remaining in mono. It’s a pretty neat feature that allows you to get maximum bang for your buck.
Alternatively, you could run several receivers from one transmitter, fed by one stereo mix — in that case, everyone would have the same monitor mix. If you wanted individual mixes for each player, you would need to expand the rig by adding more transmitters.
Searching for useable radio frequency channels is easy. This is done by switching off the transmitter and using the bodypack receiver to search for channels. When you scroll through channels and find one that has no bars indicating RF signal, you can join that one, safe in the knowledge that you won’t get any interference. After you’ve selected that channel on the receiver, switch the transmitter back on and select the same channel.
Sennheiser headphones and microphones have a distinct sonic signature that’s been appreciated by audio professionals for decades. Free of colour and bias toward any particular zone in the frequency spectrum, reliability and fidelity are the company’s watchwords.
Happily, the XS Wireless IEM rig stays true to Sennheiser’s reputation. In chaotic on stage settings, the IEMs cut through the clutter with precision. The included IE 4 in-ear monitors come with three different ear tip sizes (as with any IEM or lifestyle earbud, the fit is an all-important factor in sonic performance), and a robust cable that handled everything we could throw at it.
The bass response for drivers of this size is solid without being too sub-heavy (the low-frequency cutoff point is 40 Hz), however, the last thing you usually need on stage is more bass. In fact, you can dial in even more cut-through with high-boost EQ. Intriguingly, the corner frequency is set at a very airy 13 kHz, which provides vocals with sparkle, rather than a shrill nastiness that competes with other sound sources in the upper mid-range.
After the experience of monitoring through this highly functional and superb sounding IEM set, I’m really not looking forward to the next time I have to work with wedges. The new appreciation of clearly heard mix elements — despite being in a crowded rehearsal space or stage — is addictive. For this reason alone, the XS Wireless IEM set is perfect for any musician or band who wants to level up their monitoring experience.
Visit Sennheiser for all the details.