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Pressure Relief in Custom In Ear Monitors: Let your ears breathe & enhance your mix!

64Audio A18t custom in ear monitors at dakin custom audio UK
My own personal 64Audio A18ts with APEX pressure relief

So at DCA we don’t ‘just sell in ear monitors’ we use them. That professional integrity and transparency is a value I pride myself on. Custom In Ears are an integral part of our professional lives. So trying pressure-relieving Custom In Ear Monitors was for me, one of the most eye-opening discoveries since starting DCA, and after hours of shows I can honestly say this is not just marketing hype - this is physics and the real deal. Let me explain why! 


As we all know, in an ideal world we wouldn’t need hearing protection of any sort as your ear are at their best in the open air, when your eardrum can move freely and pick up and respond to the smallest vibrations, giving you the ability to hear and define the lowest lows up to the highest highs simultaneously! 

However, did you know that every time you put in normal earplugs or In Ear Monitors (or block / occlude your ear canals) you are causing a build-up of pressure in your ear canal that is actually affecting your hearing? It’s an unnatural way for them to be, but luckily there is tech out there now to let your ears breathe and open up the world again! 

It’s something we’ve known about for a long time but now we’ve experienced it - pressure relief in Custom In Ear Monitors is the simplest way to unlock your stage mix, bring volumes down and allow you to listen for hours without any fatigue at all! Let em explain…

What is Occlusion and why is it a significant compromise?

The best way to describe it, is imagine a loudspeaker. If its on a stand playing music with no interference and it can move freely backwards and forwards and recreate the sound without any issues. Now imagine you lightly place your hand on the speaker, what is going to happen? 

Speaker cone at dakin custom audio office for custom in ear monitors
If you were to press on the gold cone, it would stop the speaker vibrating freely. Thats what air pressure can do to your ear drum with fully occluded Custom In Ear Monitors.

Well that tiny pressure will be enough to affect how the speaker reacts, reduce the high frequencies and muffle the sound! So to counteract that effect and reinstate those lost frequencies, you have to turn it up and drive the speaker with more power! 

This is exactly the same thing that is happening to your eardrum when you place fully occluded Custom In Ear Monitors. When you trap that air between the end or your In Ear and your ear drum, that air pressure is stopping your ear drum doing what it does best!

That pressure is the hand on the speaker.

What does this sound & feel like on stage?

In your mix this means it will sound narrow and direct as the pressure from your Custom is pushing on your eardrum, so you’ll have to drive it slightly harder or compensate for it in your mix which will ultimately over a set start to wear out your Ears, making them tired and stressed!

This is also known as the ‘Occlusion effect’ and it’s something that monitor engineers and vocalists especially battle against as you start to hear the resonances of your own voice in your head when you sing which can be really off-putting and even affect pitching and performance! 

But there is an answer to this.


What is the solution? Air Pressure relief in Custom In Ear Monitors.

So Air Pressure relief allows you to vent that minute pressure, allow your ears to breathe and open up your ears again while still offering significant protection suitable for even the loudest drummers and is available on even the most affordable Custom In Ear Monitors!

64Audio A3t Custom In Ear Monitors at Dakin Custom UK
64Audio's Entry level A3t has the M20 APEX as standard

This was started by historically by 64Audio (I go over the story a little more in our APEX Youtube video here) who developed the APEX system - or Air Pressure Exchange allows you to change your In Ear Monitors between 20dB and 10 dB of isolation, sculpting the sound as you go to fit the scenario you’re in.  

This allows you to vent your Custom In Ear Monitors and allow your ears to breathe and your eardrum to move naturally as if you weren’t wearing Customs at all! It’s effect is significant but the one thing you instantly notice is the stereo width. As your perceptions are essentially ‘normal’ as if you were listening in a studio on monitors it means that’s you have so much more space left to right than fully occluded In Ear Monitors. This means we hear things we didn’t know were there and even the worst starting mixes on shows are totally workable as everything has it’s place!

Now. It’s only 20dB - so how can you listen lower than at 26dB? I know. It’s counterintuitive for sure. It took me a while to get it too. Basically, as you remove that pressure bubble your ears are happy and giving you so much more detail compared to what it could earlier, so you don’t have to drive things as hard to get what you need. Plus 20dB of isolation is a lot!

Plus as you’re allowing your eardrum to act more naturally too, it doesn’t get hard or stressed. You’re not going to start to get the perceived High Frequency roll off that you’d get with fully occluded Custom in ear monitors too!

So if you’re looking for a new set of Custom In Ear Monitors that offer maximum protection and allow you to hear as much detail as possible for longer - you need pressure venting. We’re converts for sure!


FIR Audio Xenon6 Custom IN Ear Monitors with ATOM module
FIR Audio Xenon6 with their external ATOM module installed.

FIR Audio Also offer their version of pressure relief too with their internal and external ATOM which shares the same DNA as APEX, but due to their tuning are a little more ambient at a maximum of 17dB of isolation. It’s definitely horses for courses in terms of what you need isolation wise, but the theory is the same! 

So what do you think? Let us know!

So if you’d like any more information or advice on Pressure relief and if it’s right for you in your next set of Custom In Ear Monitors, please feel free to reach out - we have the full range of 64Audio and FiR Audio Customs to Demo so get them in your own ears and let me know what you think! Is Pressure Relief the best thing for your Ears? We certainly think so!

Thanks for reading! Miles (Founder - DCA)


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