Thanks to its built‑in microphones, this unique IEM system lets you bring the outside world into your monitor mix.
ASI Audio are a joint venture between Sensaphonics, a company founded by leading music audiologist Dr Michael Santucci, and Think‑A‑Move, who produce speech recognition software and audio communication hardware for military, sports and security applications. Between them, they’ve developed the 3DME in‑ear monitoring system, a unique proposition that adds an ambient microphone to each earpiece, allowing you to dial room sound into your IEMs.
Courtesy of a small bodypack, controlled through an app on your smartphone, you can create a personal monitoring experience that avoids the detachment from both your fellow performers and audience that wearing IEMs can often bring about. Could this be the end of ‘one ear in, one ear out’ monitoring?
The 3DME system ships in an attractively designed box with an outer sleeve and a magnetically fastened flip lid that gives it a professional and reassuringly expensive look and feel. Inside is a large, zipped hard case that contains the bodypack and headphones, housed within a cut‑foam liner. A 3.5mm stereo ‘jumper cable’, USB charging cable, three pairs of foam ear tips, earpiece cleaning tool and shirt clip are neatly stored in a mesh zip pocket in the other half of the case. It’s nice to have everything shipped in the case, and not to have to fish around the packaging to find the various elements.
On first inspection, the headphones look and feel like a typical set of IEMs. It’s only when you look a little closer that you notice the grilles that house the tiny microphones on each earpiece. This certainly doesn’t make them any larger or odder‑looking than any other IEMs. In fact, the classy, matte‑black, moulded design wouldn’t look out of place as an accessory in a Batman film. As is the case with most IEMs, the cable exits the earpieces at the top and a short plastic sleeve surrounds the cable, making it curve slightly and allowing it to fit neatly around the top of your ear. The unique functionality of the 3DME requires a unique cable design, and the cables from each earpiece meet at a moulded plastic connector that combines them into a single, slightly thicker cable, terminating in a right‑angled connector. This connector features not one, but two 3.5mm jacks, which connect to the corresponding sockets on the body pack. Unlike many other IEMs, the cables aren’t detachable from the earpieces, so if they got damaged I suspect you’d need to buy a complete new set of IEMs.
The earpieces themselves feature dual balanced‑armature drivers. Unlike dynamic drivers, which use a coil and magnet to create sound, balanced‑armature drivers vibrate a tiny reed balanced between two magnets inside a tiny enclosure. The motion of the reed is transferred to a stiff diaphragm and on to an output port. This compact design makes the balanced armature ideal for in‑ear monitors, and the drivers in the 3DME system are configured back‑to‑back. This balances the mechanical forces and reduces the potential for mechanical coupling from the drivers back to the ambient mics to virtually zero. The dual drivers are both full‑range units with no crossover, and have a neutral frequency response that can be tweaked using the seven‑band EQ within the 3DME app.
The mics themselves are wide dynamic MEMS types, effectively a mic etched into a semiconductive silicon wafer. Their balanced output is then routed through very low‑output‑impedance integral preamp/buffer circuitry in the earpiece, which eliminates the need for a thick, shielded cable to connect to the body pack.
The body pack is around the same size as a standard IEM wireless receiver and runs on an internal lithium battery that lasts around eight hours when fully charged. It is both lightweight and simple in design, and features a sprung belt clip. On the top are raised plus and minus buttons, enabling you to easily adjust the ambient microphone signal level without having to access the 3DME app. The battery status LEDs are also located on the top of the unit, making them clearly visible during performances.
On the left side of the pack is the 3.5mm input jack; typically this would be fed from the headphone output of a wireless pack, which is where the supplied 3.5mm connecting cable comes in. The bottom of the pack features a USB‑C charging port, small on/off switch and 3.5mm output jack, which directly reflects the combined microphone and monitor input signal reaching your ears, along with any added EQ and limiting applied by the 3DME app. The manual suggests this is useful for monitoring your listening level and for binaural recording.