Review: Posse Monitor System

The Posse Monitor System is a hard-wired headphone amplifier system that incorporates multiple inputs, and various additional features, for musicians to hear themselves while performing.

A hard-wired system is more cost-effective and, for more stationary players (drummers, keyboardists, etc.), the less wireless – the better. It is simply not necessary to go wireless if you don’t have to.

A Quick Rundown of the Concept

For musicians, the use of both custom-molded and universal fit in-the-ear type personal monitors (sometimes called “IEM” or “PMS” systems) is now mainstream for performing live on every level. They allow the performers to hear themselves, the other musicians, any loops or click tracks, and even the audience in some cases.

With high-quality earphones, you also need some type of headphone amplifier – wireless or hard-wired – to get the audio from the sound mixer to the performers’ personal monitors. Enter the Posse Monitor System. For me, as with all audio, the sound quality was my first concern. In this case, the product does a good job sonically, but has a few minor issues in other areas that could stand improvement in order to make this device more appealing.

How Is Posse Different?

The Posse Monitor System does several things that other headphone amplifiers do not. The package includes all of the essential items to get your monitors up and running right out of the box – even a basic set of generic ear buds – but a bit of finesse is required to make proper use of it all. The amp section, satellite mixer, line and mic level inputs, and belt-pack attenuator (for volume to the earphones and their connector) are relatively small, like most headphone amps. A nice extra feature is the on-board tuner at the top of the satellite mixer.

Whether you have a mono, stereo, or no feed at all from your monitor or front of house mixer, you can make use of the Posse system. However, for all of its features, finding the best mix involves allowing yourself the necessary setup time over and above a regular sound check. The Posse also has both a set of stereo condenser mics on the satellite controller as well as an additional mini-gooseneck mono condenser microphone.

While these mics sound surprisingly good, too much level on either or both of these is nothing more than a lot of noise. While the idea of having ambience is one of personal preference, it may add more noise and only clutter your mix while affecting the equalization, as well. Use them sparingly, if at all. Those performers using multiple drivers in their earphones may find the gooseneck mic especially bright and harsh, but it can be very nice with warmer instruments like an acoustic piano.

In Use

I used the Posse Monitor System while performing several shows in venues ranging from a local music club to a full sized amphitheater. I also discussed the product with two touring artists who’ve used this system; singer/songwriter Maia Sharp (who did a video testimonial for Posse that conveys her thoughts), and Matt Crowning who plays drums for country artist, Amber Leigh, to get their thoughts.

Both Matt and I felt the best results came from only listening to the stereo mix from the dual XLR inputs. A good mix sounds clean and has very low distortion. The headroom is there for even 32-Ohm dynamic drivers that we both use from our custom Future Sonics Ear Monitors. Having the satellite controller clipped to a short microphone stand offered plenty of control and smooth old-school style rotary knobs.

What is especially nice about this system is how well it migrates from the big stage to the small club so easily. In particular, vocalists at the front of the stage can split their instrument and voice before it goes to the P.A. mixer by connecting directly in the Posse’s inputs on the belt box and satellite mixer. This lets you send those to your mix, on their own control knobs, while still allowing the signal to get to the main mixing console(s). While this is great for some situations, having a great monitor mix first is still a better option.

What Could Improve?

The biggest source of frustration with the Posse Monitor System is its lack of tactile appeal. In particular, the power and tuner buttons are flimsy and the opposite configuration of what you might expect in that “out” is the on position. The construction seems solid, but not rugged enough for serious road dog life. In addition, there is a conspicuous lack of any level metering and, on a larger production situation, what the monitor mixer sends can easily distort if you do not know what you’re doing. Luckily for me, I do, and the sound was very good quality.

Two nice additions would be a simple: a basic variable low-pass filter to avoid the bite of too much high end frequencies from the ambient mics and a bass boost for use with armature loaded earphones for more low-end response. Perhaps a more upscale edition of the Posse could offer some refinements that would make the “weekend warrior” musicians feel like they might come closer to winning the battle of the monitors more often.

How’s It Stand Up to The Competition?

In comparison to other hard-wired headphone amplifiers including a Whirlwind PA-1, Shure FP22, Shure P6HW, Rolls PM55, and the headphone output of a small Mackie mixer tested, the Posse sounded fuller with far more headroom, and had a lower noise floor. The Posse system has far more configuration options for both input and output.

The Encore

At the start, this is a good sounding headphone amplifier. For a solo, duo, or band with a great monitor engineer, this is a great option for that purpose. If you are on your own and need some ambience, or aren’t sure about the condition of the traditional monitors in a venue, having so much ability in a compact system like this is fantastic, but be sure you have the time to build your basic mix first. Get that right before adding yourself, your instrument, or the ambient mics into your mix and you will find that less is more. You’ll have great results no matter what the venue.