U.K. sound recordist and production sound mixer Jono Cary and TV presenter Andi Peters recently switched to Bubblebee Industries’ Sidekick In-Ear Monitors.
Designed to be virtually invisible, the Sidekick In-Ear Monitor features a micro driver solution where the driver fits invisibly in the ear canal, eliminating the need for acoustic tubes outside the ear. It has an extremely small and lightweight footprint, making it a popular alternative to earwigs. Thanks to its very discreet profile, extreme levels of comfort and ability to deliver high speech intelligibility, Sidekick is becoming a vital piece of the communication jigsaw for all those working in film and broadcast, especially in live environments, says its maker. With this IEM in place, the sound crew, presenters and talent on set can easily communicate with directors and sound mixers back in the studio while still hearing everything that is going on around them.
“Normally on a live set, I’m listening to the feed from the gallery whilst monitoring my lav/boom mics from my sound recorder with headphones over the Sidekick,” said Cary. “The great thing about Sidekick is that it floats in the ear canal so it doesn’t block out all the other sounds around you when you have your headphones off.”
Sidekick first appeared on Cary’s radar in 2019 when it was discussed pre-release by fellow sound experts on an industry Facebook group. He wasn’t convinced then that it was for him because it seemed too small and delicate. In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Cary was seconded to ITV to work on various shows with presenter Andi Peters, host of Dancing On Ice, Extra and The Big Reunion. Back on a live set, he again faced all the issues he’d previously encountered with In-Ear Monitors, and decided to give the Sidekick a try.
“Andi wasn’t happy with his IEMs either and wanted something more comfortable,” Cary said. “Also, seeing wires trailing down a presenter’s neck really cheapens the look of a show and he wanted to know if there was a better looking alternative.”
The Sidekick IEMs solved both of these problems for Cary and Peters.
“Neither of us could believe how strong they were,” Cary added. “I even tried to break the cable by pulling it with both hands, but it easily survived that test. Also, I wear headphones to monitor the radio microphones on set and I was able to wear them over the Sidekicks without having a wire digging into my ear. That was a real revelation! I’ve tried loads of earpieces in the past, and even tried DIY to adapt other earpieces but never found something that I could wear comfortably underneath my headphones.”
“Earpiece technology in TV hasn’t really moved on in 20 years, but this new technology has been a tremendous game changer,” commented Peters. “It’s so lightweight that I’ve often forgotten that I’m wearing it. The sound quality is excellent and the cable VERY strong. I highly recommend it.”
Cary has also discovered that Sidekicks are useful for platforms such as Zoom when clients need to conduct online streamed interviews for broadcast.
“It is very handy to be able to give the Sidekick, sanitized of course with a fresh ear tip, to the interviewee and have them hear the other side of the call via the earpiece,” he explained. “This means we don’t have to rely on audio coming through their computer and I can record crystal clear sound without bleed from the laptop speakers.”