3DME In-Ear Monitors - Tested in the Lab!

3DME is an innovative music enhancing In-Ear Monitoring (IEM) system from ASI Audio x Sensaphonics. It is designed to deliver uncompromised stage monitoring while providing audio professionals every opportunity to protect their hearing. In June of this year their second-generation 3DME Gen2 was released featuring improvements to the app, user settings, and battery life. 

I put my 3DMEs to the test in the HearingTracker Lab. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

3DME offers many unique features not traditionally found in IEMs such as a 7-band equalizer, output limiting controls, contralateral routing of signal, and more. This can all be controlled wirelessly through the ASI Audio app. While these features alone set 3DME apart, it also features patented Active Ambient Technology allowing you to binaurally monitor room ambience. As such, the combined functionality of both IEMs and active hearing protection makes 3DME a unique offering for audio professionals.

General Use and What’s in the Box

In the box, you will find the 3DME In-Ear Monitors and associated bodypack. The two can be easily connected via a dual earphone jack on the side of the unit. A standard 3.5mm stereo audio jumper cable is also included and can be used to connect your 3DME system to an external audio feed, e.g. a bodypack receiver from your monitor engineer. 3DME also includes a monitor output on the bottom of the unit which duplicates the summed microphone and monitor input. Therefore, the jumper cable can also be used with this output for binaural recordings or to monitor your listening levels.

3dme On Desk

3DME In-Ear Monitoring System next to the bodypack

Three memory foam ear tips are included ranging from small to large. After selecting a size, the tips can be installed by aligning, and carefully rolling, the ear tip sleeve over the grooved earbud sound bore. For those interested in upgrading their 3DME experience, custom soft silicone sleeves can also be purchased.

While 3DME does appear to have a robust construction, it is meant to be used in extreme live-performance situations. Therefore, it is highly advisable to keep the device and its sensitive components as clean as possible. The earpiece, sound bore, and external microphones can be cleaned with the provided tool to mitigate debris buildup. Shirt clips were also included and can improve cable management and minimize cable attrition during use. A padded cloth case can be found in the box for storage and transportation of your 3DME system.

3dme Case Final

3DME In-Ear Monitoring System in the Padded Traveling Case

Lastly, the bodypack can be charged via a provided USB-C cable. The internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts a reported 8 hours and will take roughly 5 hours to charge from a fully depleted battery. This extended battery life is one improvement that can be found with their Gen2 device. 

Active Ambient Technology 

Audio professionals can feel disconnected from their surroundings due to the sound isolation IEMs provide. Furthermore, what musicians hear through their in-ears consists of an arrangement, or mix, of isolated instruments on stage. This arrangement will remain static regardless of the musician's position and head movements. Therefore, what a musician hears may not align with where they are or what they see. While stage or crowd microphones can be used to minimize this effect, it is not ideal. This phenomena can also lead to musicians removing one IEM thereby exposing both ears to an increased risk of hazardous sound exposure.

3dme On Guitar

3DME In-Ear Monitoring System on my guitar

As previously noted, one of the key features of 3DME is the patented Active Ambient Technology. This aims to remove the barriers previously discussed by providing users access to environmental sounds that directly correspond with head and body movements. ASI Audio accomplished this by embedding two micro-electro-mechanical microphones (MEMS) on the earpiece housing. The result is a unique experience where users can control the balance between a monitor input and environmental ambience. What’s more, the MEMs microphones are able to capture ambient levels up to 135 dB SPL without distortion.

My personal listening experience with 3DME and their Active Ambience has been remarkable. The sound quality is very natural and, as the MEMS microphones are positioned on-ear, binaural cues for localizing sound are preserved. I was able to use the 3DME system for various studio based audio engineering tasks and found that I could work accurately due to the device's transparency. For reference, this is not something I trust doing while wearing hearing protection as, even though I use high-fidelity earplugs, the sound is influenced too much by the acoustic filters.

To more objectively assess the transparency of 3DME Active Ambient, various recordings were made through Knowles Electronic Manikin for Acoustic Research (KEMAR)1. An 8-speaker Yamaha HS5 powered monitor array was used to present an orchestral performance and KEMAR’s output was recorded with and without the 3DME system. In Figure 1, the frequency response of both outputs can be seen. A secondary y-axis towards the right of the graph was added showing the difference between the two.

Transparency Of Active Ambient Technology

Figure 1: The frequency response of KEMAR with open ears and 3DME inserted can be seen. The gray dashed line indicates the difference and corresponds to the decibel values listed on the secondary right y-axis. Frequencies above 10 kHz were excluded from the measurements due to step half-wave resonances present in the GRAS RA0045 ear simulator.

Minor variances in response are present though all remain less than 10 decibels (dBs). The greatest variance was roughly -9 dBs which occurred at just under 5000 Hz. It is worth noting that the 7-band equalizer could be used to adjust this response and improve the perceived transparency between normal listening and that through the 3DME system. 

ASI Audio App

The ASI Audio App (iOS/Android) gives you wireless control over 3DME and its digital signal processing. Microphone level of the ambient MEMS microphones can be adjusted from off, or no ambient input, to a 12 dB boost. This can either be controlled binaurally or independently for each ear depending on user preferences. The Main tab also houses a limiter which can help reduce hearing injury by setting a ceiling for output volume. While this feature was available in previous models, Gen2 offers an expanded range down to 76 dB SPL to better serve individuals with sensitive hearing. 

The limiter is programmed to be adaptive based on the frequency makeup and level of incoming signals. While this can help reduce pumping and preserve musicality, it also means that the limiter will respond more aggressively to potentially hazardous high level transients. Figure 2 compares 3DME output to both a snare and bass drum with the limiter set at the 76 dB SPL threshold. The aim of this test was to see how 3DME responded to relatively loud (~115 dBC true peak) transient signals. 

Gain reduction and a 10 to 20 millisecond attack time can be seen in the snare and bass waveforms, respectively. This change in attack time illustrates the adaptive programming of the limiter. The effects of limiting on frequency makeup can also be seen in the spectrogram, whereby gain reduction appears to be relatively equal across the entire range. 

Limiter On Snare And Kick

Figure 2: The effects of 3DME output limiting can be seen for a single snare and bass drum hit. A bracket and red asterisk indicate the roughly 10 and 20 millisecond attack time observed.

The app also includes a versatile 7-band equalizer giving users +/- 12 dB adjustments at 60, 140, 330, 770, 1800, 4300, and 10,000 Hz. The equalizer can be used subjectively to tune 3DME output for personal preferences. However, individuals with hearing injury can use the available gain to help compensate for their hearing loss. A hearing care professional can help guide you through this process and even measure the effects with functional testing in a sound booth.

Several other options such as a step vs. set volume mode, monitor processing bypass, and earpiece type selector are available through the app. ASI Audio x Sensaphonics show their lineage in hearing sciences and also provide a contralateral routing of signal (CROS) option for individuals with significant unilateral hearing loss. This setting allows users to route the combined signal of both earpieces to one ear.

Hear 3DME for Yourself

In these comparisons, you will hear orchestral pit recordings showing how 3DME IEMs sound compared to normal listening and with various levels of limiting. Differences in sound quality and overall volume will become more apparent as the threshold is lowered from 100 dB to 76 dB.

Orchestra - Normal Listening (No 3DME):
Orchestra 3DME - Limiter Off:
Orchestra 3DME - Limiter at 100 dB:
Orchestra 3DME - Limiter at 92 dB:
Orchestra 3DME - Limiter at 84 dB:
Orchestra 3DME - Limiter at 76 dB:

Drum recordings

In these comparisons, you will hear drum recordings showing how 3DME IEMs sound compared to normal listening and with various levels of limiting.

Drums - Normal Listening (No 3DME):
Drums - Limiter Off:
Drums - Limiter at 100 dB:
Drums - Limiter at 92 dB:
Drums - Limiter at 84 dB:
Drums - Limiter at 76 dB:

In these comparisons, you will hear the amount of sound attenuation I was able to achieve on our manikin.

Drums - Normal Listening (No 3DME):
Drums - Active Ambient Microphone Off:

Can In-Ear Monitors Protect your Hearing

The 3DME Active Ambient system has much to offer audio professionals. However, whether or not IEMs help prevent hearing loss by lowering monitoring levels is controversial. Some research suggests that IEMs can lower a musicians’ minimum acceptable listening level2. However, other studies suggested that loudspeaker setups with conventional musician’s earplugs may result in lower sound exposures for artists4.

3dme On Kemar Close

3DME In-Ear Monitoring System in the HearingTracker Lab

A key element regarding IEMs and hearing protection is the level of sound attenuation they provide. A good acoustic seal, whether achieved by a foam or custom eartip, will impede environmental sounds from entering the ear. The resulting isolation helps you hear the IEM signal clearly at lower volumes. 

My subjective experiences with 3DME suggested they offer considerable isolation with the provided memory foam tips. To more objectively assess device attenuation, Room EQ Wizard (REW) was used to present pure tone sweeps to KEMAR and 3DME using the previously mentioned sound system. Several measurements were taken with 3DME being completely removed and reinserted between recordings to account for insertion variability. Sound attenuation was ultimately calculated based on the difference between the plugged and open ear manikin responses.

Figure 3 shows average attenuation characteristics of 3DME with Active Ambient disengaged. Considerable sound isolation can be seen across the frequency spectrum amounting to an average attenuation of 33 dBs between 50 and 10000 Hz. This supports that 3DME can provide sufficient isolation when worn properly.

Insertion Loss

Figure 3: Average attenuation characteristics for 3DME Active Ambient system as measured on KEMAR using medium memory foam eartips.

If one thing is clear, it is that IEMs are not inherently hearing protection devices. They are capable of outputting sound around 130 dB SPL3. What this ultimately means is that audio professionals are responsible for using the device properly and in a manner that will help prevent hearing injury. A qualified hearing care professional can provide the education, training, and counseling required for this to happen. Furthermore, follow-up care is necessary to ensure your conservation methods are working. 

One comment to make about ASI Audio x Sensaphonics is that everywhere from the box, the app, to the user manual there are continual references to hearing conservation. The app provides a Seal Test to check coupling and ensure a good fit. The Gen2 model also introduces several hearing conscientious features such as squeal suppression and audio volume ramping upon start-up to mitigate potentially uncomfortable loud sounds. These devices help shoulder the responsibility and strive to remind users to be mindful of their delicate hearing system.

Final Thoughts

For musicians, audio engineers, or in general those looking for advanced active hearing protection, 3DME In-Ear Monitors offer a comprehensive solution. The sound quality is transparent and thanks to the available features users can further tune the device to personal preferences. For those looking for an uncompromised 3DME experience, the Custom Tour Gen2 IEM System is available in dual or quad driver versions.  

An overall great element of 3DME is the integration of hearing conscientious features. While IEMs are not inherently hearing protection devices, they have the potential to be. Everything about 3DME seems to serve that sentiment as they provide many options to both minimize the risk of music induced hearing injury and facilitate a preexisting one. 


  1. Burkhard MD, Sachs RM. Anthropometric Manikin for Acoustic Research. Journal of Acoustical Society of America. 1975;58:214-22.
  2. Federman J, Ricketts T. Preferred and Minimum Acceptable Listening Levels for Musicians While Using Floor and in-Ear Monitors. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2008;51(1):147–159.
  3. Hall J, Santucci M. Protecting the Professional Ear: Conservation Strategies and Devices. The Hearing Journal. 1995;48(3):37-45
  4. Nykänen A, Löfdahl M, Johannesson T, Berg J. Do In-Ear Monitors Protect Musicians’ Hearing?. Journal of Audio Engineering Society. 2017; Convention Paper 9773.

Music Credits

  1. Music by lemonmusicstudio from Pixabay