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Every live musician at some point is in a situation where they can’t hear themselves properly on stage. Normally that’s something we can all live with – but with a pair of the best in-ear monitors (also known as IEMs), you’re no longer at the mercy of sound engineers. These personal monitoring systems allow you to control your own mix, protect your ears and perform live while providing the best possible monitoring quality. This will improve your performance, and your audience will benefit as well.
Best In Ear Monitors For Musicians
In-ear monitors aren’t just for live use, either. IEMs can also be used in other settings, such as recording studios or rehearsal rooms. They go beyond standard over-ear or on-ear studio headphones by eliminating the discomfort you often feel when ill-fitting earcups squeeze your ears into your skull.
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So whether you’re rehearsing with your bandmates, practicing on your own, recording epic vocals at home, or preparing for your next gig, the best IEMs are ideal for monitoring in any situation. There are solutions.
If you want to read more about the best in-ear monitors, head to our buying advice at the bottom of this guide. If you just want to go to our product recommendations, keep scrolling.
With such a large price difference between entry-level and high-end in-ears, you’ll find yourself wondering where your options may lie. Additionally, we recommend several models for reasons related to cost. For example, the Audio Technica ATH-E70 are an excellent set of in-ear monitors for anyone looking to improve upon the default settings that come with many wireless kits. Swap them for a set of ATH-E70s and you’ll see a dramatic increase in the performance of your gear.
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We also really like the Shure SE846. Bland exteriors aside, these are the only sets we’ve tested that make us think we know them inside and out, revealing new secret levels of detail. The sound quality is second to none; Invest in a pair of these and you may never need another pair.
All that said, if budget is really your main concern, the Mackie MP-220 are affordable dual-driver headphones that offer great audio and a comfortable fit for a lot of cash. Or, for a more budget-friendly option, the Shure SE215 Pro is a solid single-drive IEM, usually under $100/£100.
+ Audio that makes the hair on your neck stand on end + Accurate reproduction + We love those nozzles
Westone Audio Pro X10 Earphones
The problem with reviewing in-ear monitors is that many of them look the same. Across the price range, you’ll find a typical “clear plastic case with various electrical gubbins” type arrangement. But, as we discovered when we tested the Shure SE846 Pro, not all IEM headphones are created equal.
In fact, they surprise us. When it comes to sound reproduction, you can see why audiophiles are drawn to them. A neat touch is the inclusion of a set of three “nozzles” that can be switched to customize the listening experience. But importantly, they also offer up to 37dB of sound attenuation, making them ideal for noisy stages and studios. If you have them, you probably won’t notice the apocalypse, and the sound is so good that the apocalypse can obviously wait.
If you’ve spent money on a great wireless system and found the included earphones a little lacking, don’t worry; They are the easiest part to replace. And, as an upgrade, you’ll want to look for something that improves overall sound and ambient noise isolation.
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When it comes to choosing the best in-ear monitors for a mid-range budget, the Audio Technica ATH-E70 are just the ticket. These headphones feature three drivers in the midrange, giving us a balanced, accurate soundstage during testing. As an entry-level upgrade, the cost has gone up, but if you’ve had a basic phone for a while, you’ll definitely notice a difference in performance.
Acoustically, the IE 40 Pro sounds quite natural, with clear high frequencies and full but very low frequencies. They’re pretty flashy at the high end when sales are high, but it’s not a deal killer.
Comfort and fit are also quite positive. With the mid-sized in-ear module and quick-change ear tips, we got the right fit in no time – important for us to wear them for long periods of time. In fact, we’d say these are the most comfortable off-the-shelf in-ear monitors we’ve tried; Impressive due to the modest price tag. Apologies for the rather short lead (1.3m) and lack of lead extenders.
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The IE 40 Pro in-ear monitors deliver great sound at no cost and are suitable for live use and general playback tasks.
The number of drivers is an important criterion when choosing a set of in-ear monitors. Budget models offer just one, leaving the burden of reproducing each bass, midrange, and treble frequency onto a single driver. Explore the top ranges and you’ll see why it’s important to keep them separate.
The Mackie MP-220 is a good example. By using two drivers – one for treble and one for bass – we found that the sound quality was greatly improved compared to other budget options. The eartips fit our ears well and provided good isolation, making them an ideal first set of “fit” IEMs for any budding artist.
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Shure is known as a true heavyweight in the world of recording and production, so we had high hopes for the Shure SE215 in-ear monitors. Thankfully, we’ve rounded up our picks for the best affordable in-ear monitors.
Shure claims the SE215 blocks out about 90 percent of ambient noise, making them ideal for most music applications. The thick detachable cables also suggest some level of sturdiness, although we noticed some slight magnetic interference when they came into contact with our hands.
They’re not high-end products – only one driver works here – but as an entry into the world of IEMs? We found the balance between sound quality, build quality, and price to be excellent. And, as a bonus, they’re great for just listening to Spotify and the like. Overkill? not at all…
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Professional musicians need to look a little further when it comes to choosing the best wireless in-ear monitoring system for them. If your livelihood depends on delivering high-quality performance around the clock, you need to make sure the equipment you use can handle it. We found Sennheiser’s EW IEM G4 Twin to be perfect for us.
The reputation behind Sennheiser gave us great confidence during our testing and we were not disappointed. As one of the biggest names in audio transmission, Sennheiser can be trusted when it comes to its line of monitors. The G4 system is reliable, high-quality, and offers useful features such as a 330-foot transmission range and easy synchronization between transmitter and receiver via infrared.
At the other end of the price spectrum is the InEar ProPhile-8. These are, as you’d expect for the price, completely different fish tanks, designed for the touring musician rather than the home studio enthusiast.
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A total of eight internal drivers delivered balanced, powerful sound peaks that we could hear, while ambient noise absorption levels of around 26 dB ensured we had excellent isolation on and off stage.
What impressed us about the ProPhile-8 set was the apparently incredible transmission range. Everything from the deepest subwoofer to soft synth notes resonates effortlessly. So good, you might not want to take them off.
If wireless is your first choice, we think the LD MEI100 G2 is a great way to start. The kit includes a transmitter, receiver and a basic set of headphones, providing up to 96 UHF channels with excellent dynamic range and frequency response.
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It can run for up to eight hours on two AA batteries, while a total of five receivers can be connected to the central transmitter. We certainly didn’t feel like we achieved top-notch audio reproduction during testing, but as a way to get your hands on a wireless system, it’s worth checking out.
A good place to start when choosing the best in-ear monitors for you is deciding whether you’re going with wired or wireless IEMs. Your answer will depend on the instrument you play. For drummers, it often makes sense to have a clean wired sound in their (usually) static state, as there is no risk of audio loss or interference.
However, vocalists, guitarists, keyboard players and anyone else in front of the stage will benefit from a wireless solution. These include a transmitter device where
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