Top 10 Best In-Ear Monitors

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Introduction

In ear monitors (IEMs) are one of the best things that musicians could’ve asked for. By using them, you can forget about the ringing ears you get from the booming of the speaker monitor systems, not to mention that they bring a plethora of other benefits to the table.

IEMs allow you more mobility, they’re subtle, and to top it all, you will never again have to worry about ‘not hearing the bass’ or any other instrument on stage. They’re perfect for studio work too, more for rehearsals than for actual recording though.

In search of the best In-Ear monitors, we’ve stumbled across 10 extraordinary models from world-class leaders such as Audio Technica, Shure, and such. Without any further ado, let’s take a look the best models.

Best In-Ear monitors – overview

Model name

Category

Audio Quality

Price

KZ AS10 earbuds

In-Ear monitors for singers

Very good

BASN Professional In-Ear  monitor headphones

In-Ear  monitors for singers

Very good

Decibullz Custom molded ES In-Ear headphones

Custom In-Ear monitors

Great

MEE Professional MX3 Pro In-Ear monitors

Custom In-Ear monitors

Outstanding

Shure SE425-CL

In-Ear monitors for drummers

Outstanding

Westone UM Pro10 noise-isolating In-Ear monitors

In-Ear monitors for live performance

Great

Yinyoo KZ ZST In-Ear  monitors

Affordable In-Ear  monitors

Good

CCA CA4 Dual Driver In-Ear  earphones

Affordable In-Ear  monitors

Good

Audio Technica ATH E40 professional In-Ear  monitor headphones

In-Ear monitors under 200  

Great

Shure SE215-CL sound isolating earphones

In-Ear monitors under 200  

Great

Best In-Ear monitors for singers

1. KZ AS10 In-Ear monitors

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Most notably, these monitors come supplied with several driver units, each being responsible for a different aspect of the soundstage. They offer hi-fi performance with a massive bass response, although mids and highs are present as well. They’re wired and feature a detachable OCC 2 cable.

What we liked about these headphones:

The KZ A10 earbuds come supplied with several drivers, which is the reason why we think they’re a great choice for singers. These monitors are highly customizable, allowing you to modify the soundstage to your liking with ease.

Additionally, the armature build of these monitors works wonders in terms of sound isolation. Moreover, that also means that they’re great for casual listening to music, as they pack premium quality ambient noise reduction as well. Without any doubt, KZ A10 IEMs are some of the best In-Ear monitors for singers.

What we thought could be improved:

Generally, most people like it when the bass is thumpy and strong in their monitors, but not singers. Singers demand absolute clarity, whether they’re performing live or recording tracks in a studio, and KZ A10 monitors are really ‘strong’ in this particular field of performance. Luckily, you can switch between drivers, so there is a way to balance out the bass-heavy soundstage.

Pros

  • Five armature drivers.
  • Hi-fi sound quality.
  • Detachable cable.

Cons

  • Initially, these monitors have a very strong bass response.
Our verdict:

The KZ AS10 is a great In-Ear monitors for singers, mainly because they’re very customizable. They isolate most of the sound and boast superb Hi-Fi performance, so they’re equally great for studio work and to play live gigs.

2. BASN Professional In-Ear monitor headphones

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Following up, we present to you BASN’s professional in-ear monitor headphones. These monitors are exceptional in terms of performance, as they pack an all-around sound stage powered by a highly versatile driver unit. 

They are outfitted with a detachable MMCX type connector, ultra-soft ear tips made of silicon, an ergonomic earpiece, and memory foam ear hooks.

They also boast a superb ambient noise reduction technology, blocking up to 20 decibels of noise. As a part of the bundle, you’ll also get a stereo jack which works with virtually every monitoring machine available, plus it’s compatible with most modern smart devices, tablets, and mp3 players.

What we liked about these headphones:

BASN’s in-ears are great for singers because they provide the much-needed clarity to hear every instrument in the play. Regardless of whether they’re used in a studio recording session, in a club, or a bigger venue, you will hear yourself and whoever is playing with you.

Additionally, these in-ear headphones sport great noise cancelling features. While being able to hear yourself, you can also nullify the external interferences very efficiently.

Lastly, they’re exceptionally comfortable to wear. The silicone ear tips are made from very gentle materials.

What we thought could be improved:

BASN’s in-ears are great for the stage, they’re especially great for the singers, but they’re rather flimsy. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you care for them properly, but know that they won’t survive long unless you’re careful.

Pros

  • Superb audio quality.
  • Versatile driver unit.
  • Provide exceptional sound clarity.
  • Decently affordable.

Cons

  • Flimsy build.
  • Somewhat shorter than the average cable.
Our verdict:

There are some bumps in terms of BASN’s In-Ear headphone performance, but they’re worth the money With great audio performance and clarity atop the well-rounded driver unit, they will provide everything a singer needs onstage.

Best custom In-Ear monitors

3.Decibullz Custom molded contour ES In-Ear headphones

Brief overview of main features and specs:

First of all, Decibullz’ in-ear headphones allow you to mold the earpieces to your liking. Initially, they’re quite comfortable to wear, but you can contour and shape the earpieces to perfectly fit your ears.

Performance wise, they sport a solid driver unit and double-seal technology which provides great external noise isolation.

What we liked about these headphones:

The Decibullz’ in-ear headphones are moldable, but there’s one thing we liked even better – they’re easy to re-mold in case you didn’t get it right the first time. What this means is that you can re-shape them over and over until they feel perfectly comfortable to you. Overall, they’re certainly among the best custom In-Ear monitors you canbuy.

What we thought could be improved:

Decibullz’ in-ear headphones tend to get quite rigid after you mold them. That means that unless you really hit the sweet spot they will provide slightly less comfort. On the plus side, they are slightly more durable than most similarly priced monitors.

Pros:

  • Fairly balanced soundstage.
  • Moldable earpieces for superior fit.
  • Great external noise reduction technology.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Very rigid after the molding process.
  • Somewhat low in the mid section of the sound stage.

4. MEE Professional MX3 Pro universal-fit modular in-ear monitors

Brief overview of main features and specs:

The MX3 Pro is not the latest model from MEE Audio, but even so it’s one of the most formidable custom In-Ear monitor sets out there. It features a triple-driver technology and modular design.

The latter refers to MX3 Pro being fully customizable. Every single part, including all the accessories can be upgraded, changed, and replaced (with different MXPro model parts). Additionally, the cable is also replaceable, very durable, and resistant to sweat.

What we liked about these headphones:

The modular design of MX3 Pro is the thing everyone who used them liked the most. All the parts are interchangeable with other MX models, so it’s easier than ever to upgrade them as soon as you get some money ready.

Furthermore, the triple-driver unit is among the best performing drivers on the in-ear monitor market. It puts a lot of emphasis on the middle section but doesn’t neglect the bass and the highs.

What we thought could be improved:

Even though there are so many great things about the MEE MX3 Pro, they cost a small fortune. Even so, they’re well worth the money since they’re built to withstand quite some punishment, so you’ll be using them for years, to say the least.

Pros

  • Triple driver technology.
  • Modular design (interchangeable parts).
  • Comfortable to wear.
  • Perfectly balanced soundstage.

Cons

  • Expensive.
Our verdict:

Though it’s true that they cost quite a lot, MEE’s MX3 Pro In-Ear monitors perform marvellously for the buck. With top grade triple driver units and versatile customization options atop the nearly unparalleled comfort they provide, they’re among the best custom In-Ear monitors on the market.

Best In-Ear monitors for drummers

5.Shure SE425-CL

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Shure’s headphones have been a ‘weapon of choice’ for musicians for decades now, and it’s only fitting that we’re opening up our best In-Ear monitors for drummers section with their SE425-CL. They’re fitted with two high definition micro drivers, moldable earpieces, and an exquisite soundstage characterized with balanced mids, deep lows, and very crispy highs.

What we liked about these headphones:

Shure’s SE425-CL might not have been designed specifically for drummers, but the fact is that they’re absolutely perfect for this line of work. The balanced soundstage provides plenty of clarity while the impeccable sound isolation technology ensures that the sound remains where it’s supposed to be.

Furthermore, they sound absolutely fantastic and are exceptionally comfortable. The formable wire around the earpieces ensures a perfect fit, so you don’t experience any ear fatigue even after hours of using them.

What we thought could be improved:

Shure’s headphones and monitors are usually expensive, and the SE425-CL is not an exception. These in-ear monitors belong to the medium bracket of the expensive price point category, and it’s safe to say that most beginner (as well as some experienced) drummers wouldn’t be able to afford them. After all, the drum parts themselves are pretty expensive as well.

Pros

  • Formable wire around the earpieces ensure a high level of comfort.
  • Minimal ear fatigue after hours of using.
  • Tremendous sound quality and balanced sound stage.
  • High tonal clarity.

Cons

  • Highly expensive.
Our verdict:

If you’ve saved up some money, we highly recommend that you give Shure’s SE425-CL a shot. These In-ears are phenomenal for drummers as they sound great, sport a phenomenal sound isolating technology, and they’re very comfortable to wear, even for hours at a time.

Best In-Ear monitors for live performance

6. Westone UM Pro10 single driver In-Ear monitors

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Westone is a big name in the headphone industry, and we’ve taken in their UM Pro 10, which is easily one of their flagship models, for reviewing. These monitors pack a single armature driver which provides a very dynamic soundstage, characterized with exquisite clarity and plenty of detail in audio transmission.

Furthermore, these monitors are very compact, featuring an ergonomic design. They’re nearly weightless, but were built to last.

What we liked about these headphones:

First and foremost, Westone’s UM Pro 10 in-ear monitors are very reliable. They offer high-quality performance due to one of the strongest driver units on the market, and you can be rest assured that they won’t fail you while you’re on stage.

Moreover, due to their ergonomic and compact design you won’t even feel them. You can simply focus on your playing without having to re-adjust them or check if the cable’s gotten tangy or anything similar.

What we thought could be improved:

In all honesty, only people who don’t know what Westone’s UM Pro 10 are meant for might have said a couple of bad things about them. These in-ear monitors put up a flat frequency-response, which means that the sound coming to your ears is unaltered. This, however, makes casual listening to music a bit dull and uninteresting.

Pros

  • Tremendous audio quality.
  • Very durable and comfortable.
  • Balanced soundstage and incredibly robust driver unit.
  • Compact, ergonomic build.

Cons

  • Flat frequency response means that casual listening to music won’t be as satisfying with these in ears.
Our verdict:

Without any doubt, Westone’s UM Pro 10 are among the best In-Ear monitors for live performance. Their soundstage is phenomenal, they’re practically weightless, and most importantly, they offer a reliable, premium-quality performance. They hold a huge value for the cash.

Best affordable In-Ear monitors

7.Yinyoo KZ ZST In-Ear monitors earphone

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Yinyoo’s KZ ZST IEMs feature an ergonomic build, they were designed with memory wires surrounding the earpieces, and they provide a secure, locked-in fit. They also provide independent channels for separate drivers and plenty of audio clarity. Moreover, the silicone tips further boost the already great comfort rating.

What we liked about these headphones:

It’s fairly uncommon to find such a versatile in-ear monitor set such as KZ ZST. These headphones sound great and are exceptionally comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. What’s more, they even have independent channels for the drivers.

Even so, we’ve mainly liked them for their hybrid armature driver. These in-ear monitors come outfitted with the most versatile and balanced soundstage, perhaps in the entire price point category.

What we thought could be improved:

The cable of Yinyoo’s KZ ZST does not excel in durability, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that it’s flimsy per se. Moreover, it’s just about long enough to provide some mobility, although it could’ve been made a bit longer.

Pros

  • Great sound quality for the money.
  • Hybrid armature driver.
  • Independent audio channels.
  • Very comfortable to wear.

Cons

  • Short, relatively flimsy cable.
Our verdict:

Due to the vast array of different benefits it brings to the table, the Yinyoo’s KZ ZST is easily one of the best affordable In-Ear monitors around. It has great sound quality and comfort, with the only downfall being the short cable.

8.CCA CA4 Dual driver In-Ear earphones

Brief overview of main features and specs:

The CCA CA4 offers huge value with a detailed soundstage and clarity it provides. Though it’s just a budget level In-Ear monitor, the sound isolation it brings to the table is substantial. Furthermore, it packs an ergonomic design and a very convenient detachable cable.

What we liked about these headphones:

The durability, sonic performance, and compactness of CCA’s CA4 in ear monitors, these qualities are something you’ll seldom see in the budget price point category.

Apart from its inexpensiveness, we loved how good they sound and how convenient they are for live performances in particular. They’re also pretty decent for majority of studio work; although you might want to invest a bit more if you want to record with them. They’re absolutely perfect for rehearsals though.

What we thought could be improved:

Sadly, the CCA’s CA4 In-Ear monitors are just a bit too strong on the higher end for us to call them ‘flat frequency response monitors’. The mids are a bit overly pronounced as well, but the silver lining is that there’s not too much work to be done around the EQ in this respect.

Pros

  • Superb sound quality for budget in ear monitors.
  • Very durable.
  • Ergonomic design.
  • Sturdy cable.

Cons

  • The frequency response isn’t exactly flat.
Our verdict:

If you’re looking for the best affordable In-Ear monitors, you should at least give CCA’s CA4 a consideration. They’re strikingly different from most similarly priced in-ear headphones as they sound better and provide more comfort and durability.

Best In-Ear monitors under 200  

9.Audio Technica ATH-E40 Professional In-Ear monitor headphones

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Audio Technica is one of the biggest names in the headphone industry, and if you’re searching for the best In-Ear monitors under 200 dollars, the ATH-E40 has got you covered.

These monitors pack proprietary dual-phase drivers that were specifically manufactured to provide as much sound clarity as possible. The detachable cable is very durable and flexible while the ear hooks provide plenty of comfort. You’ll also get a complementary carry case, as well as a couple of silicone tips.

What we liked about these headphones:

AT’s headphones are generally in the top tier, so it was really refreshing to see that ATH-E40 doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Performance wise, these monitors offer everything you’d expect from such a giant brand. Superb comfort and exceptional audio quality are just the start of what ATH-E40 has to offer.

What we thought could be improved:

Even though the cable of these monitors is pretty durable, it’s fairly short. The only thing that could’ve been done differently about the ATH-E40 in ears is the length of it.

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
  • Detachable cable.
  • Exceptional audio quality.
  • Complementary carry case and silicone tips.
  • Decently affordable.

Cons

  • Relatively short cable.
Our verdict:

It doesn’t get much better than ATH-E40. These monitors are actually affordable considering how great they sound and how comfortable they are to wear.

10.Shure SE215-CL Sound isolating earphones

Brief overview of main features and specs:

Shure’s SE215-CL In-Ear monitors pack sound-isolating sleeves that are capable of blocking some 37 decibels of external noise, they’re very light, and sport a remarkably powerful driver unit. The bundle also includes a complementary carry case.

What we liked about these headphones:

Great sonic performance, absolutely comfortable to wear, plus the package includes three different sizes of ear tips (small, medium, and large).

What we thought could be improved:

The only thing standing in the way of Shure’s SE215-CL being a perfect set of In-Ear monitors is the fact that they’re a bit flimsier than most similarly priced models.

Pros

  • Great sound quality.​​​​
  • Exceptionally comfortable to wear.
  • The package comes with three different sizes of ear tips.
  • Complementary carry case.

Cons

  • Not exactly as durable as they should be.
Our verdict:

Shure made some of the greatest headphones and In-Ear monitors on the market, and SE215-CL is a great example of their craftsmanship. These monitors are well worth the buck if you properly maintain them due to their flimsy build.

Buying guide

What to look for in In-Ear monitors?

In-Ear monitors are flooding the market, and you’ll find models costing from below $20 to way above $200. The differences between budget and boutique level models are not always so obvious, so here are some of the things you should keep an eye out for.

Sound quality – drivers

The sheer audio quality of IEMs depends on the type of driver unit (or units) that comes along with it. Some feature one, others have as much as five, but it’s not as much about quantity as much as it is about quality.

The driver unit defines the soundstage, so since you will be able to fine-tune the configuration of your sound at a rehearsal or a sound check, it’s imperative that you find a set of IEMs with a flat frequency response and a balanced soundstage.

Bass-heavy drivers are difficult to work with because the lower end frequencies tend to linger no matter how much you try to work around them. On the flip side, the middle section is hard to juice up if it’s not present enough while the highs, if they’re not clear enough, pose a threat of completely ruining the day for your sound technician.

Durability

Just like with any other headphone set, In-Ear monitors need to be durable if you want to get any value from them. The situation with IEMs is even more serious because they’re often made of flimsy plastic components.

Additionally, if you’ve opted for wired In-Ears, you need to make sure that the cable is robust as well. Musicians tend to move around the stage a lot, especially if heavier music is playing, so it’s fairly common to see people ripping the cables of their bandmates by accident.

Flat frequency response

Even if your In-Ear monitors sound great and are built as a brick wall, they would be useless both in studio and on stage if they don’t have a flat frequency response. The logic behind this is fairly simple; you will have a tough time achieving equilibrium if any part of the soundstage seems overly accentuated. 

How to set up In-Ear monitors

Essentially, all of the instrument outputs will get plugged in the so-called stage box which later goes to the front house. Now, the first thing you need to do is splitting the outputs, leaving you with a single set which goes to the front house while the second one goes to the monitoring system.

To split the outputs you will, obviously, need a rack-mount splitter and a pair of XLR snakes. The first snake should connect the splitter and the monitor console, while the other one goes into your stage box.

This is the most basic way to set up your in-ear monitors, but there are many other steps you could add if you want to improve their efficiency.

By simply splitting the outputs and connecting everything ‘by hand’, you will not get consistency between gigs (or recording sessions). You will need a mixer that possesses recall capabilities if you want to ensure your monitors have the same specs on the EQ each time.

Plainly put, the mixer will allow you to memorize the settings you’ve done, so that the next time you won’t need to fine-tune them from scratch.

How to set up In-Ear monitors on stage

The situation of setting up your in ear monitors on stage is slightly different in comparison to setting them up in a studio. First of all, the venue (or festival) you intend to play will often have their own mixer unit, so if you’ve invested some time to make presets, you’re already halfway set.

If not, you will need to find the technician and point out that you have your own in-ear monitors that require setup. Most venues have their own speaker monitor systems, so accentuating the fact that you won’t be using those and want to use your own in-ears is often necessary.

Now that you’ve found the technician, you will need to split the connectors for your instruments a bit differently. Namely, the connectors that were intended to go into from the front house to the speaker monitor system need to be replaced – this time they should go from front house to your in-ears.

As far as the specs and EQ settings are concerned, some venues might allow you to bring your own mixer unit to the table, but know that most festivals won’t. If you’ve brought your own technician, he (or she) can operate the mixer unit and fine tune the specs (which traditionally happen during the sound check).

How do In-Ear monitors work

First of all, it’s important to point out the difference between in-ear monitors and speaker monitors. The former refers to a type of headphones while the latter are basically speakers that are emitting the sound onto the stage.

While speaker monitors emit sound ‘indiscriminately’ to every musician on stage, the in-ear monitors work a bit different – they emit sound to each musician separately.

The in-ears basically let you hear while you are playing for the most part, but they also bleed in some of the music your fellow band members are playing as well. That’s the best part about IEMs – you can fine tune the amount of sound bleeding in from other instruments while you get to hear your own the most.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve seen some of the best In-Ear monitors the market had to offer and our criteria for selecting them, all you have to do is simply browse through and take your pick. Each of these models has a lot to offer, so whether you’re a live musician, a singer, or a drummer, it’s beyond doubt that one of these monitors will satisfy your needs.

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