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Best In-Ear Monitors on the Market

Last updated: 6 months ago
7 min read

We’re looking at the best in-ear monitors for musicians, studio professionals, and regular users.

Rating Price AUX shape Connection Mic & Controls More info
Shure SE215 Best under $100
Shure SE215 wired earbuds
4.5
Under $100
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm (Wireless adapter available)
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1MORE Quad Driver Best under $200
4.4
Under $120
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm (+ airline adapter)
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Shure SE846 Best high-end
Shure SE846 wired earbuds
4.4
Under $1100
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm (Wireless adapter available)
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MEE Audio M6 PRO Best under $50
MEE Audio M6 PRO 2nd gen
4.4
Under $50
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm (Wireless adapter available)
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HIFIMAN RE-400 Under $50 alternative
HiFiMan RE-400
3.8
Under $30
J-shape
Wired – 3.5mm
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KZ ZST Best cheap
KZ ZST
4.4
Under $20
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm
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BASN Bsinger BC100 Cheap alternative
BASN Bsinger BC100
4.4
Under $40
L-shape
Wired – 3.5mm
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If you are looking for classic in-ear headphones at different prices, here’s the rundown.

Some people refer to “in ear monitors” as IEMs, it’s an abbreviation. They’re also known as in-ear headphones, floor monitors, earpieces, personal monitor, and they’re usually a part of professional monitor systems.

Table of Contents

    What Are In-Ear Monitors?

    In-ear monitors are equivalent to studio monitor headphones but with a different design. They sit in the ear canal, instead of the outside of the ear (like over and on-ear headphones).

    KZ ZST in-ear monitor

    They are very popular with live musicians who can monitor their singing by listening to themselves while keeping the ability to move. Over-ear headphones are big and conspicuous. You can also use them either in recording or in a casual environment.

    In-ear monitor headphones have a lot of benefits for musicians. The engineer sends a monitor mix to each musician. You can hear the levels you need to keep you playing at your top potential. For example, you may wish to hear more of the drummer to keep your timing perfect.

    In the non-professional market, you see a lot of wireless in-ear monitors (also known as wireless earbuds). These are designed for more casual, daily use and focus on convenience.

    Some people opt for balanced armature monitors. These use a balanced armature driver which can be tuned to specific frequencies, give more detailed sound and can even act as a form of hearing protection.

    How Do In-Ear Monitors Work?

    In a stage setting, firstly, a mixer sends a feed to a wireless receiver. The receiver usually sits on a belt and connects to your in-ear monitors so that you can hear the sound.

    A monitor engineer in big productions does the monitor mix. However, on live shows, the live sound engineer may do this instead.

    By having custom in-ear monitors being mixed separately, each member of a band can hear what they want to. This aids their performance. Wireless systems for in-ear monitors also allow more freedom around the stage.

    In ear monitors also keep the stage sound levels down. This means that you no longer need to use big, bulky stage monitors. This is good for your hearing.

    The echo can be a problem with in-ear monitor headphones and live performances. Echo cancellation is the answer. It works by monitoring the sound being played into the microphones and then comparing it to the sound originating from the far end. It can cancel out the sound it finds in both. This sound can only be coming from the far end. This sort of technology works on your smartphones, too.

    You can learn more about how to use in-ear monitors on stage here.

    Pros and Cons of In-Ear Monitors

    In-ear earphones and monitors have upsides and downsides.

    Most successful live musicians and bands use IEMs. However, it’s important to point out that not everyone can and that their use isn’t always suitable.

    PROS:

    • IEMs allow you to get a personalized monitor mix
    • In-ear headphones are much more flexible than over-ear headphones
    • You don’t have to stay near a stage monitor, so you can walk around freely
    • The stage noise is lower as a result of not having stage monitors
    • Due to sound isolation, music is being sent straight to your ear canals, meaning a clearer sound
    • In-ear earphones are more stable than classic earbuds

    CONS:

    • You may not be able to hear crowd reactions as well
    • The whole setup can be expensive
    • You need a monitor mix to be done by an engineer or a live engineer
    • You need more equipment such as transmitters for your IEMs to work

    For most musicians and big tours, in-ear monitors are the way to go. For small club gigs, they might be an expensive overkill.

    Best In-ear Monitors and Headphones With Monitor Features

    1. Shure SE215

    dollar Best under $100
    Shure SE215

    Best in-ear monitors under $100

    In-ear monitors don’t have to be expensive. These popular Shure earbuds under $100 have some great features and sound.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 22-17.500Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise Cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Microphone only | Impedance: n/a | Weight: n/a | Cable length: n/a | Features: Detachable cable, optional wireless adapter
    • Good sound quality
    • Price-to-performance ratio
    • Detachable cable
    • Narrow soundstage

    Why Buy These?

    The quality of these IEMs is excellent, and the sound isolating eartips block out a lot of ambient noise, meaning you can hear the mix as intended.

    They have gold plated MMCX connectors and snapping mechanism so you can rotate to your preference. These earphones also have 3 different sizes of ear tips.

    They’re pretty lightweight and don’t sit too heavy in the ears so that you can cope with a whole concert wearing them.

    The original model is wired, but you can purchase an adapter that can give a 30 feet wireless range. Unfortunately, the adapter isn’t working that well, so stick with wires.

    The Bad

    The way you wear these behind the ear takes getting used to. Also, the bass can sound a bit “boomy” with no EQ settings to impact this.

    The Sound

    If you like your sound bassy, these IEMs could be for you. Some in-ear headphones lose this, but these have a boost in the low-end to keep you hearing the low frequencies clearly.

    For a fun bassy sound and high-quality design under $100, consider the Shure SE215.

    See the best headphones under $100 for more options.


    2. 1MORE Quad Driver

    dollar Best under $200
    1MORE Quad Driver in-ear monitor

    Best in-ear monitors under $200

    If you’re looking for in-ear monitors with meticulous detail and design, these earphones could be for you. Plus, they come in at under $200 from a company, 1MORE, that’s known for making quality headphones for less.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 3 balanced armature, 1 dynamic
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-40.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Yes | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Weight: 0.65 oz (18.5g) | Cable lenght: 49 inch (1.25m) | Features: THX certified, inline controls
    • Durable build with premium materials
    • 4 drivers ouput great sound quality
    • Many included accessories
    • Non-detachable cable

    Why Buy These?

    Incredible quad drivers (four of them) have an amazing level of power and give a clear definition to the monitor mix. Three balanced armature drivers are included for handling the high-end, and another driver for bass alone.

    And when you don’t want to enjoy Hi-Fi music, you have in-line controls for making phone calls and changing music and volume in a breeze.

    9 different eartip sizes are included for you to choose the best for you. You also get a leather case and shirt clip.

    The Bad

    Paying almost $200 for wired in-ear headphones is hard to justify for a modern music enthusiast since you have so many wireless options.

    The Sound

    The sound quality is fantastic. The drivers we’ve already mentioned give clarity as well as power. The headphone’s audio signature has been designed by Luca Bignardi who is a grammy-winning engineer.

    If you don’t mind wired IEMs and are looking for brilliant, clear audio, think about getting your hands on some 1MORE Quad Drivers.


    3. Shure SE846

    trophy Best high-end
    Shure SE846

    Best high-end in-ear monitors

    If you are a serious musician, looking for seriously impressive quad-driver IEMs, these could be perfect for you. An incredible set of features and quality, packed into a tiny package, but comes at a price.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 4 balanced armature drivers
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 15-20.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 9 Ohm | Weight: n/a | Cable lenght: 64 inch (1.6m) | Features: Detachable cable, optional wireless adapter
    • Outstanding sound quality
    • Great passive isolation (-37dB)
    • Secure, comfortable fit
    • Expensive

    Why Buy These?

    The go-to IEMs for many pros. Quad drivers, quality design, and superb sound.

    Firstly, a detachable cable enables connectivity options. And the earphones have a 37 dB noise isolation capability for blocking out ambient stage noise.

    Furthermore, they offer a secure and comfortable fit and convenient carrying case for serious musicians.

    These are the standard-setting in-ears for many audiophiles.

    The Bad

    The only real bad thing is the price, and it’s a significant consideration as they cost almost $1000 ($900-ish).

    The Sound

    The sound justifies the price. Four exceptional drivers, a low-pass filter, and the choice to amend and customize the frequency response makes these some of the best-sounding monitors you’re likely to hear.

    If you’re a serious musician and only high fidelity and clarity will do, go for the Shure SE846.


    4. MEE Audio M6 PRO

    dollar Best under $50
    MEE Audio M6 PRO 2. generation wired earbuds

    Best in-ear monitors under $50

    Looking at the price tags of some IEMs may put a lot of musicians off. However, a budget option is on offer. The MEE Audio M6 PRO have decent features without breaking the bank.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 10mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Yes | Impedance: 16 Ohm | Weight: n/a | Cable lenght: 51 inch (1.3m) | Water resistance: IPX5 | Features: Detachable cable, optional wireless adapter
    • Decent sound
    • Durable construction
    • Lots of included ear tips with good passive isolation
    • Lack of bass

    Why Buy These?

    Naturally, the price tag is a huge plus point and one reason that many people will consider the M6 PRO. There are some cool features, too.

    The flexible memory wire allows these to fit nicely within the ear and stay there. There are 6 sets of ear tips you can choose from, and all of them are good at blocking ambient noise. You could use them for working out, or check the best workout headphones.

    Though wired, the cable is detachable, so you can get a wireless adapter if you want.

    The Bad

    The frequency response is not as good as some other earphones on the list. Furthermore, the power in the bass frequencies is somewhat lacking.

    The Sound

    You probably won’t find ultra-high fidelity at this price, but the M6 PRO are right behind. The sound is good enough for a starting musician and their monitor needs.

    If you need an affordable option with good sound quality, go for the MEE Audio M6 PRO.

    For similar models check best earbuds under $50.

    5. HiFiMan RE-400

    dollar Best under $50 alternative
    HiFiMan RE-400

    An alternative in-ear model under $50

    Another option for an affordable set of in-ear monitors is the HiFiMan RE-400. These have a decent bass response and some pretty good features for the money.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 8.5mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 15-22.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Optional | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Weight: 0.47 oz (13.5g) | Cable lenght: 52 inches (1.33m) | Features: /
    • Neutral sound signature
    • Good soundstage
    • Cable isn't very durable

    Why Buy These?

    If you find that the IEMs on a budget can be a little tinny and lacking in bass, these have a boosted bass response, which means the low-end doesn’t go missing.

    There are multiple tips to allow you to choose the right size for you.

    A titanium diaphragm, neodymium magnet, and copper cable are designed to stop the ‘stethoscope’ effect of hearing your heartbeat.

    The Bad

    These are very basic. No wireless capabilities, and no detachable cables.

    Though the manufacturers say these are compatible with iPhone and Android, adapters are needed for the iPhone.

    The Sound

    The 15Hz-22KHz frequency response is more than adequate, and a little bass boost gives these a good sound that’s hard to find at this price, though the audio is better with higher-end models.

    For in-ear monitors with clear and powerful bass on a budget, go for the HiFiMan RE-400.


    6. KZ ZST

    dollar Best cheap in-ear monitors

    Best cheap in-ear monitors

    If you’re on a really tight budget and want something cheap, but decent, the KZ ZST monitors might surprise you with their quality.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 10mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Yes (Optional) | Weight: 0.85 oz (24g) | Impedance: 16 Ohm | Cable length: 47.2 inch (1.2m) | Features: Detachable cable, 1 Dynamic + 1 BA
    • Amazing value
    • Great sound
    • Removable cable
    • Comfortable fit
    • All-plastic construction

    Why Buy These?

    The KZ ZST in-ear headphones are actually pretty decent in spite of their low price.

    The detachable cable is a big bonus for a set of ear buds this affordable. 3 pairs of silicone ear tips help you find a comfortable fit though memory foam tips are better.

    The Hybrid Balance Armature drivers could be mistaken for more expensive IEMs. And, you wear these behind the ear, like Shure, so they stay comfy for hours.

    The Bad

    No way to make them wireless in-ear monitor. Also, the materials feel a bit cheap, “plasticky.”

    The Sound

    For the price, the sound is unrivaled. It’s tough to get such clarity at such an affordable price tag. The frequency response is great, the bass doesn’t go missing and has a nice punch while highs are detailed without harshness. It’s a balanced sound signature that’s hard to find in even more expensive headphones.

    For affordability and sound that outperform the price tag, take a look at the KZ ZST in-ear monitors.

    Check the KZ ZST full review.


    7. BASN Bsinger BC100

    dollar Cheap option for musicians
    BASN Bsinger BC100 in-ear monitors

    The best cheap in-ear monitors for musicians

    For affordability, but also a good level of features fit for stage use, these earphones could be your best choice.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 2 dynamic drivers
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 18 Ohm | Weight: n/a | Cable lenght: 47 inch (1.2m) | Features: Detachable cable
    • Affordable
    • Good fit for stage use
    • Quality cable with MMCX connection
    • Great sound for the price
    • Cables can pop off if you pull the cable too much

    Why Buy These?

    The quality, detachable MMCX connector is the same as that used in some of the Shure models on the higher end of the market. There are a lot of features for a low price, and the dual dynamic driver gives plenty of power and clarity on a budget.

    The adjustable earhook design can be customized to your face and give you a perfect fit for your own ears, meaning they don’t fall out.

    Plus, you can choose from different colors to fit your style; red isn’t the only option.

    The Bad

    Sometimes, they can pop off the detachable wires if you pull too strongly.

    The Sound

    The sound clarity can’t be argued with for an affordable price, especially if you don’t need huge booming bass. The mids and highs are pretty impressive. These are designed for clarity and accuracy that a musician needs.

    If you’re looking for cheap IEMs suitable for use as a musician when recording or performing, consider the BASN Bsinger BC100.


    Honorable Mentions

    More in-ear monitors that are generally a good choice.

    FiiO F9 – check price
    RHA MA750 – check price
    MEE Audio Pinnacle P1 – check price


    More earbud guides:

    Best noise cancelling earbuds
    Best cheap earbuds