It’s tough to say that you’ll ever go back to regular headphones when once you’ve tried in-ear monitors. I’m not saying that IMEs are better than studio headphones but they’re incredibly light and that does feel awfully good on the ears.
These little guys work especially well for music professionals and producers. I’ve practically worn down my latest pair because it’s incredibly convenient to use and won’t cause ear fatigue when compared to bulky gear.
Plus, in-ear monitors often allow professionals to listen to finer music details that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. This can be great for mixing. Anyway, if you’re like me and are always looking for ways to simplify things, and opt for a model that offers tons of functionality along with a sleek style. Confused on how to? Your buddy is here to help with this detailed buying guide.
I’ve tried my fair share of IEMs hence I’ll be sharing some of my favorites in this list. You’d be surprised how some incredibly affordable products here perform incredibly well.
Without further ado, here is a list of the best in ear monitors out there:
1. Easy KZ ZST
Right off the bat, the Easy KZ ZST Colorful Hybrid Balanced Armature is a sight to see. It looks absolutely stunning and has a cool theme design, makes it a whole lot fun to use too. I know the price point might want to make you question the quality of the product, but that’s where things get interesting. These babies are equipped with a 100mm dynamic armature, offering a frequency range of about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. I also love how it conveniently fits inside the ear, providing users much more ergonomic feel. All in all, the overall design element is comfortable to wear and reduces the chances of ear fatigue.
The IME features a 3.5mm audio plug. Which you can conveniently plug to your phone, tablet or mp3. It is compatible with most devices and does an excellent job. This model is great for newbies and beginners who are looking for a less bulky alternative to headphones. It also has noise canceling features, so you work practically anywhere you want.
As for the technicalities, it offers an impedance of 18 ohms which is pretty decent. You should get a sound stage, and the mids and highs are also very clear. The overall all build also doesn’t give much to complain about, for the price, I’d say it’s pretty much a keeper. I also like how the chords wrap comfortably so it won’t get in the way while you work. Again, I wouldn’t say that this is the most excellent product on the list, but if you’re looking for something relatively cool to work with and don’ have the budget, I’d highly recommend these!
2. KZ AS10 IEM 5 Balanced Armature Driver Earphone
This is my second pair of KZ IME’s on the list, and these are one of my favorites. I bought it randomly one day not knowing what to expect because I needed something I could toss in my pockets. And I’m glad because the bass on this is amazing. The overall sound is amazing, and I can legitimately feel the music pumping into my veins (or maybe that only happened because of what I was listening too). I also noticed how these cables were significantly better than my old ones. The chords won’t stick to your skin during the summers and the whole design has an overall better feel to it. Plus, the cable is detachable so you can have it replace in case it breaks or even go for an upgrade if you’d like (Bluetooth cables are a good way to go).
It includes five drivers, each one serving a different purpose. You won’t be having any complaints about the bass, highs and lows. The sound is pretty crisp and for the price, it’s obvious that you’re getting a pretty decent deal. You also get a fairly decent 12 months warranty, customer service is pretty great too. The mid armature driver offers superior results and the sound isn’t too pure, but it’s rather soft and pleasant. I’d also suggest you order the comply foam tips since it will boost functionality. Since you’re already spending $60, it’s not a bad idea to pay a little extra for the foam tips.
You can choose whether you’d like a microphone with the monitors or not. I’d highly recommend this to mid-level audiophiles. It’s a pretty good buy and the product doesn’t have any major problems.
3. Shure SE846-CL
Throughout my years of experience, I’ll have to admit that Shure’s a brand that I have continued to rely on. You don’t have much to worry about when you buy from reputable names because that eliminates unnecessary hazards and ensures you’re able to cash in your warranty. Anyway, the Shure SE846-CL was another addition to my IEM collection. I bought it for my mate but ended up buying one for myself as well.
First off, the design completely sets up the product since it’s clear. This means you get to see all the wires and cables which is intriguing (for some!). The sound isolation is a dream because it means you can do your work like nobody’s business. The product also features four superior drivers resulting in utmost clarity and super performance. I also like how the cable is detachable so it’s great if you want to get a replacement or would like to upgrade it with something better. All these factors contribute to a clearer, much more tailored listening experience – great for music professionals who like some extra privacy. This should help you get more focused.
These are high-quality sound isolating earphones hence I’d recommend it to anybody who’s serious about their music. It offers an excellent fit and offers four connectivity options which is also pretty cool
All in all, this is a pretty good buy. You can buy extra accessories but I didn’t feel the need to. The design and build are great too and honestly, I don’t have any major complaints.
4. MEE audio M6 PRO 2nd Generation Universal-Fit Noise-Isolating
When it comes to the best of the best for musicians, the M6 PRO will certainly not disappoint. It’s incredibly comfortable to wear and it’s widely used by musicians all around the globe. This is definitely an upgraded product that’s designed to offer better build and performance. You can also purchase IEM’s with customized engraved faceplates which makes it a great gift too. However, you’ll have to order those directly from their website.
First off, the sound is great, everything is crystal clear and the midrange is incredibly smooth. As for the design, the over-the-ear wire ensures you don’t get distracted and can listen to music peacefully. Plus, you get seven pairs of ear tips which is pretty cool for the price. The package also includes a carry case, cable, comply memory foam meaning you get the best value for money. I’d recommend this to anybody who’s looking for a complete kit and doesn’t want to spend extra bucks on ear tips. Smart move, though.
Also, comfort wise, I was pretty impressed because my ears get all weird after a couple of hours. This normally ends with me taking an extra break or two but these IEMs definitely changed that. For value, this is a pretty deal and also includes a microphone for increased functionality.
Fair warning, this model isn’t sweat-proof so if you sweat a lot or plan on wearing these to the gym then I’d definitely give it a pass. You’ll be better off with something more sweat/water resistant.
5. SIMGOT EN700 PRO
I’ve always felt like these in-ear monitors are incredibly underrated because most people prefer shopping with more familiar brands such as Shure. Anyway, this is an incredibly high-quality pair, it’s definitely not your everyday wear-and-tear kind of IEMs so I’d suggest you use something else for the gym and use this solely for your musical gigs.
I’d also recommend this as a great gift for audiophiles since you get a bunch of accessories with your purchase. This includes 2 silicon tips and a cable. The tips are unlike any other I’ve used before because it significantly improves sound resolution resulting in natural sound.
As for the design, I’d say it’s pretty ergonomic and does a decent job. This model features a single dynamic driver and offers 101 dB sensitivity which isn’t too bad. Plus, it’s compatible with the latest phones, tablets and digital audio players. And best of all, the build is pretty great since it features all-metal housing without a shred of plastic. I don’t know how to put it into words but it just feels so much better in your ears. And I’ve used plenty of IEMs so yes, go with metal whenever you can. It’s a bit pricey but worth it if you value comfort. The cables are also pretty comfortable – you can wear them straight down or wrap the cable around your ears.
The stainless steel housing also prolongs the life of the product ensuring greater durability along with enhanced sonic properties. All in all, these are a pretty decent pair. The only downside is that you only get two ear tips for the price while other brands get you to get away with a few more on at a more cost-effective price tag.
6. BASN BsingerBC100
The BASN BsingerBC100 is another IEM that I have remained a fan of. It features dual drivers and does an excellent job at what it’s been created to do. I’d highly recommend this to singers, vocalists and musicians and all kinds of audiophiles. I’m not a huge fan of the design but my buddies have always like how colorful it is. Also, I’m a huge fan of the custom fit design. The adjustable ear hooks ensure that the monitors stay in place. This is great for folks who plan on using the monitors for long periods of time. I’ve also used it at the subway or while going out for a walk and I like how I don’t have to fidget or move it into place constantly.
This model also offers decent noise cancellation so you can work and listen to fine details without interruptions. Your purchase will include 5 ear tips for tailored listening which isn’t a bad deal for the price. This ensures personal sizing and allows you to benefit from maximum isolation.
Talking more about the design, like most front-runner IEM is the market, the BsingerBC100 features a detachable cable. This calls for easy replacements and upgrades in case you want to switch to better cables. This is an exceptionally great feature for audiophiles since it guarantees longevity and ensures that you’re able to create your own style.
Also, the 3.5mm jack is compatible with most audio devices which is gold plated. And if it makes a difference, the particular model is available in a range of colors. I bought the blue one because it brings out my eyes (just kidding).
Priced under $40 with free shipping – not a bad deal I’d say. I’d recommend this to practically anybody as long as you’re a music lover. The technical specs are also pretty decent hence I don’t have any major complaints. The bass-driven sound makes it perfect for music professionals.
7. TRN V80
In most cases, you really do get what you pay for but some brands go the extra mile and provide their customers’ affordable solutions. And the TRN V80 Balance is a prime example of this. At first glance, it might look like your everyday plastic earphones but they’re not. These babies are constructed using with an aluminum metal sheet which enhances durability, also resulting in a better look. What I really like is that these IEMs work great with all kinds of music genres so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of country music, soft rock or if you like to rap. The metal shell looks incredibly fashionable plus the design is quite durable too.
The TRN V80 features two armature and 2 dynamic drivers that allows music geeks to listen to every little detail. It includes a detachable cable pin, making it possible for you to opt for a replacement.
I’d also like to add that I was pretty impressed with the isolation on these. Also, the sound doesn’t leak so people around you won’t be bothered either which is also a plus point. The monitors are much smaller than what they look in the pictures but that doesn’t make much of a difference. I tried out this brand once I was done with my pair of Shure. The sound profile is pretty decent and while it isn’t the best IEM that I’ve worked with, it works well for its low price point.
You’ll also be pleased to know that the brand offers a 12-month warranty and great customer service. This will certainly help if you in case something goes wrong with the product.
8. ROCUSO GLE300
So every now and then I make it a point to try out a new brand or invest in something slightly underrated. You see, when you’ve gained a couple of years of experience, you’re no longer afraid to try new stuff because you already have a safe stash to turn to if something goes wrong. You may consider this an act of public service since most folks only buy what others are buying. And that brings us to the ROCUSO GLE300. This product has garnered excellent customer reviews on Amazon while the brand also has a reputation for crafting great products for audiophiles such as myself.
The brand exclaims that their products are designed “to rock your soul.” I don’t know about you but that definitely takes some work. With the GLE300, you can expect optimal clarity, the product offers crystal clear sound and the ergonomic design further enhances one’s listening experience. You’ll also be pleased to know that the product is compatible with most devices so that should also take a load off your mind. Plus, the model fits quite easily in your ears and that improves functionality.
But perhaps my favorite feature is that these monitors are completely water and sweat resistant. This is great if you listen to music while going on walks or even while working out. The sound quality is also nothing to complain about, you get powerful bass which isn’t too overpowering while the high notes are also crisp. I wouldn’t recommend this to the pros but if you’re a beginner and you’d like to get some decent work done then this isn’t a bad option. If you want to get better functionality and work use out of this, I’d recommend dual driver models (you can check out some of the IMEs that I’ve included in this list).
I also like how the cord is easy to manage so it doesn’t get in your way while you’re working. You also don’t have to worry about adjusting the IME’s at regular intervals because it magically stays put. And that really is something that people look for when buying in-ear monitors!
Factors to Consider When Buying IME
Now I can’t end the guide without giving you a few pointers on HOW to buy the best product in the market. Aside from functionality and performance, us music professionals also need something that’s comfortable and won’t cause our ears to swell. My point is, you ought to consider as many factors as you can. Here are some that happened to make it on my list.
Further reading: mixing with headphones vs monitors.
I spent most of this guide talking about dual drivers and dynamic drivers and much more. There are primarily two main types of drivers to choose from including:
These drivers recreate the entire frequency range. This ensures that the sound ends up super natural. This kind of favored by plenty of professionals. To get the best of both worlds, some brands have created hybrid models that function as both dynamic and balanced armature drivers.
Balanced Armature Drivers
Unlike dynamic versions, balanced armature drivers tune in sound to a specific frequency range to give optimal results. These drivers are also used in hearing aids but they do a pretty good job for musicians and audiophiles too.
I like being able to work wherever I want and thankfully technology has made it easier for me to get my muse. Isolation measures how great a job the product does in preventing unwanted noise from making its way inside your ear canal. It’s best you opt for custom-made IEMs if you’re particular about noise isolation and don’t want to be disturbed. Bear in mind, your purchase will typically come with different ear tips that will help with sound isolation.
If you plan on using these for a couple of hours then I absolutely would not advise you to purchase an uncomfortable pair even if it performs incredibly well. Opt for whatever suits you best, if you’d rather buy a shell-shaped IME, then go for it. Ear fatigue is real and it can compromise your ability to do your job well.
I’d also recommend you opt for something that’s durable and water/sweat resistant. Ears can get pretty sweaty especially if you have them bogged down for a couple of hours in the summers. All this can drastically effect listening experience.
Now, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my detailed guide on the best in ear monitor because I sure as hell enjoyed writing it. These babies might not be as good as your old fashioned studio headphones (check out this guide for studio headphones under $100) but if you’re looking to cut down on the bulk, IMEs are a pretty good choice. Once you get a pair, make sure you learn how to clean them.
Is there something you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments section below.