Whether you’re listening to music, playing music, or mixing music, you know one thing for sure; good music is rich, deep, and incredibly nuanced.
From a garage band to a full symphony, you have a huge array of sounds and melodies all competing for your attention and, despite a trained ear, some locations make hearing certain parts of music incredibly difficult.
If you really want to get the most out of your music, you deserve to be able to hear exactly the parts you want wherever you are. Fortunately for you, there is a way to hear exactly what’s going on in your music that fits right in your ears with an In-Ear Monitor system.
How Does an In Ear Monitor Work Exactly?
Before we talk about what an in-ear monitor does, it’s probably a good idea to talk about what it replaces. Initially, bands wired all their instruments through a set of speakers inside the stage (called wedges) so they could hear what everyone else was playing. While this strategy works, it presents a few audio-specific problems.
In addition to being unable to pick out individual sounds, anybody in the front of the house would usually hear a good bit of feedback as well.
In addition, every house’s wedge sounds a little bit different, so a sound engineer would have to make sure that they fix their mixers to work with the venue’s equipment. Again, it can be done, but it requires a lot of extra work to make sure everything sounds the way you expect.
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When you’re using some of the best in ear monitors, you’re essentially playing your music through a small radio transmitter. Simply hook in your instrument’s input to a transmitter box (either through a mixer or not) and it broadcasts a signal back to you.
With a receiver on a belt clip to pick up that signal and put it through a set of In-Ear Monitor earpieces, you can clearly hear the signal. In addition, most IEM systems have a good bit of noise-cancelling properties, so you’ll only hear what you want to and nothing else.
What does this mean for you? First of all, you don’t need to worry about wedges anymore; with IEM in-ear headphones, you can hear what everyone’s doing right in your earpiece. That means no setting up wedges, and it means that your audience right next to the stage doesn’t have to listen to them either.
In addition, by running these through a mixer, each performer can only hear the instruments they need to hear. If your bassist only needs to listen to the drummer, the sound engineer can simply turn down the channels of the other instruments. This way, your melody and your bass can each concentrate on their own parts without being drowned out, which should keep everyone on tempo much easier.
Top High End, Excellent Sounding IEM’s
Below is a list of our top performing IEM’s, our top picks amongst the many choices available for you. Make life easier by selecting one from this list and avoid the agonizing research:
Shure SE535-CL Sound-Isolating
With three drivers that include a dedicated woofer and tweeter, a sound isolating design that blocks out up to 37 db worth of ambient noise, and formable, replacable cables means that you’re getting the kind of sound quality you didn’t think was possible on anything less than earmuff-style studio headphones.
Of course, for a purchase like this, you’re also getting a 2 year warranty from Shure, as well as a host of customization options to make sure that your SE535s not only work, but they work for you. If you’re a musician or an audio professional, these IEMs are perfect for letting you hear literally everything that’s going on so that your sound can be absolutely perfect.
Westone UM Pro30 Universal Fit
Triple drivers, an up-and-over cable design, and Westone’s good name behind them means that these IEMs mean business, making sure that you’ve got a comfortable piece of gear that gives you incredible clarity of sound.
Handcrafted individually in Westone’s Colorado Springs plant, these pieces go beyond just a static triple driver design and give you a triple armature model with excellent passive crossovers, designed to give you crystal clear sound at all levels in an incredibly tight package.
The cables are all replaceable, and the included replacement cable is a nice high-end piece that’s both incredibly sturdy and offers very little resistance, so your audio signals don’t lose anything in transit.
All this is, of course, backed up by Westone, a company that’s been dealing with audio technology in all its various forms since the early 60’s, and an included 2 year warranty. If music is your passion and your profession, a set of Westone UM Pro 30s will help you get the most out of every note, and this is evident in our review of our favorite Westones.
Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile Ear Canal
Sennheiser’s really got something for audiophiles, music professionals, and anybody who wants the best possible music experience in an incredibly compact package, and it’s their IE 800 IEMs. The devil’s in the details on these piece of high-end equipment; you’re getting a full ceramic housing for each IEM, an incredibly small and precise transducer, dual channel sound absorption, and an oxygen free copper cable.
Even if you don’t understand all the specifics, they all add up to incredibly clear sound over an immense spectrum, everything you’d expect for the flagship product of such a long-standing audio technology company.
The bass booms, the treble sings, and the whole thing is optimized to give you a level of sound quality you didn’t think was possible. While the price tag on these pieces may put it out of reach of all but the most die-hard professionals, those who do pick up a pair can say it’s entirely worth it. If you want to make an investment in the best audio you can buy, the way to get there is with the Sennheiser IE 800s, laid out in full detail here.
Top More Affordable, Awesome Sounding IEM’s
Not everyone can spend big bucks on top of the line in ear monitors discussed above. These affordable IEM’s are going to give you the best bang for your buck and are certain to be long lasting and useful for your musical output.
Westone UM Pro10 Noise-Isolating
You’re still getting a solid level of quality on this single-driver model that you just don’t see on similarly priced models from other companies, including an incredibly compact armature driver, 25 db of noise reduction, an up-and-over design made for comfort, and a fully replaceable cable that make this model something that will work for years and years to come.
Particularly useful for new bands, part-time musicians and sound engineers, or up and coming audiophiles, the UM Pro 10s are a great entry-level set of IEMs that let you enjoy all the benefits of IEM technology without breaking the bank, in a package that’s guaranteed by an industry leader. They deliver a solid general spectrum of sound, so whatever your style of music may be, you can get a great sound out of it with a pair of Westone UM Pro 10s. They also fall into our top 3 Westone picks as well as a great value for under $200.
Shure SE215-CL Sound Isolating
If you plan to go in for deep, booming bass on an affordable IEM, Shure’s SE215 is right up your alley. Designed with bass-heads in mind and balanced for the low end of the spectrum, this single dynamic driver IEM gives you an incredible 37 db worth of noise reduction, so there’s nothing standing between you and incredible lows.
Other great features on this model include a replaceable cable sheathed in Kevlar, a full kit of changeable earbud tips, and an over-the-ear design that makes sure that you’re not only enjoying top-notch sound, but enjoying it comfortably as well.
For the rock,metal, or R&B enthusiast, these IEMs from Shure will give you a seriously tough bass that allows you to get the most out of your favorite artists for a price that’s incredibly affordable. Read our full review of the SE 215 here. It’s also our favorite IEM under $100.
MEElectronics M6 Pro Noise-Isolating
Combining a solid coverage of the entire music spectrum with a sound isolating design, musicians can get a good taste of what an IEM can offer without spending hundreds of dollars on a setup. Even if you decide not to buy a full IEM set, the M6s will work as some incredibly crisp workout earbuds, due in large part to their sweat-resistant design.
Not much for workouts? Simply plug up the extra features on your cable, like a microphone and volume control, and use these robust IEMs as smart phone accessories, perfect for hands-free calling with impeccable audio quality. Whatever you choose to use the MEElectronics M6 Pro series for, you can rest assured that it will exceed all of your expectations. We’ve reviewed the M6 Pro in full if you’re craving for more information. You’ll quickly find out it’s our top selection IEM under $50.
Who Could Use an In Ear Monitor System?
Anybody involved with anything that makes sound can benefit from IEM headphones and transmitters. Musicians, however, are the most obvious choice; in-ear monitors for singers let them hear themselves much more clearly and harmonize easier.
In-ear monitors for drummers let them keep the beat easier, and in-ear monitors for guitarists and bassists let them work with either the melody or the bass wherever they are on stage without getting sidetracked.
Whether you’re a garage band or a symphony orchestra, you can easily run your sound through an IEM setup and tune out sounds you don’t need to hear so you can focus on the sounds you do. Even if you’re just speaking to a crowd, an In-Ear Monitor can help you immensely.
Without the need for wedges or other stage monitors, you can drastically cut down on ambient noise, a real advantage for anybody speaking in small venues. Ministers, public officials, and television talent all swear by in ear monitor headphones to make themselves heard without the need for loud monitors and other bulky equipment.
If you’re a sound engineer, you’ll find that an IEM system can really make your life a lot easier. In addition to being able to mix tracks just for your performers, you’ve also got a talkback feed.
While this has been a television technology for a long time, live musicians could only hear feedback through the wedges or stage monitors; this means that either the performers didn’t hear what you were saying, or everybody in the audience could hear you too.
With inner ear monitors, you can speak directly onto one channel and one channel only, so you can make discreet changes on the fly.
Essentially, an IEM setup will give you an incredible amount of control over all of your work, whatever the venue and, with some of the best in-ear headphones, can make sure your talent always stays on the same page.
What Should I Get? – The Best IEMS Can Make a Big Difference
When you’re buying a set of IEM gear, you should always take your situation into consideration; you may not always need the best IEMS for everything. Your first big choice, however, is probably going to be deciding between a wired and wireless set.
While wireless in-ear monitors will give you a lot of freedom to move, they are also much more expensive than traditional wired sets; if your talent doesn’t need to move, like a drummer or guitarist (who would already be wired into their mixer anyway), than you can save yourself a lot of money by just buying a wired in ear monitor system.
In addition, if you’re setting up a television personality behind a desk with an IEM, you can probably use a wired model and hide the wires inside the talent’s clothes. Everything else, however, is entirely based on your situation and should be just as unique.
Literally every part of the IEM experience can be customized to your specific tastes, from the sensitivity of your earbuds to the range of frequencies you can get with your transmitters and even to custom in-ear monitors for added comfort.
With a little bit of research, you can easily find the best IEM setup for your venues to take full advantage of this revolutionary audio technology and bring your audio to the next level. In ear monitors are true professional’s pieces, perfect for anything where audio quality is important. We’ve taken our time to put together some of the most positive in ear headphones reviews, so you have a high-quality selection. Take a moment and browse some of the best in-ear monitors and in-ear monitor reviews so you can see which of these models is right for you.