Best In Ear Monitors (2020)

Using an ear monitor is a big step for any musician or band. It means you’ve had enough of the interference of the floor and want to be in control of what you want to hear. Either you want to hear a clear, genuine version of your sound, or maybe you’re looking for protection from the volume while you perform. We’ve got reviews of some of the best monitor systems to help you make the best choice.

A good place to start is deciding whether to go wireless or wired with your ear monitors. Whether you’re a singer, a guitarist, a drummer, or anyone else on stage than you probably could benefit from an ear monitor, but it’s worth considering your position. A drummer for example usually stays in the same position so wired ear monitors might work out better because there’s no risk of drop out or audio interference.

But wireless is a great option for a guitarist or a singer who might value movement a bit more. Deciding to use an ear monitor will improve your playing, singers will be able to hear the notes they’re hitting, drummers sometimes find themselves competing simply because they can’t hear what they’re playing.

Ear Monitors are specially designed for musicians to hear a mix of vocal and stage instruments to get an accurate portrayal of what the audience will hear. But what makes them ‘better’ than your average earphones or studio headphones? Well while earphones may look similar, its what’s on the inside that counts.

In-ear monitors, unlike the average in-ear headphones, have wider frequency responses or better drivers. They can contain as many as 12 drivers but normally more than 1. The actual driver itself is more dynamic and has a more complicated design which means that audio is processed faster and more accurately. That means there is a much clearer and more accurate audio.

If you’re looking to move in a more professional circle than its important you know that in-ear monitors are usually custom-fit into the individual’s ear for a perfect fit. This will not only feel more comfortable, but also will help reduce outside noise which can only help your focus and concentration, and as a result your ability to perform to the best of your ability. Most brands offer a custom fit, but many of the models in this guide are universal.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the tenor ukulele is all about, let’s dive in and review some of the top models currently being sold.

The Best In Ear Monitors - The Top 5 Reviewed

Now let’s get down to business and review some of the Best In Ear Monitors. Please know we only considered the highest rated tenor ukuleles for this list:

  1. Shure SE846 CL In Ear Monitors
  2. Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile In Ear Monitors
  3. Audio Technica ATH-E70 In Ear Monitors
  4. Sennheiser IE 40 Pro In Ear Monitors
  5. Shure SE215 ​In Ear Monitors

We used consumer reviews and our own research to compile this list. These are unbiased reviews designed to help you pick the best In Ear Monitors.

1. Shure SE846 CL

Shure SE846-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Quad High Definition MicroDrivers and True Subwoofer

Our rating:

In terms of sound, you will probably not find better than the Shure SE846 CL. These are ideal for a noisy stage or other performance space because they offer up to 37dB of sound. With these on the only things, you’ll be able to hear is the music.

A secure over the ear cable ensures that these will stay in your ear regardless of how much jumping around you do and they offer three different colors! It even includes a professional carrying case and three different nozzles for a varied listening experience.

Pros 

  • Incredible audio to make sure your performance truly stands out

  • Precise sound reproduction so you’ll know exactly what the audience is hearing

  • Three different nozzles: bright (geared for higher frequencies), neutral (balanced), warm (for lower frequencies)

  • Three different color choices to help you stand out from the crowd

  • Secure over the ear cable so you can perform without worrying about movement

Cons

  • The travel case is not as durable as the ear monitors themselves, so will at some point need replacing

Shure SE846-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Quad High Definition MicroDrivers and True Subwoofer
  • “-Cl” Designates the product's color variation (Clear)
  • Four high-definition drivers provide extended high-end clarity and unparalleled low-end performance for a state-of-the-art listening experience
  • Three-way system configuration for dedicated low, mid and high frequency distribution
  • Groundbreaking low-pass filter provides the previously unattainable deep low-end performance of a true subwoofer—without sacrificing clarity or detail
  • Adjustable frequency response for customizable sound signatures with removable metal nozzle and changeable nozzle inserts (balanced, warm, and bright options included)

2. Sennheiser IE 800

Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile Ear Canal Headphones

Our rating:

First off in this guide is the German-designed Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile. This attractive, high-end model looks elegant and offers brilliant sound quality and reliability. Only 7mm in diameter (making this one of the smallest models on the market), the IE 800 contains a dynamic linear-phase driver, which is why the sound quality is so good. The oval-shaped ear adapter makes wearing these extremely comfortable to the listener, and the protective mesh helps combat the dirt and debris. The IE 800 provides distortion-free sound and the anti-scratch ceramic housing makes them incredibly durable.

Pros 

  • At only 7mm, you’d struggle to find smaller with this quality of sound

  • Durable sue to the anti-scratch ceramic casing

  • Distortion-free high-quality sound

  • Excellent fit meaning you probably won’t need to a custom fit for noise reduction and comfort while performing

  • Perfect for the ‘audiophile’ crowd

Cons

  • Risk of cable noise being amplified as you play and the wires rub against your shirt. Easily fixed with a cable clip though!

Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile Ear Canal Headphones
  • Dynamic linear-phase 7mm transducer delivers extremely wide frequency response (8-41,000 Hz (-3 dB), 5-46,500 Hz (-10 dB)).Connectivity Technology: Wired
  • The precision ceramic housing features attenuated dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) to deliver extremely low harmonic distortion even at high output levels (< 0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)).
  • 16-ohm impedance compliments portable audio devices.
  • Ergonomic, oval-shaped ear adaptors for maximum comfort.
  • 1.2 m symmetrical, oxygen-free (OFC) copper cable.

3. Audio Technica ATH-E70

Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones

Our rating:

These are the perfect ear monitors for the step up to a professional level. While they don’t boast the same audio quality as the previous two models, they’re a massive step up from basic ‘phones so you’ll instantly notice the difference in sound. The three-driver set up inside the specially designed housing offers great sound coupled with excellent noise cancellation, meaning you can focus on the music.

The memory cable loops really helps you to get that custom fit without needing to break the bank, and they come with silicone tips to help get the sound isolation making these the perfect choice for a budding professional on stage and in the studio

Pros

  • Great sound

  • Memory cable loops help get a custom fit feel

  • Comes with silicone tips in a variety of sizes

  • Perfect for a new professional making the leap

  • Very punchy bass

Cons 

  • Not the one for practiced professional 

Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones
  • Three balanced armature drivers provide accurate and extended response across the entire frequency range
  • Flexible memory cable loops over ears for a custom fit and long-wearing comfort
  • Specially designed housing provides maximum isolation, allowing you to focus on the music
  • Detachable cable offers exceptional durability and optimized audio performance
  • Includes a carrying case, silicone ear tips, Comply foam ear tips and 6.3mm (1/4") plug-on adapter

4. Sennheiser IE 40 Pro

Sennheiser IE 40 PRO, molded in ear dynamic monitors (Clear)

Our rating:

Great articulation in the high frequencies and a good full ow end. Bright in the top end but still a great option for anyone wanting to make the leap. This model has a great natural sound and a great comfortable fit due to the medium-sized in-ear and easily replaceable silicone tips.

These are a great option for long wear, so if you’re planning to be wearing ear monitors for a long time then these are the ones for you. At 10mm this model is a great size for the quality of sound and the reinforced ear hook means that movement isn’t an issue. It also comes with a carrying pouch to help protect your ear monitors and keep them in excellent condition.

Pros

  • Very comfortable

  • Detachable lead- great for stage use

  • Great for live use and general playback

  • 10mm

  • Comes with replaceable silicone tips for all sizes and a carrying pouch

Cons

  • The lead is very short 

Sennheiser IE 40 PRO, molded in ear dynamic monitors (Clear)
  • ·         Innovative, dynamic 10mm broadband transducer for warm, high-resolution sound
  • ·         Reduces acoustic stress through precise, dissonance-free reproduction even at maximum sound levels
  • ·         Good fit and wearing comfort, thanks to ergonomic ear mold design with flat profile
  • ·         Replaceable cable, fit for stage use and with internal cable duct (patent pending), reliable connection and reinforced ear hook

5. Shure SE215

Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones with Single Dynamic MicroDriver

Our rating:

As there is already a Shure on this list, you’ll probably have worked out that they’re a pretty major player in the sound recording world and this another option that delivers especially for beginners new to the world of ear monitors. Shure says these monitors block out 90% of ambient noise, making them an amazing option both on and off stage.

They come with a thickened cable which is also detachable and offers a good deal of durability though there is a small amount of magnetic interference when they come into contact with your hands. There is only one driver here, but that’s what makes them a great starter option for a beginner, and they offer great durability until you decide to upgrade. The bass is also pretty good even if they don’t offer the broadest tonal options.

Pros

  • Detachable cable

  • Decent bass

  • Block out 90% of ambient noise making for a great performance

  • A great option for beginners

Cons

  • Not the greatest range of tones

Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones with Single Dynamic MicroDriver
  • “-K” designates the product's color variation (black).
  • Evolved from personal monitor technology that's been road-tested by pro musicians, the SE215 offers detailed sound with enhanced bass for personal listening or professional monitoring.
  • Comfortable sound isolating sleeves block up to 37 dB of ambient noise. Sound isolation technology prevents outside noise from interfering with your listening experience, whether on-stage or on-the-go.
  • Lightweight, low-profile shape with optimized nozzle angle is designed to rest comfortably in the ear.
  • Durable reinforced cable allows easy replacement or customization. Formable wire ensures secure placement, and over-the-ear configuration keeps cables out of the way. Gold plated MMCX Connector has a lock-snap mechanism allowing 360-degree rotation for comfortable fit.

Final Thoughts

As with any big purchase, like studio headphones or monitors, it’s important to think about buying the best in-ear monitors for you, after all your performance is so important to you as a musician, especially when taking the big step up to a more professional level.

Think about what you’re going to be using your ear monitors for. Are you just looking for a higher quality sound for playbacks, or are you looking to take your music more seriously and need professional monitors to do so? If you’re a casual audiophile than you probably don’t care about the fit in the same way as a performer does, because you’re less likely to be jumping around on a stage (though go for it if you fancy). Whereas if you’re a musician then you need to think about the staying power of your monitors because you might be. You don’t want to sacrifice a great performance because you didn’t think about what you’re looking for and more importantly what you’re looking to use it for.

It is also worth considering if you want a wireless system or a wired one. Wired is great if these are monitors in the studio or if you’re a producer looking for high-quality sound, but if you’re a performer than its worth keeping in mind that some these come as a system if you need a wireless system. Thinking about things like Bluetooth is important, especially if you’re looking for a lot of movement in your performance. You can’t just sync up ear monitors to a soundboard if you don’t have a system that will fit into your pants pocket.

It’s also important to consider things like size, because it may be that you’re looking for something lightweight but don’t want to sacrifice on sound. There is a lot of options out there so there’s no reason for you not to find the perfect model for you, so keep an open mind. Make sure you’re ready to make the jump and find the ear monitor that’ll improve your sound, don’t make a purchase you’re not ready for and won’t get the use out of. There are all sorts of options out there so find one at your level. 

FAQS

I’m confused I wanted an ear monitor, but I keep seeing IEM on everything I look at!

IEM stands for In-Ear monitor. All of the products in this guide are IEMS. An IEM is just a professional level in-ear monitor that can be custom made to fit an individual’s ear or is simply a better fit than your usual ear or headphones. Commonly used by musicians and live performers, you also might buy an IEM if you’re a serious audiophile who wants higher sound quality.  

What’s a Driver?

A driver is like a mini speaker. It's designed to be used on IEMs which offer a better quality of sound than regular headphones. A dual-driver IEM has two drivers, while a triple driver has three. The dual-driver divides the frequency into two ranges, low and high. A triple driver gives you a three-frequency range, low, mid, and high which gives you more detail in each range. It’s one of the things worth considering when looking at buying your first IEM- what sort of frequency range do I want and how detailed do I need it to be. Your average audiophile will probably be fine with two, while a performer may want a greater level of detail.  

My current set up works fine when I perform. Why should I use ear monitors?

Hopefully, this guide will already have answered this question, but here’s a little more detail. If you’re not currently using IEMs than you’re probably using wedge-shaped speakers, and it’s easiest to understand the problems with wedges to show why you should upgrade. To get the volume to compensate for the noise of a crowd, you need to crank up your wedges to an incredibly loud volume or risk no one being able to hear you play. Not only can this lead to inaccuracy due to background noise, if you perform regularly you can seriously increase your risk of damaging your hearing permanently. No one wants that. Monitors you need to use wedge speakers also can cause audio issues, so your audience might not be able to enjoy your performance because of interference. They also can clutter up a stage, massively reducing the space you have to move about as a performer and can negatively impact an audience’s enjoyment of your performance because of reduced sightlines. Ear monitors can help with all these issues.

IEMs also get rid of the problems associated with live audio issues at the source. If you’re using stage monitors to help you perform, they can interfere with the rest of the speakers by producing feedback, or even phase issues that can make your music sound poor. You want your audience to enjoy the best performance you can give, and improving the sound quality can only enhance their enjoyment of your music.

I’m worried that getting IEM’s will mean I lose my connection to the audience, is this something to consider?

Anyone who's ever been to a gig before will know how important the audience is to a performance. After all the energy of a crowd can feed into a live performance, and sometimes it’s the sound of the crowd that leads you to give an amazing show. If you are used to stage monitors and speaker wedges than that feedback is probably something that you rely on when you’re performing and using IEMs might seem like you’re cutting yourself off from the audience because those sounds don’t reach you because of noise cancellation.

Obviously when you’re performing this connection is what you're looking for, and probably what your audience are looking for too which is why they’ve come to hear you live. Luckily, all you need to do is set up a microphone facing the audience. This way you can capture the audience reaction and add it to the monitor mix, meaning you can still achieve a connection with the audience, without running the risk of damaging your hearing.