The future of music

10 Best In-Ear Monitors for Stage & Studio

December 29, 2023
best in-ear monitors

Ever been on stage and couldn’t hear yourself think, much less play?

Think you sound good, but don’t know for sure?

Enter the in-ear monitor.

There are no two ways about it: if you plan to spend any time performing live, you’ll need a set of these hard-working lifesavers.

As a musical purist, you’ll want to invest in in-ear monitors that will allow you to hear the nuances, the currents, and the heartbeat of your sounds.

You’ll want to have real-time feedback on the treble, the pitch, and the harmony of your compositions.

An in-ear monitor enables you to enjoy, edit, and assess the components of your play.

Ultimately, it will empower you to become a better musician and endow you with the technical know-how and ear training to excel over the long haul.

Oh yeah, and when you’re in your golden years and still have flawless hearing, you’ll think back fondly on this list of the best in-ear monitors.

1. Shure SE846 Gen 2 – Overall Best In-Ear Monitors

Shure SE846 Gen 2 - Overall Best In-Ear Monitors

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Six
  • Impedance: 16 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 110 dB
  • Frequency range: 15 – 20,000 Hz

When you’re rocking so hard the garage is about to collapse, you’re going to want these trusty gems on hand. 

These suckers are as premium as it gets, and with their $899 USD price tag, you can expect to get the best quality possible.

The sonic purity and quality are nearly unparalleled and will contribute to your development as an artist.

If you don’t want to give the performance a second thought, the Shure SE846 in-ear monitors are hardy, reliable, and won’t quit on you.

They feature four drivers, and with a frequency response between 15 HZ and 20 kHz, you can expect stunning, consistent sound.

They have a preternatural ability to isolate and reduce unnecessary sound and feedback, which makes them a foolproof choice for loud studio sessions and energetic live shows.

You’ll get truthful, gorgeous reproduction at every turn.

2. Audio-Technica ATH-E70

Audio-Technica ATH-E70 some of the best in-ear monitors.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Three
  • Impedance: 39 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB
  • Frequency range: 20 – 19,000 Hz

Audio-Technica has a reputation that precedes it.

Audiophiles and tech addicts will likely already recognize the name.

“ATH-E70” sounds like a robot out of 2001: A Space Odyssey,  as do all of the other in-ear monitors, but fear not – they are intuitive and easy to use.

This model features a multi-driver configuration and an expansive sound quality that puts it in the top-tier category for a less eye-watering price point.

For a midrange option, it punches way above its weight.

The three drivers provide mind-bendingly accurate, balanced, and stunning sound.

They also come equipped with tips and a detachable cable for ultimate variability and flexibility.

3. Westone Audio Mach 60

Westone Audio Mach 60 in-ear monitors.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Six
  • Impedance: 35 ohms @ 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB
  • Frequency range: 8Hz – 20kHz**

Offering warm sounds and professional, performance-ready audio, the Audio Pros will provide you with comfort, consistency, and reliability.

When you step back and look at the specs, this is a real wonder.

It offers six whole drivers for a compellingly reasonable price.

What does that mean for you?

Dynamic, uncompromising sound quality on the cheap.

The Westones will never skip a beat when it comes to textured, contoured, nuanced sound.

This is full-immersion reproduction and playback at its very best.

It also offers faceplates, customizable ear tips, and a carry case so you can tote it along on the road. 

4. Mackie MP-220

Mackie MP-220 IEMs.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Two
  • Impedance: 8 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB
  • Frequency range: 20 – 20,000 Hz

Budgeters, unite.

We have another nifty pair of affordable mid-range in-ear monitors for you.

Unlike many of the other cheaper options, this model employs two separate drivers.

One of the drivers is for higher frequencies, and one is for the lower frequencies.

This amounts to pure, full-spectrum sound with clean, crisp audio.

For a couple of hundred dollars – count us in.

Indeed, this is one of the best dual-driver in-ear monitors on the market.

The two drivers deliver higher sonic fidelity and a more intricate reproduction.

A Mackie MP-220 is a stellar option when you want complex, meticulous sounds without committing to eating ramen noodles for the foreseeable future.

The MP-220 offers different-sized tips, so if you have small ears, you won’t be left out in the cold.

Even better?

Professional, unstoppable isolation.

5. Shure SE215 Pro

Shure SE215 Pro some of the best IEMs.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: One
  • Impedance: 20 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB
  • Frequency range: 22 – 17,500 Hz

Shure thing!

We’re back, but this time with a more wallet-friendly option, closing in at a much more approachable $200 USD.

While this model has a single-driver design, which may limit you somewhat if you have more extensive, complex needs, this is a brilliant option for new performers or those who want to experiment with in-ear monitor systems before investing in a more expensive model.  

They have a bass-drive sound, and their high-definition driver allows you to hear pure, clear feedback without fuzzy background noise and unpleasant glitches.

You’ll get a wide range of frequencies and a highly sensitive configuration, fulfilling most of your everyday needs.

Detachable cables and the purported ability to block up to 90% of ambient noise and feedback make them a win-win option for the budget-savvy. 

6. Sennheiser IE 100 Pro

Sennheiser IE 100 Pro in-ear monitors.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: One
  • Impedance: 28 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 115 dB
  • Frequency response: 20 – 18,000 Hz

Coming in at under $100 USD, you really cannot go wrong with the Sennheiser range.

You will get beautiful, true-to-form sound and consistent comfort, making the Pros a natural fit for long gigs or practice sessions.

It offers powerful, well-articulated high-frequency sounds and natural, accurate reproductions of low frequencies.

These in-ear monitors are ideal for live, practice, and playback purposes.

They offer replaceable tips, making them an ideal choice for long-running sessions.

They offer a detachable lead for ultimate flexibility.

Be advised that the lead is 1.3 meters, so not the longest on the block, but don’t let that stop you.

7. Simgot EK3

Simgot EK3 earphones.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Balanced Armature
  • Impedance: 14-18 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 115 dB
  • Frequency range: 20 Hz – 40 kHz

Simgot is another sturdy and flawless midrange option for those who get cold feet at the idea of dropping their cash on a Shure.

Sitting at around $350 USD, they are noted for their stellar isolation, making them a natural choice for loud studio practice sessions and live gigs. 

They offer four tuning models to help you adjust and perfect the tone of your sound.

The frequency response ranges from 20 Hz – 40 kHz, which means accuracy and purity for you.

The detail in the treble range is lush. 

We recommend the Simgot EK3 for drummers, vocalists, guitarists, and bassists.

Namely, the whole gang!

With three drivers you will get masterful, three-way crossover impact, and sonic fidelity. 

Oh, and the sparkling silver design is futuristic and groovy as heck for all the aesthetic snobs among us.

It is made out of 3D-printed resin. Beat that. 

8. InEar ProPhile-8

InEar ProPhile-8 in-ear monitors.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Eight
  • Impedance: 34 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 120 dB
  • Frequency range: 10 – 20,000 Hz

A lush, high-end choice that will get you all that you bargained for and then some.

These are professional grade and are designed for working, touring, and performing musicians.

To be frank, if you are at the beginning of your music journey, these might be a bit pricier and more involved than you’ll need.

But heck, if you can afford the best, why hesitate?

At $1,500 USD you’ll want to start saving.

With eight drivers, every region of the frequency range is divinely enhanced, supremely balanced, and intricately dynamic.

The InEars provide resonant, spine-tinglingly immersive sounds.

The InEars tout 26 dB of ambient noise absorption, and the result is mind-bending isolation both on the stage and off.

Everything resonates as nature intended it to, if not better.

Oh, and the transmission range?

Incomparable.

9. Sony IER-M7

Sony IER-M7 in-ear monitors.

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Quad-balanced armature
  • Impedance: 24 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB
  • Frequency range: 5 Hz–40,000 Hz

Sony has a hardy reputation in the music and electronic space and for a good reason.

This is an approachable, compelling budget option that still offers high-quality design and stellar performance.

The isolation is impeccable, and the ambient sound is no match for the IER-M7.

You’ll get detailed, accurate monitoring and an optimized sound path via the Quad BA system and precision headphones.

Picture this: crisp, faithful high notes and resonant, impactful low notes with critically impressive accuracy.

These deliver the tonal balance you used to only dream about.

You can find them online and off for approximately $500 USD, but they offer an experience far more impressive than the price tag would suggest.

10. Sennheiser EW IEM G4 Twin

Sennheiser EW IEM G4 Twin

Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wireless
  • Transmission method: FM, stereo
  • Channels: 61
  • Inputs: two XLR/jack combo

A nifty wireless kit that looks like a contraption out of Stranger Things, Sennheiser’s Twin is a go-to name for the pros, and it lets the results speak for themselves.

With outrageously high-quality audio and long-range capabilities, this is a clear choice for performing, working musicians.

This is the stellar gear for musicians who perform regularly, earn their living via music, or are planning to hit the road and do the circuit. 

The kit might be overkill for the new band or novice recorder.

But for the pros, this is unmatched.

The G4 system is sturdy and consistent, and the 330-foot transmission range makes it ideal for big stages, big studios, and big sounds.

What Are In-Ear Monitors?

In-ear monitors are personal monitoring devices that consist of a pair of headphones connected to a portable device.

This portable device includes amplifier circuitry, a wireless receiver, and a battery pack.

Long story short?

They are isolation headphones designed specifically for a live music or studio environment.  

The most flexible options are wireless, but you can also get hard-wired versions.

You can get a custom-molded version if you’re a diva, but the universal models listed below are more than adequate for most musicians.

Wireless in-ear monitors use a transmitter device to send signals to you, the musician, and they provide premium isolation, reducing external noise and ambient feedback.

They provide better accuracy and sonic purity than traditional wedges and allow you to finetune your performance for the best results possible.

You know those horrible, scratchy feedback sounds during live shows?

In-ear monitors remove them entirely because they remove the monitor wedge that creates the feedback loop in the first place.

If we haven’t sold you on the necessity of an in-ear monitor system yet, then the ten contenders above surely will.

How to Choose the Best In-Ear Monitors

We’ve given you the goods, now we are going to give you the guide.

How to choose one top contender over the next?

Saying it depends and leaving you to your own devices helps no one, and we aren’t the kind to pass the buck!

In-ear monitors may seem like a “nice to have” when you are still jamming in your friend’s basement, but when you are ready to go pro, you’ll find that they are essential.

We’ve given you our top choices, but here’s some intel to help you narrow down the playing field.

Budget

We are a broken record, and we are well aware.

When it comes to in-ear headphones, the range is pretty extraordinary.

We are talking under $100 to over $1,000.

With a bigger investment, you can expect all of the bells and whistles, with sublime sound quality and staying power.

We recommend starting off with a cheaper pair to get a feel for them before graduating to a more expensive pair that will go the distance during loud and hectic live performances.

Sound Signature

“Flat” and “balanced” sound signatures sound truer to nature and more organic, whereas a “dark” sound signature emphasizes the bass for a throbbing, vivid sound. 

This consideration is completely unique to the type of music you produce and perform.

Throbbing, zinging, electric rock, and alternative musicians may very well want in-ear headphones that deliver pure, accurate bass feedback.

If you’re of the acoustic variety, this consideration might be completely irrelevant.

Specifications

How sensitive are your in-ear monitors?

Can they pick up on all frequencies, and do they demonstrate the capacity for natural reproduction?

What is the impedance?

Are they compatible with, and will they run well from different audio systems?

These questions might look intimidating, but the answers are foundational to understanding the technical capacities and scope of the model you choose.

Location of Use

While we were careful only to include in-ear monitors that go the distance, it never hurts to ask yourself how and where you’ll be using them.

Will you be performing at quiet, intimate cafe gatherings?

Will you be jamming out for fun with friends and collaborators?

Playing at wild and unruly basement dive bars?

It never hurts to consider your logistical needs.

Drivers  

Drivers are one of the key metrics to consider.

Budget options typically offer one or two, which is sufficient for practice and impromptu live gigs but less so for working, touring musicians who need the full scope available.

You don’t want one driver left to carry the team when you have a complex array of bass, treble, and midrange frequencies to pick up on.

Cable Needs

Will straight over-ear cables suit you best?

Straight cables hang straight down while over-ear cables wrap around the back of your ears.

This choice is totally subjective and depends on what you find more comfortable and secure.

You’ll also want to distinguish whether detachable or non-detachable models will work best for you.

Detachable models are ideal for flexibility, but if the idea of accidentally yanking them out of the earpiece while playing makes your heart skip a beat, you should probably forgo them. 

That being said, detachables are ideal for replacement purposes.

You can swap out the broken cable or earpieces without buying a whole new set or taking them in for an expensive repair.

Comfort of Tips

You’ll also want to ensure that the in-ear monitors come with different tips.

We don’t all have the same size ear, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if they keep coming out.

It is also worth researching the material.

Silicone is a comfy and flawless choice for some musicians and irritating for others, for example.

Ditto with rubber and foam.  

Material

How sturdy are your in-ear monitors?

Are they made out of plastic, silicon, resin, or carbon fiber?

Metal bodies are sturdy and indestructible, for example, but can weigh on your ears during longer sessions and shows.

Carbon fiber won’t rust and is comfortably lightweight, but you’ll be paying a premium.

Best In-Ear Monitors – Final Thoughts

Half the joy of being a performer is monitoring your output, reproducing your sounds, playing back your live shows, and targeting areas for improvement.

As a serious musician, you’ll need a pair of in-ear monitors to distinguish you from the rookies.

You might even fall in love with your own music all over again.

Talk about a win all around.

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Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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