The 10 Best In-Ear Stage Monitors

Updated November 10, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best In-Ear Stage Monitors
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. If you're a performer who likes to use the whole stage, so can't always rely on foldback speakers, a set of in-ear monitors is your solution. They deliver outstanding audio quality in a lightweight and comfortable package, so you can strut your stuff with abandon. Of course, they can also serve double-duty as your regular earphones for music and videos, as well. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best in-ear stage monitor on Amazon.

10. Fiio EX1

The Fiio EX1 are built to last, with a duralumin and stainless steel housing that has been CNC milled for precision. Their cable is made of an intertwined mix of high-purity, oxygen-free copper and 250D Kevlar, for both performance and durability.
  • comfortable enough for all-day wear
  • external structure is lightweight
  • bass isn't as deep as others
Brand Fiio
Model FIIO EX1
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Shure SE215-CL

The Shure SE215-CL will block out most background noise while delivering detailed audio with enhanced bass. Their rugged construction is durable for continuous onstage use, and they feature an angled nozzle that rests comfortably in your ear at all times.
  • sweat-resistant housing
  • good driver support frame
  • cord is a bit thick and heavy
Brand Shure
Model SE215-CL
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

8. SoundSprocket PA-1

The SoundSprocket PA-1 sport an over-the-ear style that allows sound to travel deep into your canal. They won't fall out or slide around during active performances, and their noise cancellation is superior to many other brands in their price range.
  • balanced armature microdriver
  • three tip sizes
  • quarter-inch adapter is poor
Brand SoundSprocket
Model PA-1
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

7. Audio-Technica ATH-IM70

Thanks to their built-in dual symphonic drivers, the Japanese-imported Audio-Technica ATH-IM70 provide the kind of clear and accurate sound that is sought after by many drummers. They are only available in red, but for the price, they make a great buy.
  • comfy to wear even with glasses
  • made of a sturdy hybrid plastic
  • cable is a little too short
Brand Audio-Technica
Model ATH-IM70
Weight 3.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Thinksound MS02

If you like a minimalist look, you'll appreciate the wood and aluminum design of the Thinksound MS02. They are extremely lightweight when worn, and their tips form a gentle seal on your ears, staying completely secure even on head banging drummers.
  • minimize external noises
  • 4-foot-long cable
  • carrying pouch lacks protection
Brand thinksound
Model ms02-gunchoc
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

5. Shure SE535LTD

For hardcore audiophiles who want superior sound reproduction in a stylish package, the Shure SE535LTD are a clear winner. They have dedicated tweeters and dual woofers that deliver spacious tone with rich bass, and their detachable cables are replaceable.
  • triple high-definition microdrivers
  • available in attractive colors
  • includes a sleeve fit kit
Brand Shure
Model SE535LTD-EFS
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. 1More Quad Driver

The 1More Quad Driver are built with one carbon dynamic driver and three balanced armatures to deliver an extremely wide range of frequency response. The shape of their sound chambers is designed to fit comfortably in the ear while suppressing most external noise.
  • inline microphone
  • tuned by a grammy-winning engineer
  • traveling case is made of leather
Brand 1MORE
Model E1010
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Sennheiser IE 800

The German-designed Sennheiser IE 800 hit the mark with their innovative technology packed in a beautiful, modern housing. They flaunt a wide band transducer that is only 7mm in size for a dynamic, high output, distortion-free sound.
  • scratch-resistant ceramic exterior
  • ergonomic oval-shaped adapters
  • oxygen-free copper cable
Brand Sennheiser
Model MAIN-84125
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Echobox Audio Finder X1

The solid, aerospace-grade titanium housings on the Echobox Audio Finder X1 make them exceedingly durable when playing on even the most rambunctious stages. A tangle-free cable of silver-plated copper makes for comfortable performances.
  • german-made drivers
  • deep bass response
  • hardshell case included
Brand Echobox Audio
Model 13267036743
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Westone Clear AM Pro 30

The Westone Clear AM Pro 30 offer unparalleled audio quality for all onstage musicians and casual listeners who want the best. Their patent pending SLED technology is designed to allow the ambient noise to not compromise the sound you experience.
  • reliable connection
  • transparent casing
  • 48-inch braided cable
Brand Westone
Model 78538
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

An Experience Like No Other

It's a feeling well-known to artists. Few things in life match the sensation of performing on stage in front of hordes of excited fans. As the house lights go down, the spotlights warm up, and the eager audience looks up at the band, everything can seem in perfect harmony leading up to the opening number. You've practiced for weeks, and this tour could make or break your album sales for the next year. Naturally, you're prepared to play the show of your life.

And it's good that you are — not least of all because many performers feel they have a duty to the people who showed up to provide them with an engaging and entertaining show. Aside from the showman's responsibility, it's not terribly shocking to learn how playing music is great for the health of the musicians themselves. It aids in cognitive function (that's your ability to think) across the board as it activates almost every center of your brain. Musicianship can also lower levels of stress-inducing chemicals and it may even help fight some forms of dementia. In fact, learning an instrument physically strengthens critical coordination and thought processing areas. And if you avoid falling into the traditionally unhealthy traps of being on tour (primarily: fast food, sitting around too much, and drinking alcohol), performing is even physically healthy, engaging your entire body from your back to your breathing.

Of course, you love to perform, and no one needs to sell you on that. Whether your audience is dancing, moshing, or dropping their jaws in awe at your virtuosity, the knowledge that you've successfully entertained the masses is incredibly satisfying. But when your band strikes up, there's one issue that's paramount to the quality of the show: can you hear the sounds that you and your bandmates are making, and are they clear and balanced?

Can I Hear Myself?

This is a question that performers have struggled with since the earliest days of electrified music. It takes a pretty big set of speakers to pump out enough sound to fill that historic downtown theater packed with 2,000 fans or more. And, let's be honest, some sound systems and their engineers are of better quality than others. Not every line stack will deliver the same mid-range clarity and distinct bass as a top-shelf, handmade d&b-branded system imported straight from Germany. And not every bar manager will be able to coax your band's best sound out of their dated soundboard.

The monitors stacked on the front of the stage at most concerts are there to return the sound straight to the band. In theory, this feed is separate from the actual house audio. In practice, however, large speaker stacks are often placed behind the performers, and this can really impair monitor sound in larger venues. Plus, the sound engineer is busy enough these days checking the sound from every angle in the venue using their tablet to wirelessly control the in-house sound system. The last thing he or she has time to do is readjust monitors mid-set when the dynamics turn from intense to intimate.

This adds to a couple issues with standard wedge-based monitoring systems. Individual wedges are equalized based on who they're in front of, i.e. the bassist, drummer, or rhythm guitarist. If players are moving around the stage or switching instruments, those specialized mixes will become muddy and hurt everyone's ability to pick out their own sound. Beyond that, as the massive speakers behind the band get loud, and monitor speakers in front begin to peak, it's certainly not helping the long-term hearing health of everyone on stage.

So how do you channel the clearest monitor of your playing straight to your ears, in real-time, without worrying about levels, feedback, buzzing, or cables? How can you put your whole group's contributions in your own head as you play for the crowd? There's already a ton of equipment positioned around most bands while they play, even if everybody uses wireless instrument and microphone setups. How, then, does the modern musician reduce stage clutter while also making their performance life easier? And how, for example, can a professional horn player hear a monitor mix where his sound actually comes through, without hurting his bandmates' ears in the process?

Simple: they strap a receiver to their body, hang a speaker in their ear, and get ready to play in circles around the stage.

Not Your Everyday Earbuds

An in-ear monitoring system consists of three parts: the transmitter, receiver, and the earphone itself. As with many wireless systems, the transmitters do have limitations. Interference from on-stage equipment, bandwidth interference due to multiple members using close frequencies, and the raw distance from the transmitting unit can all negatively affect the signal that your wireless beltpack receiver pulls from the airwaves. Over the last decade, though, technologies like beamforming and audio compression have made wireless more effective and affordable than ever. Still, at the end of the day, you want to be certain that the sound in your monitor is true to the sound that's filling up the concert hall.

Don't be fooled by a bunch of products that might just look like expensive earbuds. These units are designed specifically to provide a faithful reproduction of the analog data they're fed. They're made with comfort and sonic accuracy foremost in mind, many including different sizes of silicone tips. Some models can be custom fit to your ear, ensuring long-term wearability as well as a perfect seal, keeping even the most subtle sounds channeled directly to your eardrum. Light weight and active noise cancellation are two other features found on most in-ear options. Above all, good monitor earpieces are made with the quality materials and craftsmanship that let you jam out on-stage for hours at a time, while hearing yourself with crystal-clear precision.

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Last updated on November 10, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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