The 10 Best Professional In Ear Monitors

Updated September 25, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Professional In Ear Monitors
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Today's technology means it is relatively inexpensive for any gigging musician to no longer have to rely on a foldback monitor on stage. These professional in-ear monitors offer noise isolation and excellent sound reproduction, so you can concentrate on delivering the best performance possible. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best professional in ear monitor on Amazon.

10. HiFiMAn RE-600 Songbird

The HiFiMAn RE-600 Songbird are not the best sounding monitors around, but you'll be hard pressed to find better in their price range. They have a small metal shell, which makes them convenient for travel, and come with a nice selection of thick and thin ear tips.
  • mid-range weight
  • durable kevlar cable
  • somewhat light on bass
Brand HiFiMAn Electronics
Model RE-600
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Logitech UE 900

The Logitech UE 900 have a passive three-way crossover and four balanced armature drivers at their core, which are responsible for producing the impressive sound clarity these monitors are known for. They also have a striking blue and black color scheme.
  • sit flush in the ear
  • good passive noise blockage
  • create distortion when moving a lot
Brand Logitech
Model 985-000381
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. Audio-Technica ATH-E70

With three balanced armature drivers, the Audio-Technica ATH-E70 are capable of producing high fidelity sound across a broad frequency range. They are suitable for both onstage use or in-studio mixing with their neutral sound reproduction.
  • memory wire cables
  • include a quarter-inch adapter
  • include a carrying case
Brand Audio Technica
Model ATH-E70
Weight 7 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Audio Fly AF120

The Audio Fly AF120 might not be the most beautiful monitors to look at, but they have a budget-friendly price point that, when combined with their surprisingly good sound quality, makes them a great value for the average consumer.
  • include foam and silicone tips
  • produce no cable noise
  • cable tangles easily
Brand Audiofly
Model AF120
Weight 13.4 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Etymotic Research ER4XR

The Etymotic Research ER4XR have been designed with braided cables, which was a smart move as it does an effective job of minimizing any unwanted microphonic effect. They are a good choice for bass lovers, as they have a heavy emphasis on low range sounds.
  • replaceable ear filters
  • high amount of noise isolation
  • live performance sound
Brand Etymotic Research
Model ER4XR
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Audiofly AF180

The Audiofly AF180 have well made housings with an attractive reflective logo and oversized left and right markings. There are also tactile right/left markings on the cable connectors. Users will notice near total sound isolation, and very level lows and mids.
  • capable of very high volumes
  • slim design for stage use
  • less emphasis on upper ranges
Brand Audiofly
Model AF180
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Westone W10

The Westone W10 are tailored for active musicians who move around a lot while on stage as they stay snugly in place in the ears. This model has a single armature driver, but there are models with dual, triple and quad drivers for those who need maximum clarity and realism.
  • tight bass reproduction
  • reduce sibilance in music playback
  • come with cleaning tool
Brand Westone
Model W10
Weight 11.4 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Shure SE535LTD

The Shure SE535LTD use three high-definition microdrivers which provide a warm sound with rich bass and clearly detailed highs. A detachable cable with a wire-form fit makes it easy to modify them to your ear shape, ensuring they always stay put.
  • include a backup cable
  • inline remote and microphone
  • available in 3 color options
Brand Shure
Model SE535LTD-EFS
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Audio Technica ATH-IM02 SonicPro

The Audio Technica ATH-IM02 SonicPro offer incredibly accurate sound reproduction and a horn-shaped conductor pipe to minimize any acoustic radiation resistance. They also feature a detachable cable, so it can be replaced in case of any type of failure.
  • include four pairs of ear tips
  • moldable behind-ear cable
  • spacious soundstage
Brand Audio-Technica
Model ATHIM02
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile

The Sennheiser IE 800 Audiophile have tiny 7 mm transducers that are capable of delivering distortion free high performance sound in a wide frequency range from 8-41,000 Hz. They are made of high quality ceramic and have an ergonomic oval shape that fits most ear types.
  • completely noise isolating
  • designed and manufactured in germany
  • fantastic sonic resolution
Brand Sennheiser
Model IE 800
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Keeping It Clear In The Ear

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the intense sound pressure associated with several instruments, vocals, and a large audience, then avoid potential hearing damage and signal interference by leaving the floor wedge behind in favor of a more compact solution for your on-stage listening needs. A professional in-ear monitoring system provides you with an isolated mix of audio content delivered directly to your ears without subjecting them to overexposure from dangerously high decibel levels.

Professional in-ear monitors physically resemble a pair of traditional earbuds, but with a dedicated purpose of isolating vocal and instrumentation mixes during live performances. Typically wireless in design, the in-ear monitoring system makes use of both a transmitter and receiver to send an audio mix directly to its earpieces. The transmitter and receiver packs are about as large as an ordinary deck of cards, and the receiver directly attaches to a performer's belt. This type of setup gives the performer the freedom to move around a stage in much the same way they do using a wireless guitar system. The main difference is that, where a wireless guitar system transmits audio signals from the instrument to an amplifier for an audience to hear, the in-ear monitors isolate a signal mix for the benefit of amplifying it for the performer, while mitigating the interference caused by ambient noise in the surrounding environment.

In-ear monitors use either balanced armature or dynamic driver technologies. In a balanced armature design, an electric current is passed through a wrapped coil suspended between two magnets. Any change in the electric current results in an attraction between the coil and magnets. Any variation in the magnetic field causes the coil to vibrate. It is this vibration that ultimately produces the sound heard by the performer. Balanced armature drivers are tuned to specific frequency ranges, which means that in order to reproduce high-quality sound in multiple ranges, the monitors must be equipped with multiple drivers. By contrast, dynamic drivers reproduce the entire frequency spectrum. They're also vented, which results in a more natural representation of bass sounds than balanced armature drivers.

In-ear monitors are available in both universal and custom fits. Universal monitors are equipped with ear tips made from either foam or silicone. They come in a variety of sizes to accommodate differently-shaped ear canals. Custom in-ear monitors are made from similar materials, but require the additional step in which an audiologist takes professional ear impressions. Although custom devices take longer to produce, they're also precisely molded to the shape of a person's ear for long-term comfort and a superior seal.

Portability is a major benefit of professional in-ear monitors. They are small enough to fit inside a backpack or briefcase, thus making them quite convenient for travel purposes. Being as small as they are, they are also beneficial for use at weddings and church events, as they provide for an unobtrusive presentation to an audience without all the bulky cords or wedge equipment. For professional singers, the monitors reduce the overall level of vocal strain by allowing the artist to hear him/herself more clearly. Finally, the monitors give the performer some degree of control over volume adjustments, as well as the types of mixes they hear when moving freely around a stage.

Go With What Sounds And Feels Right

Depending on the types of live performances and venues at which you perform, you should understand the sound isolation rating for the in-ear monitors you are considering. This value is typically measured in decibels. A higher decibel rating means that a larger volume of ambient sound is blocked, which means that you experience less interference from the surrounding environment during a live performance.

Although the consideration of technical specs is important, an additional factor in one's decision should be the way the in-ear monitors sound and feel. The human brain interprets music in different ways, so the pair of in-ear monitors one chooses is a very personal decision with a significant impact on the mood of their performance in front of a large group of people. The earpieces should also be comfortable enough for long-term use and should provide a reliable seal, ensuring that ambient noise is significantly minimized or eliminated entirely. Many professional in-ear monitors incorporate their receivers into the design of the earpiece, which conveniently prevents any cables from obstructing one's movements on stage.

Consider a system that includes detachable cables between the receiver and earpieces. This comes in handy if the cables or other system components happen to become faulty and require quick replacements. Other utilities to look for include on-board equalization control, as well as the ability to monitor battery levels on both the receiver and transmitter packs.

A Brief History Of Professional In-Ear Monitors

Up until the 1980s, the wedge was considered the only method for effective stage monitoring. The earliest in-ear monitor system was developed by sound engineer Chrys Lindop. Using his desire to experiment with new techniques and equipment, Lindop found success in working with artist Stevie Wonder. Wonder's frustration with being restricted to the keyboard inspired Lindop to develop a rudimentary in-ear monitor system that handled the transmission of both a music mix and communication wirelessly, allowing Wonder the freedom to both express himself and maintain his safety on stage.

The most notable development for in-ear monitoring systems after the 1980s is credited to American sound engineer Jerry Harvey. In 1995, Harvey invented the first dual-speaker in-ear monitor system and also founded the custom in-ear monitor companies Ultimate Ears, and then JH Audio in 2007. Harvey has since served as the main audio engineer for top-performing artists such as Van Halen and Kiss, among others.

Since that time, adoption and popularity of in-ear monitor technology has expanded to include musicians of all skill levels.

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Last updated on September 25, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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