The Best In Ear Monitor System

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve got a monitor near you on the floor, but the drums and the crowd are just so loud you can’t hear a thing, in-ear monitors start to look really good. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just played and hoped I was playing the right thing. If the floor monitors are too loud, it can cause issues with the mix as the microphones will pick them up too.

That aside, maybe you just like the convenience of having this much smaller monitor as opposed to needing to lug around your own monitor. Or perhaps you just don’t like floor monitors. Whatever the reason is for you considering an in-ear monitor, I’m here to make your decision a little easier.

Here are the pros and cons of using an in-ear monitor system and recommendations that will suit your budget should you choose to get one.

A Little Background About In-Ear Monitors

The first IEMs were developed in the 80s by Chris Lindop, a sound engineer who worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Bjork and Maggie Reilly, and George Glossop from Hardware House. The first concepts were very rudimentary, but already showed promise for a cleaner, quieter stage while allowing freedom of movement. It was in the late 80s when Stevie Wonder one of the first pairs of wireless IEMs for a concert.

Later, Chrys formed Garwood with an electronics engineer called Martin Noah where they released IEMs under the brand Radio Station. Around this time, quite a few major artists started using them. IEMs as we know them today were due to the collaboration of Chrys and Marty Garcia of Futuresonics.

As we all know, technology develops at an amazing rate. The IEMs we have today are of superior technology and are more affordable too making them accessible to professional and amateur musicians and sound engineers alike. Many people even use them for casual listening.

If you’re into tech and history, you can check out the full article here.

The Pros of Using an In-Ear Monitor

2 The pros of In Ear Monitors

  • No feedback
  • Smaller and way more portable if you have your own
  • Wireless in-ear monitors allow you to move freely around the stage and venue
  • Depending on the design, your hearing is protected but you still get great sound if your sound engineer is good, better yet, set your own mix
  • The stage is clearer
  • You can hear a lot better compared to the floor monitors
  • If you’re in the studio, you may find them more comfortable than headphones

The Cons of Using an In-Ear Monitor

With the cons, most of these issues can be fixed easily enough. Usually getting used to them helps a lot. But you can also select the right design or brand when it comes to what works best for your particular ears physically and your hearing.

  • If the mix is wrong or you aren’t used to hearing yourself sing in this way, there is a risk of singing flat or sharp
  • Some designs of in-ear monitors can cause occlusion, basically, a hollow echoing sound
  • In many brands, there is a lack of bass, or at least decent levels of bass
  • Unless you buy very good IEMs, it may not be the same as using studio monitors for mixing

P.s. If you’re tempted to use only one, you might end up causing more issues. Best to sort out any issues you have and wear them on both ears to reap the full benefits. You can even have the crowd sounds added to your monitor mix so you don’t need to miss out on that. But if only wearing one at a time works for you, go for it.

In-Ear Monitors for Every Budget

Many venues, and by those I mean that are more professional, will have monitors for you. But if you’re gigging in smaller venues and especially less formal ones if you get my meaning, you gotta take what you get. Usually that’s floor monitors unless you had to lug your own one around too! So getting your own IEM is helpful. Plus, if you’re a bit of a germophobe like me, you want your own pair anyway.

Just aware that wireless IEMs do need a wireless system to work. If the venues you perform or record in don’t have this, you will need to get a system unless you have a Bluetooth enabled model. Wired IEMs require a good headphone extension cable and a headphone mixer to convert the line level outputs on the monitor console.

In-Ear Monitors on a Budget

If you’re just starting out, need a backup pair, or need a budget-friendly pair of IEMs, you’ll find something here. While the sound may not be up to professional standards, you can still get pretty decent sound and good to excellent ambient noise reduction.

KZ ZSN Pro In-Ear Earphones

If you’re on a tight budget and need a pair quickly, these will do. These sport a 10mm dynamic driver and 30095 armature. The electronic crossover and frequency divider give the same sound as a hybrid dual driver IEM. The frequency response is from 7Hz to 40kHz. This is quite far beyond what human can hear which, for most of us is around 20Hz to 20kHz. But it certainly doesn’t hinder, so hey.

The sound stage is wide and the noise reduction does a decent enough job to protect your ears. You can use it wired or wireless. The cables are detachable and come with resilient pins and the wires are braided. The faceplate is zinc allow and the body resin. You can opt for the model with the mic or without. It works with regular sound equipment as well as IOS and Android.

Most people are happy with the sound and level of noise cancellation for casual listening. A lot of people use them for playing instruments and when performing and find they do an adequate job. But there are some complaints about static and hissing, which could be cable related. There are a few people who say the cables are actually rather flimsy. I also wouldn’t use these for mixing as the frequency response isn’t flat enough.


  • The sound quality is that of a dual driver
  • Frequency response is 7Hz to 40kHz
  • Braided cables
  • Decent build
  • Some noise reduction
  • The sound stage is fairly wide
  • Choose between the model with mic or without
  • Use it with proper sound equipment or with IOS or Android
  • Use it wired or wireless
  • 1-year warranty


  • There are a few complaints about static and hissing (could be due to the cables)
  • The cables, being 2-pin cables, need very specific replacement cables
  • Some people say the cables are flimsy and break easily

KZ ZS10 Pro In-Ear Earphones

These IEMs can be used as wireless or wired monitors. The cables are detachable, good for people like me who routinely destroy cables. With four armature drivers, mids and highs are covered. The bass is also pretty good with a bit of punch, but not in a way that will hurt your ears thanks to the dynamic driver.

The frequency response is from 7Hz to 40kHz. A noise reduction of 26dB protects your ears. You can also choose the model with the microphone if that suits your purposes better.

These monitors are built to last with a stainless steel faceplate and resin case. Each pair comes with a 1-year warranty. If you enjoy seeing the inner workings of your electronics, the see-through cases will tickle your fancy. They come in various colors (black, dark black, blue, glare blue, purple, and glare yellow) which adds a more personal touch. They’re designed to be comfortable for long hours of wear too. Always a plus.

Most people are happy with the sound, from the lows to the highs. They also like the fit, even those with self-described smaller ears. But there are a few complaints about sibilance (s sounds) in the higher frequency. Some note that the sound is quite different, to the point of coloring the mix in a way that hampers a good sound if you listen back to what you produced on regular speakers or monitors.


  • Good lows, mids and highs (5 drivers, 4 armatures and 1 Tesla dynamic)
  • The bass has just the right amount of punch
  • 7Hz to 40kHz
  • Most people find them comfortable enough for long wear
  • 26dB noise reduction
  • Strong build
  • Detachable braided cables
  • Wireless or wired use
  • Comes in different colors (black, dark black, blue, glare blue, purple, and glare yellow)
  • 1-year warranty
  • Affordable on a tighter budget


  • Some complaints of sibilance in the high frequencies
  • The frequency response isn’t flat so it colors what you hear, not a good thing for mixing or mastering

MEE M6 PRO Musicians’ 2nd Gen In-Ear Monitors

These IEMs also come with detachable cables and can be used wired or wireless. The frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz. This second generation version sounds better in the mid and high range thanks to the 5µm driver diaphragm and aluminum voice coil which move with precision. They come with Complete T-series memory foam tips for good sound isolation. You also get six different silicone tips to find a comfortable fit.

It also has a more robust build. The IEMs have a dust and waterproof rating of IPX5, meaning they will be okay if caught in a low pressure spray of water and will still function if they get a little dusty. The connectors are gold-plated for good connectivity. They come in different colors (black, clear, blue, and red). MEE also offers faceplate customization.

Purchase as is or with a Bluetooth adapter. The basic set comes with the silicone tips, Complete T tips, cables with a remote and built-in mic, ¼ inch adapter, and protective carry case. You get a 1-year warranty and lifetime replacement (at half-price).

Most people are happy with these IEMs, saying they sound good for casual listening and that they have a fairly wide soundstage. But there are a few complaints about the frequency response, which isn’t flat. The bass can a bit boomy for some people and the high frequencies drop of a bit. It should do okay for being on stage, but if you want to use them for mixing or mastering, rather pick something else.


  • Good sound for overall listening
  • Frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz
  • The kit includes 6 silicone tips to find a comfortable fit
  • Complete T memory foam tips included for better sound isolation
  • Waterproof rating of IPX5
  • They come in different colors and you can get the faceplate customized
  • The kit also includes a ¼ inch adapter, cables (with mic and remote), and a protective carry case
  • 1-year warranty
  • Lifetime replacement at half price
  • Affordable on a tighter budget


  • The frequency response isn’t flat (drops off in the high-end frequencies)

BASN Bmaster In-Ear Monitors

Unlike some of the previous options, these are aimed at musicians and sound engineers too as opposed to just casual listeners. The low, mid, and high frequencies are balanced thanks to three drivers. The frequency response is 18Hz to 22kHz. The noise isolation is also good for performing and you can hear the individual instruments well. The MMXC connectors swivel 360 degrees to help you get the right fit.

Comfort-wise, these IEMs are ergonomically designed to fit in a variety of ear shapes comfortably for long periods of time. The kit includes six silicone tips in two different shapes and three memory foam tips, all in S, M, or L. The detachable braided cables are oxygen free copper (OFC) plated with silver. You get a 1-year warranty with these IEMs. Also included is a 3.5mm plug, a mic cable for phone, a cleaning tool, and carry case.

Most people are surprised at the sound quality on these, saying it’s about as good as high-end IEMs. Some said they’re better than Shure IEMs in the same price range. They also say they are solidly built. However, some people didn’t feel the sound is balanced, with conflicting reviews about being either bass or mid heavy. There were a few defective units, and someone who wished the cable was longer.


  • High quality sound- the frequencies are balanced (three drivers)
  • Frequency response is 18Hz to 22kHz
  • Good noise isolation
  • Ergonomic design
  • Nine tips to choose from in addition to the BASN stock tips
  • Detachable braided cables (OFC silver-plated)
  • A cable with a mic, cleaning tool, carry case, and 3.5mm connector is also included
  • Durable design
  • 1-year warranty


  • There are some complaints about defective units
  • Not everybody got IEMs with balanced sound
  • The cable may be too short for musicians who love to move a lot

Shure SE215 PRO Wired Earbuds

This is a budget pair of IEMs in a brand that at least for mics, are the industry standard. While they can work wirelessly via Bluetooth, they’re at their best used wired if you want to avoid latency issues (crucial if you want to play in time). The frequency response is 22Hz to 17.5 kHz and the bass is boosted so you can hear it well. These IEMs offer a noise reduction of 37dB and are suitable for professional monitoring.

At this price point with Shure, you only get one driver. But the sound is still pretty good. The connectors are gold-plated and can turn 360 degrees so you can find a good fit. They are built to withstand the rigors of touring and frequent performances and recording sessions. Choose from black, blue, or clear. These IEMs come with a handy carry case, 3.5mm cables, three flex (rubber) tips, three foam tips, and a 2-year warranty.

Most people are happy with the sound and fit. But there are people who struggled to get a good fit and seal. Be aware that the bass is boosted if you’re going to mix with these. There are also complaints about these IEMs breaking relatively quickly, perhaps they received defective units, but we can’t be sure.

Also, there are a few issues with the memory cable, which is meant to stay bent around the ear, it loses shape which affects stability and the sound.


  • Decent sound at an entry level point
  • They work well when used wired for stage and during recording
  • 37dB noise reduction
  • Gold-plated connectors that swivel 360 degrees
  • Robust build for regular touring and gigs
  • This kit includes three different sizes (S, M, L) of both foam and rubber sleeves
  • Comes with a carry pouch and 3.5mm cables
  • Comes in black, blue or clear
  • 2-year warranty


  • The frequency response is 22Hz to 17.5 kHz (for a brand like Shure, they could have done better with 20Hz to 20kHz which is preferable)
  • There are a few complaints about the IEMs breaking after just a few uses
  • Not everyone found a comfortable fit especially with the cable around the ear

Mid-Range Prices

In this category, you will be paying a little more, but you will also be getting better quality sound and durability in most cases.

Audio-Technica ATH-E50 Professional In-Ear Monitors

The studio IEMs will also do for the stage. They are designed to sound consistent whether in the studio, on the stage, in a DJ booth, etc. These only have one armature driver, but you still get a good range of frequencies. I say good, because you’re looking at a frequency response of 20Hz to 18kHz which should be adequate, but not great. The sound isolation is good too.

The detachable cables are 5.2’ (1.6m) which is more than many wired monitors. The memory cable is great for a personalized fit over the ears. Along with the gold-plated 3.5mm connector, you also get a ¼ inch adapter. There are four pairs of tips to find the right fit (XS, S, M, L). If you’re in Africa, Middle East, or Europe, you get a 2-year warranty. Outside those areas, you need to rely on the seller.

Most people are happy with the sound. They like that it’s balanced but still punchy. There are some complaints about the fit however, which is essential when you use IEMs. But that will depend on your own anatomy.


  • Balanced sound despite a single armature driver
  • Wide sound stage
  • Good sound isolation
  • 5.2’ (1.6m) detachable cable with 3.5mm gold-plated connector
  • Includes a ¼ inch adapter
  • Four pairs of tips (XS, S, M, L) to find the right fit
  • 2-year warranty if bought in Africa, Middle East, or Europe


  • At this price point, they could do better than a frequency response of 20Hz to 18kHz
  • No proper warranty terms inside the US, Japan, and Asia
  • There are a few complaints about the fit

Shure AONIC 4 Wired Sound Isolating Earbuds

While these aren’t aimed at musicians and sound engineers, some of the biggest complaints is that they aren’t good for casual listening, but rather for use in the studio, on stage, and for audiophiles. Flat frequency response, great for mixing. You can hear vocals and the various instruments clearly. They have dual hybrid drivers and a frequency response of 20Hz to 19kHz.

These IEMs cut out 37dB of ambient sound, so good for gigs. You can use them wired or wireless. As with all Shure products, they are built to withstand a lot of wear and tear. While it might feel a little weird to have IEMs that can also answer your calls, if it works well, why not? Just be sure to make sure you switch the settings so no calls or messages interrupt your monitor mix while you’re playing a gig if you’re going to use it for both.

Most people find the sound is good, particularly for audiophiles and engineers who require a flatter frequency response. They also enjoy the sound isolation. Most of the complaints are about the sound that hasn’t been doctored. So from a musician or sound engineer’s point of view, nothing wrong with that. This kit comes with various sleeves to find a good fit and a 3.5mm cable, a ¼ inch adapter, carry case, and 2-year warranty.


  • Flat frequency response (good for mixing)
  • Frequency response is 20Hz to 19 kHz (which although not 20-20, is decent enough)
  • Dual hybrid drivers ensure a balanced sound
  • 37dB noise reduction
  • Comes with various sleeves to facilitate a good fit
  • Use them wired or wireless
  • Durable build
  • Includes the cable (3.5mm connector) and ¼ inch adapter
  • Comes with a carry case
  • Choose between the silver or black IEMs
  • 2-year warranty


  • None really unless you want to use them for casual listening

Higher Price Range In-Ear Monitors

While not all of these are professional IEMs, these are of good quality and are suitable for use on stage or in the studio.

Shure AONIC 5 Wired Sound Isolating Earbuds

Similar to the Aonic 4, the Aonic 5 is more for casual listening. It doesn’t have the flat frequency response of the Aonic 4, however, so while you can use it on stage, I wouldn’t recommend it for mixing. In fact, you can change your sound profile just by changing the nozzle you’re using so you can personalize your listening experience. You get a little more low end with this model, the frequency response is 18Hz to 19kHz.

The 37dB noise reduction is great. The sleeves/nozzles include soft flex sleeves, Comply sleeves and foam sleeves which come in S, M, and L. You also triple flange sleeves, and yellow foam sleeves which are one size. The kit also includes a detachable nozzle kit, ¼ inch adapter, and a carry case. These IEMs are built to be durable and come with a 2-year warranty. Choose from black, clear, or red. The cables are detachable.

Most people are happy with the sound quality, for listening and for performing on stage, as well as the comfort level. There are a few complaints about the bass (lack of), about the highs (lack of), noise reduction (lack of) and other random things like the sleeves. These are likely all subjective and most likely due to not getting a good seal. Remember, excellent fit is key with IEMs.


  • Works well enough to use on stage
  • The soundstage is good
  • The frequency response is 18Hz to 19kHz (nearly there)
  • 37dB noise reduction
  • Includes a range of sleeves in different sizes to facilitate a good fit
  • Comes with a detachable nozzle kit, ¼ inch adapter, and carry case
  • Highly durable
  • Comes in red, clear, or black
  • 2-year warranty


  • Not suitable for mixing
  • There are a few complaints about the sound not being balanced or missing frequencies and noise reduction (may be due to fit)

Mackie MP Series In-Ear Monitors (MP-460)

You can take your pick with the MP series. For professional clarity and frequency response, I recommend the model with the quad balanced armature drivers (MP-460). But you can get decent quality even with the dual hybrid armature drivers, and certainly the three dynamic or balanced armature divers too. These are aimed at musicians and sound engineers.

The frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz and you get 40 dB of noise reduction for a good listening experience. The braided and shielded detachable cable reduces interference for a cleaner sound while being highly durable. There are four different types of tips in three different sizes so you can find the right fit. This IEM includes a ¼ inch adapter, a hard case, and a cleaning cloth and tool. You also get a 1-year warranty.

The reviews for the MP-460 are mainly found on pro audio sites. One thing that stands out is the clarity, instrument separation, and soundstage. If you’re a sound engineer or musician, these IEMs are a good option. From the research I did, there are no downsides. For pro equipment, the price is great if you’re on a budget.


  • Excellent sound quality, very clear
  • Quad balanced armature drivers
  • Frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz
  • 40dB noise reduction
  • Use it wired or wireless
  • The detachable cable is braided and shielded for durability and interference-free sound
  • Includes a ¼ inch adapter
  • Four different tips in three different sizes to get a good fit
  • 1-year warranty


  • None

Westone Audio Pro X50 In-Ear Monitors

These IEMs are specifically targeted at musicians and sound engineers alike. The sound is neutral and balanced. The frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz. There are five balanced armature drivers with three-way passive crossover to cover the lows, mids, and highs. You get 25dB noise reduction. There are five pairs of silicone and five pairs of foam tips so you can find the best fit.

The Linum Bax T2 cable is detachable and is built with durability and clear sound quality in mind. It also features the most advanced MMCX connector according to Westone. The two earbuds have very precise symmetry so you won’t be hearing two different volumes or anything like that. This IEM comes with an impact resistant carry case and a wax removal tool. You also get a 2-year warranty.

There aren’t many reviews on this model of Westone IEMs, but the few that there are about this model and about Westone speak of clear, neutral sound that comes alive.


  • Neutral, clear, balanced sound
  • Frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Five balanced armature drivers and three-way passive crossover
  • 25dB noise reduction
  • The cable is detachable, durable, and features an advanced MMCX connector
  • Precise symmetry between the earbuds
  • Includes 10 tips (5 silicone, 5 foam) for a good fit
  • Comes with a wax removal tool
  • Includes an impact resistant carry case
  • 2-year warranty


  • None


In-ear monitors are widely available and come in options suitable for every budget. Even lower budget IEMs provide decent quality, at least for playing gigs if not quite for recording and mixing professional quality music. The benefits are clear, so if you’ve been considering getting a pair of IEMs, this guide should be helpful to you when it comes to selecting an option.

They’re not for everyone. For example, I will always prefer over ear headphones or really good speakers. But for the sound isolation and the fact that many options now have good bass, even I may cross over to the other side one day, despite my teeny tiny ear canals and laziness (I don’t like cleaning things).

Happy jamming, and if you take the plunge, happy shopping!

1 In Ear Monitor System