12 Best In-Ear Monitors in 2017

If you are a performer, there are all types of tricks you can pull out of your bag. That includes tech that can alter your voice and give you a boost when you’re feeling a bit flat. It all starts with the ear, however, regardless of your instrument of choice.

Anyone on stage knows how important it is to be able to hear yourself, and a bad setup can ruin your night quickly. That led us on a hunt to find the best in-ear monitors for musicians, engineers, and vocalists.

Top 12 In-Ear Monitors Ultimate Table

DesignNameMemory WireMultiple ColorsRating (1-5)
  1. Shure SE846-CL Sound Isolating Earphones Yes Yes 4.4
  2. Westone Clear AM Pro 30 Ambient Triple-Driver Universal In-Ear Monitors 78538 No No 4.4
  3. Etymotic Research ER4SR Studio Reference In-Ear Monitors No No 4.3
  4. Sennheiser IE80 Headphone No No 4.2
  5. Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Monitor Headphone Yes No 4.2
6. Westone UM Pro30 High Performance Triple Driver Universal Fit Earphones No No 4.2
7. MEE audio Pinnacle P1 High Fidelity Audiophile In-Ear Headphones No No 4.1
8. Westone UM Pro10 High Performance Single Driver Noise-Isolating In-Ear Monitors No No 4.1
  9. Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones Yes Yes 4.0
  10. MEE audio M6 PRO Universal-Fit Noise-Isolating Musician’s In-Ear Monitors Yes Yes 4.0
  11. Shure SE425-V Sound Isolating Earphones Yes Yes 4.0
  12. Fender FXA2 Professional In-Ear Monitor Headphones No Yes 3.7

Buying Tips

Being on stage can be unnerving for some, so it’s important you can hear clearly and stay comfortable. You’ll do both if you follow these tips before choosing your next pair of in-ear monitors.

Fit

Over-the-ear cans can make your head hot, but in-ear headphones can irritate some folk’s eardrums. That means fit is extremely important as you could be wearing your in-ear monitor for hours on end, not just for a few minutes. Unfortunately, if you are buying online your options are going to be somewhat limited.

Real in-ear monitors for the pros will be custom molded to fit our ears. There are even companies that do in-house fittings. For our purposes, that won’t apply so you will want to look for earbuds a variety of nubs. Whereas a normal pair of headphones may come with 3-4 sizes, the best iem earbuds can have well over a dozen. All of our picks have detachable cables so you’re good to go in that department.

Usage

Some companies claim their in-ear monitor headphones are built for studio and stage use. Well, this is one of those times where you’ll get what you pay for. You will not be able to find pro model monitors for cheap, so just because a company slaps “monitor” into the title, don’t believe the hype. The best in ear monitors prove it with their build quality and amazing sound.

That said, not everyone needs a pair of headphone that cost a week’s wages. You need to consider where you plan on using them along with the rest of the equipment on hand. That includes instruments if you aren’t a vocalist or in the studio mixing tracks. A great set of monitor earbuds will work in any situation, but poorly made sets won’t hold up under pressure.

Cables

Any quality in-ear monitor will have detachable cables. The quality of those cables varies greatly, however, so just because something looks “cool” doesn’t mean it will be efficient. The good news is they can be replaced in most cases, something you can’t do with traditional headphones or cheap in-ear monitors.

While the type of cable matters, so does the way it’s attached. Some models will have cables that hang straight down, while the pricier models have contoured buds and cords that go around the back of your ear. That means they will be out of sight, and out of your way if you like to wiggle around while you play or sing.

Top 5 Best In-Ear Monitors Reviews

1. Shure SE846-CL MicroDrivers Headphones

Shure has the distinction of taking the top spot in our best in ear monitors list and also being the most expensive. That is because quality comes at a price, and these earbuds are rated for the Pros on stage or in the studio. They feature quad microdrivers to pipe the sound in and their noise isolating properties will keep everything else out on stage. If you like numbers, these are rated to block up to 37 dB of ambient noise out on stage.

From the stainless steel nozzles to the housing, quality is what you’ll get from Shure SE846-CL Earphones. The ergonomic housing is sweat resistant and lightweight so you won’t experience ear fatigue during long periods of use. The nozzles that direct sound into your ear are angled and removable in case they get dingy. In fact, most of the components in the SE846 can be removed or replaced if needed.

We aren’t going to go into great depth on the frequency range and how these will sound as one word sums things up nicely – Amazing. The bass is strong and we promise you’ll have no complaints with the audio quality whether you’re simply listening or on stage performing. There are a ton of extras in the form of a kit which includes a carrying case, two flexible cables, 6 tips in three sizes and different nozzles to change up the sound. The Shure SE846-CL are available in Clear or Bronze.

2. Westone Clear AM Pro 30 In-Ear Monitors

While some of our choices are great for the studio or stage, some shine a bit brighter in one area. The Westone Clear AM Pro 30 In-Ear monitors will work anywhere you need great sound, but are true monitors and built for the stage. In other words, if you need to hear your band and the ambiance around you, you may have found your top choice.

Westone uses a True-Fit tech in their monitor headphones. They are going to be comfortable and the sound quality is right up there with the top-tier models as well. Tech specs include a frequency range of 20Hz – 18kHz, an impedance of 56 ohms and a sensitivity of 13 dB. There are three drivers in this set of earbuds compared to the four found on Shure’s top model.

You will get plenty of cable with the Westone AM Pro 30’s as the cord measures 4’ 2” but can be detached through their MMCX Audio Connector. Throw in SLED tech and a balanced armature driver and you have yourself a fine set of monitor earbuds that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

3. Etymotic Research ER4SR In-Ear Monitors

If you look at enough in-ear monitors or headphones for that matter, you will notice they all look the same. There are some slight variations, but occasionally we do come across something totally different. The Etymotic Research ER4SR Studio Reference In-Ear Monitors certainly fit that bill.

At first glance, the Etymotic Research ER4SR probably looks a little funky and not something you would want to wear on stage. Well, these aren’t necessarily built for the stage but are more for studio use where you need to hear a full range of sound. These are what we would refer to as accurate and have a frequency response of 20Hz – 16kHz. They are channel matched within 1 dB from 100Hz to 10kHz and have an impedance of 45 ohms. Like we said, they are accurate.

The Etymotic Research ER4SR Studio Reference will come with two sets of notches, several sizes of earbuds and a carrying case. You can change out the filters if they become clogged or dingy and the cables detach as well. There is also an ER4XR model which brings extend range to the low end.

4. Sennheiser IE80 Headphone

It doesn’t matter if we are doing a list on the best gaming headsets or noise-isolating marvels; Sennheiser tends to find their way into the Top 5 more often than not. This time around, we are going to focus on the Sennheiser IE80 headphones which are dubbed “ear-canal” headphones rather than in-ear.

Thankfully, that moniker is not just a “buzz word” this time. These are ergonomically designed for your canals which is the next best thing to custom-fitted nubs. They have a brushed metal housing and detachable cables that can be swapped out on the fly. Like bass? Well, you will appreciate the lows and the fact you can actually adjust them to a degree through bass tuning. The frequency range is listed at 10 – 20,000Hz and they have an impedance of 16 ohms. They are not quite the powerhouse of our Pro models, but these are more affordable and still sound amazing.

Sennheiser threw a lot of accessories in the box with the IE80’s. There is a sound adjustment tool, ear hooks, a slew of nubs sizes Small through Large and a protective carrying case. These are not a good fit for professional’s on stage that needs a top-tier monitoring headset but are perfect for folks on a budget or consumers that don’t need to best out the gate.

5. Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Monitor

The Audio-Technica ATH In-Ear monitors come in three varieties, but we’re going to focus on the big boys with the ATH-E70’s. You will get an accurate response from these headphones thanks to three armature drivers which are balanced and cover a range from 20 – 19,000Hz. As you would expect, the sturdy 5’ 2” cable detaches and sports the company’s new A2DC connectors.

The design of these headphones is rather unremarkable but in line with the rest of the pack. That’s a good thing as you don’t want the crowd focusing on your ears during a show. On that note, the cables will loop up over the ear to stay out of site and out of the way if you decide to bust a move. The included foam tips make these noise isolating although you’re not going to get nearly as many with this particular set.

Audio-Technica’s ATH range is a fine option for Pros and rookies alike. There is a price point for everyone between the E40 and E70 and all come with the same accessories which include a carrying case, tips and a 3.5mm to 1/4” adapter.