The Best In Ear Monitors (IEMs) For Stage And Studio

BEST CHOICE

Shure PSM300 Pro In-Ear Monitors

Shure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors
Our Rating:
4.7/5

PREMIUM PICK

Sennheiser IE 800 S In Ear Headphones

Sennheiser IE 800 S In-Ear Audiophile In-Ear Headphones
Our Rating
4.9/5

BEST VALUE

Shure SE215-CL In Ear Monitors

Shure SE215 CL In Ear Monitors
Our Rating
4.5/5

Table of Contents

In-ear monitors are perfect for taking your performance to the next level, whether on stage or in the studio. Thanks to their compact form and luscious sound, in-ear monitors (IEMs) are fast becoming the standard option for professional musicians and audiophiles alike. 

The Shure PSM300 Pro is our pick for a wireless in-ear monitor system. With its included transmitter and outstanding fidelity they are a great all-around option.

We’ve also highlighted nine top-notch monitor systems from brands like Shure, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica. So, no matter what your needs or budget, you’re sure to find a set that works well for you. 

The 9 Best In Ear Monitors:

ImageIn Ear Monitors
Shure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear MonitorsShure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors
Shure SE215 CL In Ear MonitorsShure SE215-CL In Ear Monitors
Sennheiser IE 800 S In-Ear Audiophile In-Ear HeadphonesSennheiser IE 800 S Audiophile In Ear Headphones
Mackie MP 240 In-Ear Headphone MonitorsMackie MP-240 In-Ear Headphone Monitors
CCA C12 In-Ear MonitorsCCA C12 In-Ear Monitors
Audio Technica ATH E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor HeadphonesAudio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones
Westone AM Pro 30 Triple Driver In-Ear MonitorsWestone AM Pro 30 Triple-Driver In Ear Monitors
Shure SE846 CL Professional In-Ear MonitorsShure SE846-CL Professional In Ear Monitors
Fender IEM Ten 3 In-Ear MonitorsFender IEM Ten 3 In-Ear Monitors

Shure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors

Shure’s PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) are a capable solution with great audio fidelity and dynamic versatility. For touring pros who need an all-in-one option or newer players who just want the best wireless monitors, the combination of high quality and value here is tough to beat. 

Shure outfitted these monitors with its proprietary Audio Reference Companding to increase their range and make them more reliable for playing far away from the receiver. 

The transmitter is advertised as reliable up to 300 feet, which makes playing at even the biggest venues a breeze. It’s built entirely with metal and includes a high-contrast LCD screen — both outstanding points to help it survive touring without a scratch.

Ease Of Use
4.6/5
Sound Quality
4.8/5
Features
5/5
Shure PSM300 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors

Along with the transmitter, the package comes with a rack mount receiver. The unit offers basic mixing and voicing controls, so you can make quick tweaks to your monitor mix as you play. It’s the best solution for players who want a wireless monitor system in one complete package. 

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Shure SE215-CL In Ear Monitors

Shure is the premier brand for the best in-ear monitors. In fact, its high-end PSM300 and SE846 models are popular with musicians in all genres. The Shure SE215 in-ear monitors provide the brand’s famous features for musicians on a tighter budget. 

These monitors run with one high-definition driver, in contrast to the three or four drivers you’ll find on top-end IEM models. The driver determines the IEM’s volume and sound signature. Here, it prioritizes bass response, which is perfect for hearing a click track or rhythm section during a performance.

Each ear monitor is sculpted to fit snugly over your ear and the angled tips sit nicely in your ear canal for a tight yet comfortable fit. The cables are tough enough to handle the rigors of touring without shorting out or falling apart. They work well with most wireless systems and are easy to use off stage as well.

Ease Of Use
4.8/5
Sound Quality
4.5/5
Features
4.7/5
Shure SE215 CL In Ear Monitors

For such an affordable price, these Shure SE215 monitors also offer excellent sound isolation. The foam tips reduce ambient noise by up to 37dB. Even on a loud stage, you’ll be able to hear your feed clearly.

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Sennheiser IE 800 S In-Ear Audiophile Headphones

Sennheiser makes some of the best in-ear monitors for audiophiles. Its flagship monitors, the IE 800 S models, are famous for their high fidelity and durable build. 

The key to Sennheiser IE 800 monitors’ sound is their smaller transducers. At just 7mm, these provide the fidelity of classic extra-wide band (XWB) transducers in a more ergonomic package. That means that the IE 800 S monitors won’t distort, even at volumes where smaller transducers might run out of headroom.

The sound signature is balanced without being bland. Low-end frequencies are powerful and weighty, while the midrange and trebles get plenty of articulation. Each note offers outstanding clarity across the entire spectrum. 

Ease Of Use
4.5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
4.7/5
Sennheiser IE 800 S In-Ear Audiophile In-Ear Headphones

Sennheiser is also famous for its durable build and the IE 800 monitors deliver there as well. The kevlar cable and metal driver vents are built for heavy use. Meanwhile, the ceramic finish is much sturdier than plastic — and it looks great too. 

With some of the smallest earbuds around, these monitors are comfortable for long listening sessions. They come with five different ear tips for a secure fit and a plush carrying case. 

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Mackie MP-240 In-Ear Headphone Monitors

Mackie makes premium mixers, speakers and headphones and its MP-240 In-Ear Headphone Monitors reflect that pro audio heritage. These monitors split the difference between budget and premium — they sound good enough to compete with the best in-ear monitors, yet they’re within reach of the average musician.

Two drivers power each IEM: a dynamic driver for the low end and a balanced armature driver which covers the midrange and treble. Dynamic drivers are louder and more powerful, while armature drivers are smaller and provide better articulation. 

Together, you get outstanding clarity with some serious punch. The bass-heavy tuning keeps you locked into the rhythm, although it does sacrifice a bit of sparkle at the top end of the frequency spectrum. However, the extra volume and low-end weight are perfect for playing along with other musicians. 

Ease Of Use
4.8/5
Sound Quality
4.6/5
Features
4.5/5
Mackie MP 240 In-Ear Headphone Monitors

Unlike some other earbuds, these monitors twist into your ear, with the cable running up and behind your outer ear. While this might take a bit of getting used to, it ensures the drivers stay secure and comfortable in any situation.

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CCA C12 In-Ear Monitors

If you’re a musician looking for one high quality IEM system on a very tight budget, the CCA C12 in ear monitors need to be on your radar. These monitors provide the definition and flexibility to compete with models far above their price range. 

Each IEM has six drivers: five balanced armature models for the midrange and high end, plus one dynamic driver to add low-end power. There isn’t a ton of emphasis on the treble or midrange, which gives them a clean, if slightly cold, feel. On the other hand, the bass is punchy and resonant. It comes in handy for playing to a rhythm on stage.  

For entry-level IEM models, the frequency range is also surprisingly wide. The earbuds don’t feel particularly lifelike, however, and the soundstage is a bit compressed and flat. This might make it more difficult to pick out individual instruments in your monitor mix.

Ease Of Use
5/5
Sound Quality
4.2/5
Features
4.6/5
CCA C12 In-Ear Monitors

The included cable is braided for extra durability and fits nicely behind your ears. Unfortunately, it does tangle easily, which makes it less comfortable for long sets. There’s also no chin slider, so you can’t adjust where the cables split towards your ears.

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Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones

Audio-Technica is one brand that’s universally respected among musicians and producers. Offering clean, crisp audio and durable performance, this company’s products can be seen on stages and studios across the globe. 

The Audio-Technica ATH-E70 models are the brand’s flagship in-ear studio monitors. They use three balanced armature driver models, without the bulkier dynamic driver models you’ll find in some other pairs. This makes them comfortable to wear and gives them plenty of articulation.

The audio signature stays balanced and clear, without any heavy boosts in the bass or low midrange. This makes them a bit less punchy than some other models, but it does give them outstanding clarity across the frequency spectrum (20Hz -19kHz). 

Ease Of Use
4.8/5
Sound Quality
4.7/5
Features
4.5/5
Audio Technica ATH E70 Professional In-Ear Studio Monitor Headphones

The midrange is a particular highlight. It’s dry and full without overpowering the treble, so you can hear every nuance between guitar parts, vocals and keyboards. 

With the foam and silicone ear tips, you could wear the Audio-Technica ATH-E70s for hours without your ears hurting. The cables are also detachable, so you can swap out broken cables without tossing the whole IEM system. This is perfect for professional musicians who might short out a cable at a gig and need to make cheap repairs.

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Westone AM Pro 30 Triple-Driver In Ear Monitors

Westone’s AM system offers professional-grade wired ear monitoring with a unique twist. Rather than blocking out all ambient noise like some other good models, this in-ear monitor series balances clear audio with a natural sense of space. If you like to play well while staying tuned into the world around you, the Pro 30s are the best in-ear monitors around. 

Each wired monitor includes three drivers onboard, for crisp detailing throughout the midrange and powerful bass response. With 124dB of sensitivity and 57-ohm impedance, this is one of the best wireless in-ear monitor sets for articulate and sensitive audio.

Along with the drivers, the AM Pro 30 blends in some ambient sound with the proprietary SLED filter. This technology adjusts how much outside noise enters each wired in-ear monitor, so you can adjust the volume of your mix without isolating yourself entirely.

Ease Of Use
4.9/5
Sound Quality
4.6/5
Features
4.7/5
Westone AM Pro 30 Triple Driver In-Ear Monitors

The earbuds come with both silicone and comfort foam tips in five different sizes. The twisted cable design is another bonus. Compared to standard wired IEMs, these cables can stand up to tougher conditions on stage and on the road.

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Shure SE846-CL Professional In Ear Monitors

If you need the absolute best in-ear monitors for pristine audio, the Shure SE846 is the model for you. These custom in-ear headphones provide dynamic drivers with outstanding frequency response and beautiful overall sound. 

The Shure SE846 ear monitors run on four balanced armature drivers in each ear, along with a pair of bass drivers. The bass is tuned with a low-pass filter to increase the frequency spectrum without damaging the mids and highs. 

If you want more flexibility, you can also customize the voicing by swapping out the nozzle inserts at the center of each monitor. 

Ease Of Use
4.5/5
Sound Quality
5/5
Features
5/5
Shure SE846 CL Professional In-Ear Monitors

The package includes warm and bright voicings along with a standard “clear” setting — the tweaked voicings are good for adapting to a noisy stage, while the clear setting works well for studio environments. With 37dB of noise isolation, they’re built to handle even the loudest crowds.

While the cables are a drawback, the monitors are compact and provide a snug fit around your ear.

Positives

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Fender IEM Ten 3 In-Ear Monitors

Fender is known mostly for its guitars but, with a 60-year legacy of providing outstanding equipment for musicians, the brand makes some fantastic pro audio gear as well. Its IEM Ten 3 In-Ear Monitors cover a wide frequency response with a sleek, comfortable fit that’s great for touring musicians.

The core of these wired in-ear headphones is the four-driver configuration. One is a high-density dynamic driver, which puts out punchy, thick bass while three armature drivers cover the midrange, high-end and ultra-high frequencies in each wired ear monitor. 

Together, they’re sharp and lively, with the range to match almost any competitor. The frequency response stretches from 9Hz to 20kHz, for clear and dynamic sound at all times. 

Ease Of Use
4.6/5
Sound Quality
4.8/5
Features
4.4/5
Fender IEM Ten 3 In-Ear Monitors

They sit on the slightly louder side of the spectrum, with a 108dB sensitivity. If you want an ultra-quiet monitor mix, these might not be for you. But, for most users the extra volume comes in handy to get over a drummer and other bandmates. 

Another great feature is its molded cable which fits nicely over your outer ear. It’s strong enough to stay in place during a performance, but not so rigid that it digs into your head or twists into weird shapes as you’re playing.

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What’s the Difference Between In-Ear Monitors and Earphones?

While they might look similar, in-ear monitors differ from earphones in a few key ways. 

The most important difference is the fit. Earphones rest on the outer shell of your ear, providing a fine seal while allowing some exterior noise into your music. 

In-ear monitors, on the other hand, fit further within your ear to block out more noise. This makes them better for audiophiles who want to hear every little detail of their music. The tighter seal and shorter distance from your eardrum make in-ear monitors sound punchy and vibrant.

The tighter seal also helps for playing on stage, where you need to be completely focused on the song. If you like to tune out the outside world with your music, then in-ear monitors are the better choice. 

A few in-ear monitors also provide a higher impedance than consumer earphones. Impedance measures how much power it takes to fuel your wireless monitors with the best audio quality.

Over 32 ohms, smartphones and other consumer audio players might struggle to power your monitors without losing current and volume. Thankfully, most IEMs don’t hit this impedance threshold, although it’s still important to take into account if you plan to use IEMs off stage as well.

Are In-Ear Monitors Comfortable?

In-ear monitors are one of the most comfortable options for recording in the studio or playing on a noisy stage. Their slim frame keeps them from pressing into your ears like many over-ear and on-ear headphones do. 

However, not all ear monitors provide the same comfort. To get the best experience, pay attention to the ear tips. These determine the fit of each IEM, as well as how much noise they block out from outside your headphones. 

A tighter fit blocks more audio from outside your ear, which gives you better noise reduction and makes it easier to hear your monitor mix. However, some artists prefer a looser fit, so they can hear more ambient noise and stay connected with their bandmates and audience. 

Silicone and foam are the two most common materials for ear tips. They’re both known for comfort, although silicone feels a bit smoother and foam expands more in your ear canal. 

If you want a tight fit to maximize the noise reduction, foam ear tips will be the best choice. They also stay more secure during live performances, because they don’t get slippery with sweat or earwax. 

However, one thing to remember is that you need to clean foam ear tips regularly. They require more attention after each performance to ensure they don’t pick up any gunk. Depending on the durability of the ear tips you buy, silicone tips might also last longer. If you’re playing gigs each night or using your IEM models off stage, silicone ear tips will stand up to the pressure more. 

Some musicians also prefer the lighter feel of silicone ear tips. These models don’t expand to take up your entire ear, so they make it easier to hear ambient noise around you. While this might not be good if you’re trying to focus on the audio from your monitors in ear, it does help you stay alert and connected on and off stage. 

Are In-Ear Monitors Worth It?

While lots of musicians like the idea of IEMs, the high price makes it tough to switch. 

Top-notch monitors like the Shure SE846 or Sennheiser IE 800 S are certainly a big investment and they take some time to adjust to when performing. But, overall, wired in-ear monitor systems offer a number of benefits that make them worth the higher price tag. 

One big advantage of the best in-ear monitors is the improved sound. Compared to traditional wedge monitors, a wired IEM system gives you much better clarity and precision across the mix. If you’ve ever struggled to lock in with a rhythm track or pick out an acoustic guitar on a wedge monitor, an IEM system will be a massive upgrade.

An IEM system can also keep overall volume levels in check on stage. Many musicians strain to hear themselves over the sound of the crowd and other players, so they start turning up their monitor mix and playing louder. 

Wireless systems make it easier for each musician to hear the monitors without digging in, eliminating volume wars during a performance. This makes it much easier for you to play comfortably and helps your audience hear all the details of your performance as well. 

Beyond those advantages, in-ear monitoring gives you the freedom to roam. Having a wired IEM system guarantees that you can hear your mix clearly and accurately no matter where you are on stage. Compared to traditional monitors, this gives you more freedom to move around and enjoy your performance.

What In-Ear Monitors Do Professionals Use?

Legacy brands like Shure, Westone and Mackie dominate the professional IEM market. They’re favorites among pro musicians for their reliable performance and outstanding fidelity on stage.

With audiophile-focused brands like Audio-Technica and Sennheiser, you can also find some fantastic monitors with extremely balanced and articulate audio. Producers and studio musicians love these for tracking instruments as well as playing live. 

Beyond the models we’ve listed here, many top headphone brands make high-quality in-ear monitors and over-ear headphones as well. If you want to check out some more options, take a look at our comprehensive guide to the best headphone brands

Best In-Ear Monitors For Audiophiles

Audiophiles prioritize clarity and depth in their headphones, without obvious boosts in any one frequency range. Some of the best in-ear monitors are tailored for live performances and make more drastic changes to the sound signature. So, if you’re an audiophile looking for precise and balanced sound, these are some good models to check out instead.

If you want the absolute best IEMs around, the Shure SE846 and Sennheiser IE 800 S are both fantastic options. They offer uncompromising audio that’s good enough to reveal every nuance in your music. Compared to cheaper options, they provide beautifully detailed sound with fantastic space and depth.

However, these IEMs are also extremely expensive and are out of reach for many listeners. Thankfully, there are still other great options for audiophiles interested in the best IEMs.

Audio-Technica is another brand with a fantastic reputation among audiophiles thanks to its clean and balanced audio profile. Audio-Technica products focus on pristine audio and durability before style, so you get more value for the price.

Its ATH-E70 IEM models are much more affordable than a high-end Sennheiser or Shure system, yet they still provide three drivers for fantastic audio with a wide frequency range. At just 9g for each wired IEM, they’re also some of the lightest and most comfortable monitors you’ll find anywhere. 

Best In Ear Monitors For Musicians

For musicians, an in-ear monitor system can be an investment for both the stage and the studio. 

Wherever you want to use them, it’s important to find a pair with good clarity, noise isolation and volume. IEMs like the Westone AM Pro 30 and Shure SE215-CL are both great sets for pro musicians. They’re durable and provide clear sound, with enough ambient noise to keep you tuned in on stage. 

Most musicians (except drummers) will also need wireless transmitters for their IEMs on stage. Systems like the Shure PSM300 Pro include a transmitter and receiver with the IEMs themselves, so you can get started playing immediately. 

Touring pros also need IEMs that are easy to repair if something breaks. Detachable cables are a major plus here, because they allow you to replace a broken cable without tossing the IEM itself. Check out models like the Audio-Technica ATH-E70s to get detachable cables for your IEM system.

Finally, it’s important to think about IEMs when choosing your home studio gear. If you’re building your home studio and want to check out some other options, take a look at our article on the best home studio packages as well. 

Why Are The Best In-Ear Monitors So Expensive?

Every musician wants the best sound possible but, compared to good in-ear headphones or over-ear models for consumers, the best in-ear monitors are often prohibitively expensive. The cost difference might seem odd, but there are a few key reasons for the higher price tag. 

The main difference is the number of drivers used for the best in-ear monitors. Good wireless IEM models provide up to six drivers in each ear monitor. These take time and expertise to build, driving up the cost. If you want the very best audio, however, the extra drivers are worth the price tag. 

Having more drivers in a wired IEM increases the clarity and definition of each note. Balanced armature drivers require particular finesse to construct, but can add lots of articulation and sparkle to the midrange and high end. Together, these drivers make your music sound dynamic and lifelike, with a more natural sense of space. 

Some expensive in-ear monitors, like the Shure PSM300, come with a wireless transmitter and receiver in one system. The cables are still wired from your ears to the wireless receiver, but the wireless transmitter lets you move anywhere on stage. For musicians who find wired monitors restrictive, these wireless systems are a must-have. 

At a higher price range, wireless IEMs usually feature better materials. While plastic is common on many entry-level wired monitors (because it’s cheaper and easier to produce), you can expect brushed metal or ceramic at the higher-end. Not only are these in-ear monitors more durable, they look great on stage. 

If you want sleek and comfortable IEMs, these models might be worth the higher price.

Bottom Line

Overall, we liked the Shure PSM300 Pro set as our top in-ear monitor system. It covers all the bases for pro musicians, with sparkling sound and outstanding durability. 

If you want a premium option for the highest fidelity, you should also check out IEMs like the Shure SE846-CL or Sennheiser IE 800 S. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Mackie MP-240 is a good choice too.

Do you prefer in-ear monitors or traditional wedge monitors? How do you use your monitors beyond the stage? Let us know in the comments below. 

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