Best in ear monitors for musicians: full guide

Hey, guys, my name is Chad, I am 28 years old, and for the better part of my life I’ve been playing drums in more than a dozen bands. As you may assume, during all this time I’ve become familiar with tons of devices for musicians. In particular, my ears have gone through thousands of headphones of various types, that is why I wanted to dedicate separate article for such gear. It was written on the basis of practical experience in the use of different monitors in concert and studio work.

Before we start, I want to mention one thing: for this list, I’ve picked only in-ear monitors. I know, I know, some of you may say: “OMG, Chad, but headphones produce better sound than even the best professional in-ear monitors”. In general, you’re right. I’ll head back to the comparison of these two types later in this article. But here is my point. As a drummer, you move a lot, some tracks are played in a very intense manner, and if you are wearing headphones, they just fall off you. I can recommend such gear for DJs and other musicians who do not sweat so much while playing.

If you are a drummer like me, then you actually can think of in-ear monitors only. Or tie your headphones to your dome with a string. Guess what is more convenient though.

Without any further blah blah, let’s jump straight to my top list.

Top 10 best in-ear monitors from Amazon

Shure SE215-K-E Sound Isolating Earphones

These earbuds for drummers are distributed in three colors: black, white and transparent (clear). Shure earphones are extremely portable and have sound isolating sleeves that block out up to 37dB of background noise. This makes the sound quality even better while you drumming. And you can actually use these headphones to listen to your favorite bangers while you are walking outdoors because of their low-profile lightweight design. The cable can be detached at the ear part of headphones so you can store the wires separately without them being knotted.

These eardrops have a formable kevlar cable which helps to ensure a secure fit. And due to the over-the-ear design of the drops, cables won’t be interrupting your music sessions by constantly getting in your way. Finally, these drum monitor headphones have a Single Dynamic MicroDriver feature which generates detailed sound with enhanced bass response. I like this model because it has a lot of useful features for musicians and casual music lovers despite being very compact and lightweight.


PROS:
  • Compact and smart design;
  • Great quality of wires and drops;
  • Stunning sound;
  • Great isolation quality as for small headphones.

CONS:
  • Some users complain about headphones not fitting their ears.


Audio-technica IM Series Canal type monitor earphone Dual symphonic driver ATH-IM70(Japan Import)

Another compact headphones model on our list. Audio-Technica in-ear monitor system for drummer has the same design as the above-mentioned Shure model: small drops are connected with over-the-ear wires. But, as I said earlier, the tiny design doesn’t necessarily mean bad quality, and Audio-Technica product totally proves my words. These earphones have a dual-symphonic driver which has two units for one earphone. Such drivers are able to suppress distortion and play a low tone range in high-resolution sound.

In order to make the sound even better, Audio-Technica engineers use hybrid hardness resin and aluminum enclosure for their headphones. These materials help to isolate you from the excess sound of the environment. And just like in the case of previous headphones on our list, Audio-Technica product has a detachable cable. These earphones are distributed in red color only.


PROS:
  • Great compact design;
  • Dual-symphonic driver;
  • One of the best isolation headphones for drummers;
  • Beautiful sound.

CONS:
  • Lack of color options.


Etymotic Research ER4P-T MicroPro In-Ear Monitors

The ER4 MicroPro series earphones by Etymotic Research is another great portative product on my list. First in-ear headphones for drummers from this series were made more than 20 years ago, and even now they can become a number one choice for professional sound engineers and musicians. It is obvious that new ER4 MicroPro earphones are made of more advanced materials than it was 20 years ago: the cable is Kevlar-reinforced, while the eardrops have a high-qualitative resin caps which perfectly isolate the outer sounds.

Etymotic Research product is one of the best headphones for drummers because they use AccuDriver which shows one of the highest sound output sensitivity on the market. The sound quality is perfect because of the unsurpassed frequency feature: you get approximately 86% response accuracy from 20 Hz-16 kHz. The ear tips have a special filter which prevents ear wax from getting inside the driver systems. Finally, I love the bundle contains which you get with earphones: 6.35mm stereo adaptor, additional ear caps, filter changing tool and replacement, airplane adaptor, storage box, and a cool shirt clip.


PROS:
  • One of the best in-ear monitor systems for a drummer;
  • Useful box contains;
  • Great sound quality;
  • 2-year warranty with a guaranteed replacement option;
  • Compact design;
  • Filters for ear wax.

CONS:
  • Some owners think that these headphones are a little bit outdated.


Shure SE215-K-BT1-EFS Bluetooth Enabled Sound Isolating Earphones

And here is another great headphone set made by Shure. These earphones can generate superior sound and also provide a remarkable isolation degree. Shure SE215-K has a lightweight design so they don’t drop out of ears under their own weight. Patented Single Dynamic Driver helps to generate the clearest sound with deep true bass. These Shure headphones are available in white and black colors. Their sensitivity is 107 dB SPL/mW, while the frequency range is 22 Hz-17.5 kHz.

Among other additional options, there is an Integrated microphone and three-button remote controls feature in these earphones. Also, they can work remotely with the help of Bluetooth 4.1 communication cable. The product box includes a fit kit, shirt clip, USB charging cable, and zippered carrying case.


PROS:
  • Wireless in-ear monitors for drummers;
  • Incredible sound;
  • Powerful bass;
  • Perfect isolative quality.

CONS:
  • The sound can be less qualitative while using a Bluetooth connection.


Etymotic ER4-SR Studio Reference In-Ear Isolating Earphone with Replaceable Cable

And again Etymotic makes the shot on our list with its great production. ER4-SR in-ear monitors for drummer provide a wide frequency response with clear sound. All fellow drummers will adore light and comfortable design. The frequency response of these earphones is from 20Hz-16kHz, while the channel is matched within 1 dB from 100Hz to 10kHz. Such great frequency performance can be acquired with the help of special filters, which also protect the Etymotic headphones from human ear wax.

Besides the headphones, the box contains a 3.5mm detachable 5-foot cable, a 1/4-inch stereo phone adapter, filter replacement tool, additional resin caps and filters, storage box and cloth clip, as well as the performance certificate. You get a 2-year warranty buying these earphones.

Note: you should replace filters each time they get clogged. You can actually hear it because when filters are clogged, the output decreases and sound quality lowers.


PROS:
  • Brilliant sound quality;
  • A lot of additional useful tools included;
  • 2-year warranty;
  • Great design.

CONS:
  • Price is quite high.


Audio Technica E40 Pro In Ear Monitor Headphones

These black headphones are manufactured by Audio Technica like ATH-IM70 model, already mentioned on my list. Due to the use of dual phase push-pull drivers, these in-ear monitor for drummers produce very accurate and pure sound. The wires have an over-the-ear design for increased comfort. The eardrop housing design ideally fits the ear and provides perfect isolation from surrounding sounds so you can fully focus on the music. The cable is detachable and you can always order the new one if something goes wrong with the current.

Despite all of the features, I was quite confused to find out that these headphones do not have a microphone option and a volume control module. I’m not saying that these are the biggest flaws for musician earphones (especially in the case of the mic), however, the vast majority of competitive products do have these options.


PROS:
  • Lightweight modern design;
  • Quite a cheap price;
  • Great sound;
  • Isolation is perfect.

CONS:
  • Lack of microphone and volume control buttons.


PSB M4U-4 In-Ear Headphone – Black

These headphones are distributed in white and black colors. They are quite affordable, but this is not a bad thing. These earphones are so light and comfortable that you can enjoy them for a long period of time without any troubles. They do an excellent job with high pressure, and soft pads contribute to excellent convenience. The driver is dual (low and high-frequency drivers) and has a two-way hybrid design for the best sound quality.

The distributed package includes two cables: a classic 3.5 mm jack and a cable with in-line remote, a microphone, and telephone controls. Also, you can find silicon gel caps, a carrying box, and airplane adaptors in there. However, there is no warranty option from the manufacturer, which confuses me a lot.


PROS:
  • Cheap price;
  • Good sound and great isolation;
  • Useful additional box contains;
  • Lightweight.

CONS:
  • No warranty from the manufacturer.


Audio Technica ATH-E70 Professional In-Ear Monitor Headphones

The style of these headphones is very sleek. They are distributed in classic black color with transparent glasses with the view in the inner electrics. These earphones are able to provide flawless clarity over a wide frequency range. Regardless of the session’s duration, they will never become uncomfortable and will not fall from ears. Three balanced armature drivers and special housing design provide good sound quality and insulation.

The cables have flexible loops over the ears so the headphones can perfectly fit each buyer. The cable which leads to ears is detachable and has a length of 5.2 foot. The buyers’ package includes a comfortable carrying case, 1/4 inch adapter, pack of silicone caps of different sizes (XS/S/M/L), as well as special foam tips of medium size.

Despite all of the above-mentioned advantages, these earphones do not have a manufacturer warranty, just like in the case of previous product on my list.


PROS:
  • Extremely good sound;
  • Compact design;
  • Comfy housings give maximum isolation;
  • Flexible loops over the ears.

CONS:
  • No warranty option.


Fender FXA2 In-Ear Monitor, Metallic Black

Fender FXA2 In-Ear Monitor model is very affordable, and this pair is able to provide you with everything you need to make music and listen to it. Closed style of their housings and light weight ensure that headphones remain comfortable inside ears while you are making music. Fender earphones offer a frequency response from 6Hz to 23kHz and 112dB @1mW sensitivity. 

The headphones contain a solid carrying case, four ear caps’ pairs of various size (S, M, M+, L), special cleaning tool and jack adapter. The manufacturer is based in Nashville; the company guarantees that these headphones are especially good for drummers. I won’t say, however, that they are the best on the market, but Fender does their job quite well for a really affordable price.


PROS:
  • Cool design;
  • Cheap price;
  • A lot of useful things in the package;
  • Great isolation quality.

CONS:
  • No warranty from the manufacturer.


Westone W-Series 52 Inch Replacement Round Cable with MFi Control and Mic for Earphones, 78506

As you may assume from the name of this product, it can be categorized as earphones accessories. Basically, here we are dealing with earphone interconnect cable for different models. The cable contains microphone and 3-button control circuit for iOS devices, besides it has high-flex, ultra-low resistance tensile design. Also, the cable is wrapped with a braided aramid fiber for prolonged durability.

This model suits all in-ear headphones on our list. The cable has 3.5mm minijack from one side and standard earphone inputs from the other.

Note: buying this product you buy a single cable only, which means that you have to buy headphones separately.


PROS:
  • Wired in-ear monitor system for a drummer with mic;
  • High wire quality;
  • Works with the better part of modern monitor headphones on the market;
  • 3-button control option;
  • Gives a high-quality sound.

CONS:
  • High price for the single cable.


How to pick the right headphones?

All headphones on my list show quite similar characteristics in the case of sound quality. So you have to consider other things while choosing your favorite one. The first significant criteria, I believe, is the warranty: if the manufacturer gives you some guarantees about its product, it is obviously a good sign. Another thing is the components of the package, which you get after ordering headphones. Some products are distributed with lots of useful goods for future maintenance. And finally, you have to look at your budget. As I said previously, all these earphones produce quite similar quality of sound and give you good isolation. However, the lower the price the lesser the lifetime of the product.

FAQ

What is a sound monitoring and why the drummer needs it?

Every drummer knows that earphones with such a feature are better than other devices on the market. But not all of them actually know what monitoring really means. Basically, monitoring is sound control. The monitor feature gives an accurate reproduction of the tonal qualities of the source audio, also meaning the lack of distortion. There are two types of monitoring: external and in-ear. For a drummer, monitoring can be organized in various ways: only external, only in-ear, or both at the same time.

It is hardly possible to argue with the fact that it is much more comfortable to play the drum set when not only the sound of your own instrument but also other instruments are clearly heard. Sooner or later, all drummers begin to pay attention to monitoring for their practices. Sure thing, considering the fact that the use of monitors ultimately affects the overall quality of musician’s performance.

What do I need for a complete wireless in-ear monitor system?

A typical in-ear wireless monitoring system should contain a half-width rack radio transmitter, a belt-pack receiver and a set of earbuds.

What is the difference between in-ear monitor and headphones?

In this article, I use words headphones and earphones on a similar occasion, but if we dig deeper into the etymology of these two words, we can see a slight difference. In fact, headphones are devices where speakers are attached to a headband. Headphones can either rest on top of the ears or around the ears of the owner. Due to their huge size, headphones can contain bigger and more powerful drivers. On the other hand, their size also means that they are not very portable.

Earphones, also called in-ear headphones or in-ear monitors, also seal the ear to isolate you from ambient noise and retain pure bass. Rather than sealing off the entire ear, earphones are able to seal with a component that goes into the ear canal. Such a component is often fitted with foam or silicone caps for retention and comfort of the wearer. Technical innovations in earphones continue to improve their quality and flexibility, so there is practically no difference between the modern headphone and in-ear devices.

Conclusion

I honestly tried to write as short and clear as possible, but the length of the article still turned out to be quite huge. And I haven’t even jumped to the theoretical part! However, I believe that I made all the efforts to give fellow musicians a comprehensive guide on the best in-ear monitors for drummers. With qualitative earphones and a proprietary portable mixing console, the drummer becomes independent in terms of monitoring. He will be able to set up an adequate sound picture virtually anyplace, anytime. Each professional musician takes care of the sound, which is why these persons have to follow three main things in their lives: a passion for their favorite work, a desire to develop, and a quality of the devices they are using in the process.

I want to greatly thank you for your attention. I also will be very happy to hear from you. Be sure to leave any thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. Finally, I want to wish you a lot of inspirational moments while experiencing different aspects of such a huge human phenomenon as music.

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