Are you a live performer who needs to hear his bandmates better, or are you a studio engineer who’s fed up with that old set of headphones? In either case, you might need a set of in ear monitors.
‘What these are’ basically relates to a smaller, more portable and, perhaps, intimate version of headphones, since they go directly in the ear of the wearer rather than over it.
We have put together a list of the top in ear monitors for 2019, ready to dive in?
1. Sennheiser IE800S
Essentially, it doesn’t get much better than IE800S. These earbuds are the pinnacle of in-ear monitors and they provide absolutely everything you’ll need for critical listening.
They come supplied with a major set of features, including Sennheiser’s XWB drivers, an ergonomic design, 7mm transducers, and a robust cable. In essence, you should be aware that these in ear headphones cost a ton, but if money is not an issue for your audiophile needs, then there’s simply no point in looking elsewhere.
These headphones are designed after Sennheiser’s standard in-ear headphone format, so aesthetics are pretty standard in every aspect. The only thing worth mentioning is that the housing is sculpted and made from a special kind of ceramic ally which is surprisingly robust. The IE800S earphones were definitely built to last.
Sound wise, the soundstage is massive, delivering excruciatingly strong bass, very accurate mids, and highs bright as day. That was, however, only to be expected from headphones as expensive as this. On a brighter note, the IE800s also feel remarkably comfortable to wear, even after hours of use.
The silicone tips feel exquisitely gentle and won’t give you any problems concerning ear fatigue or pain after using them for a while. Now, most people say that these headphones are superb for studio, as well as for live performance, but they’re not exactly good for day to day listening – they’re just too expensive for that.
- Unmatched sonic performance
- Exceptionally durable and robust
- Comfortable fit
- Superior reliability
- Awesome soundstage
- Overkill for day to day listening
2. Sony IER-M9
Next up on the menu is IER-M9 – a premium-quality audiophile grade in ear monitor set. These cost a small fortune, and most people would ask why are they so good, and the answer is all but simple.
Namely, they pack an unmatched hardware outfit comprised of 5 balanced armature drivers, magnesium alloy tweeter and housing, ear hangers, and plenty of complementary features. It goes without saying that these buds sound great, they’re durable, and their soundstage is unparalleled, to say the very least.
The only real bad thing about these in ear headphones is that they cost very, very much. In fact, they’re 100 or some times more expensive than budget earphones, so is the difference really this big? In short, it is.
There’s not just one, but five driver units which deliver groundbreaking bass and uniquely sharp highs. What’s more, they’re so light you won’t even feel them, so one could say that these headphones will give you everything you need out of a pair of monitors.
Like we’ve mentioned, the only issue is that they cost a ton, but other than that, they sport a massive value for the buck.
- Exceptionally great audio quality
- Five BA drivers
- Astonishingly comfortable to wear
- Huge value for the money
- Very expensive
3. Audio Technica ATH IM50
We’re dropping down several price point categories, and the first model that’s not as expensive as the previous two is Audio Technica’s IM50. There are plenty of benefits to be had should you opt for this model, so let’s get down further into detail.
Firstly, these monitors are built quite great. The sheer fact that the cable is removable significantly increases the portability of these headphones. As for durability, they’re robust enough to withstand several years of use, to say the very least.
Secondly, they’re very, very comfortable to wear. The driver units IM50 come supplied with are fairly big, so you’ll feel the presence of these monitors whenever you use them. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, as it’s up to you to decide whether you like this approach or not.
Another great thing related to the comfortability of these in ear monitors is the fact that they come outfitted with a pair of silicone tips. They’re very gentle and feel remarkably plushy, but some people feel irritated by them.
Audio Technica is widely known for their superb sound engineering, so the least you should expect is a massive soundstage which somehow retains the well-rounded character, and powerful overall playback volume.
So, there are pretty much no drawbacks here. These monitors are fairly cheap, they sound awesome, and they will feel great unless you’re irritated by silicone tips. They might be just a little bit flimsier than most in ear monitors in our review, but that won’t be a problem with proper maintenance and use.
- Big, strong drivers
- Removable cable
- Fairly inexpensive
- Awesome sound
- Subpar durability
4. Audio Technica ATH E40
It’s true that ATH IM50 is great, but that model is still in the realm of ‘expensive’, being over $100. What we’re looking at here is the E40 model – a relatively cheaper set of in ear monitors that come supplied with slightly different hardware outfit.
The IM50 in ear monitors pack two phase push pull drivers that were specifically manufactured for monitoring applications, ensuring unparalleled accuracy and tonal clarity at all times. The cable is also a bit different – the so called ‘memory cable’ sports enhanced flexibility at the expense of durability. Namely, it’s more comfortable to wear by a long shot, but it’s also flimsier.
This is one of the few in-ear monitors that actually provide any ambient noise isolation. They’re not just good for monitoring tasks, they’re also perfect for all kinds of studio work.
What’s more, they’re virtually weightless with only 0,3 ounces of weight. If you remove the cable, they can be carried around so easily that they’re perhaps the most compact in ear monitors on the market. A good boost for the value for the buck is the fact that you’ll also get a set of gratis goodies, including a carry case, four sets of silicone ear tips, and a 6,3mm adaptor.
The only thing these monitors lack is, like the previous model, durability. They’re not flimsy per se, but they do not excel in this field of performance as much as they do in other fields.
Overall, they boast a tremendous value for the money due to the plethora of benefits they provide, including amazing sound quality, superb sonic performance, great drivers, and terrific ambient noise reduction.
- Superb sound quality
- Excellent sound performance
- Strong ambient noise isolation
- Very affordable
- Overly long chord
5. Shure SE215-CL
Following up on Audio Technica’s duo is Shure’s SE215-CL. They come available in three colour variations, each excelling in aesthetics more than the previous one.
Now, for the more important part – performance. These monitors deliver exceptionally balanced soundstage and plenty of character in tone. The bass is superbly deep and groovy, although the sound signature is fairly close to be characterized as ‘completely neutral’, making it more than suitable for monitoring and other studio applications.
The ambient noise reduction is also pretty great. Namely, these in ear headphones can block some 37 decibels of noise, which is pretty solid if you’re working in a studio or casually commuting (noisier areas will leak sound in).
They’re pretty comfortable on their own, but what else is great about them is that they come with the so called ‘Fit Kit’ comprised of several tip types and sizes. That means that even if you don’t find them as comfortable, you just have to switch tips.
Though they’re comfortable to wear even by a long shot, even the slightest hints of pressure will induce ear fatigue – for instance, you shouldn’t sleep with them on or partake in a hobby where your ears might get hit, bumped, or anything similar physical wise.
- Awesome soundstage
- Deep bass
- Lightweight design
- Fit Kit
- Available in several colours
- Moderately comfortable
6. Sennheiser IE 40 Pro
We’re closing up with another Sennheiser model, and this time it’s IE 40 Pro. In essence, these are the cheapest Sennheiser monitors you can get, so if you really like the brand but don’t have the cash for their premium monitors, IE 40 Pro should be perfect for you.
These headphones feature a 10mm transducer that greatly complements the already versatile soundstage. There’s plenty of warm highs, treble section isn’t overly aggressive, and the bass doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the gig.
Great fit, comfortability is on point, and they’re also available in two colour variations. The bad thing, though, is that the cable is quite thick, so it can feel very uncomfortable at times.
- Decently balanced soundstage
- Great bang for the buck
- Deep bass
- Minimal harmonic distortion
- Uncomfortable cable
There are plenty of in ear monitor models that could easily compete for the title of ‘best of the best’, but after carefully examining the market, we’ve handpicked only the ones that actually can provide the benefits required from them. We hope you liked our selection!
Prices last updated on 2020-02-28 / Source: Amazon