As a live musician, the ability to hear yourself on stage is crucial to a performance.
Ensuring that you provide an exhilarating show by having the most control over your mix.
The best in-ear monitors also protect your ears with a comfortable fit that lets little outside noise in.
Having a lackluster pair can threaten the success of your performance and leave you wondering why your audience is failing to respond.
The nightmare is happening. You stand poised in front of an audience and you cannot hear yourself. The in-ear monitor has failed and it only had one job yet the show must go on.
Mistake after mistake and even if you cannot hear the song you know it is not going down well. A few minutes later, there are few left in the crowd and you wonder whether to go on.
The best in-ear monitors work effortlessly. Ensuring you can hear yourself clearly and enhancing your performance.
With its own settings, you can set your in-ear monitors for the presets that work for you and tighten your live show. Read our guide to find the best in-ear monitors.
Best For Value: Shure SE215 Pro
Shure know what they are doing when it comes to providing a detailed sound.
The SE215 Pros have the word pro in the title because these monitors have been used and tested by professional musicians. T
hat means a better, deeper bass in a full-range sound delivered by a single dynamic driver.
Hear the music as it was supposed to be heard with sound-isolating technology.
Up to 37 dB of outside noise can be eliminated for a listening experience you can excel in.
A wireform fit keeps the earphones over your ears while the cables stay enjoyably peripheral. The cables are even detachable, which we liked in our testing.
- Single Dynamic Driver – A clear sound comes with a deep bass
- Over-Ear Design – A secure fit stays in place while the cables remain out of the way
- Detachable Cable – While the thickened cable is durable for live performances, it is also detachable
- 37 dB Noise Canceling – Up to 37 dB of outside noise can be blocked allowing you to enjoy the sound without distraction
- Included Carrying Case – Transport is easy with the carrying case, which comes with a selection of sleeves for your best fit
- Limited Tonal Palette – Other monitors will provide a wider tone and more drivers
- Also available directly from Shure
- ROAD-TESTED BY PRO MUSICIANS - The SE215 provides detailed sound with enhanced bass for personal listening or professional monitoring.
- STRIKING FULL-RANGE SOUND from a single, vented balanced armature driver. Hear music the way it was meant to be heard.
- CUSTOMIZED FIT - Includes three sizes (S, M, L) of the flex and black foam sleeves. Experiment with the size and style that creates the best fit for you.
- SOUND ISOLATING TECHNOLOGY - Blocks up to 37 dB of noise to eliminate distractions. Enjoy the most immersive listening experience with a design that keeps earphones in and noise out during exercise or travel.
- SECURE, OVER-THE-EAR DESIGN - Wireform fit ensures earphones stay in place and cables remain out of the way.
Best For A Comfortable Fit: Audio-Technica ATH-E70 Monitor Earphones
Another respected earphone brand is Audio-Technica and that reputation is bolstered by the ATH-E70 Monitor Earphones.
A snug fit comes from memory cables that mold around the ear to hold them securely, even if you do enjoy moving on stage.
They should be able to withstand the perils of touring thanks to a solid plastic build.
The sound response is also reassuringly accurate, which you would expect from three drivers. Enjoy the amplified bass response, which we certainly did in our experience of this product.
The sound is detailed with a controlled bass response, natural mids and clean vocals. That means that these monitor earphones are ideal for singers and instrumentalists.
- Memory Cables – These cables stay in place by molding around your ear
- Balanced, Punchy Sound – Every aspect of the audio experience is there from the higher frequencies to the low bass, delivered with some oomph
- Three Drivers – A solid, accurate soundstage from three drivers
- Silicone Tips – For enhanced sound and enduring comfort, silicone tips mean you can wear these for hours
- Durable Plastic Build – The earphones should take some rough treatment with a solid construction
- Loose Fit – Some users have reported that it felt like the earphones would drop out yet the memory cables held them in
Also available directly from Audio-Technica
- Three balanced armature drivers provide accurate and extended response across the entire frequency range
- Flexible memory cable loops over ears for a custom fit and long-wearing comfort
- Specially designed housing provides maximum isolation, allowing you to focus on the music
- Detachable cable offers exceptional durability and optimized audio performance
- Includes a carrying case, silicone ear tips, Comply foam ear tips and 6.3mm (1/4") plug-on adapter
Best Wireless In-Ear Monitors: Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch Earbuds
If you want to get away from wires and cables completely then consider Cambridge Audio’s Melomania Touch Earbuds.
Though these earbuds lack any noise-canceling technology, they do have an exquisite design.
You can even let the outside in with transparency mode, just in case you want to hear the adulation from your crowd in full.
The lack of wires helps with how easy these are to use, which we liked in our testing. With a full nine hours of playback, you can keep them in without worrying about the battery.
You may even forget they are still in your ears due to an ergonomic fit comprised from 3000 datapoints.
Hands-free technology helps and a companion app means you can change the presets and enhance the sound from your smartphone.
- Nine Hours Playback – Enjoy up to nine hours of playback from a single charge
- Transparency Mode – Switch to the outside noise with the tap of a button while keeping your earbuds in
- Custom Fit – Cambridge Audio used 3000 datapoints to ensure an ideal, ergonomic fit and you also have silicone tips and fins to choose from
- Mobile App – Use the app to enhance the sound and experiment with presets or custom controls
- Lack of Noise Canceling – Other monitors will block out ambient noise
Also available directly from Cambridge Audio
- FIRMWARE UPGRADE (AUGUST 2021, v.2.1.9) – Cambridge Audio released a firmware update to enhance Melomania Touch's connectivity and reliability; making these superior sounding, excellent performing earbuds for audio clarity and crispness.
- UP TO 50 HOURS PLAYTIME - Up to 9 hours playback without recharging the Melomania Touch ear buds. Case battery holds an additional 41 hours of charge. 30 minutes to charge earbuds; 2 hours to charge the case via USB-C (cable included).
- GRAPHENE ENHANCED 7mm DRIVERS - Graphene is incredibly lightweight, flexible and strong. Used in the construction of our Melomania driver diaphragms, this strength-to-weight ratio generates a dynamic and responsive performance.
- LET THE OUTSIDE IN - The scalable transparency mode connects you to your environment at the tap of a button - without removing your headphones.
- DESIGNED FOR YOU - Crafted using datapoints from over 3,000 pairs of ears, Melomania Touch is the ultimate in secure comfort. Discover your perfect fit with multiple ear-tip and comfort-band combinations.
Best For Noise Canceling: Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Earbuds
Come for the noise-canceling technology, stay for the additional features. Of course, Bose ensures that outside noise is locked out yet there is so much more to enjoy.
That includes the IPX4 rating for durability that largely comes from an acoustic mesh that ensures sweat resistance.
Touch control is a feature we liked in our testing as you can easily control the volume and noise cancelation.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the acoustic noise-canceling technology. First, there is Quiet Mode that eliminates the outside noise.
If you wanted to let some, or even all, of it in then switch to Aware Mode. Ideal if you want to catch all the acclaim without having to take out your earbuds.
- Superb Acoustic Noise Canceling Technology – Quiet Mode allows you to block out ambient noise or switch to Aware Mode to let in some of your surroundings
- Touch Control – Control the noise cancelation or volume from the earbud itself by using swipes and taps
- Decent Battery Life – These earbuds can go for a full six hours on a single charge with the case providing another 12 hours
- Sweat And Water Resistance – An IPX4 rating is for durability and an acoustic mesh keeps out moisture and debris
- StayHear Max Tips – Enjoy a secure fit with a range of silicone eartips
- Large Size – Discretion is not assured as these earbuds are comparatively large
Also available directly from Bose
- Noise cancelling earbuds – Engineered with the world’s most effective noise cancelling. Bose controllable noise cancellation and full Transparency Mode allow you to eliminate distractions, let your surroundings in, or a little bit of each.
- High-fidelity audio – An exclusive acoustic architecture brings your music, podcasts, and videos to life, while Volume-optimized Active EQ keeps the sound crisp and balanced at any level.
- Comfortable wireless earbuds – Three sizes of StayHear Max eartips are included for a secure fit. Crafted from soft silicone, they provide passive noise blocking with total comfort.
- Simple touch controls – It’s as easy as tap, swipe, or press. Control your noise cancellation settings, pause, play, and volume right from the side of the earbud itself. Enable it all in the Bose Music app.
- Noise-rejecting microphones – Tiny microphones work together to focus on your voice, filtering out surrounding noises for fewer distractions during phone calls.
Best For Sound Quality: Westone W60 Gen 2 Signature Series Earphones
For a smooth, top-quality sound, look no further than Westone’s W60 Gen 2 Signature Series Earphones.
That means two low, two mid, and two high-frequency balanced-armature drivers that deliver a range from 20 Hz all the way up to 20 kHz.
Few earphones will cover that much depth while also blocking out up to 25 dB of outside noise.
Westone has also excelled at durability from a comfortable, lightweight, and discreet design. Their removable cable can take some heavy treatment while still providing a clear sound.
With a full set of ear tips, including both foam and silicone tips, you can further customize the earphones with three interchangeable faceplates.
- Six Balanced-Armature Drivers – For a clear, beautiful full-ranging sound from 20 Hz to 20 kHz
- Acoustic Isolation – A decent 25 dB of outside noise is eliminated
- Lightweight Earpieces – Revel in the discretion from lightweight and low-profile earpieces
- Durable Cable – Westone’s Earphone Precision Interface Cable has a braided outer later and fiber reinforcement so won’t need replacing anytime soon
- Three Interchangeable Faceplates – Customize your earpieces by changing the faceplate
- Pricetag – All that audio range and technology comes at a big price
Also available from eBay
- Westone W60 Six-Driver True-Fit Earphones - High-Definition Silver MMCX Audio Cable - Bluetooth Cable - 5x Pair Patented STAR Silicone Tips - 5x Pair True-Fit Foam Tips - Exchangeable Faceplates - Deluxe Zippered Carrying Case - Original Box
- Six Balanced-Armature Drivers
- True-fit Technology
- 3-Button MMCX Audio Cable with Microphone
- Westone Bluetooth 4.0 Cable
Every musician should have a set of in-ear monitors when playing live.
Whether it is the drummer and bassist tuning in to each other to nail the driving rhythm or the singer checking they are hitting those peak notes.
If you want to hear particular parts of the mix then you need some in-ear monitors that offer a full range.
Comfort is also important and you may prefer a specifically sized ear tip or opt for wireless technology to go without cables.
You could prefer some in-ear monitors that cover a fuller range of frequencies for a balanced sound.
However, you may want to block out outside noise by using noise-canceling technology. Whichever pair you choose, they should help you hear the mix while letting you focus on your own performance.
As long as the in-ear monitors are comfortable, that gives you more freedom to concentrate on your performance.
Ideally, you should not even feel your in-ear monitors as they should offer a snug and natural fit for hours. The more secure the fit, the better the sound isolation too as less noise can leak in.
That fit could depend on the inside of your ears so it is worth trying a range of ear tips to find the right ones.
The material is also essential to providing that comfortable fit. A more malleable material is better which is why plastic or a lightweight metal tends to offer more comfort than steel.
Style can be significant too so you may want earbuds that sit directly in the ear canal or ones that perch on the outside of the ear.
Cables Or Wireless/Bluetooth Technology
Having high-quality cables, even removable ones, does give a level of security.
The attachments give you something to hold onto and go some way to ensure that you do not lose the monitors themselves.
You should look into a sizable arm, this is the part of the earbud that goes into your ear. A bigger arm should mean more security and a snugger fit.
This is the more traditional set-up for in-ear monitors with the receiver being attached at hip-level though this can be cumbersome.
Then again, there is the option of going wireless and Bluetooth technology is opening up all sorts of technology.
Mobile apps mean you can change the preset settings or the noise-canceling via a smartphone, which is handy.
There is a fear that some in-ear monitors can struggle to pair with other devices via Bluetooth technology which can pose a real issue.
To true audiophiles, there is also the persistent argument that Bluetooth cannot offer a worthwhile sound quality.
Certainly, a high-quality cable that uses silver or copper is likely to transmit a more accurate signal and therefore a better sound.
Whether to go for cables or go wireless is usually a question of convenience over sound quality, so choose wisely.
When are you listening out for the sound, it should be balanced and adjustable. That means a rich, deep bass with a bit of oomph while still discerning the clear high-frequencies.
Even the low-mids should be picked up. If you do look out for the frequency range then in-ear monitors that offer between 10 Hz and 20 to 40 kHz should be enough cover.
That range could largely depend on the sound that your music produces and the instrument you play.
Drummers may want to listen in on the bassist to provide a solid base to the live set.
As ever, singers may want to go it alone and simply listen to their own vocals to ensure they are hitting the right notes.
By being able to change the presets, you could significantly alter how you hear the set, certain instruments, or even certain songs.
Having a soundstage that offers some honesty can seriously help your live show, Without having to rely on the sound engineer you can quickly tell if the mix is not quite right.
The soundstage should also feel comprehensive, offering a multitude of dimensions to the sound you are producing.
This is where the number of drivers comes into play and the more, the merrier.
Six drivers can normally provide enough sonic depth yet you could go as far as double that though that would be pricier.
Particularly with wireless in-ear monitors you should be looking at the battery life.
You should certainly expect to be covered for the entire benchmark and soundcheck so six hours is a good benchmark.
However, for a pair you can rely on consider eight to twelve hours. The charging ability is also crucial as you should opt for a pair of monitors that can offer upwards of 50 hours from the case itself.
You may be away from a USB-C charging facility so having a lengthier charging time offers some peace of mind that you can still use your monitors.
Should you wish to fully concentrate on your own performance, having extensive noise-canceling technology is a must.
This should range from around 25 dB to 35 dB so most, if not all, outside noise is eliminated.
There is also the ability to let some of that noise in by adjusting the sound isolation.
However, you should be careful that the noise-canceling technology does not affect the sound quality.
Some in-ear monitors can produce a muffled sound when trying to eliminate the outside noise.
This tends to occur at the higher-end of the sound isolating range so consider how much sound you need to block out.
Finding the right balance between cancellation of outside noise while maintaining the sound quality can be tricky.
This is why you should try to calculate the amount of decibels you can expect and the sound quality you would receive.
It may prove difficult to find a pair of in-ear monitors that produce a brilliant and accurate soundstage while also being adept at noise-canceling.
Straight Or Over-Ear
Ensuring that the cable is not flailing around could be crucial to delivering a focused live performance. That is largely why over-ear cables are preferred for a secure fit that stays out of the way.
You can also find memory cables that can mold around your ear so they barely become loose.
If the cable is in place, so are the in-ear monitors and you can have freedom of movement onstage.
The ear tips are the part the fits into your ear and they can come in different sizes.
Believe it or not, ears are grown uniquely and some benefit from an extra big, or small, ear tip.
That is largely why many manufacturers include several ear tips with their in-ear monitors so a sure fit can be assured.
Ear tips also come in a variety of materials including memory foam, dual flange, silicon, rubber, and standard gel. If you wear earplugs you may be able to find some tips in the material you prefer.
Silicone tends to be more flexible and easier to clean though provides less sound isolation.
Alternatively, foam offers a more secure fit from being squeezed and then expanding to mold to the inside of your ear for a brilliant seal that may enhance the bass.
Dual flanges are specifically designed for a better fit, which may be a good option to look into.