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Do you often get disturbed by loud music or unwanted crowd noise when performing on stage? Well, wearing In-Ear monitors can be of great help to you and your entire musical performance. In-ear monitors help music performers to draw away any unwanted noise and distractions from loud drums, guitars, and the audience. An In-ear monitoring device is a system that includes a transmitter that is used to project sound to a set-off earphones worn by a user.
As a singer, you need to be immersed in listening to the instrumental accompaniment in order to sing a song perfectly. Thus, you will surely need a set of in-ear monitors (IEMs) with high-end internal built that provide high-level clarity and accuracy. This is true, mainly if you perform on stage where the deafening noise of the crowd and the cacophony of sounds around you can drown the sound of monitors. Getting into your music flow and groove is undoubtedly crucial in such a case.
Singers usually can’t hear the monitor because of the cacophony of sounds coming from different directions while singing. Inability to hear the monitor may lead to miscues and lack of synchrony with the instrumentations. Hence, to prevent such occurrence and to enable the singers to synchronize their voices with the instrumentals, they must wear an in-ear monitor (IEMs). In this article we are going to review some of the best IEMs and accompanying systems available on the market at present:
Benefits of Wearing In-Ear Monitors
- Helps to Builds confidence and can be more superior to stage monitors.
- In-ear Bands can be coordinated where each band member can have his/her own mix.
- While In-ear bands are designed to fit on a user’s ear perfectly, they help to block unwanted noise and, reducing the user from exposure to ambient and damaging sounds.
- They help to reduce the time for sound checks.
- They are very compatible and can be easily transferred.
- In-ear bands provide consistent sound regardless of where the user stands on stage.
- While hearing loss caused by exposure to loud music is not reversible, wearing in-ear bands can help to reduce noise through their powerful noise reduction properties.
- In-ear bands offer personal listening experience when not on stage by providing noise isolation.
Factors To Consider When Buying In-Ear Monitors For Singing
In-ear monitors are specifically designed for audio engineers and musicians. They are different from ordinary in-ear headphones because they are high-end monitors and are much better than ordinary in-ear headphones. They may look the same, but they are not.
Some of them contain more than one driver, and these drivers are dynamic and have very balanced armatures. They are also designed to process audio faster and more accurately than ordinary in-ear headphones. Thus, you’ll get a pretty much accurate audio resolution using these IEMs.
In-ear devices can be inserted into an artist t ear using the ear-canal, most of them work by isolating the canal from receiving unwanted noise, and there are so many factors that enable their effectiveness of noise reduction. Custom-made IEMs are one of the best isolators, and they vary depending on shell type, shell fill, and anatomy. Some several IEMs make use of ear-tips to block unwanted noise between the earphone and the ear canal. Nowadays there are so many models of In-ear monitors being developed; each model comes with different ear tips that provide various levels of sound isolation.
When we look at the form factor, most low-cost in-ears uses a cable down wear style that is so old fashion and outdated, plus it doesn’t provide enough support. Advanced In-ear monitors are typically designed to be used by pro users and usually, come with an over-the-ear design that provides more comfort and helps to keep the cable away.
When it comes to sound quality, some brands of in-ear monitors offer better sound quality than others; this is due to factors such as manufacturer, technology used and quality of the ear bands. In-ear monitors use (ADSR) to deliver the quality of sound to the user. ADSR is so accurate and produces several notes that are as a result of harmonics and room reflections. Wearing in-ear bands is very helpful, especially when performing at live events where the sound of musical instruments and devices such as guitars, drums, and piano suppress that of the singer. Accurate ADSR recreates stereo imaging and proportions that helps one to create a precise musical performance. Some of the in-ear monitors that have been found to be highly priced usually contribute to better on-stage performance while singing and this makes them the best in-ear monitors for singers.
Straight or Over-ear
In-ear monitors have two basic configurations. First, you have ones with cables hanging straight down. The second type wraps over the back of your ear.
So, how do you choose between the two? If you’re a beginner, you can decide based on your taste. The over-ear models can be quite uncomfortable unless you go up the price range. However, they’re also the universal preference for many performers.
Over-ears secure the IEMs better, plus the cables are almost invisible. When you’re moving around, it becomes even harder to spot the in-ear monitors.
Foam VS Silicone Eartips
If you use silicone eartips, you might find them staying in place more. For performers who love to dance and move around, it’s the perfect choice. However, you trade stability for less isolation.
Foam eartips step in for denser isolation. However, they don’t have suction and place a lot of pressure on the ears.
When deciding on ear tip materia
Sound patterns are quite different in all instruments. If you want to have a great performance on stage, you should get an in-ear monitor that neutralizes all instrument sounds to make a quality output sound that is clear and more precise.
When it comes to suitability and comfort, wireless in-ear monitors are great since they allow the user to have total freedom of moving around the stage without any interference. Wireless monitors offer better features than wired in-ear monitors and it considerably good to buy wireless monitors instead of wired. However, besides portability and comfort, wired ear monitors are also great and can be used by drummers and guitarist since they don’t often move around the stage. The only downside of wearing wireless monitors is that you have to deal with interferences issues and reception stability. Furthermore, wireless in-ear monitors cost more than wired monitors.
There are two types of drivers used in-ear monitors; balanced armatures (Bas) and Dynamic drivers.
1. Balanced Armatures
These drivers are mainly designed to help singers with some sort of hearing aid but sometimes they are used together with in-ear monitors due to their high level of resolution and efficiency. When it comes to in-ear monitor drivers, there are several drivers that one can use to enhance or maximize the effectiveness of in-ear devices but all drivers are different, and they provide different sonic characters.
2. Dynamic Drivers
These drivers are one of the most commonly used by professionals and are highly regarded as one of the best drivers due to their miniaturized properties that help to recreate the entire frequency spectrum.
Nowadays, hybrid designs are incorporating both balanced armature and dynamic drivers to improve the effectiveness of in-ear monitors.
For most earphones and headphones, one of the most crucial parts is the cable. Wired earphones have a common failure of cable detachment and usually, don’t last for long. Detachable earphones allow one to disengage the cable with the earphones, minimizing risks and damages. Since in-ear bands are normally placed inside the ear canal, ear wax and sweat can cause a lot of damage over time. Regular cleaning, Proper care and using a soft hearing aid dryer can substantially extend the durability of the In-ear device.
In-ear monitors manufacturers use different specifications to make their products unique and best in the market. Furthermore, they are no standardized testing & reporting measures for every manufacturer. If you don’t have enough technique knowledge on how in-ear monitors work, you can easily get confused by the overcrowded market of in-ear monitors, and end up making the wrong choice. Having vast knowledge and testing different in-ear bands will help you to select the best in-ear monitor to use in a live performance.
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A) In-Ear Monitor Earpiece Reviews
In-ear monitors come in different brands and designs, and thus, the process of choosing the right IEM is a bit confusing. To help you zero in on the best IEM, here is a list of the top IEMs on the market today:
1) Audio Technica ATH-IM04 SonicPro Balanced In-Ear Monitor Headphones
The Audio Technica ATH-IM04 In-Ear Monitor is designed with the view in mind of the three essential components of audio listening, namely: Sound, Fit, and Functionality. The Audio Technica features quad-balanced armature drivers. Each driver contains a complex tuning circuitry that helps divide and distribute audio signals with topnotch accuracy. It provides a pure reproduction of sound that is hard to believe.
Audio Technica ATH-IM04 SonicPro is specifically designed to readily fit and seal onto the user’s ear for perfect in-ear monitoring. It also comes with detachable cables along with a formable wire for enhanced fit and convenience. Additionally, it comes with a case, complete foam earpieces, and silicone earpieces (S/M/L).
Audio Technica ATH-IM04 provides great audio quality from the low end (15 Hz) up to the highest end (~15.5 kHz). There is also no obvious distortion at higher volumes. Thus, it is a perfect choice if you are looking for a reliable, high-quality IEM.
2) Sennheiser IE 40 PRO, Molded In-ear Dynamic Monitors
The Sennheiser IE 40 PRO offers a detailed and balanced design that you would surely love to have in in-ear monitors. It features flexible cabling that is somewhat similar to that of the Shure SE215s. Although not all would like the Sennheiser IE 40 Pro, many would surely appreciate its ability to reduce cable noise.
As mentioned above, the Sennheiser IE 40 PRO offers detailed and balanced sounds, although the sound loses a bit of weight, bass, and warmth along the way. Moreover, to avoid the clogging of the lower frequencies, these monitors trim down a bit the mid-bass. This is also done to make the sound more pleasant to listen to. This, however, does not leave the bass without any depth or punch.
Compared to the popular Sennheiser’s Momentum earphones, the sound of the Sennheiser IE 40 PRO is less full-sounding and less lavish. Yet, you would surely get a better rendering of the lower frequencies with these monitors.
Sennheiser IE 40 PRO offers a dynamic and innovative 10-mm transducer for a high-resolution and warm sound. It reduces sound stress via a precise and dissonance-free reproduction even of the maximum levels of sound. Lastly, its cable is replaceable, with an internal cable duct, reinforced ear hook, and reliable connection.
3) Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones with Single Dynamic MicroDriver
SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones provide detailed sound in a secure, over-the-ear design for long-lasting comfort and superior audio experience. It is available wired and wireless versions with detachable cables. It is characterized by a secured over-the-ear configuration that keeps the earphones in their proper places while keeping the cables out of the way likewise. It offers unmatched long-time wearing comfort.
These wireless earphones pair well with most laptops, phones, and tablets. They even have Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. They also make use of Universal communication models (UNI) and thus they come with a remote plus mic control functionality as well as iOS/Android functionality with 3.5 mm connection, and up to 8 hours battery life. They also have a range of around 30 feet (10 meters).
These earpieces evolved from earlier personal monitor technology that has been tested by pro musicians. Moreover, the SE215 earphones provide detailed sound and very much enhanced bass for professional monitoring and personal listening. They also offer comfortable sound isolating sleeves that could block up to 37 dB of noise from the environment. They are also equipped with a sound isolation technology that prevents the interference of outside noise while you are listening to the monitor.
The Shure SE215-K is durable with a reinforced cable that allows for easy customization or replacement. It also comes with a gold-plated MMCX connector with a lock-snap mechanism that allows for 360-degree rotation when used. Overall, the SE215 is the best IEM on the market today.
4) MEE audio M6 PRO Musicians’ In-Ear Monitors
The MEE audio M6 PRO is a second-generation M6 Pro in-ear monitor. This one is a further refinement of the first-generation M6 Pro in-ear monitors. It is engineered for remarkable reliability. It features replaceable and detachable cables that are designed to resist sweat. Moreover, it offers a highly accurate midrange and more natural treble. Hence, it is capable of more accurate reproduction of the different sound frequencies.
The MEE audio M6 PRO Musicians’ In-Ear Monitors set comes with a generous pack of accessories that includes many silicone tips so that you can choose the right fit for your ears. Although the new MEE M6 Pro is a refined version of the old one, it still retains some key features of the first-generation M6 Pro, such as its over-all hook design, MMCX connections for readily swapping detachable cables, some ear tips like foams and silicones for an excellent fit.
The foams that come with it carry noise reduction ability. These foams also enhance the quality of sound for a better audio experience.
The earbuds’ housings have already been modified to increase its durability as well as enhance its sweat-resistant characteristics. It also has improved connection points as well as enhanced hardware features. Thus, the MEE M6 Pro is more robust and more durable. Lastly, its cables are also interchangeable and carry a controller and a built-in mic.
5) BASN BsingerBC100 Singer Headphones
The BASN BsingerBC100 is a very much affordable IEM. It has dual HD drivers, equipped with powerful neodymium magnets for balanced and accurate sound. This set of earphones is also designed for the webcast or use onstage. Its MMCX connector offers efficient and easy-to-use earbuds and cables for various occasions. It has ergonomic memory ear-hook with medical silicon ear-tips that provide cool comfort and fit.
It has a detachable design wherein you can detach the cable with the MMCX connector. This ensures longer earphone lifespan, while at the same time, it allows for easy replacement and upgrades. All in all, the salient features of this set of IEM earphones are those of its dual HD dynamic driver, detachable design, best custom fit, and noise isolation features. If you are on a budget, this IEM earphones would be your best choice.
6) ROCUSO Noise-Isolating Musician’s In Ear Monitor
When it comes to high sound quality, the Rocuso Noise-isolating Musician’s In-ear Monitor is one of your best choices. These earphones are perfect for enjoying stereo, acoustic, and HD sound quality, and they are perfect for sports activities like running and jogging. It is likewise ideal for stage monitoring and home studio sound monitoring.
Rocuso Noise-isolating Musician’s IEM is very versatile and lightweight. Most musicians appreciate the quality of sound that it produces. It enables clear relaying of varying range of tones from clear highs to powerful, clear bass. It is also waterproof and makes it an ideal item for jogging and heavy workout.
Its salient features include its ergonomic design which is uniquely comfortable and fits well when running and working out. It has an excellent clear housing design that is great to look at. It makes use of a durable stranded wire that is tangle-proof and sweatproof at the same time. Its noise isolation feature with its differently-sized ear tips is highly commendable and can reduce up to 90% outside noise. It is very portable and comes with a carrying case that allows you to stack them safely inside the case when not in use. All in all, this product is one of the best IEMs on the market today.
7) Yinyoo KZ ZST Dynamic In-ear monitors Earphone
This set of IEM earphones comes in a colorful housing made of acoustic resin material. It also has enhanced sound quality and makes use of hybrid technology. It sports an ergonomic-wear feature that enables comfortable use of this set. It is very durable and is designed with a memory-wire technology which allows for smooth movement together with its locked-in fit feature.
With regards to the sound channel, it provides an independent sound channel for each of the drivers, and thus, it prevents distortion of sound. The sound it produces is genuinely immersive with the mid bass and treble driver unit performing vigorously and energetically. It also has a noise-canceling feature that makes use of silicon tips for awesome noise-cancellation of ambient sound.
Yinyoo KZ ZST IEM can surely enhance sound quality with its hybrid technology. It has a particular armature and dynamic driver that is also user-friendly in design. It also sports a removable-cable design for easy replacement and placement. It is also perfect for use with iPod, iPhone, and iPad. If you are looking for inexpensive IEM earphones, the Yinyoo KZ ZST is surely an excellent choice.
B) Best Wireless In-Ear Monitor Systems with Bodypack and Receiver
In-ear wireless monitors use almost the same exact system used by wireless microphone system. The only main big difference is that IEMs use the central unit as the transmitter. One of the greatest advantages of having wireless monitors over wired is the freedom of movement. With a wireless IEMs, one can have better monitoring and full control on a stage. Some of the high-end in-ear monitoring systems enable wearers to set their own mix preferences to balance their instrument sound / singing voices with the overall band sound.
1) Shure P2TR215CL-H2 PSM 200 Hybrid In-ear Monitor & Bodypack System
The Shure in-ear monitor is one of the best systems that one can have; it’s comprised of a full body pack with a built-in limiter and amp that support both wired and wireless with input level control and frequency selection features.
You can use the P2TR215CL Hybrid Bodypack Receiver for both wired or wireless in-ear monitor applications. In fact, it’s the first ever bodypack receiver in the recording industry that works for wired and wireless in-ear monitors.
2) Galaxy AS-900-K1 In Ear Monitor System (K1 – 630.2MHz Frequency)
The AS-900-K1 has a better signal and good IEMs than most competing monitors. I personally like the fact that I can easily switch stereo/mono and that I have some individual level control on every channel. The AS-900-K1 IEM features audio output control, on/off switch, RF/low battery indicator and an earphone jack.
If you are looking for a reliable and well-performing wireless IEM, consider having the AS-900-K1 in-ear monitoring system that provides an excellent performance and stiff monitoring on stage.
3) XTUGA RW2080 Rocket Audio Whole Metal Wireless In-ear Monitor System
The XTUGA RW2080 In-Ear Monitor System features a tabletop stage monitoring system that comes with up to 300 feet wireless range. The normal range is generally from 250FT to 350FT. The frequency range is from 572MHz to 599MHz.
This one is a whole metal UHF wireless in-ear monitor. It comes with preset 40 frequencies that can be arbitrarily switched. It can be used in stage performance. It also has a built-in limiter circuitry that eliminates distortions even with excessive input levels. Moreover, it comes with a 1/4-inch stereo monitoring with a headphone jack.
Its design features an elegant liquid crystal display panel along with a low-battery LCD display indicator on its receiver. It also comes with an RF receiving and power indicator lamp. You can run it using 2 AA batteries. Furthermore, its metal housing makes it very sturdy and durable. Lastly, the XTUGA RW2080 offers quality technology that provides advanced circuit design that clears the blind angle to ensure that the receiving signal is steady.
4) Audio2000’S AWM6305U In-Ear Audio Monitor System
The Audio2000’S AWM6305U IEM Monitor System is a reliable wireless monitoring system that you can use in different sound monitoring occasions whether it be onstage, in the home studio, or in speech or lecture. It features 100 selectable frequencies. Moreover, you can use more than one Audio2000’S AWM6305U unit at the same time when transmitting multiple languages as in the case of speech or lecture.
It makes use of UHF-band frequencies over 25 MHz bandwidth. As mentioned above, it has 100 pre-programmed frequencies available. It also has a built-in limiter circuitry that eliminates distortion even under excessive input levels. Its 1/4-inch front-panel stereo-monitoring headphone jack is very conducive for use. It also has a stereo mode or Mono Mode LCD display low battery indicator on its receiver.
It functions as a transmitter frequency response of 50-15,000 Hz. Its receiver frequency response is 80–15,000 Hz. It also comes with two balanced combo audio inputs with two balanced audio outputs. It is very compact and versatile allowing users to use it onstage wirelessly and in-home studio. This system is undoubted of exceptional quality; yet, it is very much affordable.
5) Pyle Audio In-Ear Monitor and Receiver System
The Pyle Audio In-ear monitor and receiver system is basically one of the most recommended systems for musicians and singers. This system is designed by professionals using professional-grade technology. It is user-friendly that allows users more enhanced sound experience. It also produces excellent sound for various range of sounds like music, vocals, and speech. Undoubtedly, it is perfectly designed for on-stage live performances in whatever venue sizes. You can totally enjoy a reliable and hassle-free wireless sound transmission if you opt for this awesome In-ear and Receiver System.
This IEM system can be used on stage or in studio. It features UHF wide audio signal transmission with a concomitant frequency range from 902-928 MHz. This system flawlessly operates in such venues like onstage or home studio environment. As a reliable system, it offers consistent sound performance and relaying of sound that is markedly free of feedback issues and distortion.
Should I Use Headphone As A Wired In-Ear Monitor?
Wired In-ear monitors are one of the cheapest IEMs. If you want to wear headphones, be ready to buy a Headphone amp. Some people use headphones that come with their own inbuilt amps, the disadvantage of having these types of headphones is that if you are performing as a band, everyone will have to his/her own separate mixer and that would complicate the setup. Something else that you should consider when selecting headphones is the need for a limiter. Headphones that don’t have limiters can damage the user ears when there is an accidental audio spike or feedback.
Can You Go For Customized Fits?
If you can afford it, you can also get professional, custom models for your IEMs. Getting your IEMs customized can eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of wearing them, which generic fits can bring.
When you go for a customized pair, an audiologist is in charge. They model the eartips out of your ear canal to make sure it’s the perfect fit and size. However, the prices are something to consider. It can get very high!
However, there are many high-quality straight-hanging IEMs to choose from. If you can’t commit to over-ears yet, they’re a great choice.
How About The Removable Cables on IEMs?
Removable cables make your overall performance easier. You don’t have to rely on just one pair of in-ear monitors! You can stop feeling guilty about tossing out an expensive set if the cables become broken. You can stop by the store and swap it out.
Removable cables also use MMCX connectors. This connector allows in-ear monitors to be interchangeable. If you need to change up the cable lengths, cut them, or add in-line remotes, you can do so! Removable cables are much more versatile.
Should You Go Wired or Wireless IEM?
We definitely suggest wireless for everyone. It costs a little extra, but wireless IEMs are worth the price! If you want your performance to be memorable, you have to remove all limitations. Move, dance, and perform freely onstage.
However, there are cases in that IEMs are perfectly fine with wires. If you’re a musician, like a drummer or a keyboardist, you don’t have to spend more on a wireless set-up. Wired set-ups eliminate belt packs and earphones go directly into mixers.
There are benefits with wired set-ups, too! Wireless set-ups can be vulnerable to potential interference. With wired set-ups, you don’t have to worry about the audio being compromised.