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Great in-ear headphones worth a closer look

Pros and cons of the ten best in-ear monitors – the main instrument of any modern musician, after musical instruments, of course. Since each comparison of any technique is, to a large extent, the subjective opinion of the author, I decided to refrain from giving out places and resort rather to a comparison in different price categories, selecting leaders in their segment for any budget.

1. 64 Audio A3e


  • •  Pros: stunning panorama and the best detail for its price, custom body for perfect fit and noise isolation
  • •  Cons: genre not universality
  • •  Ideal for monitoring any instrument and vocal type.


Features: one of the best, in my opinion, in-ear headphones for stage monitoring both among the 64 Audio headphone models  and among all IEMs in principle, in terms of price-quality ratio, of course. And if it is far from always possible to get pleasure from listening to music in them, then  not a single sane person will deny the fact that  A3e are an incomparable working tool. The model has a significant disadvantage: if the track is mixed even a little bit differently than the A3e requires  , you will get porridge or excessively sharp high frequencies at the output. This adds a fly in the ointment, but this model is not designed for versatility. It’s built for performance and flawless panning, which comes at the price of being finicky for a wide variety of music genres.


2. Sennheiser IE 300


  • •  Pros: high detail low frequencies, pleasant soft sound
  • •  Cons: a lot of low frequencies, proprietary cable connectors
  • •  Optimal for monitoring the rhythm section


Features: The  IE 300  is an upgraded version of the  Sennheiser IE 100 PRO  with improved emitters, better housings and a hardened cable covered with thick rubber. In terms of genre, they are very versatile, but still preferable are active genres of music demanding low frequencies. Sennheiser’s earphones  have always been renowned for their speakers and engineers who have refined their performance for decades, so there’s no denying this amount of man-hours and experience. Senhi  are some of the best when it comes to dynamic emitters.


3. Astell & Kern Billie Jean


  • •  Pros: high detail in the mid and high frequencies
  • •  Cons: lack of bass, 2-pin connectors, specific fit
  • •  Optimal for monitoring vocals and strings


Features: the younger model of  Astell & Kern headphones  for two reinforcing emitters. They are famous for their non-standard fit, but extremely interesting biting sound, especially if you prefer genres of music that are not loaded with bass. The two armatures lack a bit of meatiness on the low end, but this is not as critical as long as you do not force them to chew on drum tracks or recordings with rich lows. Otherwise, they are excellent headphones with a bright separated top and a detailed middle, incredibly transmitting strings and female vocals, with all the abundance of prevailing high frequencies.


4. Shure AONIC 4


  • •  Pros: high detail of all frequencies, rich low and high frequencies, armored cable, good equipment, deep insulating fit, flat frequency response
  • •  Cons: narrow sound guides with specific ear pads
  • •  Optimal for monitoring vocals and rhythm sections


Features: Excellent detailed Shure headphones  with emphasis on the panorama and nice V-shaped frequency response, without excessive high or mid-range. Sufficiently intelligible and rich sound when listening to music, especially if you are demanding on stage construction, but all the subtleties of monitors are revealed to the fullest while working with them. In general, the updated model line of the manufacturer leaves a positive impression, so with a competent approach from the AONIC line it will be possible to choose headphones for every taste and for any requirements. Aonic 4 – hybrid headphones , the line has options with other emitters 


5. Westone UM PRO 20


  • •  Pros: high detail of the high and medium frequencies, excellent fit, good equipment
  • •  Cons: blockage at low frequencies, narrow sound guides with specific ear pads
  • •  Optimal for monitoring vocals and strings


Features: the second oldest model of the famous brand. The sound guides are as long as those of the  Shure , which has a positive effect on the fit and noise isolation, but negatively on the selection of new ear pads. If Westone  single driver  headphones may seem completely flat, then for the  UM PRO 20  such a description is inappropriate. The model is not replete with fat bass, but the way it fulfills the upper and middle frequencies is not easy even for models with a large number of drivers. They are popular with vocalists and guitarists who value reliability and maximum straightforward sound.

An extremely rich set with a huge selection of ear pads for any ear canal and use scenario, as well as a branded waterproof case, will not leave anyone indifferent, sweetening the pill of already luxurious monitors.

The manufacturer also has several similar sounding models, but still aimed at slightly different usage scenarios.


6. MEE audio MX4 Pro


  • •  Pros: high detail, excellent panorama, flat frequency response, comfortable fit, reliable cable, rich equipment
  • •  Cons: proprietary cable connectors, lack of parts at midrange
  • •  Optimal for monitoring vocals, strings and rhythm sections


Features: senior hybrid model of  MEE audio headphones  with two emitters. Due to additional fittings on top of the dynamic driver, they add detail and richness to the sound, compared to the younger  MEE audio M6 PRO 2nd Gen.

By the nature of the sound, they are similar to the  M6 PRO,  but they give a significant increase in information content and volume. Suitable for those who love the character of the sound typical for this brand, but would like to add a little information content, as well as add fat to the bass.


7. FiiO FA1


  • •  Pros: high detail of the high and mid frequencies
  • •  Cons: small dip at low frequencies, unusual body shape
  • •  Optimal for monitoring vocals and strings


Features: not really monitor headphones, but can be used as such. In  FiiO headphones, the  developers focused their attention on listening to audio, but some successful models can be used for monitoring as well. The FA1  armature transducers have  no problems with recordings with dazzling mid and high frequencies, and, surprisingly, copes well with bass. Problems begin only on saturated recordings, but they convey unloaded tracks perfectly. Otherwise, this is an excellent choice for fans of the brand and slightly tinted sound.


8. Shure SE215


  • •  Pros: high detail of all frequencies, rich low frequencies, “immortal” armored cable, good equipment, deep insulating fit, flat frequency response
  • •  Cons: narrow sound guides with specific ear pads
  • •  Ideal for monitoring any instrument and vocal type, especially for monitoring the rhythm section.


Features: the best option under $ 150 for any purpose. A versatile workhorse with no genre preference that can enjoy listening to music, with a perfect fit and an indestructible cable – everything you could want in an aggressive environment. I personally have several acquaintances who use this model on a daily basis both for work and for listening to music, and from none of them I have not yet heard anything bad about the  Shure SE215. A crisp and juicy presentation without dips at frequencies is how this model can be characterized. In a professional environment, they are not picky about the quality of the source and instruments, but the most positive reviews about the work of monitors are left by drummers, who are always demanding of high-quality drum transmission.


9. Sennheiser IE 100 PRO

  • •  Pros: flat frequency response with a slight bias in bass, comfortable universal fit
  • •  Cons: low detail of high frequencies, proprietary cable connectors, soft cable
  • •  Optimal for monitoring the rhythm section.


Features: monitors with classic “Sennheiser” sound, with little emphasis on low frequencies and good detail. The supplied cable is covered with soft rubber, which can negatively affect its durability. The rest of the model is very similar in sound to the  Shure SE215,  but with a slightly quieter delivery, less bass and less deep seating. Available in Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless


10. MEE audio M6 PRO 2nd Gen


  • •  Pros: flat frequency response, comfortable fit, reliable cable, rich equipment
  • •  Cons: low detail, proprietary cable connectors, cheap body materials
  • •  Optimal for monitoring any instrument and vocal type


Features: despite the modest, by the standards of monitors, the cost is a chic solution for novice musicians, due to its smooth sound and not exactingness to the source. Yes, entry-level monitors are inferior to more advanced models, but you can already work in them and use them for listening, if you are an adherent of the most even sound without pronounced accents and an extremely flat frequency response.

Quite unpretentious cases are more than compensated by two excellent wires that can survive even in the most extreme conditions and rich configurations, with an abundance of ear pads and a transport case.


The market for in-ear monitors is saturated with models for every taste and budget, so you can choose the option that suits you.

Follow simple recommendations, listen to the opinion of consultants and compare everything only with your own ears – and you will easily find both a working tool and headphones for your soul that meet your requirements.

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