Worship Facility Gear Report: In Ear Monitors

by | Audio, Audio Connections, Gear, Gear Report, Production

A great pair of in-ear monitors (IEMs) can be a revelation. The appeal of IEMs lies in two main reasons: receiving a clean, unaffected version of your sound directly to your ears, and protecting yourself from the high volumes associated with live performances. While on-stage wedges and side-fills can serve their purpose, nothing quite matches the level of control and aural accuracy that a quality set of IEMs provides. They can take your music to truly incredible places, far beyond what regular earbuds can do. And whether your budget is large or small, whether you’re after a pair of true wireless IEMS or a set of high-end monsters, there’s something for you on our list.


1. Shure SE846 Pro

The Shure SE846 Pro can create amazing sound reproduction, you can see why the audio crowd gravitate towards them. A neat touch is the inclusion of a set of three ‘”nozzles'” which can be interchanged to tailor the listening experience. More importantly, they also offer up to 37dB of sound attenuation making them ideal for noisy stages.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Six
  • Impedance: 16 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 110 dB
  • Frequency range: 15 – 20,000 Hz

REASONS TO BUY

  • Amazing mid range
  • Precise reproduction
  • Nozzle Design

REASONS TO AVOID

  • None

2. Audio Technica ATH-E70

The Audio Technica ATH-E70 may be just the ticket when it comes to choosing the best in-ear monitors for middling budgets. Sitting pretty in the midrange, these earphones feature three drivers which provided us with a balanced, accurate soundstage during testing. As a step up from the entry level, there is an increase in the cost but – if you’ve used basic ‘phones for a while you’ll certainly notice a difference in performance. If you’ve spent out on a decent wireless system but found the included earphones are somewhat lacking, then don’t fret; they are the easiest part to replace. And, as a step up, you’ll want to look for something that improves the overall sound and ambient noise isolation.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Three
  • Impedance: 39 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB
  • Frequency range: 20 – 19,000 Hz
REASONS TO BUY
  • Punch above their weight sonically
  • Memory cable loops are a nice touch
  • Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Variability in bass response 

3. Sennheiser IE 40 Pro

Sonically, the IE 40 Pro sounds reasonably natural, with good articulation in the high frequencies and a full but not overpowering low end. They are quite bright in the top end at higher volumes, but this isn’t a deal killer.  The positive is the comfort and fit, with a medium-sized in-ear module and quickly replaceable tips, a decent fit – important for when it’s worn for long stretches. One of the most comfortable off-the-shelf in-ear monitors with a modest price tag. The IE 40 Pro in-ear monitors deliver decent sonics and suit live use as well as general playback duties. 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: One
  • Impedance: 28 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 115 dB
  • Frequency response: 20 – 18,000 Hz
REASONS TO BUY
  • Comfortable fit
  • Detachable lead
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Rather short lead

4. Mackie MP-220

The Mackie MP-220 employs two drivers – one for highs, one for lows. When choosing a set of in-ear monitors, the number of drivers is a significant metric to consider. Budget models tend to offer only one, leaving the burden of reproducing every bass, mid, and treble frequency to one single driver. Explore a bit higher up the range and you’ll see why separating these out is important. The sound quality had been improved immensely over other budget options. A snug fit provided good isolation too, making these an ideal first set of IEMs for any beginning performer.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Two
  • Impedance: 8 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB
  • Frequency range: 20 – 20,000 Hz
REASONS TO BUY
  • Sound separation is good for the price
  • Sturdy build
  • Great overall value
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Once you’ve tried two drivers you’ll want more!

5. Shure SE215 Pro

Shure is known as a real heavyweight in the world of sound recording and production, so you have to expect great things from the Shure SE215 in-ear monitors. Shure claims the SE215s block out around 90 percent of ambient noise, which makes them ideal for most musical applications. The thickened detachable cable also indicates a degree of ruggedness to them. They’re not high end – only one driver is employed here – however as an entry to the world of IEMs? The balance of sound quality, build quality and price to be very respectable.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: One
  • Impedance: 20 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB
  • Frequency range: 22 – 17,500 Hz
REASONS TO BUY
  • Detachable cable
  • Decent bass
  • Great value option
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Not the broadest tonal palette

6. Sennheiser EW IEM G4 Twin

As one of the biggest names in audio transmission, Sennheiser can be trusted when it comes to its monitoring line-up. The G4 system is reliable, high quality and offers useful features like a 330 feet transmission range and easy synchronisation between transmitter and receiver via infrared. Working musicians need to look a little higher up the chain when it comes to choosing the best wireless in-ear monitoring system for them. When you wat to provide a quality performance, over and over, then you need to be sure the gear you’re using can cope. 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wireless
  • Transmission method: FM, stereo
  • Channels: 61
  • Inputs: two XLR/jack combo
REASONS TO BUY
  • High quality audio
  • Long range capable
  • Easy to sync
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Included earphones themselves aren’t top quality

7. Westone Audio Mach 60

The Westone Audio Mach 60 has seriously rich sound quality and versatility. Westone’s upper-midrange IEMs feature six balanced armature drivers, resulting in a detailed, balanced, and immersive sound signature.  The Mach 60s’ ability to handle various music genres with finesse, capturing intricate details and providing a wide soundstage, while their build quality is solid and comfortable – although the design is perhaps lacking in terms of visual flair. The Mach 60s come with various accessories, including interchangeable faceplates and eartips for a personalised fit, along with a heavy-duty carry case.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Six
  • Impedance: 35 ohms @ 1kHz
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB
  • Frequency range: 8Hz – 20kHz**
REASONS TO BUY
  • Detachable cable
  • Well made
  • Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
  • You might need to push them to get the best results

8. InEar ProPhile-8

At the other end of the price spectrum is the InEar ProPhile-8. These, as you’d expect for the price, are designed for the live musician rather than the studio enthusiast.  A total of eight internal drivers provide the peak of balanced, powerful sound, while ambient noise absorption levels of around 26 dB ensured us superb on-and-off-stage isolation.  The ProPhile-8 set has incredible transmission range and the deepest sub bass through to the chimiest synth notes resonate with ease.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Drivers: Eight
  • Impedance: 34 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 120 dB
  • Frequency range: 10 – 20,000 Hz
REASONS TO BUY
  • Unbelievable sound
  • Great for reference work
Reason To Avoid
  • Cost

9. LD MEI100 G2

If wireless is the way for you to go, then we think that the LD MEI100 G2 is a great way to get started. This kit, which includes a transmitter, receiver, and set of basic headphones, offers up to 96 UHF channels, with a decent dynamic range and frequency response.  Up to eight hour running time is possible via two AA batteries, while a total of five receivers can link up with the central transmitter.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wireless
  • Transmission method: FM, stereo
  • Channels: 96
  • Inputs: two
REASONS TO BUY
  • Affordable
  • Decent battery life
  • Great for first time users
REASONS TO AVOID
  • You’ll want to upgrade the earphones

10. Empire Ears Legend X

In the IEM technological arms race, few companies are further ahead than Empire Ears. Their Legend X series offers an almost embarrassing amount of proprietary tech. You get seven drivers, a ten-way crossover network, and ferromagnetic liquid compartments to dampen vibrations. The result is beautiful sound quality with stunning warmth and an engaging timbre.

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Driver Type: Hybrid
  • Drivers: Six
  • Impedance: 14Ω
  • Sensitivity: 102dB
REASONS TO BUY
  • Detachable cable
  • Well made
  • Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
  • Cost

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