We pick our 5 best in-ear monitor systems for musicians who need the freedom to roam and don’t want to rely on the fold back speakers on stage
As musicians, we need to be able to hear ourselves onstage as it can be the difference between a good gig and a terrible one. As music fans, we often look at our favourite bands with their sexy in-ear monitors and think “Oh man, I can’t wait to make it as a Rockstar so I can use those!” but the fact of the matter is in-ear monitors, or IEM’s as they’re known in the “biz”, are much more than just a way to hear yourself clearly onstage and best of all, they’re even more affordable than ever!
But why should I use in-ear monitors?
You’re probably thinking what’s the point in using in-ear monitors if I can just hear what’s going on via regular PA speaker monitors. Why should I use in-ear monitors? What are the benefits of in-ear monitors? Sound familiar?...
So, here’s 3 reasons why you should use in-ear monitors:
1. An accurate sound
In-ear monitors provide musicians, whether you’re a singer, keyboard player, guitarist, drummer or even a technician with a far more precise representation of the sound onstage. Your vocals and guitar, for example, can be mixed very much the same as an onstage monitor and remove everything you don’t need. However, the major benefits of in-ear monitors are that they block out the unwanted external noise that you don’t need to hear and send the signal of your guitar, voice or drums directly to your ears.
This means you don’t have to put up with your band mates arrogantly loud amps or your drummer’s ridiculously loud cymbals and can hear exactly what you need to hear. It’s the same as having your own personal monitor mix!
2. Reduce the risk of hearing loss
In addition, you also reduce the risk of developing noise induced hearing loss with in-ear monitors. As any musician knows, tinnitus (that horrible ringing in your ears) is always ready to rear its ugly head after a particularly loud gig or rehearsal. This tinnitus is a symptom of noise induced hearing loss, which if gets out of hand, can ruin a musician’s career and be extremely difficult to live with. As in-ear monitors block out external ambient noise and provide good isolation on stage, this means you can hear what’s going on in your headphones at a lower volume, saving your hearing.
They’re not only a great way to hear what’s going on correctly, but they also protect your hearing and potentially your career. Anything over 85dBA for over 15-20 minutes at a time can cause hearing loss and considering the average gig is around 105dBA, it makes sense to either wear earplugs or use in-ear monitor systems if you’re playing a gig.
3. You’re free to move around onstage
If you feel like moving around the stage, but you still need to hear what’s going on, sometimes a regular stage monitor is just not going to cut it, especially if you’re playing larger venues. Step away from the monitor too far and you can’t hear yourself sing, you’ve lost timing and the song is ruined.
With in-ear monitors you can move anywhere on stage and still have the exact same mix in your earphones allowing you the freedom to move safe in the knowledge you can hear your voice correctly, your guitar and the rest of the musicians on stage. You stay in time, in key and on the ball.
Show Me The Best In-Ear Monitor Systems
There’s thousands of different brands out there to choose from, so finding the best in-ear monitor system for your needs can be a bit of a minefield to navigate. So today, we’re going to look at the best in-ear monitor systems for musicians, singers, guitarists – pretty much everyone who’s playing an instrument on stage!
Before we continue though, it’s worth noting that in-ear monitors and wireless in-ear monitor systems are made up of three parts: the earphones, the body pack and the transmitter. These can be available in any number of combinations including a full in-ear monitor system which includes earphones, body pack and transmitter, or if you already have a monitor system, a body pack or just the earphones on their own. They also use wireless frequencies, so there may be a charge to use them on certain radio frequencies. You can read all about that in our guide to wireless systems.
To make things easier, we’ll discuss the best in-ear monitor systems (ear phones + body pack + transmitter) for now to help you make the right decision.
5 Best Wireless In-Ear Monitor Systems
1. LD Systems MEI 100 G2 Wireless In-Ear Monitoring System ISM UK Version
Having your own personal in-ear monitor system doesn’t have to break the bank. With the LD Systems MEI 100 G2 Wireless In-Ear Monitoring System ISM UK Version, you have the opportunity to the comfort of IEM’s at less than what you’d pay for high street coffee over a few months. At just over £200 you get 2 monitoring modes – Stereo and Mono, both free of interference as well as a battery powered belt pack receiver, stereo in-ear phones and a portable transmitter complete with 2 x XLR / 6.3 mm Jack (combo) inputs which will allow you to expand the system. A great option for gigging musicians in smaller venues.
A complete package that is by far one of the best in-ear monitors systems for the money and build quality.
2. LD Systems MEI 1000 G2 Wireless In-Ear Monitoring System ISM UK Version
The LD Systems MEI 1000 G2 Wireless In-Ear Monitoring System ISM UK Version is a great, budget friendly in-ear monitor system that is easy to set up, comfortable to use and license free. It’s ideal for touring musicians and one of the best in ear monitors due to the large amount of settings on offer.
Perhaps the main key feature is the use of 3 Monitoring Modes - Stereo, Mono and Focus. The Stereo mode gives you different inputs to different ears, Mono mode sends everything at once. When in Focus mode, both input signals will be sent to both ears but you can adjust the mixing levels between the two inputs via the controls on the receiver.
A large dynamic range and outstanding crosstalk behaviour in the 823 - 832 and 863 - 865 MHz frequency bands providing you with a high-quality sound at all times and an accurate representation of your on-stage sound. This pack comes supplied with extremely comfortable in-ear monitors, transmitter and body pack making it a perfect addition to any musicians set up without a huge investment.
3. Shure PSM200 Wireless System With SE112 Earphones
If you want a professional sound but you’re on a budget, the Shure PSM200 Wireless System With SE112 Earphones is the perfect entry into professional level in-ear monitors without professional level investment. Any professional sound engineer will tell you that the Shure PSM series is a completely reliable and great sounding in-ear monitoring system for bands, singers and musicians of all kinds.
A simple, easy to use front panel, solid construction and typical Shure level quality earphones that give you the accurate sound you need and provide a great deal of isolation to protect your hearing and let you hear your own mix. The built-in audio limiter ensures there’s no nasty spikes in volume and the included bodypack receiver is easy to pair with the transmitter. The split XLR outputs will even allow you to extend your signal chain to your wedges, should you want to.
4. Sennheiser ew 300-2 G3 In-Ear Wireless Monitoring System (Twin Set)
The Sennheiser ew 300-2 G3 In-Ear Wireless Monitoring System (Twin Set) is designed by professional audio engineers for professional musicians. The team at Sennheiser are well aware of the needs of the professional musician, and understand that comfort, high quality sound and reliability are the order of the day here. After setting the bar extremely high with the G2 personal monitoring system, the team at Sennheiser have improved their in-ear monitoring system with the Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3 that includes adaptive receiver technology to keep your signal strong. The interesting thing here is that the headphone cable acts as a secondary antenna to the transmitter. This means you have two signals monitoring the frequencies, and in the event that your signal suffers a drop out or interference it will seamlessly switch to the optimal antenna.
As far as comfort goes, the Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3 is perfect for touring musicians, providing superior sound isolation thanks to an array of different ear-fitting pads. Just choose your perfect size and you’re good to go.
You can even manage and monitor your audio via Sennheiser Wireless Systems Manager software on your PC or Mac thanks to the inclusion of an ethernet cable. Easy to operate, built like a tank and full of great features to make your life (and your sound engineers life) easier on stage. Available as a twin set or as a single unit, but we recommend getting the pair!
5. Shure PSM300 Wireless Personal Monitor System with SE112 Earphones
Finally, we have the industry standard Shure PSM300 Wireless Personal Monitor System with SE112 Earphones. This in-ear monitor system features the coveted PSM300 transmitter as well as the ultra-comfortable and superb sounding SE112 earphones, to provide the professional musician with a reliable and accurate sound, superb isolation as well as the freedom to roam on stage without any hassle.
The Shure PSM300 Wireless Personal Monitor System with SE112 Earphones provides a range of up to 90m of wireless in ear monitoring as well as one touch frequency scanning which sync to your pack and assigns a clean channel in seconds. You have 24-bit digital audio, meaning that you hear everything you need to hear in superb clarity. Thanks to the fact the unit includes patented Audio Reference Companding, your unit sounds more like a wired system than a wireless providing you with near zero latency.You can also send two channels of audio wirelessly to create a stereo mix in your in ear monitors, should you want drums in your left and vocals in your right etc. The Infrared sync function, battery level indicator and scan function make set up and activation a breeze.
The included SE112 Earphones are perfectly comfortable and used by professional musicians all over the world thanks to their clarity and high sound isolation. These do a fantastic job of reducing noise on stage, however, should you want to dramatically reduce the external ambient noise if you have a particularly loud stage sound we recommend upgrading to the Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones. These headphones alone are some of the best in ear monitors available - coupled with the PSM300, they're unstoppable. But alas, you're still completely in safe hands with the SE112 - it just comes down to budget really!
Shop all Shure In-ear Monitor Systems here.
Final Thought On In-Ear Monitors:
Of course, if you’re a musician just starting out on the live scene, using in ear monitors is not always practical, as inevitably smaller venues where front of house and the monitor mix is done from the same desk means that using your own IEM’s is not always viable. However, when the opportunity is available to have your own monitor mix via a set of in ear monitors, you’ll absolutely notice how much it can improve your playing or singing and your overall performance. Wedges can be unreliable, sound can get lost in the mix and can sometimes cause nasty feedback, so it’s a good idea to have a set of IEM’s in your back pocket, even if you don’t use them ALL the time. When you play Wembley, you’ll be ready – we believe in you!
Upgrade Your In-Ear Headphones
Most wireless monitor systems, and all the options in this blog come with superb quality in ear headphones, but if you already have a wireless system, or want to upgrade to better quality in-ear headphones (earbuds), we've written a blog on the Best In-Ear Headphones for Musicians, which will help save your hearing and provide high quality sound. With offerings from Fender, Shure, V-Moda and more, you'll surely find a great fit to suit your needs.
Shop a full range of wireless in ear monitor systems over at PMT Online today or speak to our experts on 0151 448 2089 or in your local store to discuss best best in ear monitors for your setup. Our PA experts are on hand to help you with all your needs.