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The 8 Best Budget In-Ear Monitors

22/04/2024

In-ear monitors are becoming increasingly common for live music performances. Offering better ear protection than monitor wedges and the ability to receive customised monitor mixes, IEMs are becoming more and more popular among musicians.

So, which in-ear monitors are right for you? We’ll cover some favourites, common features, and the different design decisions that go into monitor earphones, all under £150, so you can pick the best budget in-ear monitors.

In a hurry?

Here are our three favourite in-ear monitors and some key aspects of their design.

Mackie MP-120 BTAWireless dynamic in-ear monitors provide an upfront, punchy sound and 40 dB of sound isolation.Check the current price
Sennheiser IE 100 Pro WirelessVersatile wireless in-ear monitors that can also be used wired with a comfortable fit and minimal wireless latency.Check the current price
Shure SE215Detailed sound from Shure MicroDrivers and up to 37 dB of sound isolation.Check the current price

Why we’ve chosen these in-ear monitors

So, what makes for the best budget in-ear monitors? First off, our definition of budget is anything under £150. We’ve also tried to pick in-ear monitors with wide frequency responses. Sound characteristics within that range can vary a lot, but as long as the information is there, you’ll know that your monitor mix is accurate and you’re not missing out on any of the finer details.

Since we’re looking at budget monitors, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll be seeing mostly singular dynamic drivers over any other driver designs. However, some of these may have dual dynamic drivers or dynamic and balanced armature hybrid designs at the upper end of the specifications.

Dynamic drivers are powerful and consistent, but not necessarily as sensitive and detailed as some of these other types. They’re great for low-frequency definition, but can get softer in high frequencies and can be prone to distortion when pushed too hard.

Due to the budget restrictions, many of these IEMs will either have to trade off build quality for sound or sound for build quality. Some of the more expensive models will likely have a better balance between durability and sound if you need both, though. We’ve still tried to pick out models that are reliable and offer the best performance within their price bracket.

Extra features may be somewhat limited within these models, but we’ve still managed to find some wireless-capable IEMs, and ones with useful accessories like multiple ear tips to achieve an ideal fit or protective travel cases.

The best budget in-ear monitors

1. Subzero SZ-IEM – The best beginner IEMs

SubZero SZ-IEM In Ear MonitorsKey features

  • Designed for on-stage monitoring and everyday use
  • True 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
  • Includes zipped carry pouch

Pros

  • Comfortable silicon/memory foam tips
  • Compatible with 3.5mm jack devices
  • Effective sound isolation

Cons

  • Limited to basic noise isolation

If you’re on the hunt for in-ear monitors that serve well both on stage and in everyday listening scenarios, the SubZero SZ-IEM might just fit the bill. Designed to handle a full spectrum of sound with a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency range, these monitors provide a detailed and dynamic audio experience.

Having both silicon and memory foam ear tips ensures not only a snug fit but also effective isolation from external noises, making them ideal for immersive listening.

Whether you’re performing live or enjoying your favourite tracks on the go, these monitors are easily able to keep up. They’re equipped with a universal 3.5mm minijack, making them compatible with most wireless monitoring systems, MP3 players, and more. The zipped carry pouch adds a nice touch, offering convenient and protective storage when not in use.


2. Mackie MP-120 BTA – The best IEMs for sound isolation

Mackie MP-120 BTA Bluetooth In-Ear MonitorsKey features

  • Bluetooth and analogue connectivity
  • Up to 40dB of sound isolation
  • Ergonomic moulded low-profile design

Pros

  • Dynamic driver for balanced sound
  • Includes moulded case and various tips
  • Comfortable for long wear

Cons

  • Limited advanced features for professionals

The Mackie MP-120 BTA is a versatile in-ear monitor with Bluetooth and traditional analogue connectivity. It’s designed to give you the freedom to move without the hassle of wires, making it perfect for active musicians and casual listeners alike. With a single large dynamic driver in each earpiece, the MP-120 BTA delivers a rich, full sound across the entire audio spectrum.

These monitors provide exceptional isolation – up to 40dB – to block external noise effectively, allowing you to focus solely on the sound. The ergonomically moulded design ensures they fit securely and comfortably, reducing the risk of fatigue during extended use.

The MP-120 BTA come equipped with a variety of ear tips to suit different preferences and ear sizes, enhancing both comfort and sound quality. It also includes a moulded hard case for safe transport and storage.


3. Stagg High-Resolution Sound-Isolating In-Ear Monitors – The best value IEMs

Stagg High-Resolution Sound-Isolating In-Ear Monitors, TransparentKey features

  • Broad frequency response for detailed sound reproduction
  • Detachable, tangle-free cable
  • Includes EVA foam case for storage

Pros

  • Dual-driver for precise sound
    Memory foam ear-buds for comfort
    Comfortable behind-ear design

Cons

  • Basic design with no advanced features

The Stagg High-Resolution Sound-Isolating In-Ear Monitors are engineered to deliver exceptional audio quality, suitable for both on-stage use and daily listening. These monitors boast a broad frequency range from 7Hz to 40kHz, enabling you to hear every detail of your music or performance.

Designed with dual drivers, these earphones provide a clear and balanced sound, making them an ideal choice for musicians, particularly drummers, who require precision in audio feedback. The memory foam earbuds not only enhance comfort but also ensure a snug fit, isolating you effectively from any external noise.

The detachable cable is another practical feature, designed to be tangle-free and easy to manage, which simplifies storage and increases the product’s durability. The comfortable, behind-the-ear design means you can wear these monitors for extended periods without discomfort.


4. Shure SE112 – The best all-rounder

Shure SE112 In Ear HeadphonesKey features

  • Frequency response of 25Hz to 17kHz
  • Sound isolating design up to 37 dB
  • Single dynamic driver

Pros

  • Includes multiple ear sleeve sizes
  • Comes with a carrying pouch
  • Ideal for on-stage and everyday use

Cons

  • Basic features without advanced technology

The Shure SE112 In-Ear Headphones deliver a high-quality auditory experience in various settings, whether you’re on stage or commuting. Known for their robust sound profile, these headphones provide a detailed and spacious sound with rich bass, making every listening session a delight.

Designed to isolate sound, the SE112 can block up to 37 dB of external noise, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in your music or performance without distractions. This is particularly beneficial for musicians and avid music listeners who want extremely precise sound delivery.

These headphones are built to withstand rigorous use, suitable for both on-stage performances and daily commuting. They come equipped with several sizes of ear sleeves to ensure a comfortable and secure fit. and a handy carrying pouch is included.


5. Behringer MO240 – The best hybrid drivers

Behringer MO240 In-Ear MonitorsKey features

  • Dual-hybrid driver technology
  • Gold-plated MMCX lock-snap connectors
  • Rotatable, detachable over-the-ear cable

Pros

  • Exceptional sonic accuracy and balance
  • Comfortable, secure fit with various earbuds
  • Includes a zipper case for portability

Cons

  • Complexity may overwhelm casual users

The Behringer MO240 In-Ear Monitors pack some innovative technology into their user-focused design, making them a solid choice for live performance and studio work. They boast dual-hybrid driver technology, ensuring exceptional clarity and precision in sound reproduction. You’ll enjoy deep lows and balanced highs, making every listening experience more immersive.

They also effectively block unwanted noise, which is great for mixing in the studio or listening to your music in busy environments. Plus, you can listen comfortably thanks to rotatable and detachable over-the-ear cable design that ensures the monitors stay secure, even during active performances.

Each set comes with a variety of earbuds to suit different preferences and ear sizes. For added convenience, a durable zipper case is included, making these monitors both portable and easy to store.


6. Sennheiser IE 100 Pro Wireless – The best wireless IEMs

Sennheiser IE 100 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors, ClearKey features

  • Suitable for wired or wireless use
  • Minimal latency in wireless mode
  • Ergonomic earmold design

Pros

  • Precise sound reproduction reduces fatigue
  • Stable wireless connection for live performance
  • Includes durable, flat-profile cable

Cons

  • Battery life may limit wireless use duration

The Sennheiser IE 100 Pro Wireless In-Ear Monitors blend high-quality sound with the flexibility of wired and wireless connectivity. They feature dynamic 10mm broadband transducers that deliver precise articulation, ensuring you hear every detail clearly, even in loud environments.

The sound quality is designed to be warm and dynamic, preventing fatigue during extended use. Plus, with their advanced wireless technology, these monitors boast minimal latency, making them perfect for live performances where timing is crucial. Even with a wireless connection, you’ll be precisely in sync with the music.

You’ll also want them to be comfortable and stable, and so Sennheiser have equipped the headphones with an ergonomic earmold design and cables with a flat profile that offer just that. The package includes a range of ear tips and a durable cable, enhancing fit and usability.

For musicians and audio professionals who need reliable, high-quality in-ear monitors for both studio and stage, the Sennheiser IE 100 Pro Wireless offers an exceptional listening experience with the convenience of cutting-edge wireless capabilities.


7. Mackie MP-220 BTA – The most durable IEMs

Mackie MP-220 BTA Bluetooth In-Ear MonitorsKey features

  • Dual dynamic drivers
  • Bluetooth and analogue connectivity options
  • Up to 40dB of sound isolation

Pros

  • Clean, efficient sound reproduction
  • Includes moulded case and various tips
  • Ergonomic, low-profile IEM design

Cons

  • Might be complex for casual users

The Mackie MP-220 BTA In-Ear Monitors might be classed as “budget”, but they’re a professional set that are ideal for musicians and audiophiles who need precision and versatility. These monitors feature dual dynamic drivers in each housing, providing a cleaner, richer, and more detailed sound across the full audio spectrum.

With a Bluetooth cable, the MP-220 BTA allows you to experience wireless freedom without sacrificing sound quality. This is ideal for those who prefer the convenience of wireless listening without the constraints of traditional cables. Additionally, the monitors come with a standard analogue cable, giving you the flexibility to switch between wired and wireless setups based on your needs.

They’re designed for comfort and isolation, with up to 40dB of noise-blocking capability to ensure that external noises do not disturb your listening experience. The ergonomic, low-profile form factor of the earpieces allows for extended use without discomfort, making them suitable for both on-stage performances and everyday use.


8. Shure SE215 – The best overall IEMs

Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones, ClearKey features

  • Sound Isolating design up to 37dB
  • Detachable Kevlar-reinforced cable
  • Selection of sleeves

Pros

  • Professional monitoring capability
  • Blocks extensive external noise
  • Durable and flexible design

Cons

  • Might feel bulky for casual use

The Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones are a great choice for professional monitoring applications, offering significant isolation from external noise – up to 37 dB. This allows you to fully immerse in the clarity and detail of your sound, whether you’re on stage, in the studio, or commuting.

The earphones are equipped with Shure’s innovative High-Definition MicroDrivers, delivering a spacious soundstage and enhanced bass that ensures every note is crisp and clear. The detachable, Kevlar-reinforced cable is designed for durability and includes a lock-snap mechanism that allows 360-degree rotation for a comfortable and secure fit.

The SE215 comes with a variety of sleeves – foam and soft flex – to ensure you can find the perfect fit and further enhance the sound isolation. This versatility makes it easy to wear them for long sessions without discomfort.

Included in the package is a soft carrying case to keep your earphones protected while on the move. If you need earphones that perform well across different environments and demand durability and excellent sound quality, the Shure SE215s are ideal.

Things to consider when buying in-ear monitors

Budget

While there are plenty of bargains available, the mantra you get what you pay for tends to hold true for most things, and in-ear monitors are no exception. Manufacturers have to make decisions to get products to market within a certain price range, so you have to prioritise what’s most important to you and focus on that.

Do you want the sound quality to be the most important part? Comfort? Sound isolation? Durability? Some of these other factors will still be good, but deciding your primary goal will help you make your pick.


Brand

As with anything, the brand is often the thing that speaks to you most. We tend to identify with the brands we buy from, so it’s worth being aware of them. They may have a history that informs their methods of production.

For example, Shure’s history of producing audio equipment for the Allied Forces during World War 2 led to them adopting military specifications for build quality, so you know their monitors will be extremely robust. Sennheiser have a long history of headphone design and very much value sound quality and high-frequency definition.

Whether it’s the visual appeal of the design and branding, the story of the brand, or their values as a company, every company approaches product design differently, and understanding what informs them can help you line up a product that has been built with the same priorities in mind that you have when buying.


Clarity of sound

Of course, sound quality is pretty important for in-ear monitoring. You need a wide frequency response, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of how they’ll sound. Everything has a sound characteristic that’s somewhat unique and distinct. The dynamic range, sensitivity, driver design, frequency response, and sound isolation of in-ear monitors will all affect your listening experience. Better isolation can improve clarity.

Considering your instrument of choice will also help you decide the sound you need. A bass player or drummer may want dynamic drivers for the forcefulness and low-frequency presence to match the percussive low end of their instruments to cut through the monitor mix more clearly.

A guitarist, on the other hand, may want a defined and forward midrange to cut through the mix, whereas a vocalist may want a clear midrange and a high-frequency boost for some extra definition and air.


Wired vs. wireless

Knowing what you’re connecting to and how you’re listening is also important to inform your purchase. Bluetooth connectivity can cause latency, and manufacturers have only just figured out a way around this without it being audible. Wireless connections can also risk things like interference or dropouts causing a break in your monitoring.

Neither design is better than the other, but wireless connections may be more limited in terms of what they can work with if they can’t also be used as wired monitors.

Wired monitors are more adaptable to most systems, but obviously can’t be used for wireless monitoring systems as easily (although some can be plugged into a beltpack receiver with the right adapter!). Latency is lower and the connection tends to be more stable, although there is always the risk of them being unplugged unintentionally while you move around on stage if you’re not careful.

Wired monitors also tend to be more affordable, as the technology’s much cheaper to implement than advanced Bluetooth connectivity and the development involved in ensuring that connection is stable.

Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones

The benefits of in-ear monitors

In-ear monitors are extremely versatile, usable in studio recordings and live performances.

They allow you to hear yourself clearly without having to compete against other band members, and you might be able to better hear extra things that wouldn’t come through floor monitors as well – like click tracks or backing samples. If you have precise timing and breaks in your music, this may be important, which is why a lot of modern metal bands have shifted to using IEMs on stage.

In-ear monitoring is also more detailed and lets you get a better-customised monitor mix that lines up with what you want to hear. They protect your hearing much better than traditional wedges, which can damage your hearing as they may have to be pretty loud for you to be able to hear them.

Of course, the trade-off of going with in-ear monitors is that you’re relying on their sound isolation to hear your mix clearly, and you either need to invest in your own monitoring system as well, or you’ll just have to hope that your venue of choice has a monitoring system that you can use your monitor earphones with.

FAQs

Are in-ear monitors worth the money?

In-ear monitors are worth the money for many users. They provide superior sound isolation and tailored sound profiles, making them essential for musicians and audio engineers. The investment enhances live performance experiences and studio work by allowing precise monitoring.


Why are in-ear monitors so expensive?

In-ear monitors are expensive due to their complex technology. They often incorporate multiple drivers to handle different frequency ranges and some are molded to fit the unique contours of an individual’s ears, which requires specialised manufacturing processes.


Which type of IEM is best?

The best type of IEM depends on the user’s specific needs. Universal IEMs are versatile and cost-effective, suitable for casual listeners. Custom-molded IEMs, on the other hand, offer the best fit and isolation for professionals and audiophiles who need tailored performance.

Final thoughts

If you’re considering buying into some in-ear monitors and want a low-cost choice to start out, hopefully you’ve found a pair that speaks to you somewhere on our list of the best budget in-ear monitors!

We’ve covered why you might want to invest in a set, common features and design choices, and the benefits of going with in-ear monitors over floor wedges – if you have any other tips for musicians looking for in-ear monitors, leave a comment below. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more advice yourself, ask away!

 

Content Writer - Live Sound

Callum is a former audio and music technology student who has a love of punk, rock, metal, and electronic music. In his spare time, he produces music, and DJs occasionally. He's also a freelance engineer when possible, helping local bands make their noise even noisier.

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