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The 4 best in-ear monitors for stage and studio in 2024

Personal story here. Last night I was jamming with a few friends, and I played the drums in a song that revolved around a long guitar loop. The loop acted as the song’s foundation and rhythm, which “forced” me to follow the tempo provided by the loop for the jam’s duration (around 12 minutes).

It was a new thing for me, and as I was playing I often had to turn to listen to the stage monitor to make sure I was following the loop. That’s when I thought: if I ever find myself in this same situation, I want to have my IEM monitors with me!

If you’re musician, in-ear monitors can be life savers; if you’re an audiophile, they can change the way you listen to audio on the go; if you’re an audio engineer, they’re just as valuable for critical listening.

Whichever way you look at them, these portable monitors can help you improve your audio experience, whether on stage, in the studio, or on the way to work.

If you’re looking for the best IEM, in this article, I’ll tell you which ones I think you should get based on your budget and what you need them for.

Quick recommendations

The UE 5 Pro tops my list as the best-value-for-money IEM on the market. Right now, it’s more affordable than ever and has been the in-ear monitor of countless professional performers. As such, they’re ideal if you want to get a pair of custom-fit monitors at a good price.

For those who need absolute clarity and accuracy, there’s no better IEM than the Alclair Studio4. The technology applied to these monitors is astounding, and gives you an hyper-accurate, three-dimensional soundstage that can take your engineering work to a new level.

Finally, the Shure SE215 Pro is a great budget-friendly IEM to get started or if you don’t need endless customization possibilities. They fit comfortably, protect your ears, and offer realistic reproduction.


Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, writer at Higher Hz

I’m a musician, music producer, and record label owner. Whether I’m working on a new release or playing live, I found in-ear monitors to be not only practical but also crucial for performances and critical listening sessions.

I use them paired with my MP3 player when commuting, as well as live when I play together with other musicians.

When I first bought a pair of IEMs, little did I know that they’d become such a crucial element of my playing experience, so I hope my views on in-ear monitors will help you make an informed decision and choose the perfect one for you.

How I chose and tested

There are three crucial factors to consider when buying in-ear monitors: sound quality, comfort, and durability.

For this article, I chose in-ear monitors that provide detailed highs, a deep, controlled bass, and an accurate soundstage that can help you appreciate music in the best possible way.

Comfort after long hours of use is crucial whether you’re a mixing engineer or a touring guitarist, so that’s a must for me.

Finally, durability. You want gear that lasts for years and won’t stop working in the middle of a performance.

With a few notable exceptions, in-ear monitors are not cheap, which is also why you should invest in something that won’t let you down even while you go wild on stage.

Here are all the in-ear monitors I recommend for stage and studio use:

Also, be sure to check the Honorable mentions for in-ear monitors that didn’t quite make my best list but are nonetheless worth your consideration.

Best budget: Shure SE215 Pro

Shure SE215 Pro blue
SE215 Pro in Blue | Image: Shure

A great option if you want to spend less than $100 and still get performing IEMs, the Shure SE215 Pro are some of the most beloved in-ear monitors among musicians because they’re reliable, comfortable, and indestructible.

One of the things I love about the SE215 Pro is the detachable cable system, through an MMCX connection, so you can switch from wired to wireless or replace the cable when the time comes.

Commuters will also appreciate the noise reduction system, blocking out up to 37 dB of noise efficiently and without affecting sound quality.

The design is practical and no-nonsense: if you’re a musician, you just want them to fit comfortably and stay put, even when you’re moving around a lot, which is precisely what they do. The cables are specifically designed to stay out of your way, which is a nice touch.

They also come with different sleeve sizes, so you can use the best fit and ensure they’ll perform admirably at all times.

All in all, the SE215 Pro is the best IEM for anyone, beginners and pros alike, who wants to spend up to $100 and improve their listening experience with in-ear monitors.

What I like

  • Built to last.
  • Comfortable.
  • Affordable at under $100.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing at this price.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best high-end: Alclair Studio4

Alclair Studio4 custom quad-driver IEM
Custom Studio4 quad-driver IEM | Image: Alclair

The Alclair Studio4 is an exceptional choice for professional producers, audio engineers, and hi-fi enthusiasts who value neutrality and clarity. But for this price, that’s precisely what you should expect.

If you’re not familiar with the technology, the Studio4 quad-driver IEM handles clarity and depth in a way that’ll leave you speechless.

Generally, earphones have the tendency to make everything sound too close or “simplifying” the soundstage, but with the Studio4 you can perceive instruments not just from left to right but also from front to back, with the same accuracy you’d get from professional studio monitors or headphones.

Those looking for a professional in-ear monitor that delivers a neutral sound profile, audiophiles and mixing engineers alike, should stop reading this article now, and get the Studio4 in-ear monitors.

On the other hand, for live performers and music producers who need an extra pair of monitors for their studio, it seems like an extravagant price to pay for what you actually need them for. Just my two cents.

What I like

  • Unbeatable accuracy.
  • Realistic soundstage.
  • High-quality build.

What I don’t like

  • An overkill for live performers.
Find out more at: Alclair

Best for musicians: Shure SE846 Gen 2

Shure SE846 Gen 2 earphones
SE846 Gen 2 earphones | Image: Shure

The next logical step to the Shure SE215 Pro, the SE846 Gen 2 monitors are a fine combination of accuracy and endless customization options, which makes them perfect for artists who want a sturdy companion for live shows and a reliable sound reproduction in the recording studio.

The SE846 Gen 2 comes with a four-driver system that brings to life a full-spectrum sound experience, which you can personalize through the four different filter settings (Balanced, Warm, Bright, and Extended).

To me, this makes them the ideal in-ear monitors for the versatile music enthusiasts: you can use them to enhance your music library when commuting, or the vibe of your stage monitor when playing.

Aside from this, the SE846 Gen 2 comes with a detachable cabling system and a good-enough sound isolation system.

Their level of detail is astounding, so I would also consider them a valid choice for mixing decisions, although for that purpose, I’d go for the aforementioned Alclair Studio4.

Music creators and touring artists, behold!

What I like

  • Customizable sound profile.
  • Enjoyable listening experience.
  • Detailed soundstage.

What I don’t like

  • Average noise cancelling system.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best value: Ultimate Ears UE 5 Pro

Ultimate Ears custom in-ear monitors
Custom UE Pro in-ear monitors | Image: Ultimate Ears

With the release of the more recent UE 6 Pro, the iconic UE 5 Pro is available at an unbeatable price (slightly more than $500), so if you’re on a budget, this custom in-ear monitor is a perfect blend of professional performance and reasonable price.

This dual-driver IEM, with dual-bore sound channels, is cleverly designed for stage use, keeping all frequencies, from high trembles to deep lows, perfectly aligned and offering a coherent and clear soundstage.

The custom fit design ensures the monitors are comfortable for hours but also improves sound quality with exceptional isolation.

With a frequency response of 5 Hz – 22 kHz, and noise isolation system of up to -26 dB, you can be sure the UE 5 Pro can upgrade your concentration during performances, and that you’ll hear everything around you with perfect clarity.

What I like

  • Best at around $500.
  • Ideal for live performers.
  • Excellent fit.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing at this price.
Find out more at: Ultimate Ears

Honorable mentions

Here are a few other IEMs that are worth considering.

  • Audio-Technica ATH-E70. A valid IEM for audio professionals who need precise monitoring, the ATH-E70 comes with an impressive triple-driver design that ensures accuracy across the frequency spectrum. The sound is a bit too neutral for my taste, but it’s an excellent IEM nonetheless.
  • Mackie MP-220. The MP-220 delivers a powerful bass response and clear mids, thanks particularly to its dual-driver configuration. Designed with live performers and DJs in mind, it offers a comfortable fit and good noise isolation at a great price (around $150).
  • Sennheiser IE 200. The IE 200 might work well for audiophiles or live performers on a budget, but the lack of low-end accuracy makes these monitors a backup pair when compared to other, similarly-priced IEMs, like the Mackie MP-220.

Final thoughts

I hope this guide will help you make the right decision and take your artistry to the next level. Do let me know in the comment section below if there other in-ear-monitors worth talking about.

Protect your ears, improve your mixing skills, and enhance your performances on stage with in-ear monitors!

Recent updates

  • March 30, 2024: I’ve published the revised list of best based on my experience with the tested in-ear monitors and explained the picking criteria in more detail. I’ve also moved the Audio-Technica ATH-E70 and Mackie MP-220 to the Honorable mentions.
  • October 10, 2023: We’ve verified the accuracy of picks.
  • December 7, 2022: After completing extensive research, my colleagues at Higher Hz have published the original article discussing the best options on the market.