In this round of our Andertons Scoreboard, we’re rating our favourite sets of in-ear headphones. In our day to day life, they’re incredible tools to detach from unwanted noise and immerse yourself into your favourite music or online content. What’s more, they’re also must-haves for all musicians on stage and in the rehearsals room, to effectively monitor the music they’re making in real-time.
We tried some of the best brands in the market, from Behringer to Shure, at various price points to give you the best options on a budget. Let’s dive right in and find out which ones are the best for you!
Why choose in-ear headphones?
First and foremost, in-ear headphones are extremely portable and can be stored in small cases that you can take anywhere with you. For example, when you’re at the gym, running or just travelling, they are surely handier than big over-ear and on-ear headphones.
Secondly, they’re often equipped with noise-cancellation technology, they’re hence particularly useful for work meetings and calls, touring (if you’re using them as in-ear monitors) or if you’re in noisy spaces and want to focus on music.
What are In-ear monitors?
Once you’ve written and recorded all your songs, it’s time to perform them live! In order to get the best show possible, you need to hear the music you’re making, isolated from external noises. This is called monitoring, and you can do it in two ways: using monitor speakers or using in-ear monitors (IEM).
Musicians often rely on stage monitors, which are speakers pointed directly at them, with their own mix that the audience can’t hear over the loudspeakers. These are effective, but they can damage your ears in the long run, due to high volume.
In-ear monitors are the perfect solution for clear feedback on the live sound, without cluttering up the stage. They look like earbuds and consist of 3 components: the transmitter, the receiver and a pair of earphones. The transmitter sends the mix into the receiver, which is usually worn as a belt pack and has a volume knob to adjust the level. The earphones provide noise cancellation from any unwanted noise.
Now that you know all about in-ear monitors, let’s find out which ones are best for you:
The Tannoy Life Buds are designed for an immersive true stereo experience and use a proprietary DSP (Digital Sound Processor) to replicate the sound of their award-winning Dual Concentric single point source loudspeakers. This driver technology provides class-leading coherence and point-source imaging for that highly sought after and truly natural sound. Lasting up to 4 hours on a full charge, increasing to 16 when stored in their case after use, the Tannoy Life Buds are perfect for all those who want music wherever they go!
- Comfort – Our staff ranked how comfortable they found these on their heads. – 4.75/5
- Sound quality – Our staff rated how they thought these headphones sounded – 4.5/5
- Build quality – Our staff compared how well the build quality and durability of each headphone was. 4.38/5
Final score: 4.5/5
Whether you’re mixing a recording or monitoring a bass line, you want earphones that deliver ultra-deep bass and super-transparent highs across an ultra-wide dynamic range. Behringer’s MO240 in-ear monitors feature to fulfil your needs to compose your own tunes in peace, doesn’t matter where you are – at a price that is very kind to every budget! Thanks to the high-quality drivers, you’ll be both isolated from unwanted noise and able to capture any nuance in vocals and instruments. The lightweight and comfortable design simply make the MO240 a faithful companion for all musicians.
- Comfort – 4.0/5
- Sound quality – 4.4/5
- Build quality – 3.8/5
Final score: 4.1/5
The Behringer SD251-CK are professional in-ear monitors, ideal not only for music-making but also for gaming, video-calling and more. The over-the-ear and ultra-lightweight design of the SD251-CK allow you to keep them on for extended sessions without any discomfort. The top-quality drivers also ensure noise cancellation and extreme audio clarity.
- Comfort – 4.3/5
- Sound quality – 4.4/5
- Build quality – 4.2/5
Final score: 4.3/5
Shure’s SE215 In-Ear headphones represent an affordable way to get into professional in-ear monitoring. Using technology and experience from top-end professional IEM models, Shure have distilled the SE215s to a great price point that makes them ideal for the frugal professional or the demanding consumer. Whether on stage or on the bus you can count on Shure’s fabled reliability and professional sound quality day in day out!
- Comfort – 4.8/5
- Sound quality – 5/5
- Build quality – 5/5
Final score: 4.9/5