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What are in-ear monitors and for whom is it suitable?



  Custom in-ear monitors on a digital mixing console.

In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) have recently become popular among audiophiles for their pristine audio quality. Let's see what makes them different from other listening devices.

What is an in-ear monitor?

Chances are that you now have some kind of audio listening device on your ears. It can be a pair of wireless earbuds, such as Airpods, or a hefty, wired pair of headphones. In-ear monitors are a completely different kind of audio device. They are primarily intended for professional use. When it comes to fit, they sit somewhere between the tight seal of headphones and the low profile of earplugs.

They are called monitors because they were initially created for musicians and performers to & # 39; monitor a combination of audio & # 39; sources in different places. For example, a band member would hear a mix of different instruments and vocals that would come directly into his or her IEM. They were also used by singers to listen to an instrumental backing track while recording vocals. Artists and media personnel usually have IEMs specially adapted to the shape of their ears.

Today IEMs are available to everyone. Stores offer a wide variety of prices, designs and sound profiles for every type of listener. You can probably find them at your local audio store or music store.

While IEMs costing tens of thousands of dollars still exist, you can get a great sounding pair that costs no more than a regular pair of earplugs. There are also many audiophile communities dedicated to comparing, optimizing and discussing in-ear monitors.

What Makes IEMs Unique?

  Custom in-ear monitor headphones for a musician.
Joshua Rainey Photography / Shutterstock [19659011] The most obvious difference between in-ear monitors and other devices is the way they look. IEMs are shaped like an ear. They usually come with silicone, foam or rubber earplugs that fit in your ear canal. Many monitors also have a flexible or pre-formed wire that hooks onto the top of your ear.

Because they fit so snugly in your ears, IEMs are generally very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Their shape and tips also block out ambient noise.

Another feature that is unique to IEMs is their modular nature. Almost all models have detachable cables and earmolds, which are interchangeable with other models. You can exchange your cable for a braided cable for extra durability, or very long cables for live performances.

Perhaps the biggest reason audiophiles tend to flock to IEMs is the way they sound. Personal audio devices use a transducer, also known as a driver, that converts electronic signals into audio waves. Most modern IEMs use a so-called balanced armature, a small, powerful transducer originally invented for hearing aids. Others use a dynamic driver, which can improve bass performance.

High-end monitors can have multiple drivers, each intended for different frequencies, allowing you to adjust an audio mix as desired.

Using IEMs as an average listener

There are many benefits of using an IEM as your everyday audio listening device.

Even if you are just an average listener, you will likely notice a significant difference in audio quality between regular earbuds and an in-ear monitor. More bass, more clarity and a higher frequency range are just some of the things you can expect.

The way IEMs are molded to your ear and the fit of the earbuds also let you have a fuller range of

Many headphones prevent airflow, leaving your ears and the environment warm and sweaty. Over-ears can also be heavy. IEMs are lightweight and comfortable to wear for a long time.

While in-ear monitors do not have active noise cancellation, they block out most of the ambient noise. Even at low volumes, you are unlikely to hear anything in your environment. This means that you can play audio at a reasonable level while maintaining noise reduction.

Should You Buy Some IEMs?

  A woman wearing Audio Technica ATH-E70 in-ear monitors.
Audio Technica [19659011] If you care about pristine audio quality and want excellent noise cancellation, it's not a bad idea to buy a few IEMs. However, if you prefer wireless earbuds or find audiophile technology intimidating, in-ear monitors may not be for you.

However, picking up some IEMs is a great way to break into the audiophile community. You will find plenty of reviews, guides and trade groups for enthusiasts. There are also resources to get the best equalizer performance from your IEMs.

Of course, before purchasing IEMs, make sure you have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the device you want to use them with. Many mobile phone manufacturers have completely phased out the headphone jack in their latest devices, so you may also need to buy a dongle. However, most lap and desktop computers still have built-in audio connections.

You can also consider getting a direct box. Many audiophiles purchase one of these devices to get the best possible performance from their IEMs.


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