This is a question almost every drummer will come across, sooner or later: “What in-ears should I going to spend my money on?”
For less than 100 dollars, you will make a great deal with the Shure SE215 (Amazon link). They have a universal fit, the sound is good, and they will last you years. Plus, they come with different earpiece sizes and material as well as a cleaning tool and a case, which makes it a perfect all-in-one-product for beginners. Although there are many models on the market, this one is one of the most popular amongst musicians. I’ve been really happy with these through gigs, band rehearsals, and practice sessions. They’ve now been lasting me for more than four years.
You can spend up to thousands of dollars on proper in-ear monitors. There are some aspects in which the most expensive models differ from the cheaper ones. However, I’ll route you through the essential points.
Why I chose the Shure SE215-CL
By the way: The “-CL” is the indicator for the clear version of the model. It is also available in other colors like black and blue.
The answer is simple: They produce balanced sound, fit well in your ears, and nothing can beat the value for money.
Around the time that I got my Shure SE215, I was a student with not much money, and I wasn’t able to afford a pair of expensive in-ears. So, I saved up some money for a pair of the SE215s. Since I didn’t own any in-ear monitor before, this investment was well worth it for me at that time.
The SE215 has got one micro driver with more extended bass. For drummers, lower frequencies are a bit more critical than mids or highs, so this model is just right for its purpose. Naturally, the bass part is always a little bit related to how tightly the in-ears are placed. So it is crucial to choose the right earpiece, which all comes included in the box. You can’t complain about too little bass on this model. The midrange and treble reproduction are precisely as I would like it to be in live situations.
When it comes to the audio pieces, you’re spoilt for choice: 3 sizes (S, M, L) and one version, each made of silicone and memory foam. I am a fan of silicone ear tips. After you have found a good position for the cable, the in-ears sit safely and comfortably. I personally have no problem to wear these for several hours straight.
Also, the box included a special cleaning tool for the earpieces. As described below under “Fitting and Maintenance”, IEMs should be regularly and carefully cleaned. I think it’s great that this tool is already included.
In short, because they already come with different earpiece sizes in both silicone and foam, a cleaning tool and a case, it makes it a perfect all-in-one-product for a low budget that I can confidently recommend.
Why Are IEMs Important?
In-ear monitoring has several benefits, like enabling you to listen to a click track or monitoring mix when performing live, as well as protecting your hearing. The combination of both main benefits is why it’s so popular amongst musicians since you don’t have to 1) put in earplugs and 2) use separate monitors beside you that would even be extremely loud – a level of loudness that you no one needs.
If you’re interested in more detailed reasons and explanations of why drummers wear headphones, check out this blog post!
Are the Expensive Ones Worth it?
Yes and no. Expensive ones can be divided into either better sound hardware or custom in-ears. Well, or of course, custom in-ears AND better sound, which is even more costly.
I would say for beginners, it’s not worth it yet. Let’s say you are a freshly started drummer and want to have all the benefits of IEMs. You already invested in a drumset that might’ve cost a thousand bucks. And now you’re going to spend 700 to up to 2,000 dollars on your in-ears? I mean, it’s up to you, but I would recommend starting with an affordable pair at under 100 dollars, which already provides good sound and quality.
In my case, I actually still have my SE215s. But as I already enjoy always practicing and playing with in-ears, I am currently considering an upgrade in both sound and comfort, which means custom in-ear monitors.
Nothing can beat custom in-ear monitors in terms of fit. As they are made to fit your ear canal precisely. This leads to a very high level of comfort. Once you have a pair of custom-fitted in-ears, you will probably not want to wear those with universal fit again. This doesn’t mean that the comfort of universal fit in-ears is terrible. It’s just: You only know how it can be even better when you have tried it and felt the difference.
When upgrading to better sound hardware, you are likely to have more drivers in order to generate a clearer sound. Technically speaking, a driver is no more than a micro speaker inside the monitor. And the more drivers there are in a monitor, the more costly it is. However, it is not just a matter of having the most drivers. The choice of the best in-ear monitor for you is about what you need to hear.
Three different types of drivers are used, which handle different frequencies:
- woofer: picks up low frequencies
- mid-range: picks up mid frequencies
- tweeter: picks up high frequencies
Many people think like the more drivers, the better, yet there isn’t much difference in what you hear after 4 or 5 drivers.
After hearing what fellow drummers say and recommend, I would go with 3 or 4 drivers, depending on the manufacturer. If you know how many drivers you are looking for, you can save yourself money by getting just what you need to get your job done right.
Well-known custom IEM manufacturers are, for example, Vision Ears, Ultimate Ears, 64 Audio, Rhines, InEar, Westone, Alclair.
Fitting and Maintenance
When selecting the right in-ears, it’s crucial that they fit well in your ears, stay in place, and are comfortable over a more extended time.
Therefore, when purchasing a good universal-fit IEM, the manufacturer provides you with multiple foam and silicone earmoulds. Memory foam earplugs are more comfortable than silicone, but are not as durable and tend to attract more dirt and earwax. Silicone: Usually used for the construction of earplugs. Although it does not isolate as well as foam, it is still comfortable and washable. This is a question of preference. I personally use the silicone tips, just because I’m somewhat of a lazy person and can’t wait two seconds to squeeze the memory foam tips for insert into my ears. If you got the Shure SE215, you can relax and test them yourself, as they’re included in the delivery.
On the other side, if you got a custom IEM, it’s already in its words, it will fit perfectly since it’s tailored precisely for your ear canal. The fitting can be done at a local audiologist via a 3D digital ear scan or by getting a substance filled in your ear canal from which the earpieces are then made.
To maintain your IEMs, it’s essential to clean the earpieces regularly. It is a normal thing that debris and earwax accumulate there over time. A special cleaning tool (like it’s included with the Shure SE215) helps you to reach inside of the ear tips and pull out the dirt. If you have custom in-ears, I recommend you to use special wet wipes for the exterior of your earpieces.