In ear monitors, or IEMs, are one of the most popular types of headphones available.
They are also known as earbuds. And a lot of people assume that to get a great sounding pair of IEMs, you must spend enormous amounts of money. It is not true.
There are many great earbuds that are available for affordable prices. It is all about sifting through the hundreds of IEMs that are on the market, understanding what features make great IEMs and then choosing the one that best fits your use case.
Luckily, we have made a guide that will help you during the search. We have narrowed it down to the top five IEMs that are affordable and high quality.
These headphones will serve you whether you use them on the bus, subway, while jogging or at home (Source).
The top five IEMs are classy, provide excellent sound quality and will last you a long time. Here is our list:
Best In Ear Headphones
1. Shure SE215-K – Best In-Ear Headphones
The Shure SE215-K are the best sounding and designed headphones in the affordable price range. These headphones offer professional-grade sound quality in IEM form.
They are very comfortable to wear, even for hours. The fit may be awkward in the beginning, but they will soon fit perfectly in your ears. And Shure provides many eartips so you can find the size that is perfect for you.
When listening to music on the Shure SE215-K, the greatness of these headphones is easier to understand. The sound is very well balanced, with the lows subtle, the mids understated but accurate and the highs very punchy.
While these headphones do not deliver basshead levels of bass, it is very respectable. And even with the SE215-K turned up to full volume, the sound does not become distorted or too high pitched.
And unlike most of the other headphones in the affordable price range, the SE215-K come with detachable cables. If your cable ever stops working, just buy a cheap replacement!
- Very good, balanced sound on the lows, mids and highs.
- Comfortable fit with many eartip options.
- Excellent noise isolation.
- Detachable cable adds to durability.
- Bass is not enough for bassheads.
2. Meze 12 Classics – Best Sound Quality
Meze is a niche brand that has a very good reputation among audiophiles. And for good reason. The company produces some incredible in ear monitors, with the Meze 12 Classics no exception.
These headphones have a very good frequency range, going from 16Hz to 24kHz. The 3.5mm plug is gold plated and the headphones even have a mic.
It is always fun to buy and use headphones that get better over time. It certainly happens on the 12 Classics, given the wood enclosure. And the signature sound of these headphones is incredible and well balanced, thanks to the titanium-coated 8mm mylar driver.
The sound is warm and natural. Those who enjoy a neutral sound that lets the music shine will love these headphones. They are perfect for music enthusiasts who love to listen to all types of music while on the go.
Even though these headphones are fairly understated, they do provide good noise isolation so you can enjoy your music without interruption from outside noises.
- Warm and neutral sound.
- Excellent frequency response range.
- Gorgeous walnut wood shell and overall design.
- Not enough bass for bass enthusiasts.
3. Creative Labs Aurvana In-Ear2 Plus – Noise Canceling IEMs
The Creative Aurvana In-Ear2 Plus headphones are sleek, provide a balanced sound that everyone will enjoy and featured armature drivers.
The noise cancellation on these headphones is remarkable, considering how small they are. When you are wearing the Aurvana, you will get 95% noise isolation and a very comfortable fit. After some time, you do not even realize the headphones are in your ear.
Creative Labs did a good job with these headphones, especially with the frequency response range. It is at 15Hz-16kHz. The bass is not too intense, but it is very clear and booming enough for most listeners. The highs are crystal clear and the treble never sounds too high pitched.
The headphones have a gold plated 3.5mm plug to ensure durability and quality connection with all devices. These are among the top headphones in the affordable price range, especially for city dwellers who want good noise isolation.
- 95% sound isolation.
- Crisp and clear highs.
- Sleek design.
- Bass may feel flat to bassheads
4. Sony MDRXB50AP – Extra Bass IEMs
Are you a basshead who wants an affordable pair of IEMs that provide great sound quality? The Sony MDRXB50AP are the headphones for you. These headphones have 12mm neodymium drivers for even more bass response.
The frequency range of these headphones, which sits at 4Hz-24kHz, shows the commitment to bass. When you are listening to bass-heavy music with these headphones, it will feel like you are wearing massive on-ear headphones!
Some IEMs have an issue of sacrificing quality in other areas when focusing on bass. The Sony MDRXB50AP avoids the issue, which is great news for audiophiles. These headphones sound great in the mid and high range. The treble is very pleasant too.
The design of these headphones is sleek, and they form a very good seal around your ears. That improves noise isolation and ensures a very smooth listening experience. If you love listening to contemporary music that has a lot of bass, then you are going to fall in love with these headphones.
- Neodymium drivers.
- Bass heavy headphones that every basshead will love.
- Mids and highs are very good, while the treble is pleasant.
- Sound is not as neutral as some of the other IEMs on this list.
5. Audio Technica Sonic Fuel ATH-CKX9iS – Sport-Friendly IEMs
Seeking audiophile-level headphones that you can comfortably wear while at the gym or running outside? The Sonic Fuel ATH-CKX0iS from Audio Technica may be the IEMs for you.
These headphones feature larger 13.5mm performance-enhanced drivers that are designed to provide an incredible listening experience. And the headphones come with C-tips that are designed to keep them in place, even if you are running or at the gym.
The frequency range of these headphones ensures very good bass and treble. The bass is very punchy while the treble is not too harsh. While the sound quality in all ranges is not on part with the Shure or other models, Audio Technica headphones always sound good.
A mic is included with the headphones, which is great news for people who want to use them with a smartphone. You can alternate from listening to your favorite album to having a hands-free phone conversation in seconds.
Audio Technica has also included a classy leather zippered carrying case for the headphones. When you are not listening, just place your headphones in the case and they will stay safe. It should help prolong the life of your IEMs!
- Perfect for running or working out at the gym.
- Large 13.5mm drivers for premium listening experience.
- Great bass.
- Overall sound quality does not match the Shure SE215-K.
Things You Should Know Before Buying IEMs
Headphones are a fairly well-understood technology, given they have been around for so many years. And in ear monitors are one of the most popular types of headphones, given they are perfect for using on the go.
IEMs Vs. Earbuds
IEMs are small, unobtrusive devices that you can easily fit in a pocket while not using. Need to enjoy some music? Take them out, plug them into a headphone jack and put the buds in your ears. Now you are ready to enjoy music in great quality – if you have quality IEMs!
When choosing a quality pair of earbuds, price will always come into the equation. Headphones are available in all price ranges, with some costing $10 while others are closer to $500 or $600.
Everyone has a price limit when it comes to technology. If you are searching for affordable headphones that you could replace every couple years, you may be wondering if it is possible to find a quality product.
The good news is that many great pairs of earbuds are available in an affordable price range. These headphones cost anywhere from $50 to $100, while a few are even less. But what these headphones have in common is the sound quality, great design and build quality.
There are both objective and subjective ways to define sound quality. For instance, the frequency response can indicate whether a pair of headphones will perform the way a listener desires.
Most headphones will have a frequency range from 20 to 20,000 Hz. Any headphones that offer such a range should have very good sound quality. Some may have an even higher range, especially on the low end. Some may go down to 2 or 3 Hz, bu it does not necessarily mean they are better.
In fact, bass frequencies less than 20 Hz are felt not heard, while treble frequencies that go over 20,000 Hz are rarely audible. It can start to become more of an enthusiast statement, suggesting your headphones have the highest sound range, even when some of that range is inaudible.
Bassheads may enjoy headphones that go to 2 or 3 Hz, as they will be able to feel that extra power in the bass. It may not always be the crispest bass, but it will be felt and that is what bass-lovers desire.
Bass on IEMs is always a bit of a compromise. IEMs will never deliver the same level of bass as on-ear or over-ear headphones. But those headphones with a lower frequency response will provide a lot more intensity when listening to bass-heavy music.
When it comes to treble, the quality of sound matters a lot more than frequency. Most headphones will get to the 20,000 Hz level. But do they sound good? It depends entirely on how they were constructed.
It is why user reviews are so important. Users will indicate whether the treble sounded natural, harsh or subdued. And based on your personal preferences, you would buy the headphones that fit those characteristics.
Does design matter for a pair of headphones? It depends entirely on the user’s perspective. If you are someone who wants a stylish pair of IEMs that will look cool on your ears, then you will care about design. If you do not mind an all black, understated aesthetic, then you will focus more on sound quality and other features.
The final choice is between IEMs that have a mic or do not come with a mic. Those who are planning to use these headphones exclusively with computers may not care about having a mic. But if you are using your IEMs with a smartphone, you may want a pair that also comes with a mic for hands-free phone calls.
Ready To Buy The Best IEMs (In-Ear-Headphones)?
Finding headphones that sound great, fit properly and will last more than a month is a challenge.
Most consumers are frustrated with the mediocre sound and durability of most IEMs. It is why searching for the most high-quality models is important. We hope that our list of the top five IEMs will help during your search.
If you are seeking an amazing sounding pair of earbuds within an affordable price range, the Shure SE215-K is a terrific choice. Those who want some extra bass will love the Sony model.
However, sometimes, the real pleasure of listening to music is interfered by the noise from streets, hooting cars and majorly, bad sound quality headphones. In such cases, having quality amps help improve sound quality.
If our readers have any experiences with the earbuds on our list, please tell us about it in the comments below!