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    Categories: Live SoundMicrophones & Wireless

Can You Hear Me Now: Which Wireless In-Ear Monitor is Best for You?

Credit: ACS Pro

Back in the day, we had a big box on the floor with the speakers that projected only the musician in front of it. This design had some limitations. You had to be right in front of your own monitor to hear yourself, so movement on stage was limited. And of course, we are all too familiar with the horrid screeching of feedback if you got too close to the monitor with your mic.

Now we have wireless in-ear monitors that are practically invisible but, with so many choices all over the pricing menu, how do you choose the right product for your needs? We’ve done the dirty work for you, so all you do is decide between the best of the best!

Hands down, our favorite in-ear monitor is the Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G3 In-Ear Wireless Monitor System. Top quality, crystal clear sound, stereo mixing – everything you need for performing in a moderately sized venue.

Top Pick: Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3

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$999.95

The Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3 has a small earpiece customizable for comfort, a powerful receiver, and awesome stereo mixing capabilities. Additional components such as the remote monitoring software bring this product into today’s technologically advanced stage sound expectations.

We started researching just as you might – searching the internet for products and price points, features and reviews. We listed the good, the bad, and the ugly. We considered what we would use personally and what would work in various situations. Then we talked to some experts on the subject – performing musicians.

From church praise bands to garage bands with bar gigs to recording artists, we got opinions and suggestions. After pursuing this subject for several weeks, we are now very well-informed and ready to help you shop.

I am a lead vocalist in my church worship band. I have previous experience as a back-up vocalist for a country music recording artist, and I have worked as a booking agent for a Christian worship band. My son is studying worship leadership and learning everything about recording and performing, and I’ve sought his opinion as well as those of his university instructors.

I have a lot of friends in the local music scene, from classic rock to scream, and have taken their input to understand the wide variety of needs in different genres. I’ve been around since before IEMs when I thought I had perfect pitch! (IEMs reveal everything!) I understand the sore throat problem from trying to sing over the guitars and drums and can attest to the fact that IEMs can change a vocalist’s life!

How do I know which kind of system I need?

Before going shopping, jot down some notes about your use and needs. How many musicians will use the system? What is the size of the venue you will use for performance?

Do you need a mono or stereo system? Do you have a sound person who can run a complex system or do you need a simple plug and play system anyone’s dad could hook up? Do you need a system with Ethernet or USB ports for hooking into computer generated sounds?

Are you a mover or a stationary musician? Do you want to only hear yourself or hear the whole band? What kind of venue are you working with? How many in your band?

The more movement required of you onstage, the more freedom you need. You will need a system with higher frequencies and more bandwidth that can handle your constant movement. If you are stationary, such as a drummer or pianist, this won’t be your top concern.

If you only need to hear yourself, you can choose a mono-receiver system. This means one channel is dedicated to you and you will only hear your own voice in your ear. If you need to hear the whole band, or just the drummer, etc., you definitely need a system with a stereo receiver. This gives the ability to mix channels to give a personalized sound in your ear.

How much can I expect to spend?

These systems are not cheap. You can find systems under $300, but the quality and craftsmanship just won’t be worth it. By the time you determine a cheap system won’t meet your needs and you decide to buy a midgrade system, you’ve spent what you would have buying a higher end product in the first place.

Read our reviews, consider your needs, and purchase the best system you can find with the most cash you can part with so you don’t have to make this purchase twice. A great system is expandable so you can purchase additional in-ears and bodypacks down the line should you add new members to your band or group.

Advantages and Benefits of In-Ear Monitors

Maybe you’ve used floor monitors forever, and your young, new bass player is pushing for in-ear monitors. What’s the big deal? They are expensive and what you’ve always used has always been fine. Your new guy has probably been using IEMs since he started playing, so not having the same quality of sound may be difficult for him.

The benefits of IEMs justify the cost. You will have freedom of movement on stage, clear sound right in your ear, no feedback issues, and the ability to have whichever members of your band you want fed right into your ear. This is a great time to upgrade your sound system!

A few advantages of going wireless include a cleaner stage look with the absence of bulky floor monitors, fewer trip hazards from cords on stage, quicker load-in time, and less wattage used for equipment plug-in as the IEMs are battery operated. IEMs are also super easy to sound check and pinpoint.

Who should use IEMs and why?

Two words: Volume Wars. When you sing to the bass but the keys play to the drums, and the background vocalist sings to the guitar… everyone competes to hear themselves and their counterpart. Enter In-ear monitors. Suddenly you have peace in volume! You hear what you need to hear perfectly, every time. When you get rid of the volume war, your audience gets a better show.

IEMs are perfect for studio recording and stage performance. When you have the ability to mix different aspects of the music right into your ear you will get the best recordings. You can adjust pitch and tone issues without waiting for the playback. Musicians have the ability to follow timing and cues more easily both in the studio and in performance.

Why IEMs over floor monitors?

There is no comparison between IEMs and floor monitors. First, those big wedges take up valuable stage space and create a separation between you and your audience. Secondly, you will eliminate multiple power cords, which are both a trip hazard and a power sucker. Finally, you can move around on stage without worrying about staying in range of your monitor.

What’s the best way to use these IEMs?

It is best for every member of your band to use the system together. Each person can be tuned to hear only themselves or have other musicians mixed in. In fact, the larger your group (and the more vocalists you have), the more necessary it is to have in-ear monitors. Your vocalists can all be fed vocals only. Your guitarist can hear the bass. The keys get the drums, and so on.

How do they work?

The tiny monitor is inserted in your outer ear, much like an earbud headphone. Its antenna is either self-contained or in a battery pack work on your hip or back. The ear piece is lightweight and can be as large as an office headset or as small as a tiny hearing aid, depending on which brand and style you choose. This equipment is battery operated.

How technically advanced does the user need to be to use IEMs?

If you have a sound guy you shouldn’t have to worry about the setup and mixing. It is not much different than using any other types of monitors. If you are using it yourself and do not have a background in sound tech, you will probably need to watch a few videos and perhaps get a tutorial from someone who is familiar with the wireless technology.

Also, if you are only used to having mono receivers, the concept of stereo mixing may be a little tricky to learn. Once you understand the basics of how the system works, you’ll just have to play with it until you get everyone’s sound and volume levels just right.

What are some downsides to using in-ear monitors?

You will need to maintain a fairly hefty stock of batteries at all times. Most systems do have battery indicators, so you will know before it just dies on you. But be prepared for as soon as you need to change them out.

People who cannot wear something in their ear may have a hard time getting used to this technology. For the most part, someone with a hearing aid cannot use this technology. This system is fairly expensive, especially if you are replacing equipment you’ve been using for a while.

Before Purchasing:

  • Make a list of each person needing a monitor
  • Make a list of places you play and the venue sizes
  • Create a document listing your current sound equipment and specs
  • Decide on a budget – you can get an idea of the cost from this review and set your budget accordingly
  • Shop around for the best price – always be on the lookout for deals with bonus products or bundles.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3
Helps you hear yourself and your musicians better while performing and recording$999.95
PSM Series 300 Wireless IEM System
Unique one-touch frequency finder$799.00
200 Hybrid
Earbuds are noise canceling and deliver goodOut of stock
JTS IES1 Wireless Monitor System
Fit perfectly in your ear to cancel out surrounding noiseOut of stock
Galaxy Any Spot AS-100-4 Band Pack System
This system includes everything you need for four band members$999.00
PSM900 System
Each body pack has 20 different channels$1,418.00
M2 In-Ear Wireless Monitor System
Ability to adjust the volume at each body pack$599.00

Our Top Recommendation:
Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3

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Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G3 In-Ear Wireless Monitor System is the best pick for this technology because the sound quality simply cannot be beat in this price range. You’ll get professional sound quality and improve your stage performance and audience enjoyment incredibly with this system. It is easy to use, comfortable to wear, and provides excellent advanced mixing with crystal clear sound.

The Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G3 helps you hear yourself and your musicians better while performing and recording, leading to less recording time spent in playback and adjustment because you’ll hear it right the first time. Studio time is money, so spend it laying down new tracks instead of repeating because your lead vocal is sharp.

The most valuable feature of this high-end, semi-pro model is an adaptive diversity receiver. The small, battery operated receiver pack, worn on the back or belt, works with the headphone cable as a secondary antenna, so you always have crystal clear reception.

A good fit is everything – it can block outside sounds and allow you to listen at a lower volume (good on the ears!). The small ear piece comes with adjustable pads for a perfectly customized fit, reproduce the signal from the adaptive diversity receiver for perfect sound every time. Just choose the pads that provide the best fit and seat the ear piece tightly in the outer ear canal.

The input signal can be easily split to other devices with the integrated pass-through outputs. The 5-band equalizer is also integrated into the transmitter for the most precise audio personalization. Sennheiser offers a Wireless Systems Manager software to remotely monitor the system via the built-in Ethernet port on the stereo transmitter.

This is a lot of techie jargon, but basically your sound guy can walk around the venue and make changes to the mix from different vantage points instead of having to run back and forth to the sound board.

Price range varies depending on where it is purchased, available rebates, and optional equipment or bundles available at the time. Current Amazon.com price: $999.95

This is a top of the line system for the semi-pro range (professional equipment starts over five grand), and it does carry a top of the line price, but you get a thousand bucks work of value out of this system. Enhanced performance leads to excited audiences and more gigs.

This system also wins on ease of use – just plug it in and turn it on, the rugged construction, the high-quality sound, and the large range – you don’t need to have your sound board near the stage, so it works in all but the largest venues (like arenas).

This system is sufficient for frequent use and the batteries seem to be pretty long lasting. Indicator lights on the bodypack let you know when you are getting low. There is virtually no feedback or signal (radio fuzz) noise. Interference is typically one of the biggest complaints in cheap IEMs, but we haven’t found any complaints of interference with the Sennheiser system.

We recommend the Sennheiser because of all the effort they have put into giving musicians exactly what they need and want – a small earpiece customizable for comfort, a powerful receiver, and awesome stereo mixing capabilities. Additional components such as the remote monitoring software bring this product into today’s technologically advanced stage sound expectations.

It is hard to everything well – typically one area will suffer a bit, justifiably because the other areas are perfection. Well, this system seems to address everything perfectly. Believe me, we searched, and the only negatives we found were a very few people who felt the earpiece itself was cheap looking and that the written setup instructions were not super clear.

We recommend watching a few tutorials on the product so you have a good idea of how to set it up.

Runner Up:
The Shure PSM Series 300 Wireless IEM System

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The Shure PSM 300 Series Wireless In-ear Monitoring System is our close second to the Sennheiser system for two very good reasons: Price and simplicity. Although this is a super high-quality brand and still sits at the top of the price list, it shaves a couple hundred off of our top pick. While we like that all by itself, the simplicity of this system is what puts it in second place, above all the rest.

We love this Shure brand IEM because it is so incredibly simple to use. It features a unique one-touch frequency finder, so you simply touch a button and the unit finds the best frequency for you. No worries if there is a better channel or if you are crossing channels – the system finds the best one and locks it in. Couldn’t be easier.

The controls are easy to figure out (perfect for musicians who are not familiar with this technology but ready to make the switch), the sound quality is amazing, and the bodypack is small and comfortable to wear.

This system has optional rechargeable batteries, which can be a real wallet saver as you’ll probably go through a battery change every gig. Having a few extra batteries charged up and ready to switch out can be a great asset to your sound guy.

Because of the user-friendly format, this would be a good system for a band lacking a sound tech but still wanting to improve the quality of the show and rehearsals. The setup directions are easy to follow and not too technically difficult.

The price, while still an investment, was at time of publishing a bit lower than our fave. Current Amazon.com price: $799.00.

We just loved how easy this system was to set up and start using. An entire jam session wasn’t wasted on getting started. You could start using this system with very little technology background, and a few users have mentioned ability to hook it up to a tablet to control sound from the stage.

Most of our feedback was completely positive, but every product has its issues. The only somewhat negative things we heard were about the earpieces and the range. Many users suggested pairing this system with higher quality earpieces (they recommend keeping the set that is included as backups), and we also recommend keeping the soundboard close to the stage as you lose some quality at a good distance.

Other In-Ear Monitors to Consider:

Shure 200 Hybrid

Credit: Shure Europe

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Current Amazon.com price: Out of stock

The predecessor to our runner-up pick from Shure is a great system that will get you going on a wireless path. The earbuds are noise canceling and deliver good, clear sound from a closer range. The system requires 9V batteries without a rechargeable option.

Designed as a starter system, the Shure 200 hybrid has two input/output jacks and can grow with you as your needs change. The earbuds have a sound directing nozzle design to get the sound right into your ear canal without any loss, allowing you to use the system at a lower volume.

The best feature of this system is the excellently designed earpieces. The equipment itself is beginner level and not too complex.

JTS IES1 Wireless Monitor System

Credit: Amazon.com

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Current Amazon.com price: Out of stock

JTS brings to the table a 16 channel, two input/output system with LED display bodypack and precision earbuds. The best feature of this system is the precision fit earbuds that are tiny, comfortable, and fit perfectly in your ear to cancel out surrounding noise.

Do you play right next to the drummer? No problem. The earbuds will deafen the sound and feed you what you need to hear. This affordable system is not really compatible for the entire band, but valuable for one or two vocalists. It is not expandable.

The sound quality and range are very good – up there with higher-end systems, so we definitely recommend the JTS system for small bands just needing monitoring for a couple of members (vocalist and keys, perhaps).

Galaxy Any Spot AS-100-4 Band Pack System D-Band

Credit: Galaxy Audio

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Current Amazon.com price: $949.95

Galaxy takes on the big stage with their entry level whole-band wireless system. You can start out with four bodypacks and add more as needed. 120 channels ensure you find a frequency without interference.

This system includes everything you need for four band members – earbuds, body packs, and transmitter. All bodypacks run on the same channel, so you will need additional transmitters if you need to individualize the mix for different members.

Overall, this is a solid system with a great range (dependable in large and outdoor venues) at a good price with everything you need for the whole band.

Shure PSM900 System

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Current Amazon.com price: $1,418.00

If money were no object, we would tell you to go buy this system. It’s really at the top of the price range for semi-pro musicians, which is why it is down here in our further considerations, but rest assured it is top of the line.

Shure really took technology to the top of the limits while trying to maintain affordability. Each body pack has 20 different channels, so you truly get an individualized mix for every musician. You can use this system in the largest arenas with the largest band.

The battery packs are rechargeable, and you simply can’t beat the Shure earbuds for sound quality. Generally more pricier, this is out of the price range for bands who play in small venues or for churches with small budgets, but if you can afford it, this is the gold you’ve been trying to dig up.

Audio-Technica M2 In-Ear Wireless Monitor System

View on Musician's FriendView on Amazon

Current Amazon.com price: $599.00

What you will love about this system from Audio-Technica is the ability to adjust the volume at each body pack. Your sound guy works on the main mix, and each musician is in control of their own volume – no more ripping out the ear piece mid-song because you can’t get the attention of your sound guy!

This system has two separate frequencies for choosing the perfect, noise-free channels. Mix audio for separate bodypacks and get a really good range for large venues. You don’t sacrifice specs with Audio-Technica, you just save a lot of money.

Wrapping it Up

Whichever wireless in-ear monitor system you choose, be sure you’re stretching those dollars to include as many features as possible. Earbud comfort is important, but you can always upgrade ear pieces. The most important thing to think about is the transmitter – how many frequencies, how many channels, how many inputs/outputs, etc. Don’t choose to save money and sacrifice range if you frequently play in large or outdoor venues!

In the same token, don’t buy more system than you need. If you lead worship in the 500 seat sanctuary with a drummer and guitar player, save your money and purchase a model with fewer bells and whistles. No matter what, get ready for an incredible sound experience. There is just nothing like wireless in-ear monitoring!

No matter what, get ready for an incredible sound experience. There is just nothing like wireless in-ear monitoring!

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