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What are IEMs? And how do they work?

What are IEMs? And how do they work?


In Ear Monitors (IEMs) have become very popular in the last decade, and for good reason. They have a lot of advantages over traditional earbuds, and can be used in a variety of industries. In fact, they’ve even become common choices for listening to music and playing games. In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IEMs.

What is an IEM?

In Ear Monitors are devices that look and act similar to earbuds, but were originally designed for musicians, performers and audio engineers to hear themselves on stage without needing to rely on the stage’s speakers. Nowadays, due to their great sound quality, IEMs are even used by audiophiles to listen to music, and television presenters to receive instructions and vital information.

In Ear Monitors are designed to do the following:

  • Block outside noise through passive isolation
  • Stay in place even when the performer is constantly moving
  • Provide incredible clarity in the frequency regions
  • Be comfortably used for long periods of time
  • Delivers high sound pressure levels with very little distortion

IEMs can come as wireless or wired, with wireless being a more common choice due to the increased mobility. They often feature a nozzle that sends the sound right to the ear canal, memory foam or silicone ear tips, custom moulds to fit the ear perfectly and a convenient design that prevents accidental removal.

How do IEMs work?

In Ear Monitors consist of three parts: the transmitter, the receiver, and a pair of earphones. The transmitter is located off to the side which is used to send the audio to the receiver. The receiver is usually attached to a beltpack, and is connected to the earpiece and a volume knob. The design of the earpiece (especially if it is custom fitted) will block out the background noise. 

While headphones usually only have one speaker driver in each ear, IEMs typically have at least 3. Since these drivers sit inside your ear, the drivers need to be smaller and still accurately reproduce low frequencies. 

Benefits of using IEMs

  • Improved sound isolation and clarity, especially in noisy environments.
  • Personalised sound mixes for performers and audiophiles.
  • Portability and convenience compared to bulky headphones.
  • Hearing protection at loud events and concerts.
  • Custom fit for your ears so they stay in place.

Things to consider when choosing IEMs

There are a couple of things you should consider when buying an IEM. These include:

  • Budget and features: Do they need to be wireless? Are you looking for a certain number of drivers? What level of noise reduction do the IEMs have?
  • Fit and comfort: You can choose between a custom fit or universal ear tips. While the universal ear tips are often cheaper and easier, getting a custom fit will ensure they won’t fall out during a performance and will provide maximum hearing protection and background noise reduction.
  • Sound signature preference: This depends on what type of instrument or music you will be listening to. That could be deep hard hitting bass, smooth balanced mids or crisp detailed highs. It could even be all 3. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, find one that is well-balanced.
  • Brand reputation and warranty information: Look up reviews and make sure that the IEM you’re purchasing is worth your money. Additionally, make sure that the warranty is at least 6 months in case there are underlying issues.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are IEMs bad for your ears?

IEMs themselves won’t damage your ears or hearing, but incorrect use will (such as excessive volume levels).

Do In Ear Monitors protect hearing?

They can protect your hearing! The degree to this depends on which IEM you choose, and whether it is custom fitted.

Are IEMs good for gaming?

They can be great for gaming, as it will provide unrivalled detail without being uncomfortable (even with hours of use).

Are In Ear Monitors good for listening to music?

IEMs are fantastic for listening to music, due to the incredible clarity, isolation and accuracy they provide.

Are Airpods IEMs?

AirPods are earbuds, not IEMs.