Top 10 Recommended Monitor Earphones in 2023
When engaging in activities like music production, having a monitor environment with headphones or earphones can greatly enhance the focus on sound quality, making it highly recommended for those interested in music production to invest in such equipment. Recently, there has been a rise in the availability of high-quality earphones, which have garnered attention due to their compact and portable nature, sometimes even outperforming traditional headphones.
So, today, we have compiled a comparison of recommended earphones for music production
Characteristics of Music Production Earphones
Music production earphones come with distinct features tailored for their intended use. Just like headphones, they can be broadly categorized into two types: those designed for music listening and those intended for monitoring purposes.
In the past, high-quality monitor headphones were commonly used for tasks that required faithful capturing of sound waveforms, such as digital audio workstations (DTM). However, in recent years,
Difference between Canal-Type and Inner-Ear-Type Structures
The canal-type earphones are designed like earplugs that are inserted into the ear canal. On the other hand, the inner-ear-type earphones are designed to be hooked onto the ears.
Characteristics of Canal-Type Earphones:
- They can reproduce a wide range of frequencies, from low to high, with a well-balanced sound.
- However, since they are inserted into the ear canal, they can exert strong pressure on the ears, leading to discomfort and listening fatigue during extended use.
Characteristics of Inner-Ear-Type Earphones:
- Compared to canal-type earphones, they have less sealing to the ear canal, resulting in a more open and immersive sound quality.
- They are less likely to cause discomfort or listening fatigue during prolonged use. However, they may not be suitable for precise sound checks in tasks such as music production.
Top 10 Recommended Monitor Earphones for Music Production
SENNHEISER/ IE 100 PRO
SENNHEISER/IE100PRO is an in-ear monitor equipped with a dynamic driver, making it ideal for musicians to achieve excellent monitoring even in high-volume stage environments. It delivers a well-balanced frequency response from low to high tones. The dynamic driver ensures robust sound pressure and excellent resolution, reproducing fine details with precision. Its flat housing design provides outstanding comfort even during extended use.
The ‘SENNHEISER/ IE 40 PRO’ offers precise monitor sound optimized for live stage performances and mixing. It features the same 10mm transducer as the IE40PRO, ensuring accurate sound reproduction.
The in-ear headphones come with a slim mold and reinforced ear hooks for a secure fit. They use the same cable as the higher-end IE400PRO, providing durability and reliability.
With the adoption of the connector used in the IE400PRO and IE500PRO models, the IE 40 PRO is compatible with various accessories. It is a professional in-ear monitor designed for musicians, creators, and engineers.
The connector used in the earphones’ body and cable junction is the same as the higher-end models IE400PRO and IE500PRO, providing compatibility and versatility for professional in-ear monitors.
SONY / MDR-EX800ST
The SONY MDR-EX800ST is a professional-grade canal-type earphone specifically developed for stage use. It is a collaborative effort between Sony, renowned for its cutting-edge technology, and Sony Music Studios, with extensive knowledge of the live music world. The earphones not only deliver high-quality sound but also offer durability to withstand demanding performances.
The SONY MDR-EX800ST faithfully reproduces the sound heard in the studio. Despite being an in-ear type designed to provide artists with agile performances, it features a large 16mm dynamic driver unit, allowing it to achieve natural frequency characteristics reminiscent of studio monitor speakers. Its excellent resolution makes it suitable for monitoring purposes.
Drawing on the development expertise of studio monitor headphones, the MDR-EX800ST benefits from the joint efforts of Sony and Sony Music Studios, just like the highly acclaimed studio monitor headphones MDR-CD900ST. Through meticulous manual tuning, the earphones exhibit minimal individual variations in acoustic characteristics.
For live performances, the earphones offer excellent wearing comfort thanks to the flexible ear hanger, which can be adjusted to fit the shape of the ear. Furthermore, they boast high durability and functionality suitable for live environments, including a maximum 500mW high input capacity and easy cable replacement in case of accidents.
MACKIE / CR-Buds+
The MACKIE CR-Buds+ is a professional-grade canal-type earphone equipped with dual dynamic drivers, providing accurate sound positioning, deep low frequencies, and high-resolution sound reproduction.
The MACKIE CR-Buds+ features an over-ear design that ensures a secure fit even during intense headbanging, keeping the earphones in place. It comes with a total of six sets of ear tips, three each of silicone and foam materials, allowing users to choose the best fit for comfort, noise isolation, and enhanced bass response.
The CR-Buds+ earphones utilize high-precision dual dynamic drivers that deliver clear and detailed sound from high to low frequencies, providing impressive speed in the bass and sound quality comparable to reference monitors.
Additionally, the earphones come with an inline microphone that allows users to answer calls and control music playback, including play/pause functions (device compatibility may vary).
The inline microphone also enables volume control. A soft carry pouch is included for convenient storage and portability.
The ROLAND CS-10EM ASMR
It is an in-ear integrated condenser microphone that allows easy binaural recording, which has recently become popular.\
ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a popular and relaxing audio experience that utilizes binaural recording. Binaural recording is a method specifically optimized for headphone playback. By capturing sounds under conditions that mimic human ears, it creates a realistic sense of presence when listened to through headphones or earphones. In contrast, traditional stereo recordings, tailored for speaker playback, might result in inaccurate positioning and listener fatigue when heard through headphones. However, with binaural recordings, listeners can enjoy a more immersive and lifelike sound, providing a unique 3D spatial experience. ASMR enthusiasts especially appreciate the soothing and tingling sensations induced by this type of recording.
Type: Electret Condenser Directivity: Omnidirectional Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz Sensitivity: -40dB (0dB=1V/Pa, 1kHz) Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 60dB or more Output Impedance: 2.2kΩ Current Consumption: 500μA Operating Voltage: 2V to 10V *Plug-in Power Driven
Type: Dynamic Driver: φ12.5mm Sensitivity: 102dB (1mW, 500Hz) Maximum Input: 200mA Frequency Response: 15Hz to 22,000Hz Impedance: 16Ω Weight: Approximately 4.5g (excluding cord and plug) Cord: 1.5m (Y-type) Plug: Φ3.5mm Stereo Mini Plug (Gold-plated) ×2 Accessories: Earpieces (S/M/L), Carrying Pouch
SHURE / SE535-CL-A
SHURE, the popular earphone brand, has introduced a new version of their high-end model, SE535, with a revamped package! The SE535-CL-A is equipped with high-precision triple microdrivers, including a single tweeter for the high frequencies and dual woofers for the low frequencies, delivering a rich and immersive sound with depth and a powerful bass. The reinforced detachable cable, made of Kevlar material, provides a secure and comfortable fit, and allows for easy replacement when needed.
The SE535 is designed for discerning professionals and audio enthusiasts, featuring three high-precision MicroDrivers that deliver a majestic sound with rich low frequencies. Thanks to the technology honed in personal monitors, extensive road testing by professional musicians, and tuning by Shure engineers, it allows you to hear music like never before, even capturing the finest details.
- Majestic sound with rich low frequencies
- High sound isolation design
- Speaker Type: Three high-precision MicroDrivers
- Comes with a premium fit kit for comfortable and secure fit
ETYMOTIC RESEARCH/ER4S Canal-type Earphones
The ER4SR (STUDIO REFERENCE) is a model known for its pursuit of uncompromisingly flat and accurate sound reproduction, aiming to faithfully reproduce the original sound. It is the successor to the highly popular ER4S and is an ideal choice for users seeking unparalleled precision in sound quality. The beautiful aluminum housing with an anodized finish adds to its appeal both in looks and sound. With its detachable cable, it becomes a durable model that can be used for a long time.
Backed by decades of research and development, the ETYMOTIC RESEARCH/ER4S Canal-Type Earphones offer world-class, top-notch quality. They excel in delivering the highest level of original sound reproduction. The design and fit remain consistent and unmatched, providing an exceptional listening experience. With outstanding noise isolation performance, they ensure an immersive and undisturbed audio experience.
The braided and reinforced earphone cable reduces touch noise for a seamless listening experience. Additionally, the included interchangeable ACCU filters help protect the drivers from dirt and debris, ensuring longevity and reliability.
Westone / AM Pro10 WST-AMPRO10
The WESTONE AM PRO10 is an ambient-type in-ear monitor that achieves a perfect balance of clear sound and full-frequency response while allowing users to remain aware of their surroundings. It features a single ultra-compact balanced armature driver, making it a professional-grade in-ear monitor.
An ambient-type in-ear monitor refers to an ear monitor (earphone) that allows ambient sounds to be heard, offering an open-back design. The WESTONE AM Pro series utilizes their proprietary acoustic technology called “SLED Technology,” providing a distinct, clear, and expansive soundstage that was not present in conventional products. With the AM Pro series, you can experience a full-frequency response while still being aware of the external environment, allowing for a new listening style that connects you with the outside world.
MACKIE / MP-120
The professional in-ear monitor MP-120 by the pro-audio brand MACKIE features a high-precision single dynamic driver, making it an ideal choice for musicians and artists as their stage monitor. Its well-balanced full-range sound provides excellent performance on stage.
The MP-120 is designed based on ergonomics, providing a professional design for comfortable fit, excellent noise isolation, and optimal low-frequency reproduction. It features a responsive and high-precision single dynamic driver that delivers a well-balanced full-range sound.
Designed with musicians and artists in mind, it offers optimal performance and comfort as a stage in-ear monitor. The high-quality cable with braided shielding ensures durability and excellent acoustic characteristics. The detachable and rotatable MMCX connector improves maintenance and comfort.
Included are 3 sizes of interchangeable ear tips, allowing users to select the best fit for comfort and superior noise isolation. The package contains 9 sets of ear tips in total, made of three different materials (foam, silicone, and double flange) in three sizes each (large, medium, and small).
audio technica / ATH-E40
The audio technica “E-Series” is an entry-level in-ear monitor that features a proprietary large-diameter dynamic driver, delivering tight and punchy low frequencies along with extended and clear highs. It not only serves as a stage monitor but also provides high-quality sound suitable for various listening scenarios.
The in-ear monitor features a dual-phase push-pull driver with two independently developed 12.5mm drivers. By minimizing mutual interference, it achieves a wide range with ample headroom and a distortion-free, clear monitor sound.
The cable section that rests behind the ear is flexible, allowing easy adjustment of the shape. This ensures a stable fit without the cable becoming loose even during extended use.
The housing is designed to conform to the shape of the ear, providing a snug fit and excellent noise isolation, resulting in superior comfort during wear.
Designed to withstand the rigors of the field, it boasts outstanding durability, and the unique detachable connector enhances convenience and ease of use.
SONY / IER-M7
Everything is dedicated to delivering the ultimate performance on stage. Pursuing the high sound quality and accurate reproduction of the original sound that artists require.
The multiple balanced armature (BA) driver units incorporated in this design each play a specific role, complementing and enhancing the sound. They excel in separating vocals and various instruments, providing exceptional clarity and accurate perception of rhythm. By firmly securing the drivers and suppressing vibrations, it elevates the transparency of the sound. Furthermore, through the combination of strength and expanding the internal diameter, it achieves extended and clear mid-to-high range frequencies.
There are indeed many options when it comes to earphones.
My personal recommendations are as follows:
- For affordability, MACKIE CR-Buds+ is a great choice.
- For quality, SONY IER-M7 is an excellent option.
- For design, SHURE SE535-CL-A Clear stands out, and I personally love its appearance. Looks matter too, right?
I encourage you to find the earphones that best suit your needs and preferences.