Audio Gear

Buying Guide: Best In Ear Monitor System for the Money

Any professional musician will tell you that in-ear monitors are a necessity when it comes to live performances which is why you see performers with those little ear pieces that they’re often adjusting or pulling out. These devices are actually tiny speakers that perform the same function as the large wedge-shaped monitors that you see on the front of stages, they let the singer hear their own voice as well as other instruments. In-ear monitors can even play a metronome to keep instrumentalists on track and provide better clarity than the traditional floor monitor.


In Ear Monitor Reviews

We’ve narrowed the field down to three in-ear monitors that we think are going to get you the biggest bang for your buck. Any of these would be a decent choice for you so really it comes down to your personal needs and preferences.


Shure SE215m+ review

shure-215-review This in-ear monitor from Shure delivers detailed sound with enhanced bass thanks to the single dynamic MicroDriver construction.

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They have a detachable cable and sound isolating sleeves with interchangeable sizes to get the best fit and isolation. Plus, with this special edition model, you get a 3-button m+ communication cable with a microphone.

Out of almost 2,500 reviews on Amazon, they get 4 out of 5 stars with many customers commenting on the excellent sound quality and fit.

Some people did say that they block too much noise so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re wanting to hear the crowd at all while performing. However, with these being on the lower-end of the price range, you may decide that’s a decent compromise.


Westone UM Pro30 review

Our mid-range pick is the Westone UM Pro30.

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The Triple Driver offers a well-balanced system which is best for performers and musicians. You get five silicone tips as well as five foam tips to play around with for fit and your level of isolation. As far as noise reduction goes, this model gives 25 dB in ambient noise reduction.

Amazon gives it a 4.2 out of 5 stars with many customers raving about their performance. One thing that was stressed was the need for a good fit as the sound won’t be right without it. Also, if the seal is off even slightly, you won’t be able to hear the bass which may or may not be a good thing for you. Many reviews claim these are the best in-ear monitors they’ve ever tried including pricier models.


Shure SE535-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Triple High-Definition MicroDrivers

Our high-end model is the Shure SE535-CL.

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These come with Triple High-Definition MicroDrivers with dedicated dual woofers and a single tweeter per channel so you’ll get a wide sound with rich bass. They can block up to 37 dB of ambient noise when properly fitted thanks to their sound isolating sleeves and if properly fitted. To get the best fit, they come with three soft flex sleeves and fit over your ear to keep cables out of the way. They have a detachable 64” wire so you can play plugged in or wireless.

Amazon gives them 4.2 out of 5 stars with some customers calling them perfection. Most agree that it’s probably the best monitor you can get on the market right now, although it is pricey. Again, the best quality comes when you have a proper fit and seal but once that’s right you’ll get a tight, clean bass and superb sound quality.


Comparison: Westone Um Pro30 versus Shure 535

Our top two picks come down to these two models so we’re going to give a quick run-down of the comparison between the two to help you make your choice. Both are great models and while you would probably be happy with either, they do have their pros and cons.

Westone UM PRO 30


  • Made in America
  • Replaceable cables
  • 10 tips for best fit
  • Triple Driver
  • Closed operating principles


  • Higher impedance

Shure 535


  • Replaceable cables
  • Two subwoofer drivers per bud
  • 1 tweeter per bud
  • Unique ear bud swivel design
  • Very loud and sensitive sound


  • Only 3 sizes of tips
  • Higher price point

Cost: (Current Amazon prices)

  • Westone UM PRO30: $399.99
  • Shure 535: $448.00 (usually $549.99)


  • Frequency Response: Westone UM PRO 30 – 20-18k Hz, Shure 535 – 18-19k Hz
  • Sensitivity: Westone UM PRO 30 – 124 dB, Shure 535 – 119 dB
  • Impedance: Westone UM PRO 30 – 56 Ohms, Shure 535 – 36 Ohms
  • Cord Length: Westone UM PRO 30 – 50”, Shrue 535 – 64”

Connection and Accessories:

  • Both pairs have the same cord connectors and interchangeable accessories and ear tips, so parts for one could also be used for the other if needed.


  • For both pairs, comfort is good once you’ve played around with the supplied tips to find the best fit for your ears. The foam tips will isolate a little more noise than the silicone ones. According to reviews, the tips that come with the Westones are slightly better in quality.


Buying Guide

When choosing the best in-ear monitor for you, there are several features to consider:

  • Wire or Wireless – In-ear monitors can either be wired or wireless. Wireless gives you a greater field of motion but you’ll have to wear a receiver. The wired option is a cheaper option and could work fine for more stationary band members such as guitar players who don’t mind being tied to a central location. Wired also gives better resistance to noise interference than the wireless option.
  • Degrees of Isolation – Some artists want to hear the crowd noise in their mix while others want it completely drowned out. This is something you have to decide on before you choose your in-ear monitor as some offer degrees of isolation and others don’t.
  • Fit – Some in-ear monitors come with several tips so you can play around until you get the right fit and noise isolation. Or, for an even better fit, you can spring for a model that offers custom molded ear pieces.
  • Construction – The driver construction of the monitor may be of importance to you depending on the sound you’re trying to produce. Lower-end monitors have a magnet driver which is fine for mid to higher frequencies while higher-end models have multiple drivers and crossovers which are better for mid-bass and bass tones as they produce a wider frequency and better sound separation.



While the Westone is a great model, the Shure is just a little better in every category across the board. They have a lower impedance which means you don’t need as much power to produce higher volumes. The Shure 535 has a larger frequency range and higher noise cancellation. They even have a longer cable length and come with a microphone. Overall, they’re a better product so if you can afford the $100 difference, we think you should go with the Shure 535s.