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What are in-ear displays and who should use them?



  Customized in-ear monitors on a digital mixing console.

In-ear monitors (IEM) have gained a huge popularity among audio files recently because of their pristine sound quality. Let's see what sets them apart from other listening devices.

What is an in-ear monitor?

There's a good chance you have some kind of audio-listening device on your ears right now. It may be a pair of wireless earphones, such as Airpods, or a large, wired pair of headphones. In-ear monitors are another type of audio device. They are primarily intended for professional use. In terms of fit, they are somewhere between the hard headphone seal and the low profile earbuds.

They are called monitors because they were originally created for musicians and artists to "monitor" a combination of audio sources in different locations. For example, a member of a band would hear a mix of different instruments and vocals that would come directly into his or her IEM. They were also used by singers to listen to an instrumental guiding track when recording songs. Artists and media professionals usually have IEMs specially tailored to their ears.

Nowadays, IEM is available to everyone. Stores offer a wide range of prices, designs and sound profiles for all types of listeners. You can probably find them in your local audio shop or music store.

While IEMs costing tens of thousands of dollars are still there, you can get a fantastic-sounding pair that costs no more than a regular pair of earphones. There are also many audiophile communities that are dedicated to comparing, optimizing and discussing headphones.

What Makes IEMs Unique?

  Custom earphones for a musician's hearing.
Joshua Rainey Photography / Shutterstock [19659011] The most obvious difference between in-ear displays and other devices is how they look. IEMs are designed to resemble an ear. They usually come with silicone, foam or rubber ear tips that fit inside your ear canal. Many monitors also have a bendable or shaped thread that hooks at the top of the ear.

Because they sit so tightly in the ears, IEMs tend to be very comfortable to use for long periods of time. Their shape and tips also block ambient noise.

Another feature that is unique to IEM is their modular nature. Almost all models have removable cables and earpieces, which are interchangeable with other models. You can replace the cable for a braided cable for added durability, or very long wires for live performances.

Perhaps the biggest reason audiophiles tend to pull IEMs is how they sound. Personal audio devices use a sensor, also known as a driver, that converts electronic signals into sound waves. Most modern IEMs use what is called a balanced fixture, which is a small, powerful transducer originally invented for hearing aids. Others use a dynamic driver, which can improve base performance.

High-end monitors can have multiple drivers, each designed for different frequencies, so you can customize an audio mix to your liking.

Using IEM as an average listener

There are many benefits to using an IEM as your daily audio listening device.

Even if you are just an average listener, you will probably notice a significant difference in sound quality between an ordinary pair of earphones and an in-ear monitor. More bass, more clarity and a higher frequency range are just a few things you can expect.

How IEMs are designed on the ear and the fit of the ear tips allows you to also experience a more complete range of sounds.

Many headphones prevent airflow, so your ears and surroundings get hot and sweaty. Overdrives can also be heavy. IEMs are lightweight and comfortable to use for extended periods.

While in-ear displays do not have active noise reduction, most of the noise from the surrounding area blocks. Even at low volumes, it is unlikely that you will hear anything in your environment. This means that you can play sound at a reasonable level while maintaining noise reduction properties.

Are you getting a pair of IEMs?

  A Woman Wearing Audio Technica ATH-E70 In-Ear Monitors.
Audio Technica [19659011] If you care about disturbing sound quality and want excellent noise cancellation, it is not a bad idea to get a couple of IEMs. But if you prefer wireless earphones or think audiophile tech scares, in-ear monitors might not be for you.

But if you pick up a couple of IEMs, it's a good way to break into the audio file community. You will find many reviews, guides and trading groups for enthusiasts. There are also resources to get the best equalizer performance from your IEMs.

Of course, before you buy IEM, you need to make sure you have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the device that you want to use. Many mobile phone manufacturers have completely phased out the headphone jack in their latest devices, so you may also need to buy a dongle. But most laps and desktops still have built-in audio outlets.

Alternatively, you may want to look into getting a direct box. Many audio files buy one of these devices to get the best possible performance from their IEMs.


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