Best budget in-ear monitors 2024: Our pick of cheap in-ears for every type of musician

Deciding to incorporate in-ear monitors (IEMs) into a live rig is a big step for a musician. It says you’ve gone past the point of relying on dodgy old monitor wedges that have seen better days and want to improve the standard of your sound, playing and performance. Being able to hear, directly, what your audience can hear can only improve your playing after all. No more guessing if your tone is right. No more hoping your trusty axe has stayed in tune. If it’s accuracy and clarity you need, IEMs will provide the solution. Thankfully, there's no need to empty your bank account when investing in quality IEMs - as this guide to the best budget in-ear monitors proves.

A decent set of IEMs can cost a pretty penny. At the top end of the scale you could easily spend thousands on a pro-grade set. These are, after all, a specialist tool designed with a number of key things in mind. While you can certainly use them in the same way you’d use a normal set of studio headphones, IEMs are built with a different aim in mind. 

Although you can spend big money on IEMs, a pair of the best budget in-ear monitors is likely to be all you'll ever need when it comes to personal monitoring. If you're picky about your on-stage sound then it makes sense to spend a little more, but for the vast majority of IEM users, a couple hundred bucks will give you everything you need to take your live shows to the next level.

Using expensive IEMs gives us the fear when using them in pubs, clubs or any slightly more 'rowdy' environments, and it's for that reason that we'd rather use a pair of the best budget in-ear monitors when gigging.  

We've included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best budget IEMs then click the link. If you'd rather get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.

Chris Corfield author pic
Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar, and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear to synths, microphones, in-ear monitors, and music production hardware.

Best budget in-ear monitors: Quick list

Want to cut to the chase and find out exactly which we think are the best budget in-ear monitors on the market right now? Below, you’ll find a round-up of our top choices. You can jump to a more detailed review of every pick, along with our price comparison tool to help you find the best deals.

The best budget in-ear monitors available today

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Below you'll find full and detailed write-ups for each of the best budget in-ear monitors in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

Best budget in-ears overall

Best budget in-ear monitors: Shure SE215

(Image credit: Shure)
A superb entry point to budget in-ear monitors

Specifications

Drivers: One
Frequency range: 22 – 17,500 Hz
Earbuds: Foam and silicone included

Reasons to buy

+
Detachable cable
+
Decent bass
+
Great value option

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the broadest tonal palette
At a glance

Buy if want a reliable option: Shure are the industry leaders for a reason. Their in-ear monitors are reliable, well-crafted, and sound superb.
❌ Avoid if need more than one driver: While these are a great product, they don't offer the widest tonal range. 

As one of the biggest names in pro-audio, you can expect Shure to produce great quality IEMs. The Shure SE215 proves this to be the case, with superb sound reproduction and exceptional ambient noise reduction. 

They look and sound the part, without a doubt. We also liked the detachable cable which adds a level of durability to them, and reduces the risk of them being pulled out of your ears mid-performance.

We found that while they don't exactly offer the widest or most impressive tonal range, they still provided us with a satisfying, meaty-sounding representation of what was going on on-stage. For under $/£100, consider us impressed. 

Read the full Shure SE215 Pro review

Best for sound

Best budget in-ear monitors: Audio Technica ATH-E70

(Image credit: Future)
Three-driver setup offers the perfect step up with these ace budget in-ear monitors

Specifications

Drivers: Three
Frequency range: 20 – 19,000 Hz
Earbuds: Foam and silicone included

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound
+
Memory cable loops are a nice touch
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
At the top end of 'budget'
At a glance

Buy if want the best sound possible: For us, Audio Technica ATH-E70 offers the best sound out of all the in-ear monitors on this list.
❌ Avoid if you're on a strict budget: While these monitors are still considered affordable, they are at the top end of what we'd class as a budget product. 

Sitting at the top end of our imposed budget in-ear monitors restriction, the Audio Technica ATH-E70 offer a tantalising taste of what happens when you start to lay down serious cash on monitoring. The sound reproduction is a good few steps above everything else on show today, ensuring everything from sub bass to shimmering treble sounds exceptional.

We found these AT's to be exceptionally comfortable with both the foam and silicone earbuds - with the foam ends helping to form a decent-enough seal to act as stage-friendly noise cancelling. Although they may appear to be a little too expensive to expose to the boisterousness of live shows, take care of these IEMs and they'll take care of you.

If you’ve tried IEMs in the past and are looking to take a step up the food chain, these could be just the ticket.

Read the full Audio-Technica ATH E70 review

Best for durability

Mackie MP-220 in-ear monitors

(Image credit: Future)

3. Mackie MP-220

Affordable dual-driver budget in-ear monitors

Specifications

Drivers: Two
Frequency range: 20 – 20,000 Hz
Earbuds: Foam, silicone, double flange

Reasons to buy

+
Sound separation is good for the price
+
Sturdy build
+
Great overall value

Reasons to avoid

-
Once you've tried two drivers you'll want more!
At a glance

Buy if want a durable option: We found the Mackie MP-220s to be robust and incredibly well made. These are sure to last for years if you look after them.
Avoid if you want a tight bass sound: While we enjoyed the sound of these Mackie in-ear monitors, they are bass-heavy, which can make them sound muddy at times. 

The drivers in any set of earphones are arguably the most important component. It’s the drivers that push the sound to your ears, so the higher the better usually. In an ideal world, you’d look for drivers controlling – independently – the bass, middle and treble frequencies so each is reproduced perfectly. 

As a good intermediate, however, the Mackie MP-220, with dual drivers, offer a great example of how this simple component can add tons to the overall performance level. We found them to be well built, and overall couldn’t help but be impressed by the value they offer.

Read the full Mackie MP220 review

Best for isolation

Best budget in-ear monitors: Shure SE425 Pro

(Image credit: Shure)

4. Shure SE425 Pro

These budget in-ear monitors represent a leap in performance

Specifications

Drivers: Two
Frequency range: 20 – 19,000 Hz
Earbuds: Foam

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound
+
Solid build

Reasons to avoid

-
Cable durability an issue
At a glance

Buy if you want great isolation: With the ability to block out up to 37 dB of external noise, this is ideal for loud stages.
Avoid if you need durability: We loved the sound of these in-ear monitors, but we found the cables not to be the best and they will eventually wear out. 

While the Shure SE215 Pro we showed earlier in the list are superb budget IEMs, the Shure SE425 warrant inclusion simply because of the superb quality on offer. 

The SE425 adds in an extra driver to increase (and enhance) reproduction of a wider range of frequencies, and blocks out up to 37 dB of external noise, making them ideal for use on a noisy stage. In practice, that extra driver makes a heck of a difference, cleaning up and boosting bass and treble frequencies masterfully.

The SE425's are undoubtedly a great set of in-ears, but after some long-term use we found that the cables are susceptible to being pinched, damaged and cutting out. Not the end of the world, as Shure does sell replacement cables - but frustrating nonetheless.  

If your budget runs to it, the Shure SE425 set makes for a great piece of kit.

Best passive in-ears

Best budget in-ear monitors: Etymotic Research ER3XR

(Image credit: Etymotic Research)

5. Etymotic Research ER3XR

These versatile, passive IEMs promise accuracy

Specifications

Drivers: Single
Frequency range: 20 – 16,000 Hz
Earbuds: 2 x three-flange, 1 x foam

Reasons to buy

+
Great value passive monitors
+
Sizes for everyone
+
Good bass response

Reasons to avoid

-
Isolation not as strong as we’d like
At a glance

Buy if you want a passive option: These are easily the best-sounding passive monitors we've come across.
Avoid if you need perfect isolation: While these monitors sound fantastic, they don't offer the same level of sound isolation as others. 

One of the main issues when using passive – i.e. not powered – earphones, headphones or monitors is a lack of bass response. The Etymotic ER3XR series promises to combat that. You see, the ‘ER’ in the name stands for ‘extended response’, referring to a widened bass reproduction. While that serves a clear purpose when listening to music or other regular sources, it also means you don’t just hear a jar full of wasps when playing at higher volumes. 

Of course, their passive nature also has the benefit that they don’t require an external power source of any kind, and we also liked the included accessory kit containing various different ear plug sizes and – praise be – a clip to hold the monitors steady on your shirt.

The isolation isn't quite as good as some of the other options on this list, but we found using them to be quite an enjoyable experience all the same. If you like to hear the ambient noise of the stage, then these could be a great choice. 

Best for innovation

Westone Audio AM PRO X10 in-ear monitors on a wooden worktop

(Image credit: Chris Corfield)
Clever filtering makes for great sound on stage and in the studio

Specifications

Drivers: One
Frequency range: 20 – 16,000 Hz
Earbuds: Silicone

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value for money
+
Great for stage and studio
+
Comes with a carry case

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for regular music listening
At a glance

Buy if you want the best of both worlds: The Westone AM Pro X10 intelligently blocks out unwanted noise while also allowing through some ambient noise, meaning you can hear exactly what's happening on stage.   
Avoid if want a basic set of monitors: These are fantastic monitors, but they may be overkill if you are seeking a basic set to get started. 

We love a bit of innovation here, and the Westone AM Pro X10 delivers on that count. Where the other budget IEMs on this list block out noise in order to allow full focus on sound reproduction, the AM10s let in a certain amount of ambient noise, but filter it so it doesn’t impact the overall sound. 

The benefit here is that you can still hear what’s happening around you, but without compromising on the sound you’re receiving from the desk. This gives you the best of both worlds with isolation when you need it, but the ability to hear ambient noise too.

We liked the AM10s – handcrafted in Colorado Springs – on a number of levels, not least the great sound and general ruggedness. A variety of earbud shapes means they should fit pretty much anyone and the handy carry case for all your accessories is a nice touch.

Read the full Westone Audio AM PRO X10 review

Best budget in-ear monitors: Buying advice

Male singer holds wearing a red shirt with in-ear monitors in his ears

(Image credit: Getty/electravk)

How do in-ear monitors work?

Essentially, they serve the purpose of allowing you to take a direct audio feed from a specific source. They differ, however, from ‘regular’ headphones like those you’d use to watch a movie or stream songs, in that they aren’t tuned to enhance their sound output. What you hear in a set of in-ear monitors is your source audio in its purest form. This is a small but crucial difference for a musician. As, for example, a guitarist or bass player, you need to be able to hear how your instrument sounds to an audience. Relying on on-stage monitors can be troublesome as the sound is competing with other sounds like amplifiers, drummers and vocals. IEMs solve this by both providing a direct audio feed from the mixing desk, and also blocking out ambient noise.

What are the benefits of in-ear monitors?

You can hear exactly, for better or worse, what your audience can hear and you can hear it perfectly. This also has the knock-on bonus of meaning you don’t have to play as loudly as you would have done ordinarily. Drummers, for example, can be a lot defter and more nuanced with their touch as they are no longer competing with the other instruments to be heard. Singers, too, will benefit from being able to hear what the audience can hear, not what the singer themselves hears in their head.

How much should you spend on budget in-ear monitors?

We’ve kept the limit for budget in-ear monitors in this guide to $400. While this is clearly a decent amount of cash in anyone’s books, it does allow us to point out some of the improvements you can expect as you travel up the price ladder – but we also include a couple of options that won’t cost you more than £/$100.

Realistically, if you're after a decent, no-frills degree of in-ear monitoring then there's really no need to spend more than about £/$150 on a pair of in-ears. It's astonishing the kind of features you can get for that amount of money, and when directly compared with more expensive in-ears, the differences are almost impossible to decipher. 

In a live-gig situation, all you need to hear is what's going on around you - in relatively high fidelity - and a pair of budget IEMs under £/$150 will provide just that.

It’s also important to view IEMs as a tool, or as an investment in your playing career. They’re not going to make your playing improve, but they do encourage a more professional approach to live performance.

Live musician inserts a pair of in-ear monitors

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Which brands make the best budget in-ear monitors?

You'll do no wrong with any of the budget IEM brands featured in the guide. Shure is top of tree, with plenty of experience in this world. That's why the SE215 Pros have held the top spot in this guide for a very long time. They just work.

Also proving it pays to investigate beyond the mainstream brands are the Etymotic Research ER3XRs in this guide. They're designed to produce an accurate image of your audio, without breaking the bank, and they absolutely deliver on that promise. 

How we choose products for this guide

First and foremost, we are musicians, so when we test products, such as in-ear monitors, we are viewing them from a practical point of view. For us, the best budget in-ear monitors perfectly balance quality, comfort, and noise isolation, and if we wouldn't use them with our own bands, we won't recommend them. 

When testing the products, we'll be sure to use them as they are intended - by putting them through their paces at a band practice or even at a gig. We'll pay careful attention to the sound quality of the IEM, how comfortable they are to use for long periods of time, and how well they block out the unwanted sounds of a noisy practice room. 

As well as combining our hands-on experience, we also look at user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

Read more about how we test music-making gear and services at MusicRadar.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World, Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear, to synths, microphones, DJ gear and music production hardware.