It doesn’t really matter what kind of music you play, in everything from country to pop to rock and even death metal, the drums are the backbone of the sound, setting the tempo for everyone else as well as keeping time for yourself. This is especially true when you are gigging live.
But stuck there all the way in the back of the set up, you need to be able to hear the music that you and your band mates are playing clearly, not the distractions from the crowd. That’s where in-ear monitors for drummers come in.
Here we are going to take a look at some of the very best options available right now, and why we – and other drummers – think they shine among the increasing number of different options available.
Just here to find out which in-ear monitors for drummers we think are the very best? Let’s get that out of the way first then. Our top pick is the Audio Technica ATH-IM02.
These in-ear monitors have it all; superb sound, they offer great comfort, and they stay put for hours. They couldn’t be called cheap, or even vaguely inexpensive, but truly high quality tech rarely is. If you’ve been saving your cash to get a superb pair of in-ear monitors that will help up your performance at every gig, then these are one of the best choices you could make.
The Best In-Ear Monitors for Drummers
So, to our top five list. These picks were made – from a lot of different products – based on both our own tests and the experiences of other musicians – singers and guitarists as well as drummers – via reviews and comments left on various shopping sites, musicians forums, social media and in general backstage chatter.
Best In-Ear Monitors For Drummers
As we mentioned, this is our overall top pick for best in-ear monitors for drummers. These are the choice of a lot of big names and even music legends, and for good reason. The sound quality is nothing short of superb, the noise reduction is excellent and in terms of size, weight and general wearing comfort they really are hard to beat.
In terms of specific stats these in-ear monitors tip the scales at 3.4 ounces and measure 4” x 2” x 6.5”. They have soft ear tips that offer comfort without being so flimsy that they deteriorate after two shows and you will, we promise, get a lot of gigs’ usage out of a single pair.
Audio Technica ATH-IM02 Pros and Cons
- Superb quality of isolated sound
- Excellent noise reduction
- Soft but durable ear tips
- Not to light or to heavy, just about Baby Bear (as in just right) for most people
- Some drummers complain the cable is too short.
Runner Up Pick: Westone UM Pro10 Single Driver
If the single driver label has you immediately balking at these, don’t. Single driver or not they deliver great isolated sound and provide more than adequate noise reduction and at a price that may be more in line with what the average struggling but gigging drummer can realistically afford, given all the other expenses that come along with doing what you love.
In terms of size and weight these are larger and heavier than our top pick – at 15 ounces and 4.2” x 2.2” x 7.2” but we found them to still be very comfortable for even extended – 3+ hours – wear. Thanks to their size they don’t slip either, so you don’t have to worry about missing a beat.
It should be noted that the noise cancellation and bass qualities these in-ear monitors offer is higher than average, so if you drum in a louder genre – metal of any kind comes to mind – then these may be the very best choice of all for you.
Westone UM Pro10 Single Driver Pros and Cons
- Comfortable and, get this, sweatproof
- Longer cable than some other options
- Excellent sound quality and noise reduction, great for metal and rock drummers
- Some drummers felt these were too large for their ears
- Some drummers reported the ear tips wore out faster than other options.
Budget Pick – Shure SE215-CL Single Driver
So, you want to start using in-ear monitors to up your performance while ensuring yours enhances the rest of the bands. But you’ve eaten nothing but Ramen Noodles for the past week as you are definitely on a tight budget. In other words, you live in the well populated world of the struggling musician.
Enter the Shure SE215-CL Single Driver In – Ear Monitors. Priced at just under $100 in many places, investing in these probably won’t break the bank, and you will get good value for your very hard-earned cash as, for a budget option, these have more to offer than you might think.
These are pretty small and lightweight – 3” x 2” x 2″ and 5.6 ounces – but are made from pretty durable stuff and can take the beating dished out by being worn night after night for month after month, and, some drummers report, even years if cared for the right way.
Noise reduction is good, and the isolated sound quality is more than passable, if slightly lighter on heavy bass sounds. You can choose to wear them as over ear monitors if you like, although to us that did seem to diminish the noise reduction performance a little. Out of the box they come with several ear tip sizes to choose from and the fit, once you choose the right size for you is very comfortable.
Finally, one last touch we liked; a very easy quick-detach cable, so if at some point you want to drum untethered doing so is simple.
Shure SE215-CL Single Driver Pros and Cons
- Budget priced but still a high quality item
- Detachable cable
- Variety of ear tip sizes out of the box
- Light on heavy bass sounds
- Over ear wear seems to diminish overall performance
What to Look for In a Great Pair of In-Ear Monitors for Drummers
As any drummer – or musician in general in fact – knows in order to give your personal best performance, and enhance the rest of the band’s at the same time you need to be able to hear not just what you are playing but what everyone around you is too. It’s called monitoring and we’ve been doing it for decades.
In years past musicians had to rely on stage monitors to do this (and some do still prefer to) These wedge shaped devices are placed on the stage – away from the crowd – and while most perform okay they complicate things. They often get in the way and can be WAY too loud. In-ear monitors were developed to overcome these problems and if you choose the right ones, they do.
Our picks are just some of those available. They were right for us, and many others, but might not be right for you. There are some things you should be looking for in generals when shopping for IEMs though. Here are some of the most important:
Probably the number one consideration when shopping for in-ear monitors but as you consider sound quality in general, keep your genre in mind. If you are a pop/classics/AOR drummer, treble may be a bigger consideration than bass, whereas if you are gigging in a heavier genre, or in electronic music, high quality bass sounds are going to be a biggie.
You love your fans, but they can be a serious distraction when you are playing, especially those screams or (sometimes worse still) slightly off-key singalongs. A pair of in-ear monitors can solve a lot of those problems with good noise cancellation, leaving you with just enough awareness of crowd noise to know (hopefully) how much they appreciate you.
If it feels like you have two lead weights in your ears, or like someone is stabbing your eardrums because the ear tips attached to your IEMs are too rigid then you are not going to have a good gig, regardless of sound quality. All the choices we made here for our top picks are relatively lightweight and have nice, comfy ear tips, so none of them really present these problems.
Yes, you need a cable to use your in-ear monitors, but you don’t want one that is too short or one that’s so long you get yourself, or your drumsticks, tangled up in it. A detachable cable – like the one offered with the Shure SE215-CL Single Driver IEMs we featured here is a nice touch that a lot of drummers find helpful.
Yes, price is a factor. Music often isn’t the biggest moneymaker, but our best advice is to spend as much as you need to in order to get the in-ear monitors you need to enhance your performance. Some things are just worth investing a bit more in, and IEMs are one of those things.
We deliberately chose options here that offered good durability, which, in the end, will prove to offer a better return on your investment than a very cheap pair of IEMs that barely make it through a handful of gigs before they need to be replaced.