Difference Between In-Ear Monitors (IEMS) and Earbuds—Find Your Perfect Solution

Difference Between In-Ear Monitors (IEMS) and Earbuds—Find Your Perfect Solution

One thing is for sure: In this day and age you' re spoiled for choice, especially when it comes to technology. However, while you' re bound to find exactly what you need, it can be difficult to determine which of the multiple options trump the others. That' s exactly what happens once you have to decide between in-ear monitors (IEMS) and earbuds. Is there a winner? We tell all below. 

Summary Table


1)In-Ear Monitors

Compared to earbuds and other headphones in-ear monitors have very small speakers, also called transducers. This makes it possible that their minute casings can sit inside the ear canals. Since people have different sized ears, these usually come with a range of ear tips so the user can find a suitable, comfortable size.


Your earbuds will be small speakers contained in compact casings, small enough to fit inside the outer section of our ear. They follow a one size fits all design usually.

In-Ear Monitors vs Earbuds

So, is there a better option? There' s no question that you'll get a higher quality audio experience when wearing IEMS. This is partly due to the fact that outside noise doesn' t interfere with what you' re listening to. The added bonus is that you won't turn up the volume so loud to hear your music above the din. That means less distortion and less damage to ear drums.

Tip: It' s not how close a speaker is to your ear that is the problem, but how high you turn that volume knob.

Pros and Cons of In-Ear Monitors (IEMS) and Earbuds

  • In-ear monitors are usually more expensive than earbuds
  • Some people don' t like the feeling of a speaker deep inside the ear
  • In-ear monitors produce better sound quality, with earbuds giving the lowest quality across all types, even including headsets
  • IEMS can cause increased bacteria production
  • Taking an IEMS out too quickly can damage the eardrum, as you'll create a vacuum

With this difference between IEMS and earbuds, the first clearly impress most consumers. However, there are some exceptions. Also make sure you use them correctly to ensure your ears don' t suffer damage.

Custom In-Ear Monitors

One additional option is getting a set of custom in-ear monitors (CIEMs). These are more expensive but you have a better chance of comfort and great isolation. Why? Because manufacturers will mould a set according to your ears' inner ear shape. These will fit well and block out incoming audio.

These are made by filling your ear with a liquid that will harden, forming an impression of your ear. This is used to model your set.


How much are you willing to invest in your audio experience of the future? The difference between in-ear monitors (IEMS) and earbuds clearly shows the first is the way to go. Do you want to focus on the music instead of the discomfort of the speaker in your ear? Or do you have a unique reason you prefer earbuds? Please share with us.


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