In-ear monitors (IEMs) are often thought of as earbuds because of their design. This product has one crucial difference over the other: they get inserted into the ear canal directly.
Both listening devices are small and portable, making them the perfect choice for a long commute. You can catch up on a favorite audiobook or play your go-to playlist without disturbing others.
Earbuds rest on the outer ear, acting more like headphones in the way that they distribute sound.
When you can find the best IEMs for commuting, you’ll have a comfortable way to pass the time.
The 10 Best In-Ear Monitors to Use for Commuting
Although IEMs might not be your first choice for commuting, this technology should be a priority.
The benefits these designs offer can keep you comfortable, deliver better sounds, and promote a more enjoyable listening experience.
The following IEMs have proven themselves to deliver on the value promises made by their manufacturers.
Each one has different features and strengths to review before you decide to invest.
- Shure SE846-CL + BT1
- Etymotic Research ER4XR
- Audeze iSINE10 in-Ear Semi-Open Headphone
- FiiO FH5 Over the Ear Headphones
- Audio-Technica ATH-E70
- Sennheiser IE 40 Pro
- Sony IER-Z1R IEMs
- Shure SE535-CL
- FiiO FA9
- Shure SE251-CL-UNI
Let’s find out more about each one:
1. Shure SE846-CL + BT1
If you want a different color variation with the Shure SE846, consider this model.
It offers a clear housing that still features the brand’s groundbreaking three-way system configuration.
You won’t believe how much ambient noise these IEMs block while still delivering authentic sounds.
Although it has fewer drivers than others at this price point, they’re all HD to provide a captivating listening experience.
|Pros of the Shure SE846-CL||Cons of the Shure SE846-CL|
|The sound isolation advantages delivered by these IEMs block about 40 decibels of ambient sound from your surrounding environment.||Cost could be a significant factor for some users.|
|A secure over-the-ear design ensures that the product stays in place without creating an uncomfortable experience.||The design is meant more for sound systems than individual use.|
|High-end clarity comes from the high-definition drivers, with the bass frequencies offering consistent beats without distortion or interference.||Your noise cancelation with this product is high enough that you must keep a conscious awareness of your surroundings.|
|You can customize the frequency response for individualized signatures with the interchangeable nozzle inserts.|
|The low-pass filter incorporated into the product delivers a subwoofer experience without compromising the details or clarity of the audio.|
2. Etymotic Research ER4XR
The Etymotic Research ER4XR is a high-grade solution that comes with the most accurate sound representation you may have ever heard.
It’s the perfect way to find the music or audio that fits your preferred expression.
Their performance is close to what you’d get with a professional version while keeping the costs to about a third of what you’d pay.
To get even more out of these IEMs, you can change the filters to smooth the frequency response.
This option prevents earwax buildup around the product that can eventually lead to muted sounds or discomfort.
|Pros of the Etymotic Research ER4XR||Cons of the Etymotic Research ER4XR|
|This product offers several noise cancelation ranges to ensure that you receive the perfect fit for your listening needs while delivering a max 122-decibel output.||Filter changes need to happen more frequently than you’d expect.|
|It comes with a detachable cable to let you perform whatever upgrades you want for the best audio experience during your commute.||The earwax buildup issue can provide some discomfort for individuals who already need frequent cleanings.|
|It uses precision-matched high-performance drivers to maximize the incorporated BA within 1 dB for a better audio balance.|
|The noise-canceling benefits help you keep the volume lower while ensuring the tuning hits the frequencies you want to hear.|
|The bass tones shine in these IEMs, creating the right energy levels for any audio piece.|
3. Audeze ISINE10 In-Ear Semi-Open Headphone
What stands out the most about the Audeze iSINE10 In-Ear Semi-Open Headphone is its flexibility.
You receive the benefits of earbuds and IEMs in one affordable product!
The incorporated MFI-certified cable includes an amp with a 24-bit converter that brings all of your songs to life.
The microphone on this unit is Siri-compatible to keep communication as simple and straightforward as possible.
If you prefer elevated mids or a boosted base, you’ll get everything you want with this product.
|Pros of the Audeze iSINE10 in-Ear Semi-Open Headphone||Cons of the Audeze iSINE10 in-Ear Semi-Open Headphone|
|You’ll receive maximum clarity with these headphones with the proprietary tech that delivers a balanced EQ.||It isn’t a true IEM, so the experience won’t meet the needs of some audiophiles.|
|The lightweight design makes them the perfect IEMs to take when commuting or on any other adventure.||The calling feature adds more distortion to the audio.|
|It only takes a few taps to achieve the custom results you want.|
|You’ll receive a lightning cable with the product to take advantage of hands-free calling when connected to your mobile device.|
4. FiiO FH5 Headphones
When you prefer something more secure when commuting, the FiiO FH5 Over the Ear Headphones deliver a secure result.
You’ll appreciate the bi-flange ear tips and foam supports for a comfortable wearing experience.
Because of the 3.5mm jack requirement, you’ll need to use a lightning adapter with new iPhone models and some other mobile devices.
It’s worth the effort because the sound is out of this world!
|Pros of the FiiO FH5 Headphones||Cons of the FiiO FH5 Headphones|
|It offers a quad-driver design that provides hybrid benefits with three BA and 1 dynamic option.||The over-ear design is a little different than what you’ll find with other IEMs.|
|The MMCX connectors provide a maximum level of versatility for mobile devices.||The aluminum alloy shell gets hot and cold with temperature changes.|
|You receive 13 ear tip pairs to customize your sound without requiring multiple EQ settings.||It uses a single-ended copper wire with silver plating that can bend or break under extreme use.|
|Independent sound tubes deliver authentic frequency representations.|
- Triple Balanced Armature Drivers
- Impedance: 39 ohms
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 19 kHz
- Sensitivity: 109 dB
- Great Sound Isolation
- Flexible and Comfortable Cable
- Detachable and Replaceable 5.2' (1.6m) Cable
- 1/4-Inch Plug-on Adapter
- Ear Tips Included (XS/S/M/L)
- Carrying Case
5. Audio-Technica ATH-E70
When you need IEMs that feel like they’re barely there, the Audio-Technica ATH-E70 delivers a stunning result.
You have all of the flexible options you need with enough comfort to get by on those long commutes.
Although you won’t receive as many ear tips or advanced features with this model, the price is about 50% less than what you’d pay for competitive IEMs. That’s why it is an investment worth considering.
|Pros of the Audio-Technica ATH-E70||Cons of the Audio-Technica ATH-E70|
|It comes with three balanced armature drivers that deliver extended responses and accurate frequencies.||The silicone ear tips aren’t always comfortable, especially on colder days when commuting.|
|The housing within the design provides a maximum isolation experience.||They are large enough that you can’t wear them underneath a bicycle helmet.|
|It comes with a detachable case for added durability and performance.||It uses a proprietary connection that may require an adapter.|
6. Sennheiser IE 40 Pro
If you like to listen to the rhythm of your music, the IEMs deliver an excellent sound in the bass range.
You’ll appreciate how the Sennheiser IE 40 Pro works for an authentic EQ, especially when they offer a secure fit in the ear.
You’ll want to swap out the cable from these IEMs immediately.
They tangle up with everything, which can put you in a bind during a fast train or bus transfer.
|Pros of the Sennheiser IE 40 Pro||Cons of the Sennheiser IE 40 Pro|
|It provides a 10mm broadband transducer to deliver warm sounds within a natural EQ.||More distortion comes through the audio compared to other models.|
|The design takes away the acoustic stress and added vibration for comfortable listening.||The in-ear mold doesn’t work well for larger ear canals.|
|Most commuters receive a secure fit that adapts to their ear canal.||You cannot replace the cord with a smartphone option for taking calls.|
|The item comes with a replaceable cable.|
7. Sony IER-Z1R IEMs
The Sony IER-Z1R IEMs are an excellent choice for anyone wanting to upgrade from ceramic capacitors.
It natively reduces electric interference and vibration to create a relaxed, authentic sound that funnels along a secure signal path.
It creates the appropriate size for individual ears by providing triple-comfort and hybrid selections to cover most adult requirements.
You’ll receive a cleaning cloth, carrying case, and cable clip in the box to ensure an appropriate sound delivery.
|This design incorporates four balanced armature (BA) driver units while keeping to the manufacturer’s original plan to ensure a high-quality performance.||The cost of these IEMs makes it a premium product meant for specific applications and commutes.|
|Reduced audio distortion is possible because of the capacitor used in the product, creating a new optimization path to deliver the ideal frequency response.||Extended exposure to coastal environments may promote corrosion in unintended ways.|
|The 4.4mm connection cable comes standard with the IEMs to work with your setup.||The 4.4mm signal cable may not work with every mobile device or audio setup.|
|Multiple comfort pads in various sizes come in the box with the product.|
|The design uses copper cables to minimize signal loss while keeping them protected from oxygenation and corrosion with its design.|
8. Shure SE535-CL
With a detachable cable system and a unique sound-isolating design, the Shure SE535-CL is an excellent IEM option to consider for your commute.
It blocks up to 37 dB of environmental ambient noise under most conditions to deliver the immersive listening experience you deserve.
The over-the-ear configuration does an excellent job of keeping the IEMs in place while you move or ride.
It’s an excellent choice for anyone who has struggled with comfort issues with comparable models.
|Pros of the Shure SE535-CL||Cons of the Shure SE535-CL|
|These IEMs deliver an enhanced bass that seems above and beyond what you should get with an entry-level product.||The IEMs don’t have a sweat-resistant design, which makes them prone to failure for some individuals.|
|It offers a fast attack and decay rate for lots of energy.||Some users may find the fit of the product to be less than desirable.|
|You receive two dynamic drivers and two armature ones to give you a better frequency response across all levels and ranges.|
|It uses a sweatproof design to ensure there isn’t slippage once you place the item in your ear canal to listen to your audio.|
|A rotating connector works with upgraded cables to enhance the user experience with this product, with the MMCX connectors compatible with all jack-based audio devices.|
9. FiiO FA9
The FiiO FA9 works to deliver a mid-range price and professional quality when you need IEMs for your commute.
With three sound adjustment switches included on the device, you’ll get up to eight different possible sounds when using the equipment.
Although the sound tube might not fit every listener’s need, it does provide a smoother frequency exposure that delivers straight to the ear.
This design ensures that you can hear the various textures in the music.
|These IEMs weigh only 0.5kg, making them a lightweight listening option whenever you have time to fill on your commute.||The texture on the cover isn’t necessarily pleasant to the touch.|
|It uses a 6 driver configuration per to give you a triple frequency division design that reinforces the audio quality at each level.||Some people may not detect the slight improvements to the mid-range.|
|The clear 3D-printed cover ensures a durable user experience without interfering with the sound quality you receive in various environments.||The long sound tube acts as a small pass filter that might exclude some frequencies that you prefer to hear.|
|Several style options promote individualization without compromising on the overall quality of the IEMs.|
10. Shure SE251-CL-UNI
If your commute involves noisy environments, consider giving the Shure SE251-CL-UNI a try for your listening needs.
It’ll automatically block up to 37 decibels with a tight seal, and it might even offer more benefits than that for some users.
It easily transitions between iOS and Apple devices, making it one of the most versatile IEMs available today. It fits comfortably, maximizes the over-ear design, and produces an accurate EQ in the range you prefer.
|Pros of the Shure SE251-CL-UNI||Cons of the Shure SE251-CL-UNI|
|These IEMs deliver 12 drivers per channel, making it one of the most powerful products of its type in the industry today.||You must ensure that the IEMs are at room temperature before charging them.|
|The waveguide on these products ensures that the driver signal arrives within 0.01ms, creating one of the most accurate listening experiences available today.||Only two backs are available to select with this IEM generation.|
|It uses a four-pin cable connection system instead of the standard two-pin option, ensuring a stronger and more secure connection.||The zippered carrying case is prone to failure.|
|Low-frequency drivers on these IEMs provide an adjustable bass EQ that you can raise by up to 13 decibels.|
What Are the Best IEMs for Commuting?
In-ear monitors provide noise cancelation and improved audio quality when built appropriately. Although they aren’t wireless, brands like Shure, FiiO, Audeze, and Audio-Technica deliver consistent results.
IEMs deliver two outcomes. You can use them for your listening preferences like headphones or have a sound feed delivered directly to your ear when performing.
When you start searching for the best in-ear monitors that are made today, you’ll see that a significant price gap exists between the entry-level and professional-grade products.
A cheap set of IEMs might cost between $20 to $40. These items can deliver sound and some noise cancelation benefits, but it tends to be a tinny, inconsistent result.
If you’re on a budget and don’t like earbuds, it’s a suitable stand-in for your commute.
When you start shopping for brands like BASN and CCA, you’ll find that the best IEMs tend to be in the $100 to $200 range.
Although this price puts the product in the mix with luxury headphone brands, you’ll receive purer sounds and better frequency ranges available with the extra investment.
■ Why Choose IEMs over Earbuds?
Earbuds and on-ear headphones share a similar problem. If you wear the product for more than an hour, you can experience significant ear fatigue.
The pressure on your ears can lead to headaches, earaches, and skin sensitivity problems.
Even if additional padding is available for the items, the result almost always ends up being the same.
If you choose the best IEMs for commuting, you’ll receive more comfort and better sound delivery because it fits within the ear canal.
That design reduces the ambient noise levels that interfere with other listening products.
If the sound delivery reaches 85 decibels or higher, your risk of hearing damage increases.
Far too often, people turn up the volume on their headphones or earbuds to drown out other sounds.
With IEMs, you have more cancelation benefits. That means you can keep the volume levels lower while still receiving the high-quality audio you want.
Once an IEM forms a proper seal, it reduces the ambient noise immensely. That means you receive a higher level of sound frequency recognition.
Pros and Cons of Using IEMs
|Advantages of Using IEMs for Commuting||Disadvantages of Using IEMs for Commuting|
|It reduces the ambient sounds from your surrounding environment.||High-end, pro-grade IEMs can retail for over $2,000.|
|If you’re on a plane or train, less interference happens with your audio.||It requires a more complicated signal pathway unless you have a 3.5mm jack (or a compatible size for your audio source).|
|The cost of most IEMs is comparable to high-end headphones or earbuds.||Signal loss is always a possibility if you’re using a wireless IEM.|
|With the sound sent directly to your ear canal, more discernible frequencies create depth and clarity to your music.||If you don’t like the feeling of having something placed in your ear, an in-ear monitor will always feel uncomfortable.|
|You continue to have the freedom of movement needed while traveling to work.|
IEMs vs. Earbuds: Driver Comparison
If you listen to music during your commute with earbuds, you’re probably using a single dynamic driver to meet your needs.
That means all of the frequencies go through a single balanced design.
When you use an in-ear monitor to listen to your favorite songs or audiobooks, you might have more than five drivers to use.
It’s not unusual for IEM manufacturers to assign a specific driver to each frequency range.
When the bass, mid-range, high-end, and other areas receive individualized support, the listener’s clarity levels rise.
Some IEMs feature a single driver, and these products tend to be the entry-level items at the low end of the price range.
If you want an audiophile-grade item, you’ll want to look for products that contain a multi-driver design to get the best outcome possible.
Purchasing Advice for IEMs
The first decision to make when deciding what IEMs work for your commute involves a wired or wireless design.
This decision depends on what you hope to accomplish with this investment. If you plan to use the in-ear monitors for other needs, including music, the wireless option is better.
Eliminating the wires reduces movement hassles when walking or playing the guitar.
When your commute involves long rides and some walking, a wired system might offer a better solution. You’ll have fewer interference issues with this IEM design.
Wired IEMs tend to have a better battery life since it doesn’t require a connection to another device for transmission.
If you suspect that audio dropout or interference could happen during your commute, wired IEMs are the better choice. When convenience is what you need, wireless models might make more sense in your situation.
It helps to focus on the drivers when you select your preferred IEMs.
You’ll only find 1-2 included in the design at the entry-level product, investing only a little better than a cheap headphone set.
It helps to look for models with at least four drivers to ensure the frequencies get heard accurately.
You must also consider the fit and seal that the IEMs provide when listening to music and more during your commute.
If they don’t block your ear canal appropriately, the ambient sounds will cause the environment to overwhelm what you’re trying to hear.
Verdict on the Best IEMs for Commuting
When you have a long commute to navigate, it can be challenging to find the right equipment to listen to your favorite audio.
If you try in-ear monitors, you’ll love how they deliver authentic sounds with powerful support across all frequencies.
When you compare them to earbuds, the higher response and more resonant bass adjustments enable an incredible learning experience.
This product isn’t for everyone. IEMs can cause discomfort for some based on how they sit in the ear canal.
Before investing in a pro-quality set, consider trying some on locally to see how they fit.
If you like the experience, be sure to grab the best IEMs for commuting right away to take advantage of the current deals happening now!
When you want to enjoy a pure listening experience, an in-ear monitor is your best investment.