I’ve recently spent a few dollars and several hours trying out some budget-friendly in-ear monitors (IEMs) for use onstage in a worship service setting.
I have a set of Shure IEMs that have been my workhorse pair for over 8 years. They are a pretty good entry-level set of ears that came with my PSM200 wireless monitor system. I think they sold separately for $75-$100 back in the day. These ears have held up very well and have a pretty good sound quality. The cables are getting a little stiff and the housings seem a little big lately, so I decided to try some new units.
Searching Amazon, I found several that looked promising. I ordered a set each of the MEEaudio M6, M7P, and M6Pro. These are all well-reviewed, inexpensive, single-driver IEMs. Having spent some time with each set, here are my thoughts:
Shure ?? (Comparable to today’s SE-215 at $99.00)
It’s true that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. And the opposite, in this case, seems to be true. I didn’t realize how flat, narrow, and almost muffled the sound is on these IEMs. Of course, that could be because they are 8+ years old. The volume is great, the fit is OK, and these have been rock-solid in terms of reliability. No blown drivers, no broken cables. But the cables are a little too thick, especially in the “memory wire” area closest to the ear, to wear comfortably with glasses.
MEEaudio M6 Sports Headphones ($17.99)
Find at Amazon.com
Of the new IEMs I’m trying, these have the lowest profile. They also have a slightly-too-stiff cable. The sound response is good, if a little flat with a too-narrow soundstage. Finding the right tips is crucial to the bass response. With tips that are too small, there is little bass, and the mids are too pronounced, to the point that MP3 compression artifacts are pretty noticeable. Using the largest supplied silicone tips helps a LOT with bass response, but these feel a little too big to be comfortable for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ve got some Comply memory foam tips coming that I’m betting will make the fit and bass response perfect. These are probably the IEMs I will choose to wear under my motorcycle helmet for noise reduction and bluetooth communication.
MEEaudio M7P Sports In-Ear Headphones ($38.87)
Find at Amazon.com
This set feels the lightest of the bunch, and I love how easy these are to put on and take off. The cable is replaceable, which is a nice touch, and they are supposed to be moisture-resistant. Again, fitting the correct tips makes all the difference in bass response, and these are pretty good. The soundstage is a little wider than the M6, and the dynamics seem a little more “alive.” The cable has a built-in volume slider, which is cool. The cable on these IEMs is a little on the thick side, but it’s very lightweight and incredibly pliable. I’m choosing these as my backup set. These are the ones I would recommend to someone getting started using IEMs on stage, especially if they don’t want to spend much. These will be great for our vocalists.
MEEaudio M6Pro IEMs ($49.99)
Find at Amazon.com
This is the set I’ve chosen as my primary IEM. The replaceable cable is thin and pliable, the housings are fairly small, and the memory wire just fits great. They come with 2 cables: 1 with a built-in mic & volume fader for use with your phone, and 1 without. This set includes 1 pair of Comply memory foam tips, which feel awesome (I’ve ordered some larger ones to see if they fit even better). Of course they are more expensive than their little siblings, but the overall sound is noticeably better: nice, dynamic tone, smooth, well-balanced frequency response, full bass, tight mids and trebles, and a wide soundstage with great separation and isolation. These definitely win the “best of” prize for this batch of IEMs. I recommend these to our instrumentalists or our vocalists who want the “next-level” of performance in their ears, especially given the insignificant price difference.
The M6 headphones are a great choice for a cheap pair of headphones that work well but won’t make you cry if you lose them. The M7P headphones are awesome for a customized fit, light weight, and moisture resistance. The M6Pros are a reasonably-priced, well-made, solid choice for an onstage IEM. **BTW, you’ll probably want to choose Clear, Smoke or Black; the Neon Green is pretty, but probably not a great choice for use on-stage…