The Shure SE215 PROs are good for beginner audiophiles looking to step up into the hi-fi realm and also veteran audiophiles.See On Amazon
If you are searching for a budget IEM, you are in the right place. A good sounding, well built IEM does not have to be expensive. There are many solid choices you find around. In this article, we have rounded up our best In-ear monitors under 100 dollars. We hope this will help you narrow down on your search for an IEM that fits your taste.
At the time of writing this review all IEMs in this list were under $100. We evaluate the list from time to time to add new IEMs and replace some for better choices.
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TIN HIFI T2
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PurePlay Z3 2.0
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Detachable Cable: Yes
Sensitivity: 107 dB
Impedance: 20 ohms
The Shure SE215 is a good introduction to Shure’s SE series of in-ears. Performance-wise, these sure give you what you pay for and probably more. This is why we have no qualms recommending them as our top IEM under the $100 price tag.
The SE215 is built like a tank. While they do not feature metal, the plastic is hard, which says much about durability. Our model is black, but you can get the SE215 in clear, and blue as well. The IEMs are very light and can hardly be noticed without the cables. The Shure Se215 uses MMCX connectors, which seem well made. The cable quality is good and should last for a while before getting a replacement. One notable weakness lies in the thin nozzle of the SE215. While we did not have any bad experiences with the IEM, some users have reported breaking it off, so be careful when swapping out tips.
The comfort and fit of the Se215 are good. However, finding a good placement of the earpieces and cable can take a while. Hooking the cables to go around the ears can be a little tricky, and will take some time. However, once you get it right, the earpieces stay on and are comfortable. The SE215 has a universal fit just like other IEMs in this list. The Shure SE215 comes with both foam and silicone ear tips, and they are available in different sizes. Tip selection is critical and affects the overall comfort and isolation of the IEMs. We strongly recommend you take the time to test the ear tips to determine which works best for you.
For Us, medium foam and silicone ear tips are good for comfort and also sound isolation. Foam tips are the best at blocking out the noise to give good isolation. Overall, if you are looking for a good isolating IEM, these should be among your top picks.
Speaking about performance, the Shure SE215 has an inviting sound. It has the Shure house sound, which is warm, with bass that is overpowering and forward presenting at times. Starting with the bass, it goes depend has some rumbles and authority. The impact is good and well-controlled and smoothly integrates with the mids. The midrange is the best aspect of the SE215. It is incredibly smooth, slightly forward with excellent vocals, saxophones, guitars, etc. The treble is slightly rolled off and instruments can sound a little distant and blunted, but is less fatiguing during long sessions and even when the volume is cranked up.
The Shure SE215 might not sound very impressive against other solid alternatives, however, it is a unique IEM< that ticks most boxes. This is the reason why the SE215 is still popular and a great product. It has all the good aspects that will make most people happy.
Detachable Cable: Yes
Sensitivity: 102 dB
Impedance: 16 ohms
Tin Audio is a new company in the audio industry but has already several products that have many users around the world. The TIN AUDIO T2 has been around for a while now and they have gained so much popularity in many audio forums. We were also interested to listen to the T2, and we got that opportunity. See how it performed below.
The Tin Audio T2 is earpieces are built out of metal. They are very light in weight and also nicely crafted. Red and blue plastic rings denote the left and right channels around the MMCX connectors. The overall design and build are good with a barrel shape that helps with stability and the IEMs can be worn either around the ears or cable down. The cable supplied use 1.2m and braided. It has a durable feel and is terminated by a 3.5mm gold-plated plug. The overall build quality is excellent.
When it comes to comfort, the T2 is comfortable to wear. The IEM comes with 3 pairs of silicone tips and a pair of blue foam tips. While the silicone tips are good, we like the blue tips because they also help improve the low-end. The cable included is not memory wire and we did have a little bit trouble keeping them being the ears.
The Noise isolation of the T2 is bout average making them suitable for normal situations. Partly the reason for the poor isolation is the pinholes around the earpieces. One near the base of the nozzle and another on the back of the housing.
The LINSOUL TIN 2 is an overall neutral sounding IEM. For the price you pay for these would expect them to have a boosted bass or a V-shaped sound signature, but that’s not the case. The bass is present and is neither overpowering nor lacking. It has a realistic-sounding bass that most audiophiles crave for. In the midrange, voices are natural-sounding and overall well rendered. The treble is a little bit enhanced but with good details. However, at high volumes, it can get overwhelming. The soundstage is good for the price, while the imaging is tight and articulate and you can be able to distinguish instruments most of the time.
The Tin Audio T2 provides a balanced and neutral sound. They work well with every genre and are lightweight and comfortable. This a legendary IEM, and it is for a good reason. It does not break the bank and offers excellent value over many of its competitors around.
Detachable Cable: N/A
The True wireless market has seen an explosion in recent years. However, not many earbuds in the true wireless category have been as good as the Lypertek TEVI TWS. For true wireless earbuds and headphones alike, it seems the higher the price tag, the better the quality of sound gets. However, at a fraction of the price, the TEVI has managed to give users something to smile about.
The LYPERTEK TEVI is compact and well built. It has a smooth and sturdy matte plastic housing. The earbuds are IPX7 certified. This according to IP ratings means they can be fully submerged in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth not exceeding 1-meter. This makes the earbud good for running and overall working out. The Lypertek Tvei features single push buttons on each earpiece to control playback, pairing, and other settings. The buttons are not intuitive and feel hard to press and overall stiffness.
The TEVI comes with a charging case that uses a USB-C port with a huge battery capacity of up to 70-hours. The earbuds themselves are advertised to have a 10 hours battery life on a single charge. We were able to get to 9-hours, which is pretty close and impressive.
These are comfortable once you place them in the right position. The Lypertek TEVI comes with 2 pairs of silicone ear tips and a pair of flex-fit foam fit ear tips. It fits well as long as you select the correct ear tip size and stays securely in place while exercising or running. The TEVI also has outstanding noise isolation properties and blocks out most noises in the environment.
Bluetooth performance is also good for a true wireless earbud. With the Lypertek TEVI, you can move up to 7-meters + and still achieve a stable connection without audio degradation. It also has lower latency making audio and video virtually in-sync, which makes them good for games and watching movies.
In terms of the sound quality, the Lypertek TEVI gives an overall balanced sound signature. The bass quantity lacks the rumble and slam but has a good quantity for those seeking a clean bass response in a tws earbud. The midrange is good and a bit forward with vocals sounding natural for both male and female and a bit forward and closer to the ears. The highs are also a bit emphasized, giving the earbuds a bright but clean with no hint of sibilance or harshness. The soundstage is neither the best nor the worst. Instrument separation and placement seem good and clear even in complex scenes.
The sound is clear with nice bass response. They are also good with phone calls thanks to CVC8.0 technology. An excellent battery life, good Bluetooth performance, and comfort also make it one of the best at this price range.
At this price range, the BLO BL03 will appeal to the masses with its all-around capabilities.
Detachable Cable: Yes
Connector: 2-Pin (0.78 mm)
Sensitivity: 102 dB
Impedance: 32 ohms
PROS: Good imaging, bass control, airy and open sound, above-average soundstage, solid build, price to performance ratio
CONS: shallow nozzle/tip protrusion, slightly below average isolation
There is little information online about BLON, the audio company that is responsible for the BL03 and several other budget IEMs and headphones. The BLON BL03 has gained so much popularity and has been compared to the likes of the Moondrop Kanas Pro, Tanchjim Oxygen, and other more expensive IEMs. So, does it live up to the hype?
First, let’s start with the build quality. The IEM shells are made of metal, which is advertised as a zinc alloy. They are small in size and have a smooth finish, which gives them a hi-end feel. The nozzle has a substantial tip for holding the ear tips securely. However, the nozzle is also short, which might affect the fit for most people. Each earpiece has a small vent on the inner face, which has its pros and cons depending on where you stand.
The BLON BL03 is intended to be worn around the ears only. Due to their nozzle size, the fit of the Bl03 is largely dependent on the type of ear tips you use. For people with large ears double or triple flange tips should offer better results and drastic changes to both the fit and isolation. The Spinfit CP-500 is what we have used in this review. Other than the shallow fit, these are very comfortable because of the size.
The isolation of BLON BL03 is below average especially on subways and busy places. Changing the tips to Spinfit offers better isolation. The IEMs are also vented, and this also affects how well they isolate. Overall, the isolation is average at best. Foam ear tips might improve isolating properties if you have any to try.
How does the BLON BL03 sound? The bass is of high quality and well-controlled. It has a good impact without boominess or bleeding into the midrange. The bass is without a doubt the front and center of this IEM and it is surprisingly well reproduced. The midrange has a bit of warmth due to the bass, but sounds overall even and open. Female vocals sound more open and dynamic compared to male vocals. The treble has an overall neutral tone avoiding harshness and sibilance even when used at a high volume. It does not have the best extension but has a natural clean sound. The soundstage is above average, while the imaging is very good. There is good separation and the positions are well reproduced.
They are dynamic and have energetic sound with plenty of details. The BL03 shames even some of the most popular high-priced IEMs. The short nozles can be a turn-off, but if you have small ears (see this article for earbuds for small ears) or can get double or triple flange ear tips, this is a good and budget IEM choice.
If you are looking to check out KZ IEMs, this is a great opportunity to give the company a chance to blow your mind.
Detachable Cable: Yes
Connector: 2-Pin (0.75 mm)
Sensitivity: 111 dB
Impedance: 24 ohms
It is hard to keep track of how many IEMs Knowledge Zenith (KZ) launches. The KZ ZSX utilizes 1-dynamic and 5 balanced armature drivers. It is strongly based on the sound signature of ZS10 Pro, which is also one of the best KZ IEMs. Dubbed as the “Terminator” by KZ, will the KZ ZSX terminate the competition?
The earpieces shells comprise of three parts made of acrylic and metal. The main body shell is made of acrylic, a metal faceplates cover its rear while a metal nozzle on the front. The earpieces are large and the protrusion is on the inner side. The earpieces also have pinhole vents on the inner surface of the earpieces. The ZSX uses a 2-pin connector. The cable provided is braided and terminated with a 3.5 mm TRS plug.
Due to the large design of the IEM, it tends to stick out a little bit. They are intended to be worn cable-up only. Despite the size of the housings, the comfort is good and better than we had imagined. The protrusions or “fins” in the inner side of the earpieces might cause comfort issues, so makes sure you properly place them inside your ears. If you have small ears, this might not be a good option for you.
The isolation of the ZSX is about average and there is negligible sound leakage. They can be worn on public transport, however, the volume will have to be raised a bit to cancel noise and also to enable you to hear the music properly.
The KZ ZSX has an overall V-shaped sound that is energetic and very enjoyable. The bass is at the forefront of its sound signature. It is deep and punchy and never gets boomy. It does interfere with the midrange a little making male vocals suffer from a little congestion. Female vocals are forward and well reproduced. The overall midrange sounds realistic but some instruments like drums can end up sounding thin. The treble has a good amount of air, but treble-centric or poorly recorded music can stray into harshness. The soundstage is good, while the imaging and positional prompts are good at this value.
KZ has many IEMs in the market and it seems like a task to keep track of their various offerings but this is a solid one.
In-Ear Monitors or IEMs for short, are a professional grade of earphones or earbuds. IEMs are used bu audio engineers, audiophiles, and musicians to listen to music, hear stage instrumentation, or hear a mix of vocals for recording mixing or live performance. Unlike in-ear monitor systems, this list features IEMs that can be used by consumers in a home setting to listen to their favorite records and music.
In-ear monitor systems are used by musicians to listen to their music while they play it on stage. In-ear monitor systems consist of three components, a transmitter, receiver, and IEMs. The transmitter sends audio to the receiver, which is worn by the musician. The receiver receives the monitor mix and then sends audio to the IEMs.
IEMs, just like headphones use drivers to reproduce sound. These miniaturized driver components are like the ones used in full-size headphones but smaller. The drivers in IEMs include dynamic, balanced armature, planar magnetic, electrostatic, and hybrid drivers. All these drivers come with their lists of pros and cons. You can read more about these drivers in our in-depth post of the six headphones drivers explained.
If you are in a rush, however, let’s go through how each works briefly, and their pros and cons.
Dynamic drivers or moving coil drivers are the most common in consumer headphones because they are cheap to reproduce. This type of headphone driver consists of a magnet also called neodymium, a voice coil, and a diaphragm that is attached to the voice-coil. The magnet creates a static magnetic field and when an audio current is introduced, the coil is forced to moving away or towards the magnet. This movement of the coil also moves the diaphragm and creates sound waves.
In sound reproduction, dynamic drivers are good at reproducing the bass frequencies. However, they are also prone to audio distortion, which degrades the audio quality. However, on the advantages, they are on average more affordable than other drivers and they are also easier to power.
Balanced Armature drivers (BA drivers) are much smaller of all headphone drivers and they limited to In-ear headphones. The driver consists of an arm called the balanced armature, magnets, a coil, a driver pin/rod, and the diaphragm. When an audio signal is introduced, it flows through the coils and magnetizes the armature. The balanced armature is then forced to move up or down. This movement is transferred to the driver pin/rod and then to the diaphragm, which moves to reproduce sound.
The disadvantage of a balanced armature driver is they lack a superior response of bass frequencies. To address this issue in IEMs, manufacturers introduce dynamic drivers to work with BA drivers. The dynamic drivers handle the low-frequencies, while balanced armature drivers handle the high-end parts of the spectrum. The type of driver created by using both BA and dynamic drivers is called a hybrid driver.
Planar magnetic drivers come in different names such as isodynamic, orthodynamic, or magneplanar drivers. They use two magnets and a diaphragm with embedded wires. When an audio current is introduced, it moves through the wires in the diaphragm, which creates an electromagnetic force that moves the diaphragm up and down towards both magnets, thus reproducing sound.
Planar drivers mostly feature in over-ear headphones. Audeze and HiFiMAN are some of the notable manufacturers who offer a wide variety of planar headphones. In IEMs, the use of planar magnetic drivers has been limited. Audeze and RHA both have planar IEMs on offer. The TIN HIFI P1 is a cheap planar IEM we recommend you try. Read more about planar magnetic drivers.
Electrostatic drivers work through the use of static electricity. A diaphragm is sandwiched between two perforated stators. When the audio current is introduced, the static electricity is created and it draws and repels the diaphragm. As the diaphragm moves it displaces air through the stator perforations thus reproducing the audio current.
Electrostatic drivers are rare mainly because of their cost. However, if you can a headphone that uses electrostatic drivers, you will have the joy to enjoy near distortion-free spacious sound with better accuracy and details compared to other headphone driver types. The Shure KSE1500 and KSE1200 are notable examples of IEMs that utilize electrostatic drivers.
IEMs can either go straight or over-the-ear. Straight IEMs are the ones with the cables hanging straight down, while over-ear IEMs have cables that wrap over the back of the ears. Choosing either of these types comes down to the taste and preferences of a user. Over-ear IEMs are more preferred by performers because they offer a secure fit and also hides the cables. For professional-grade IEMs, the straight IEMs are no longer an option.
Some In-ear monitors will come with removable or detachable cables that let you upgrade the cables, replace to fit your specification, or change them in case of any accidents. The two main benefits we like about removable cables are they can help when the current cables fail and they offer you upgrade options to offer more features like Bluetooth, mics and much more.
MMCX (micro-miniature coaxial) connectors are the most used type of connector in IEMs. They provide a secure lock-in connection for IEMs. 2-Pin connectors in either straight or angled QDC variants are also used in IEMs. Even though the type of connection does not affect the sound quality, they both have their pros and cons.
MMCX connectors can be worn either over-ear or straight. They also allow the IEMs to rotate while still connected. However, MMCX cables are costly and the lock-in mechanism can get tight, and changing the cable might become difficult to the point of destroying the connector or the IEMs.
2-Pin connectors are cheaper and they can easily be changed without any hassles. If you do not like IEMs rotating, 2-pin connectors are a good choice. However, the disadvantage is that they can easily be damaged and are not suitable to be worn in a straightway.
Universal fitting IEMs are the most available type and can fit most users. Universal fitting IEMs are made by analyzing different ear impressions and making them comfortable for most people. These IEMs in this list are universal fitting.
Custom IEMs or CIEMs for short are IEMs that are molded according to your ear impressions. They offer the best comfort and isolation compared to universal fitting IEMs. However, they are expensive to get. If you prefer Custom IEMs to universal IEMs check out our compiled list of CIEMs makers.