In-ear monitors are an essential tool for drummers and modern musicians. They allow them to give their best performance by removing the issues that are associated with traditional stage monitoring. Regardless if you are a professional or amateur musician, IEMs are must-haves.
In this article, we will be specifically talking about the best IEMs for drummers. We will be going over professional options as well as budget alternatives. We will also be discussing the benefits of IEMs and what to look for when shopping for an IEM.
Our top picks include the Ultimate Ears UE6 Pro, Ultimate Ears UE 11 Pro, and Shure SE 846. But of course, we are tackling lots of other models in this list. Keep on scrolling if you want to find out more.
Best IEMs for Drummers
Ultimate Ears UE6 Pro
Driver Configuration: 3 Driver Hybrid (2 DD + 1 BA)
Cable: Removable (IPX SuperBax Cable)
The first model on this list is Ultimate Ears. This brand is a household name when it comes to professional in-ear monitors. Their IEMs have been used and are trusted by high profile artists around the world.
One of the newcomers to their drummer specific lineup is the UE6 Pro. This model is unique from the past creations of UE because of its hybrid configuration. But unlike most conventional hybrid configurations, the UE6 Pro features two dynamic drivers and one balanced armature driver.
The two dynamic drivers are used for the lows and mids. The balanced armature driver, on the other hand, is exclusively used for highs.
This unique driver configuration allows the UE 6 Pro to achieve a punchy low end, which allows you to clearly hear your kick drum. Also, using a dynamic driver on the mids allows the UE 6 Pro to reproduce a clear and natural midrange. And lastly, the BA driver on the highs gives the UE 6 Pro crystal clear reproduction on the cymbals.
Another feature that is unique to Ultimate Ears is the IPX SuperBax cable that they use for their IEMs. Most IEMs, including Ultimate Ears’ older models, usually use MMCX, 2-Pin, or some variation of these two models. But with the new UE Pro models, Ultimate Ears have created a system that is secure, durable, but still easy to remove.
Overall, the UE 6 Pro is one of the best IEMs that you can get for monitoring drums. If you are investing in the higher end of the CIEM spectrum, we highly recommend checking this model out. The UE6 Pro is primarily made in a CIEM form factor. There is a universal model in the form of the UE6 Pro To-Go model.
Ultimate Ears UE11 Pro
Driver Configuration: 4 Balanced Armature Drivers
Cable: Removable (IPX SuperBax Cable)
Another highly regarded model in the UE lineup is the quad driver UE11 Pro. This model is very similar to the UE6 Pro. But unlike the UE 6 Pro’s hybrid setup, the UE11 Pro uses an all BA setup.
Despite the difference in the driver configuration, the UE11 Pro’s sound signature is very similar to the UE6 Pro. It has a very rich and detailed low end that easily allows you to hear the bass drum.
The bass reproduction will slightly fall behind the UE 6 Pro. This is because dynamic drivers are well known to be superior to balanced armature drivers when it comes to bass response. However, the UE 11 Pro will still have plenty of bass to adequately hear the kick drum.
The UE11 Pro is also capable of giving more detail to the mids thanks to its balanced armature driver. The same is true with the highs, especially since there is an additional driver.
Again, just like the UE6 Pro, the UE11 Pro is an extremely durable pair. Ultimate Ears have perfected the build quality of their IEMs, so expect these to be tour worthy. And in the event that these fail due to some form of accident, UE has excellent customer support to help get your IEMs back in shape in no time.
Overall, if you are looking for a high-end IEM that has plenty of bass but still delivers a detailed sound, then the UE11 Pro fits the bill. The UE11 Pro is primarily made in a Custom In-Ear form factor. However, there are some universal variants in the form of the UE 11 Pro To-Go and on Drop’s website .
Shure SE 846
Driver Configuration: 4 Balanced Armature Drivers
Cable: Removable (MMCX)
One of the best models in Shure’s IEM lineup is their flagship professional offering, the Shure SE 846. This model may be older than the rest of the models in this list. However, it is a highly regarded model that is well trusted by professionals around the world.
Just like the UE6 Pro and the UE11 Pro, the Shure SE 846 has a bassy sound signature that works well with drum monitoring. It uses a three-way crossover that utilizes two drivers for the low-end reproduction. This makes sure that despite not using dynamic drivers for the bass response, the SE 846 can still produce punchy and clear bass.
However, this does not mean that the SE 846 is all about bass. It still has an excellent performance in the mids and highs. You can easily hear cymbal hits and metronome clicks on these IEMs. These IEMs also respond well to EQ, which makes sure that you can achieve a great sounding in-ear mix.
The sound of these IEMs is well regarded in the audiophile community. The Shure SE 846 are well-known competitors to the Campfire Audio Andromeda, which is highly considered as one of the best IEMs. (The CA Andromeda is, however, not recommended for drum monitoring since it is prone to hiss and cannot be easily used with noisy sources).
Additionally, the SE 846 feature three tuning filters that can be used to slightly alter the sound signature. This is very similar to the dip switch tuning system that we see in a lot of modern IEMs, such as the BGVP VG4.
These tuning filters can make the SE 84 have a more reference sound signature or a bassier sound signature. The effects of each filter are very subtle. However, they are still handy to have around in case you want to experiment with different sound signatures.
One of the downsides of the SE 846 is the shell design. They are still comfortable, but a lot of its competitors utilizing the semi-custom design have superior comfort to the 846. Additionally, the Shure SE 846 is only available in a universal fit design. The design of the shell is also prone to scratches and MMCX failure.
But aside from those small issues, the Shure SE 846 is still one of the best sounding professional IEMs for stage use. If you are looking for a high-end universal in-ear monitor for drumming, then make sure to give this pair a try.
Sennheiser IE40 Pro – Entry-Level Professional
Driver Configuration: 1 Dynamic Driver
Cable: Removable (MMCX)
Sennheiser is a household name when it comes to professional audio. They are known for creating some of the most well-known headphones such as the Sennheiser HD600 series and Sennheiser HD800s. Their IEMs were also well received in the past and were among the best of their generation. Now, Sennheiser has revamped its IE series to cater to the needs of professionals.
The IE40 Pro serves as the entry-level model of Sennheiser’s new IEM lineup. Unlike older models in the IE series, the IE40 Pro now comes in an over the ear design with a shape similar to Custom IEMs and modern Universal IEMs. This makes them more ideal for stage performance since they look more discrete and are more comfortable to wear.
Being a professional IEM, the sound signature of the IE40 Pro is neutral. This gives it a lot of room for EQing to adapt to different monitoring styles. If you choose to remove elements such as vocals or increase certain frequencies, such as the low end, the IE40 Pro will still sound great and not easily distort.
The bass is not muddy or boomy, and the highs are not sharp/fatiguing to listen to. It isn’t going to be as prominent as the other models in this list. Its performance may also be a bit lacking since it is only using one dynamic driver. But overall, detail retrieval across the board is very good, making it easy to detect if there is something wrong with your mix or your equipment.
In terms of its build quality, Sennheiser brings its signature rugged build quality to complement its professional sound. The cables are detachable and are replaceable with aftermarket MMCX cables. The stock cable is not braided and looks fairly plain and basic, but it is enough to get the job done. Overall, if you are looking for a great sounding and reliable pair for your gigs and recording sessions, then you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser IE40 Pro.
Driver Configuration: 1 Balanced Armature Driver
Cable: Removable (QDC 2-Pin)
Another professional entry-level IEM that is well-loved by the audiophile community is the QDC Neptune. It is a single BA driver IEM with sound quality and aesthetics that easily make it punch way above its price point.
The QDC Neptune is only available in a universal fit form factor. But unlike most of its competitors, it features a semi-custom design that has grooves similar CIEMs. This gives the Neptune a better fit and better isolation.
In terms of its sound quality, its single driver configuration is well implemented and easily beats most multi-driver competitors in the same price range. It has a complete and coherent sound that adapts well to EQ. Its sound signature is more on the neutral sound with an emphasis on accuracy giving, which is great for monitoring drums.
Unlike the other multi-driver and DD driver models on this list, the Neptune does not have as much slam on the bass frequencies. However, its performance is still very respectable, given it only has a single BA driver. The kick drum can easily be heard and felt with these IEMs.
Highs are well emphasized but have a smooth characteristic. They won’t be too piercing but are enough to reveal elements in the upper frequencies, such as metronome clicks and cymbals. The mids have good positioning and detail, making guitars and vocals easy to hear.
Of course, it will start lagging behind when compared to the hybrid models in this list. It won’t be able to keep up with models that utilize dynamic drivers for lows or multiple BA drivers for the mids and highs. But of course, those models cost way more than the QDC Neptune.
There also shouldn’t be any concerns with the Neptune’s build quality. QDC is a highly reputable brand despite being a newcomer in the IEM market. They have already produced hits such as the Anole Series and Gemini series, which are serious contenders in the high-end IEM market.
Overall, the QDC Neptune is one of the best examples of a well built and well-tuned IEM. It has the looks and the sound quality to fit anyone looking for a professional IEM.
KBear KS2 – Budget
Driver Configuration: Dual Hybrid (1 DD + 1 BA)
Cable: Removable (2-Pin)
If you find the previous IEMs on this list are too expensive, or if you just want to try if IEMs are a good fit for your setup, then the KBear KS2 is a great budget alternative. The KS2 is KBear’s entry-level IEM featuring a dual hybrid driver configuration (1 BA + 1 DD).
It has a warm and fun-sounding signature. It has a V-Shaped signature where the bass and highs are boosted, and the mids are slightly recessed. The KS2’s signature works well with monitoring drums since you get a lot of bass and highs for the kick drum, cymbals, and metronome clicks.
Its bass response, in particular, is quite stellar. It is easily one of the best performers in its price range. It is punchy and detailed without bleeding into the midrange.
The mids are natural-sounding and are still quite detailed. This is despite the noticeable recession. The highs are smooth and are relaxing to listen to.
The build quality is not something to write home about. It is robust enough, but it will likely not survive major accidents.
For an entry-level pair, it checks all of the right boxes. Of course, it won’t perform as well as higher-end models on this list. But if you just want something that can work well with monitoring drums, then the KS2 is one of the budget pairs that you can buy.
Head on to our full review if you want to learn more about the KBear KS2.
Why Use IEMs for Drumming?
One of the big questions that musicians ask is why should you use and invest in IEMs? Drum equipment, maintenance, and transportation are already expensive. So why should you invest in additional gear, especially if there are already speaker monitors/stage monitors provided at venues?
The reason why lots of modern musicians have switched to IEMs for stage monitoring is because of the benefits that they give to your hearing and to your performances.
Live performances can get very loud. There are way too many elements on stage that are competing against each other. And if you value your hearing, performing without hearing protection will likely end your career early due to hearing loss.
One common tool for hearing protection is earplugs. However, earplugs aren’t a perfect solution for live performances. They take away the immersion and live experience from the performers, and they can make monitoring harder. This takes us to our second point.
One of the best benefits of IEMs is that you can hear your monitor mix better than traditional wedge/stage monitors. Traditional speaker monitors typically require lots of volume to be heard on stage. They also have a firing range making your stage movements more limited.
They are also prone to feedback from the microphones, which can be a pain if your sound engineer doesn’t know how to deal with feedback. With IEMs, you don’t get any of those issues.
Additionally, you can get a custom mix. You can take away vocals, make your drums louder, etc. With IEMs, you get unparalleled freedom that is simply not possible with traditional stage monitors.
What to Look for in an IEM for Drums
Fit and Comfort
One of the first things that you should consider when looking for a stage IEM is the fit and comfort. These will be sitting in your ears throughout your live show or practice session. So you should make sure that your ears won’t start hurting while you are performing.
Custom In-ear Monitors such as the Ultimate Ears models mentioned in this list will provide the best level of comfort since they are molded specifically to your ears. However, universal in-ear monitors won’t have that same level of comfort.
If you are purchasing universal IEMs, we highly recommend trying them out first in a store before buying them. Make sure that you can wear them comfortably without encountering any issues.
Additionally, we recommend getting third party ear tips. The ones that come with your IEM usually already work well. However, third party ear tips are almost always built with better materials and are likely to fit your ears better.
The next thing that you should consider is the amount of isolation that an IEM can provide. One of the main benefits of IEMs is that they can isolate your surroundings, allowing you to hear your mix better while protecting your hearing. But not all IEMs will provide the same amount of isolation.
Again, custom in-ear monitors such as the ones offered by Ultimate Ears will provide the best isolation since they perfectly fit your ears. However, universal In-Ear Monitors such as the Shure SE 846 will not deliver the same kind of experience.
So when choosing a Universal IEM for drumming, make sure that the size of the shells is as big as the ones mentioned in this list. Avoid earbuds and in-ears similar in size to the AirPods Pro. And as mentioned earlier, make sure to use ear tips that fully fit your ears to achieve the best seal possible.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of a good IEM for drumming is the sound quality. Again, the primary reason for wearing IEMs is to hear the mix better. If you’re IEMs cannot accurately reproduce the mix, then wearing them is useless.
Also, we would like to emphasize that the number of drivers in your IEM does not matter. Models with more drivers will usually produce better details and more clarity to the various elements of your mix. However, one driver is already more than enough for the job.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s