Suggestions for cheap IEMs?

yammyfan

Senior Member
I agree with Bermuda on all points.

I bought my KZ monitors for one gig and thus didn't want to invest a ton of money in them. They performed well and exceeded my expectations but I understood that I would need pro grade IEMs if I was to continue down that road. The pandemic came along a couple of months later and dried up all of my gigs so that new chapter has yet to be written.
 

J-W

Well-known member
It's a question of believing that less-expensive over-the-counter in-ears are somehow equivalent to custom molds, and the glee with which people justify spending less and think they're getting more.

I'm not arguing that they are equivalent, just that they are effective (again if they fit properly <that is the key). Yes, custom molded IEM's are better than off the shelf, but only by a small-ish margin. Certainly not enough to say that one "needs" custom molds when other options are available.

It's simple - if you need the capability of molds, you need to get molds. Period.
If your stage volume is such that you need a -30 dB attenuation rather than a -25, then you're on an extremely loud stage, but you are absolutely correct in that if you need it, you need it.

Also, listen to Chris. He's played much bigger stages than I.
No thanks. When it comes to my hearing, I think I'll listen to my audiologist. He didn't earn his degree on any stages, and he's managed to keep my hearing intact so far.

Again, I'm not arguing that custom molds aren't any more effective or even a waste of money, and everything I'm saying isn't based on my opinion, nor is it to be argumentative or to prove I'm right. It's based on advice from an actual audiologist over my lifetime. The minute he found out I was taking up the drums, he gave me a set of muffs that I still use to this day, and the earplugs that fit me the best and they've obviously been effective.
What it boils down to is that custom molds are simply proper (are you seeing a theme here yet?) fitting earplugs (or IEM's in this case).


So, my answer to the OP's title is: "any that fit properly, and if you can't find them, have them made".
 

organworthyplayer337

Well-known member
I'm not arguing that they are equivalent, just that they are effective (again if they fit properly <that is the key). Yes, custom molded IEM's are better than off the shelf, but only by a small-ish margin. Certainly not enough to say that one "needs" custom molds when other options are available.
I agree with you here. This is where I think there is a disconnect. I, nor anyone else, has ever stated the UIEMs are equivalent to CIEMs. Not sure why this continues to be brought up as a counterargument as it was never introduced as primary argument.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known member
I use the KZ with 3M iso headphones on top for practice and recording. I don’t own molded IEM’s but I can say this about the KZ’s, when wearing the KZ’s alone to record they seem to isolate well…until I put the headphones on top. It’s an entirely different experience with both. With the headphones on top I can hear the kit almost exclusively through the board at a relatively low volume. Not so at all without the phones. I imagine that means a lot of room volume is coming through the KZ’s.

I also noticed that the KZ’s are marketed as musicians earbuds based on their sound quality, not on their noise isolation.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I'm not arguing that they are equivalent, just that they are effective (again if they fit properly <that is the key). Yes, custom molded IEM's are better than off the shelf, but only by a small-ish margin. Certainly not enough to say that one "needs" custom molds when other options are available.


If your stage volume is such that you need a -30 dB attenuation rather than a -25, then you're on an extremely loud stage, but you are absolutely correct in that if you need it, you need it.


No thanks. When it comes to my hearing, I think I'll listen to my audiologist. He didn't earn his degree on any stages, and he's managed to keep my hearing intact so far.

Again, I'm not arguing that custom molds aren't any more effective or even a waste of money, and everything I'm saying isn't based on my opinion, nor is it to be argumentative or to prove I'm right. It's based on advice from an actual audiologist over my lifetime. The minute he found out I was taking up the drums, he gave me a set of muffs that I still use to this day, and the earplugs that fit me the best and they've obviously been effective.
What it boils down to is that custom molds are simply proper (are you seeing a theme here yet?) fitting earplugs (or IEM's in this case).


So, my answer to the OP's title is: "any that fit properly, and if you can't find them, have them made".
You are too arguing.
 

calan

Silver Member
I agree with you here. This is where I think there is a disconnect. I, nor anyone else, has ever stated the UIEMs are equivalent to CIEMs. Not sure why this continues to be brought up as a counterargument as it was never introduced as primary argument.
Going further down that rabbit hole, tips are tips, and the drivers and enclosure (ie the bud or the body) are not necessarily integrated. Many "off the shelf" models allow for custom molds after purchase.

Also, ear canal shape/width/depth is highly variable in this discussion, and is super hard to quantify.

It's also possible that KZ (Shenzhen Yuanze Electronics Co) offers models that are just as good as any of the industry leaders. We don't know why they're priced so low. Cheaper components? Unethical labor practices? Stolen designs or reverse engineering? No/poor customer support? No advertising or marketing budget? Government subsidized to reduce end cost as part of a global economic battle? Some combination of any and all of these? It could even be an OEM manufacturer just making their own market entry.

I completely understand the reticence to use am untrusted source with something that close to your ears (part of the reason I went with Shure for my own), but dismissing it out of hand doesn't seem prudent.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Yes, custom molded IEM's are better than off the shelf, but only by a small-ish margin. Certainly not enough to say that one "needs" custom molds when other options are available.

I know there are other options, and they're not equivalent. And I know it depends on the need. But if someone needs what custom molds do, a budget option is not going to serve them very well. Then when they understand that they should have gone with molds in the first place, they're already $200 in the hole for the first ones on top of the $800+ for the real thing.

I cannot say this enough: you get what you pay for.

If your stage volume is such that you need a -30 dB attenuation rather than a -25, then you're on an extremely loud stage, but you are absolutely correct in that if you need it, you need it.

I'm on a fairly quite stage - the only thing that makes a physical sound is my kit, and I play at a moderate volume. But in order to control my mix, especially with tracks involved, I need as much isolation as possible. If budget in-ears were acceptable, everyone on that stage would be using them. Indeed, every player uses molds. The stage manager also has molds, the monitor engineer has molds, the wardrobe person backstage has molds, the tour manager has molds. The LD and FOH engineer have molds (of course they're in the house where the volume is highest.)

Why? Because it's crucial at our touring level to hear - and to not hear - what's going on, and the only way to achieve that is with as much isolation as is available.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
  • Haha
Reactions: J-W

organworthyplayer337

Well-known member
Anyway, no need to hijack an innocent thread.

Back on track:

OP, there is nothing wrong with looking into affordable universal fit IEMs. Protecting your hearing is the most important aspect. The KZ's, as you have read from basically everyone on this thread, are a really good choice, especially as your first pair.

Seems like there are a lot of fans of them (even on here) so I think you may have your answer :)
 

J-W

Well-known member
I know there are other options, and they're not equivalent.
This is where I think there is a disconnect. I, nor anyone else, has ever stated the UIEMs are equivalent to CIEMs. Not sure why this continues to be brought up as a counterargument as it was never introduced as primary argument.


Because it's crucial at our touring level to hear - and to not hear - what's going on, and the only way to achieve that is with as much isolation as is available.
I think another disconnect is that my point is about adequate hearing protection as opposed to the best isolation. There is a difference, since adequate means cutting outside sound down to below 80dB. Anything below that is just further isolation, not better protection.

I understand that in your (and many other's) situation, you need to isolate absolutely everything (as much as possible) from the outside for you to perform at your best. That's not necessarily the case for everyone. Safe level dB's (below 85) are all that are required for proper hearing protection, but obviously that doesn't mean total (or near total) isolation. I got on just fine with wedges and earplugs for years. I didn't need isolation and neither did the band we toured with. Of course, back then IEM's were practically unheard of (no pun intended).

So, YES, for the absolute best isolation, custom molds are the way to go (which I believe I've said before) but if you're just interested in protecting your hearing (which I think is the main goal here), then proper fitting IEM's will cut the dB's adequately and protect your hearing just fine (again, if the inner volume too high). They just won't give you the same amount of isolation as custom molds. I'm not sure that I can say that any other way, so I'll just leave it at that.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known member
Not to get too far off topic but I recently ran across an interesting podcast on hearing health for musicians. The guest is a music hearing researcher. In the final analysis he says they really don’t know a lot about how to protect musician’s hearing but you should do some mitigation. Obvious, I know, but it’s still a good nerdy conversation.

https://bulletproofmusician.com/kri...ecome-better-musicians-too/?highlight=Hearing
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
In the final analysis he says they really don’t know a lot about how to protect musician’s hearing but you should do some mitigation.

I'm not sure if there are any musican-specific audiologists. A normal audiologist's job is to help with hearing speech, which is a much narrower frequency range than music.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known member
I'm not sure if there are any musican-specific audiologists. A normal audiologist's job is to help with hearing speech, which is a much narrower frequency range than music.
Funny, that’s exactly the point that he keeps making throughout the podcast. The “hearing protection” industry hasn’t really done anything to address the frequency range of music. Also I misstated, he’s a researcher or professor not an audiologist.
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I leaned that when I went to an audiologist several years ago. He said my hearing was okay and when I said I couldn’t hear a lot of high end, he said he was only concerned with speech, not music. 🙁
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
I'm using 3M peltor ear buds with a decibel limiting of 82 db. While they are great for reducing volume and blocking out external sound, they lack in sound quality. I checked with Sweet Water if they knew of anything similar with quality sound and they didn't know of anything with db limits like I have now. I'm afraid if I get IEMs without a limiter I'll just crank it up defeating the whole point of in ears. I might try some KZs or Shure 215s and see if I can keep the volume down, I don't know.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
This is MEE's attempt at a middle ground, modular IEMs with custom molds:


They look like they may be a bit bulky compared to dedicated custom molded devices but with the relatively low price point I'm going to give them a go. I've tried to find reviews from people who have used them (including here) but no luck so far.
 

basset52

Senior Member
I'm using 3M peltor ear buds with a decibel limiting of 82 db. While they are great for reducing volume and blocking out external sound, they lack in sound quality. I checked with Sweet Water if they knew of anything similar with quality sound and they didn't know of anything with db limits like I have now. I'm afraid if I get IEMs without a limiter I'll just crank it up defeating the whole point of in ears. I might try some KZs or Shure 215s and see if I can keep the volume down, I don't know.
I use the KZ's in conjunction with a Behringer P2. The P2 has a volume control which allows me to control the volume in my ears.
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
I use the KZ's in conjunction with a Behringer P2. The P2 has a volume control which allows me to control the volume in my ears.
Turning down the volume is not the issue, you should be able to turn the vol. down on any IEM. I'm wanting something with a vol. limiter. A limiter will not go over the decibel limit, say 82 for instance. No matter how high you set the vol. knob it will not exceed 82 decibels. Without a limiter I think I'll end up having my in-ears too loud, just like I do with a wedge monitor. That will not protect my hearing. After 50
 
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