Ditching Wired Earbuds for In Ear Monitors


My first pair of In Ear Monitors: KZ ES4s Photo by Alexander Blaide

Alexander Blaide, Editor

     I love music, and I always want to listen to the songs I love by the artists I love. Whether I’m driving in the car, studying, or writing/editing articles, I always have some form of music going and I always want the best sound I can get. I have Bluetooth earbuds I use and a spare pair of wired earbuds with the stupid Apple lightning port adapter, and that has been my main music listening setup for as long as I’ve been in high school. Different earbuds, both wired and wireless, but more or less the same. 

     In Ear Monitors or IEMs are earbuds normally used for musicians and audio engineers meant to provide a very detailed and closed off sound, blocking outside noises, like the instruments or other singers if it’s a band for example. You would think these are very expensive, and they can be depending on the brand, but the pair I bought are usually between $18-$25 depending on the color or if you have a microphone on the cable. Mine don’t have a microphone and were about $13 because of an Amazon promo code. About five days after placing the order, my KZ ES4 In Ear Monitors arrived. 

     The packaging was fairly boring, but that was when I learned that the actual speakers are removable from the cable which is a super useful thing because then if something happens to the cable, I can replace it or even make them easier to transport in a little case or pouch. Not only that, the cable has these attached ear hooks that go over your ear, preventing the speakers from ever falling out of your ears. The way the speakers fit into your ears definitely takes some getting used to because these are going into your ear canal and then blocking the rest of your ear, so you will basically only hear what the speaker plays. Whether that’s something you want is up to you, but it’s hard to figure that out until you actually try it. Personally, I’m okay with that. 

     Because I despise the Apple lightning port dongle, I tested the sound of the KZ ES4s with my computer and listened to one of my playlists on Spotify. It’s got a little bit of everything I like in there, from some hiphop tracks to some rock, a wide variety of music was going to be tested to see just how good IEMs were for music. They definitely delivered. One of my favorite songs because of how it sounds with a great sound system is Queen’s “Radio Gaga,” and the way that song sounded through the KZ IEMs was nothing like what I heard before in any pair of earbuds I owned before. The instrumentation of the song sounded so much more full and I could hear subtle things like the hitting of hi-hats during the chorus. The synth that is played throughout the song sounded more digital, if that makes sense. And that was just on the instruments. The vocals sounded incredible on the song and you could hear the subtle nuances in Freddie Mercury’s voice. With other songs in other genres, different details are highlighted and it made for a music listening experience that far exceeded my expectations. I only had one more test for them that I wanted to try just to see what would happen. 

     I turned on my PS4 and waited for the jet engine fans to ramp up and then began to play Red Dead Redemption 2. Playing that game with the IEMs was incredible because I could hear all the finer details of the forest or the squish of the mud under my character’s cowboy boots. I tried other games, both single and multiplayer and like when I listened to the music wearing them, I was amazed by all that I could hear and in comparison to my actual headphones that I ordinarily use for playing video games, the ES4s sounded much better. All of the sound effects in multiplayer games like Call of Duty or in racing games like Need For Speed sounded perfect and didn’t seem muddy. The audio was crisp and an absolute blast to listen to while playing the game. Since plugging the IEMs into my PS4 for games, I don’t think I’ve plugged my original headphones into the console.

     While my Bluetooth earbuds will still remain my daily earbuds for my phone because of convenience and easier portability, IEMs will definitely be my go to when it comes to wired options because of their impressive sound for their lower cost. Knowing that those $18 IEMs made me ditch my dedicated headphones will definitely influence my decision going forward when it comes to new wired earbuds.