Best IEMs UNDER $100 - In Ear Monitors Reviewed
You all know me as an impassioned speaker reviewer, but above all, I'm an audiophile. I'm always either listening to music or testing out new audio gear, though most of the time I combine the two.
This time around, I decided to stir it up a bit and got my hands on headphones instead.
An IEM (aka In-Ear Monitor) has a wide variety of uses. Whether you're a musician who wants to make sure that your crowd is getting the premium audio during live performance or just need something for occasional use, these earbuds will come in handy.
And what if I told you that most of your needs could be fulfilled on a budget-friendly note? That's why I've singled out the 10 best IEMs under $100 for you to consider.
- In a hurry? After 39 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
- Best IEMs Under $100 – Comparison Table
- 10 Best Earbuds Under $100 - Detailed Headphone Reviews
- 1. Shure SE215-K Professional Sound Isolating Earphones with Single Dynamic MicroDriver- BEST OVERALL -
- 2. Cystereo Fusion Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds - Best True Wireless Earbuds
- 3. Skullcandy Sesh Evo True Wireless In-Ear Earbud - Wireless Runner-Up
- 4. LINSOUL TIN Audio T2- Best for Music
- 5. 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones - Best Ear Tips
- 6. Sony WI-XB400 - Best for Phone Calls
- 7. KZ AS10 Earbuds Pure 5 - Best Design
- 8. RHA MA390 Universal Earbuds - Best Budget-Friendly
- 9. Etymotic Research ER23-HF3-BLACK - Best Microphone
- 10. Shure SE112-K-BT1- Best Battery Life
- How to Buy the Best Earbuds Under $100: Get the Perfect IEMs for You
- Sound Quality
- Best IEMs Under $100 - Frequently Asked Questions
- After it's all said and done, we recommend:
- Final Words
In a hurry? After 39 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
Shure SE215-K Professional Sound Isolating Earphones with Single Dynamic MicroDriver
Why it is better?
Last Updated: May 1, 2021
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best IEMs under $100 available for those who are interested in studio quality of sound without breaking the bank. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best IEMs under 100 currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best IEMs Under $100 – Comparison Table
Cystereo Fusion Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds
Skullcandy Sesh Evo True
LINSOUL TIN Audio T2
1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Earphones
10 Best Earbuds Under $100 - Detailed Headphone Reviews
Our Rating: 95/100
The Shure SE215 IEMs are a phenomenal value in this price range, delivering premium music sound quality and performance for phone calls.
Let's see what makes these in-ear headphones the best headphones under $100.
When it comes to the design, you can get these noise-isolating headphones in three variations: black, blue, and transparent.
I was surprised at how lightweight the earbuds are for the audio quality that they deliver. The optimized nozzle angle makes them comfortable to wear, and the formable wire ensures secure placement.
It's not a detachable cable, but it can be positioned over-the-ear so that the cables do not bother you.
Finally, the lock-snap mechanism enables a 360-degree rotation, which is a nice touch.
Oh, and did I mention that these in-ear headphones are accompanied by a soft-zip carrying case?
Yes, all of that under $100!
The Shure SE215 certainly look great, but what bumped them above all the other earbuds under $100 is the impressive sound stage for any music genre.
You're also getting the best call quality - I almost felt as if I was in the same room with the person I'm talking to.
Speaking of the sound quality, something that oftentimes can get in the way of your listening experience is noise. Whether it be construction noises, screaming children, or a loud crowd during your performance, this pair of earbuds offers complete noise isolation.
There's also the Shure SE215 Bluetooth true wireless earbuds model, but I found that this one is better for its ambient noise cancellation capabilities.
Our Rating: 93/100
The Cystereo Fusion IEM is one of the best earbuds under $100 for more than one reason.
Their slogan is "Never miss a beat" - a bit of a cliché if you ask me, but what is important is that they stay true to it.
While the earbuds look a bit plasticky, they showed to be quite durable.
So, if the high-end design is important to you, you may be able to find some earbuds that look more expensive.
But you'd be hard-pressed to find them at such an affordable price, let alone with a durable charging case that came with this model.
Moreover, the ergonomic tri-hold structure accounts for a very comfortable fit in your ear.
These true wireless IEMs are equipped with many features that ease the use.
For instance, the one-step pairing with any device that you wish (PC, tablet, cell phone) works instantly, and they automatically connect whenever a previously paired device is within range.
But what ultimately earned these earbuds the title of the best true wireless in-ear headphones is their wireless sound quality.
Not only is the sound clear and filled with bass, which is not typical for true wireless earbuds, but the voice call quality is flawless.
Also, you can remove a single IEM headphone from the charging case for a mono mode that works just fine, or use both for the classic stereo mode.
Our Rating: 92/100
While on the topic of the true wireless earbuds, let me introduce another pair that is the contender to the throne - the Skullcandy Sesh Evo True.
These came second to the Cystereo Fusion solely because of their battery life, but more on that in a second.
Right off the bat, the Evo True earbuds look great - Skullcandy hit the home run with multiple color schemes, including Bleached Blue, True Black, Deep Red, and Pure Mint.
They are IP55-rated, which guarantees these earbuds can withstand dust and water. This certification earned them a maximum score for the durability factor.
You'll get a sleek charging case, three sets of ear tips, and a charging USB cable in the package.
While you could technically use these IEMs for listening to your music, they shine in other areas.
Conversations are marked with a clear sound and excellent 4-microphone technology that precisely delivers your voice input.
The integrated controls are functional, and you can access pretty much anything effortlessly: volume control, pause, answering calls, etc.
If you want to tune and personalize your sound, you can use the Skullcandy app on both iOS and Android.
However, all these extra features come at the cost of the battery life that is significantly shorter than that of some other Bluetooth earbuds. If this is a decisive factor for you, make sure to always carry the charging case while using these earbuds.
Our Rating: 90/100
Next up is the TIN Audio T2 by Linsoul, the renewed audio company that is especially famous for making their sound signature in-ear headphones.
Let's see why these IEMs are one of the best earbuds under $100.
The whole set (headphones + ear tips) comes in a convenient and elegant box.
It's not only a convenient way to carry your headphones with you, but it's also excellent for storage and prevents cable entanglement. The fact that the Tin Audio T2 features the detachable cable also guarantees zero trouble for storing them.
One of the main qualities of these ear monitors is the material. It's a silver-plated wire combined with the metal shell that adds an air of sophistication to the design.
Also, this IEM comes with multiple ear tips for any size of the ear canal.
What ultimately won me over is the great sound that the dynamic drivers produce: 10mm woofer paired with a 6mm tweeter account for bass-heavy, rich sound for any music genre.
Add the powerful passive noise isolation to the equation, and it becomes clear that these in-ear headphones cater to an audiophile's needs.
Not for the practical needs, though. The lack of a microphone with these sound-isolating earphones is what prevented them from scoring higher.
So, if you're someone who is looking for a go-to pair of earbuds under $100 for their sound quality, go ahead. But if you're looking for some ear monitors with a mic, search elsewhere!
The 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear headphones bring a lot to the table - from high-quality sound to an excellent user experience.
If you're hungry for more information, learn more about their sound signature and design below.
Nothing about the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear headphones gives out their price range.
Right out of the magnetic-clasping elegant box, they look premium: there's a leather pocket with the earbuds, combined with as many as nine pairs of ear tips nicely laid out on the right side for you to choose.
Also, they feature foam tips, which I haven't seen with some headphones that cost three times as much.
Finally, stylish silver or gold highlights (depending on the color that you pick) cannot go unmentioned.
When I found out that the internationally acclaimed sound engineer Luca Bernard tuned these earbuds, I wasn't surprised.
These IEMs performed consistently well in all fields: the balanced armature coupled with a separate dynamic driver brings out the amazing clarity and deep bass.
I also loved how intuitive it is to use intelligent control technology. It allows anything you can imagine - from Android and iOS phone control to volume control, song selection, and Sports & Exercise mode.
Another ode goes to the efficient noise cancellation that dims low-frequency noises but does not completely eliminate them for accurate music playback.
Our Rating: 86/100
Sony may not be a brand that is often on my top 10 lists, at least not represented by their speakers. But when it comes to sound signature in the headphones, they are one of the leading companies.
Here are the best in-ear headphones by them.
Sony was not too generous when it comes to the design of these headphones - they look like any generic all-black IEM ear monitors, though there's more when you scratch beneath the surface, as you will see.
That said, there's also a blue variant that looks a bit more interesting, but overall, the design is a classic.
I like how the manufacturers have implemented magnetic earbuds to ease the carrying process.
The remote control buttons enable voice assistant control on both iOS and Android, and the USB type C for charging is included in the purchase.
Even though these IEMs were primarily made for calls, and it's what they do best, I was surprised at the bass response.
It's a shame that Sony didn't aspire too high when it came to the noise cancellation for this headphone monitor system. Had the sound quality been a bit better, I'd recommend these true wireless earbuds for musicians, too.
But for now, they are the best for hands-free calling.
Additionally, the battery life is more than satisfactory. It only takes around 3 hours for a full charge, but you can also go for Quick charging in increments.
For instance, for about 10 minutes of charging, I got a 60-min runtime with constant playback, which is excellent.
Our Rating: 88/100
The next IEM model, KZ AS10 Earbuds Pure 5, is quite a popular one.
Naturally, I had to lay my hands on it and see whether it meets the expectations. The fact that it found its way to my top 10 earbuds under $100 lists is already a good hint to the answer, but let's get into the complete review.
Design-wise, this in-ear monitor has one of the most innovative solutions out there. I wouldn't be surprised if they cost much more based on appearance.
Earbuds come in a variety of color schemes (black, green, silver-black, silver-blue), and they will certainly attract everyone's attention.
Ear tips are not only attractive but also comfortable for your ear canal.
It's handy that there's a two-way detachable cable, and the plug is a standard 3 5 mm one.
Aside from the high-quality design, the KZ AS10 earbuds offer an excellent sound signature.
The sound is warm, detailed, and clean, without any significant letdowns. Furthermore, the noise isolation is decent, and this IEM accounts for accurate music playback.
The balanced armature drivers, consisting of 5 pieces for mids and highs, elevate the sound quality.
Now, if you're looking for an IEM set for voice and video calls, these shouldn't be your primary pick.
Inasmuch as the audio quality is great, there's no mic, and they cannot compare with true wireless earbuds in terms of hands-free calling.
Our Rating: 85/100
The RHA MA390 is one of the best budget-friendly pair of earbuds on the market.
And while it does not compare with some earbuds under $100 that cost a bit more, it does a great job for the money and deserves its place on this 10 best earbuds under $100 top list.
If I had to pinpoint the best thing about the design of the RHA MA390, it's the fact that these IEMs are very versatile.
They fit just about any model of Android and iPhone (even though there's no Bluetooth connectivity). It has a button for some remote controls (e.g., Google Assistant, FM radio, etc.), and these functions work great.
But I'm afraid that RHA has dropped the ball when it comes to the build quality of these headphones. The cable of the 3 5mm connector does not feel durable enough, especially compared to some other in-ear headphones.
It's bass-heavy (like some much larger and pricier headphones), and it does offer a certain level of noise isolation.
What makes them the best in-ear headphones for those of you on a budget is its wide frequency-response, meaning you'll get accurate output for any music genre played.
The passive noise isolation is not advanced as with some other models, but it's totally acceptable.
That said, I also liked the mic of these in-ear monitors: it offers a nice and clean output, albeit not very loud.
In case anything goes wrong, it's nice knowing that you're backed by a 3-year warranty.
Our Rating: 87/100
Etymotic Research produced a top-notch pair of earbuds that deserved a place on my top list.
After testing them out, I can say that these low-end in-ear earbuds were not made for listening to your music primarily, but are an excellent choice if you're looking for headphones for your phone.
At first glance, nothing about the design of the ER23-HF3 stands out - they feature the timeless all-black design.
But when you take a look at the earbuds themselves, you'll see that the ear tips are unique. Namely, these are the ACCU Fit tips with a trifold design that contains replaceable filters. These protect drivers from ear wax and any damage.
While the drivers are protected perfectly, I must say that the cable is not as durable as it could be, especially considering the fact that they claim it's reinforced.
Thus, you'll have to pay attention not to expose it to any potential damage if you want this pair of earbuds to last.
These earbuds are unparalleled for their communication abilities.
They sport one of the most sensitive microphones I've seen, even if you're talking from close proximity, where most of the headphone microphones fail.
In addition to the sound output, I liked the input, too, but it's mostly limited to voice.
At some more difficult tasks, such as fast-paced music genres, these will not deliver rich bass or accurate frequencies.
If blasting loud music through the headphones is your thing, and you like Etymotic Research, you might want to step up to the ER2XXR for an additional 20 bucks.
Shure has produced two of the best in-ear earbuds, the Shure SE215 even climbing to the very top of my list.
However, they do not support Bluetooth connectivity. So, if you want the Shure hallmark, and you also want to go down the wireless path, consider the SE112-5-BT1.
Just like my other pick by Shure, these earbuds have ergonomics written all over them.
Namely, the optimized tips rest comfortably in your ear, and the behind-the-ear design provides a stable fit. You also get to choose from three sizes of silicone tips.
The three buttons offer efficient shortcuts to the most used controls, and you will easily get used to them.
For earbuds that were primarily designed for hands-free calls, you won't be missing out when the bass drops with the SE112-5-BT1.
The composed and clear sound will satisfy day-to-day musician's needs.
However, fellow audiophiles will notice that the high frequencies aren't something this pair of earbuds has in their arsenal, nor the loudness.
I ascribe that to the ambient sound transparency that is there for a reason - you being aware of the surrounding and background sound when it's important.
Other than the volume, I have no other complaints about this headphone model. Albeit the Bluetooth technology is a bit outdated (4.1 vs. the newest 5.0), the range is excellent, and the connection is stable.
How to Buy the Best Earbuds Under $100: Get the Perfect IEMs for You
The search for your IEMs cannot be aimless or arbitrary - you need to know exactly what you're looking for.
That's why I've created a buying guide that will steer you toward the best model for you.
Here are the factors you should consider before the purchase:
First And Foremost, the Purpose
Before I get into details, there's an important distinction to make: IEMs for professional musicians vs. IEMs for personal use.
Are you looking for headphones to get the most of your live performance as a vocalist or instrumentalist, or are you in search of IEMs that you can use for making calls and listening to music on a daily basis?
This will determine which features are paramount for you.
The Battle of Connections: Wired vs. Wireless
I am adamant that wired sound transmission cannot fully be replaced for professional purposes.
That is to say - if you're getting in-ear monitors as a musician, it's better to stick to the wired ones. I've selected those that come with the most durable cables, and all of them are accompanied by the standard 3 5mm.
On the other hand, Bluetooth wireless technology is great for home and business users who want to receive (and make) phone calls wherever they are. I've also included picks for this category.
You may not notice it immediately, but earbuds that were not made with ergonomics in mind will not be comfortable to use for more than half an hour.
To save yourself the troubles and discomfort, you should consider the following:
If you've decided that you want the stable sound that comes with wired connectivity, there's another choice you ought to make: Do you want straight or behind-the-ear design? The former is the regular configuration, whereas the latter enables you to wrap the earbuds around your head. My vote here goes for the behind-ear, not only because they are harder to spot, but also because it's convenient to get the cable out of your way.
The vast majority of earbuds come with more than one pair of ear tips to fit the size of your ear canal better. Most of my choices come in at least three sizes. Next, there's the choice of materials. Both silicone and foam ear tips do a good job of blocking out the outside noise and enabling you to focus on the sound. However, silicone tips are more stable and tend to stay in place even when there's a lot of motion. So, active performers might prefer them, although foam ones are a tad more comfortable. Ideally, you can get both, and mix them from time to time.
Should You Mic It Up?
Some IEM earbuds come with a microphone. But do you really need it? It depends on you.
In most cases, professionals opt for earbuds without a microphone simply because they don't need it. Likewise, most manufacturers that produce professional earbuds leave out the mic.
On the other hand, if you're buying earbuds for conversation and phone usage, you should not settle for models without a mic.
Of course, when you're buying IEMs, you cannot expect the same sound as you'd be getting from the best-sounding headphones you use to listen to music.
But that does not mean that they cannot deliver high-quality sound.
Also, most in-ear monitors allow you to tweak the settings for either noise isolation (which would help if you want to hear your music better) or ambiance for a better connection with your audience. It's up to you to choose!
Frequency range affects how you perceive the sound.
In general, the human audible range falls between 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz.
So, while you normally won't perceive the sound outside the stated hearing threshold, I aimed to find the earbuds that have a wide frequency spectrum.
They will enable you to hear low (sub-bass and bass), mid, and high frequencies equally well without any muffled and muddy sound.
Without going into too much detail, earbuds' sensitivity measures how loud the headphones will play.
I rarely settle for less than 85 dB for my top list entrees, and IEMs have a high average sensitivity - usually above 100 dB.
Best IEMs Under $100 - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the best IEMs?
A: If money's no object, I suggest the Shure SE846-CL. You'll hear the exact output that your audience gets, and they will certainly be a valuable investment in your career.
If you have a limited budget, though, you can stick for one of the picks on this list and upgrade later. Just have these ones at the back of your mind as the ultimate IEM goal for their unprecedented quality!
Q: What are the best earbuds under $100?
A: I decided to deem the Shure SE215 the best earbuds under $100. Once again, Shure has shown that they produce everything you desire as a professional musician without having to spend a lot of money.
The Shure SE215 appeals to all musicians who want to put a special touch on their performance. These earbuds deliver fantastic sound - from a satisfying amount of oomph to accurate mids, and highs. They will also stay in place even if you're jumping around the stage.
Q: Are IEMs bad for your ears?
A: IEMs are not bad for your ears per se - at least not more than any other type of headphones. However, in general, IEMs have high sensitivity (some even up to 105 dB), so you should use them carefully, or they could inflict your damage to your hearing.
Take, for example, the recommended standard of noise exposure daily:
- 85-90 dB acceptable for up to 8 hours,
- 88-95 dB acceptable for up to 4 hours,
- 91-100 dB acceptable for up to 2 hours,
- 97-110 dB acceptable for up to 30 minutes, and
- 100-115 dB acceptable for up to 15 minutes.
The bottom line - overdoing anything is bad. Make sure you take regular breaks when using IEMs, and do not exaggerate with the loudness.
Q: What do the singers hear with their IEM while performing on stage?
A: Musicians use these earpieces during the performance to hear what they are playing or singing. So, they primarily hear their own performance. Alternatively, they can choose to hear their colleagues - that is, a singer can hear a drummer, e.g., or vice versa - to stay perfectly in tune with them.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Why it is better?
You are a musician or vocalist who wants to get the best sound during a performance or in the studio - or - you are someone who needs handy and aesthetically pleasing headphones to make phone calls without bulky cables.
Whatever the scenario is, you will find the pick of IEMs for you above.
The Shure SE215 earbuds are superb for the musicians, and you can easily use them as a replacement for your onstage monitoring system.
On the other hand, you will supercharge your voice and video calls with the Cystereo Fusion Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds if that's what you are looking for.
See you next time!