Choosing an In-ear Monitor (Canalphone)

Thinking of buying an in-ear monitor or earphone? Factors to consider. Top-rated brands and models.

In-ear monitors, also called in-ear headphones, noise-isolating earphones, or canalphones, have superb noise reduction characteristics and offer excellent sound quality. There are a number of brands and models to choose from, with prices ranging from $40 to over $1000 (US dollars). What should you look for, and what brands and models are most often recommended?

Factors to consider when purchasing:
  • The number of audio drivers. For the most faithful reproduction of musical sound, two or three drivers are better than one.
  • The variety of tips included. You will need to experiment to get the right fit. Foam tips give the best acoustic seal; silicone tips are more durable. If money is no object, you can even get a plug that is custom-made to fit your ears.
  • Appearance. Do you want to make a fashion statement, or go for a more discreet look?

If at all possible, try before buying. Proper fit is essential for the best noise reduction, sound quality, and personal comfort. Ideally, try them out with your preferred music, so you can check the sound. Also, try them while engaging in the kind of activity you expect to use them with, especially if you plan to use them at the gym.

Caution: Canalphones can be so good at blocking out sound that you may not be able to hear sounds that are important for your safety. They are not recommended for outdoor running or biking or while driving.

Here are some models of canalphone that get high ratings:

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