Top 5 Best Balanced Armature In-Ear Monitors


In-ear monitors offer a consistent and clear monitoring method for musicians and performing artists on stage and in the studio. By listening to a curated mix through in-ear monitors, we can monitor a consistent mix without relying on loudspeakers that all too often only add to the noise pollution.

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, a great set of balanced-armature in-ears could really improve your monitoring. In this article, we’ll look at 5 of the best options for you!

The top 5 best balanced-armature in-ear monitors are:


What Makes A Great Balanced Armature In-Ear Monitor?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of balanced armature in-ear monitors.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any pair of earphones. Though highly subjective, factors such as weight; shape, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: compatibility with different audio devices is important. Choose a pair of high-end balanced armature in-ear monitors that will be easily incorporated into your set up whether that’s a mobile device or a professional studio. Impedance and sensitivity ratings come into play when determining compatibility.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of in-ear monitors should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity.

Noise cancelling is also an important thing to consider when choosing in-ear monitors. If there is active noise-cancelling, how much reduction is possible and how does it affect the sound of the in-ears overall?

Wireless transmission is also something to look out for. Are the in-ears wired or wireless and will they require a separate receiver or not (if we plan on using them wirelessly). Wireless options will require power and so battery life is another concern.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 balanced armature in-ear monitors!

To learn more about balanced armature earphone transducers before we begin, please take some time to read through my article The Complete Guide To Balanced Armature IEMs/Earphones.


Shure SE846-CL

Let’s begin with a relatively affordable pair of BA in-ear from the successful American company Shure. More specifically, let’s discuss the Shure SE846-CL (link to check the price on Amazon).

Shure SE846-CL

Shure’s SE846-CL earphones feature 4 high-definition drivers for extended high-end clarity and excellent low-end response. The earphones offer a frequency response beyond the audible spectrum from 15 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

A 3-way frequency-splitting system dedicates a band for the low, mid and high frequencies. Part of this system is the superb low-pass filter that helps these earphones achieve subwoofer-like bass in a small package without sacrificing the clarity of the mids and highs.

Related article: Do Headphones Have Subwoofers & How Do HPs Produce Bass?

Speaking of frequency response, the Shure SE846-CL’s come with removable metal nozzles and changeable nozzle inserts (balanced, warm, and bright options included) to physically alter the EQ/sound of the earphones.

In order to get the most out of a pair of in-ear monitors, they must fit snuggly into our ear canals and stay put during a performance (or during easy listening).

Shure ensures this with a secure, over-the-ear design for long-wearing comfort and 8 different sleeves that allow users to find the perfect fit for their ears. Choose between different sizes of soft flex, foam and triple flange sleeves.

Pick between two detachable cable lengths (46″ and 66″) to further improve comfort, giving yourself just enough slack to move freely but not enough that the extra cable becomes a burden.

The Shure SE846-CL earphones offer impressive passive noise cancellation, capable of reducing outside noise by up to 37 dB, so long as the earbuds are fitted correctly. This helps immensely in allowing users to hear the audio rather than the outside world, whether that’s on stage, in public or at home.

These are monitoring earphones at their finest. The sound of the SE846-CL is crisp, clean and uncoloured, allowing us to hear the audio with clarity across the audible spectrum. The bass performance is superb and the mids and highs are nice and transparent. This is, again, thanks to the 4 high-definition balanced armature drivers and the 3-way crossover system.

These durable earphones come with a 2-year warranty. As discussed, a new purchase includes a premium carrying case, 1/4” adapter, fit kit with a wide selection of sleeves, clothing clip, cleaning cloth, and nozzle removal tool with changeable inserts for frequency response adjustments.

If you’re looking for a wireless pair of SE846s, look no further than the Shure SE846 BT2 (link to check the price on Amazon) that work on the Bluetooth 5 protocol.

Shure SE846 BT2

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 4x balanced armature (per earpiece)
  • Impedance: 9 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 114 dB SPL/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Weight:
    • 5.58g per earphone
    • 25.50g cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

Shure is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World 2020 and Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Noble Audio Sultan

Up next are the flagship Noble Audio Sultan (link to check it out at Noble Audio) universal balanced armature in-ears.

Noble Audio Khan

These in-ear monitors are rather expensive but for good reason. They’re perhaps the best-sound option out there in terms of BA in-ears. Actually, these earphones utilize a total of 7 drivers per earbud:

  • 4 balanced armature
  • 1 10mm dynamic
  • 2 ultra-frequency electrostatic

These earphones are sensitive enough to be used with most smartphones and portable audio players. They’re made even better with a portable (or stationary) headphone amp. In fact, every model on this list will work with consumer-grade audio players and will benefit from a dedicated in-ear headphone amp!

To learn more about headphone amps, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Is A Headphone Amplifier & Are Headphone Amps Worth It?
Top 11 Best Headphone Amplifier Brands In The World

The Sultan comes with Noble’s industry-standard 0.78mm-diameter detachable 2-pin cable. This 8-core OCC copper cable has the option of a 3.5mm, 2.5mm, or 4.4mm termination.

The Sultan is a pair of universal-fit earphones from Noble Audio. Each earbud has a fairly long nozzle which keeps the main body from pushing uncomfortably on the ear. The fit, for most, is one where the IEM sticks out of the ear rather than sitting flush.

That being said, the base of the IEM body will help tremendously in sealing the ear and providing passive noise cancellation. This keeps external sounds out and allows the user to listen exclusively to the audio being played through the earphones (within reason). This is a must-have feature for on-stage performance and is of great benefit in public spaces and even at home.

In terms of fit and comfort, the Sultan comes with 9 different tips to find the best fit for your ear canal. There are 6 foam tips and 3 single-bore silicone tips, all shaped differently.

As mentioned above, the Sultan utilizes triple driver technology design.

The 10mm dynamic driver takes care of sub-bass and bass frequencies; 4 different balanced armature drivers cover the mids and high frequencies, and 2 electrostatic drivers cover the super-high frequencies.

To learn more about electrostatic and dynamic drivers, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
The Complete Guide To Electrostatic Headphones (With Examples)
The Complete Illustrated Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones

All 7 drivers (per earpiece) fit into an ergonomic CNC’d aluminum housing. The sound of these IEMs gives them a home within the audiophile market. The remarkable bass extension, detailed mids and clear high-end put these earphones way beyond their competition in terms of sound quality.

Users can choose between a default and custom faceplate to really personalize their Sultans. If you’re familiar with Noble Audio, you’ll know how beautiful these faceplates can be. Just check out their Prestige Gallery here and you’ll know what I mean.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 4x Balanced armature| 1x Dynamic|2x Electrostatic (per earpiece)
  • Impedance: <35 Ω
  • Frequency Response: no info
  • Sensitivity: no info
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Weight: no info
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Note that Noble Audio is one of those companies that doesn’t bother too much with the specifications game. For that reason, the “key specifications” section is a bit lacking.


Campfire Audio Ara

The third set of IEMs on this list are the Campfire Audio Ara (link to check it out at Campfire Audio).

Campfire Audio Ara

Let’s bring the price tag down a bit from the aforementioned Sultans and focus on another incredible pair of IEMs. The Campfire Audio Ara IEMs also utilize a whopping 7 drivers per earbud. In this design, all the drivers are balanced armature, making these in-ears true BAs.

Of the 7 drivers, 4 are dedicated to the low-end; one is dedicated to the mid-frequencies, and 2 are dedicated to the high-end reproduction of audio.

The 2 high-end drivers utilize Campfire’s T.A.E.C (Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber) technology, which optimizes the space available in front of the driver, to deliver non-fatiguing high-end without sibilance or harshness.

These 7 balanced armature drivers are free from a typical passive crossover, which is commonplace with BA IEMs. Rather, the acoustic performance is shaped physically through a solid-body internal chamber design. This reduces electronics and, thereby, distortion.

Whether you’re an audiophile or a performer, the solid bass, pristine mids and beautiful highs of the Ana in-ears offer a hi-fi clarity you won’t soon forget.

The outer body is made durable with Grade 2 Titanium.

In terms of fit, the Ara earphones come with 11 different ear tips to ensure a snug fit in the ear canal. The main bodies of the IEMs act to block some outside noise from entering the ear canal (offering passive noise cancellation) without applying uncomfortable pressure on the ear.

The IEMs come with Campfire Audio’s Litz cable with silver-plated copper conductors and 3.5mm stereo plug.

These unique IEMs only use balanced armature drivers and [only] cost about $1,300 USD, making them a prime candidate for the best “budget” true balanced armature in-ear monitors on the market!

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 7x balanced armature (per earpiece)
  • Impedance: 8.5 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 28,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 94 dB SPL/mW Sensitivity @ 1k
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Weight: no info
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne Aion

Fourth on the list is the Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne Aion Series (link to check it out at Jerry Harvey Audio) in-ear monitors.

Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne Aion

The Roxanne Aion is the most recent iteration of the successful Roxanne in-ear monitor which revolutionized the IEM industry with its introduction in 2013. The Aion builds upon this legendary sound signature and combines it with the company’s ever-evolving industry-leading manufacturing processes and advanced, patented technologies.

If we thought 7 balanced armature drivers per earpiece was impressive, the Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne Aion should blow us away with an impressive 12 proprietary balanced armature drivers per side:

  • Quad low
  • Quad mid
  • Quad high

The sound is pleasantly transparent with a tamed high-end that maintains a high level of clarity without being fatiguing on the ears.

The excellent sound is made possible by Jerry Harvey’s trademarked Freq|phase technology, which ensures correct phase and time alignment of all frequencies with all 12 drivers. This phase coherence, combined with the various responses of each driver, yields a near-perfect sound with accurate reproduction.

These earphones are universal, meaning they should fit into anyone’s ear. No need for custom builds with these. They come with 3 sizes of Jerry Harvey’s Comply foam ear tips and 3 sizes of silicone ear tips to ensure proper fit.

Proprietary Sonic Tube Chassis uses 3D-printed chambers to house the 12-driver configuration and implements the aforementioned Freq|phase technology. This affords the Roxanne Aion its huge sound and small package.

The outer shell is machined from carbon fiber. It’s wonderfully ergonomic and offers superior fit and stability. With a snug fit, these earphones provide -26 dB of passive noise isolation, helping us to hear the audio rather than the external environment.

The Silver-Plated OCC Litz cable is strong, durable and lightweight. Each earphone connects to the cable via a 7-pin connector with a military-grade, iridium connection. A built-in O-ring keeps the connection between the cable and earpiece sweatproof.

Speaking of sweatproofing, the proprietary Acoustic Sound Chamber recessed tube system keeps sweat away and alleviates the need for excessive cleaning, allowing many uses before needed to take these earpieces apart.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 12x balanced armature (per earpiece)
  • Impedance: 15 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 23,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 119 dB @ 1 mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Weight: no info
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

64 Audio tia Fourté

Last but certainly not least is the 64 Audio tia Fourté (link to check it out at 64 Audio), defined as the pinnacle of in-ear monitor technology.

64 Audio tia Forté

The tia Forté in-ear monitors are 64 Audio’s most advanced in-ear monitors to date and the most expensive on this list. Though part of 64’s audiophile line, they can also be used in studio and stage applications.

The detailed, three-dimensional lifelike sound of these in-ear monitors is made possible with 3 balanced armature drivers and a single dynamic driver (per earpiece):

  • tia high
  • tia high mid
  • tia mid
  • dynamic low

In addition to the four drivers, each earpiece has an integrated 4-way passive crossover to feed the correct frequencies to the proper drivers.

The tia Forté can do with 4 drivers what many other top-performing IEMs require 6 or more to do. That is, to sound incredibly transparent with near-perfect realism. The tia Forté objectively produces the most accurate sound and widest soundstage of any in-ear monitor.

The entire system is housed in an ergonomic aluminum shell and finished with elegant, copper patina faceplates for a set of IEMs that looks and feels as good as it sounds.

The tubeless design of the tia drivers uses a single bore and specialized acoustic chamber to eliminate tune resonances and allowing the sound to travel nearly unobstructed to the listener’s eardrums.

Apex (Air Pressure Exchange) technology includes a pneumatically interactive vent that releases air pressure from a sealed ear canal. This allows the IEMs to maintain their passive noise isolation while alleviating listener fatigue and extending the soundstage/stereo field to something approximating open-back headphones.

The Apex comes in two variations, based on passive noise cancellation specs: m15 (-15 dB isolation) and m20 (-20 dB isolation).

These ergonomic IEMs offer a universal fit. Each purchase comes with 3 sizes of TrueFidelity ear tips and 3 sizes of silicone tips. Surely one of these will fit perfectly with your ears.

A 48″ detachable high-grade cable is also included, among other accessories.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 3x balanced armature|1x dynamic (per earpiece)
  • Impedance: 10 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 114dB dB/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Weight: no info
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

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