Picking the Best Inexpensive Universal Headphones for Worship 2021

  • Written By 
  • Josh Kluge

In-ear monitor world is quite the chase & it can feel like there’s no good option outside of getting custom IEMs. There’s definitely a strong case for custom molded IEMs, but there are still great options outside of the custom mold world that won’t break the bank. So we compiled a list of our favorite in-expensive universal fit in-ear monitors.

Before we jump into the list, here are a few things to be looking for when purchasing universal IEMs.

Fit

It might seem odd to talk about the way the headphone fits before audio quality or features, but if you can’t get them to stay sealed in your ears, then those other things don’t really matter. 

I can not tell you how many times I’ve heard from team members about the inconsistency of audio clarity or felt like they were messing with their in-ears the entire service. 

You should never have to worry about adjusting your in-ears during a service. 

They should be something that you put in your ears & never have to think about again.

The difficult part with all of that is – universal headphones don’t fit everyone the same way.

So make sure you order an earbud tip kit along with your headphones so that your headphones fit your ears perfectly. I personally suggest this foam tip kit (keep in mind these may not fit the soundtube of your specific headphone), but silicon might prove to be a better fit and seal for you.

Once you find a good fit throw on your favorite record and bounce around the house for a bit. Testing the fit on Sunday morning is a recipe for disaster.

Audio Quality – Drivers

In IEM world we usually look for the number of drivers the headphone possesses. If you’re not familiar with what “drivers” are, to put it simply, they’re the device inside the headphone that generates the sound. Having multiple drivers in a headphone allows you to spread out the frequency range each driver is focusing on projecting. The more drivers, the more clarity (more drivers doesn’t necessarily mean better sound quality though).

So pay attention to the amount of drivers advertised! In the $50-300 range you’re typically looking at somewhere between 1-3 drivers.

Cable

There’s not a lot of details to get into here, so… 

  1. I recommend staying away from rubbery cables that easily stick to your skin & try to stick with headphones that use braided cables.
  2. Detachable cables ensure that if the wire goes bad, the headphones aren’t totaled.

Ambient Port?

Some people feel claustrophobic or separated from the room/congregation when wearing sealed headphones. Often times you see people with 1 in-ear in, 1 in-ear out. I can not stress enough how bad this is for your ears! So if you really don’t like the feeling of being sealed in, try to get headphones with an ambient port.

Ambient ports allow for room noise to come through so you don’t feel as isolated from the room. 

Some love this and others hate it. The reason people hate it, when using headphones as monitors in a room with a band playing, the headphones are competing with the rest of the sound in the room. The more sound that’s coming through the seal of the headphones, the louder you have to run the headphones in order to hear everything.

An ambient port doesn’t mean you’ll have to run your headphones super hot in order to hear, but it will need to be ran hotter than non-ambient ported headphones.

I suggest getting an ambient port if you feel overly claustrophobic with both headphones in OR if you like to have 1 ear in, 1 ear out.

Sidenote: The 1 headphone in, 1 headphone out method is so so bad for your ears. Google why.

The Best Inexpensive Universal Headphones

 

KZ10s – $59 – 5 Drivers – Detachable Cable – No Ambient Port

I personally love these headphones! I always keep a pair in my case at all times because they sound amazing. Especially for $60! In fact, one Sunday I forgot my custom-molded in-ears at home & was forced to use these and I was blown away by how incredible they sounded. Can’t recommend these enough! One note, I suggest buying a $7 foam tip kit & swapping the silicon tips out with a foam tip that best fits your ears. For me and everyone I know that uses these, the foam tips provide a better & more secure seal.

 

Shure SE215 – $99 – Single Driver – Detachable Cable – No Ambient Port

These are the old faithfuls of universal IEMs. Sound great, fit great, & are backed by a name that’s stood the test of time: Shure. An added plus, they are pretty low profile & super durable too!

 

Westone AM PRO 10 – $149 – Single Driver – Detachable Cable – Ambient Port

These were designed with “connecting with the room” in mind. Everything from Westone always sounds great & now with the ambient port, if you’re at all worried about missing that room noise feel, these might be perfect for you! Like the Shure’s, they also make models with more drivers in them too!

Mackie MP-220 – $150 – Dual Driver – Detachable Cable – No Ambient Port

Lastly, adding these Mackie to the list simply because they have 2 drivers. Never tested them out, but Mackie speakers always sound great & I guarantee there’s no exception here!

The Headphones Don’t Matter if You Don’t Know How to Build an In-Ear Mix

Last thing I’ll say as we come to a close: if you don’t know how to properly build an in-ears mix with them, it doesn’t matter how great your headphones are. 

So before you run out to buy new headphones, check out Part 1 & Part 2 we did on how to build a proper in-ears mix for worship! Then from there decide if you need to buy new headphones! Happy mixing!

We know we didn’t cover all the great universal fit IEMs. Comment below your favorite universal IEMs!

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