In recent years, IEMs have taken over the stage (literally!). They have become the go-to choice for musicians and singers during concerts and performances. But a new kind of audience has recently started showing interest in the use of IEMs; gamers. When it comes to gaming, IEMs (in-ear monitors) provide a few key advantages over conventional headphones.
One benefit of IEMs is that they completely block out outside noise and form an acoustic chamber within the ear canal, making the experience much more immersive. Compared to using conventional headphones, you can hear sound effects and music with more clarity and detail when using this. IEMs also give you more precise control over the bass and treble levels, which is crucial for gaming.
Since the purpose of IEMs is to help singers and musicians hear their own music while they’re playing, gamers are confused about whether IEMs are a good choice for gaming. Below, we’ve created a general guideline to help you decide whether a pair of IEMs would be a good addition to your gaming equipment.
What are IEMs?
In-ear monitors go as far back as the 1980s. But it wasn’t until the 90s’ that they started being used by mainstream singers and performers. Today, IEMs are the default choice rather than floor monitors.
IEMs work by using radio frequencies in the same way that a radio stereo would work. The sound desk sends an audio signal to the transmitter. The artist’s belt pack receiver takes in the signal after it is wirelessly transmitted via an antenna.
This radio signal is picked up and converted back into audio by the belt pack, which has its own antennae. The user can listen to and control the volume of the monitor mix using a set of earbuds that plug into the belt pack.
What is the Purpose of IEMs?
Sure, musicians and live performers use IEMs as their go-to choice but it wasn’t always this way. What made IEMs so popular?
To start with, it allows you to listen to your music in stereo. Another benefit is the low stage volume. With wedges, there is always a risk of the stage sound leaking into the audience and back into the mics.
IEMs also allow for greater personal control by letting the musician or performer raise the volume directly from the belt pack. Last but not the least, with wireless IEMs, the musician or live performer can have greater mobility and they get a clutter-free stage!
Related: Do IEMs Need A DAC? The Facts Explained
IEMs vs Earbuds
IEMs are similar to a pair of headphones but reduce ambient noise, which is typically on-stage or in-studio noise, by using a design that places a barrier between your eardrum and the outside world. So, IEMs can be used with less noise for greater sound quality and reduced ear discomfort.
Who Uses IEMs?
Primarily, IEMs are used by musicians and audio engineers. Sometimes, television presenters, especially news reporters, will use them in order to receive instructions, info, or breaking news from the producers. However, IEMs are also good for an average listener.
They can expect more clarity, a higher range of frequency, and more bass. They also block most of the surrounding noise, eliminating the need for raising the volume and ultimately protecting your hearing.
IEMs for Gaming
Personally, I’d say the best use for IEMs after music is for gaming.
IEMs won’t provide you with a wide soundstage because they fit directly in your ear canals, but they will produce a bass that sounds intimate, which some people may find more pleasant. The IEMs won’t ruin your soundstage or prevent you from hearing game sound cues, but they will feel much more boxed than traditional headphones, which may or may not be a benefit depending on what you prefer.
IEMs’ ability to passively isolate noise is another major factor in why people switch to them. Playing games with IEMs will be a good choice if you live in a noisy home and don’t have a private gaming area or office space because you won’t be able to hear others talking across the place and interrupting your immersion. Plus, instead of actively canceling noise, the passive sound isolation leaves you with a more natural sound.
If you’re on a budget, good-quality headphones may be entirely off the table but here’s when IEMs shine. IEMs are incredibly cheap and, therefore, great for when you’re looking for something affordable. There are certainly more expensive IEMs available, but if you want to use an IEM for gaming, you can probably get away with the less expensive models and still have a decent experience.
In short, IEMs are undoubtedly a better option if cost is a major factor, and you want to enhance your gaming audio.
Additionally, the fact that these tiny headphones can typically be powered by anything makes IEMs fantastic buys that will enable you to greatly scale up your gaming audio without spending a fortune.
IEM may be preferable to some for freedom, mobility, and comfort. IEMs are inserted into your ears and provide an unparalleled sense of freedom. And compared to other headphones that go over your ear, they sit directly in your ear canal and can provide you with more comfort.
Plus, earbuds are almost always made of plastic which can start hurting after only a couple of hours of usage.
In-ear monitors produce deep bass. You can get a very strong, impactful bottom end with in-ear monitors because many of them have more drivers than earbuds and many with crossovers. You can feel the bass rumble when you add that to the incredible sound isolation and boom.
Lastly, in-ear monitors typically have detachable cables. This means that you can upgrade with a customized cable of your liking.
Related: Are IEMs Comfortable? Everything You Need to Know
Keep in mind…
The most popular criticism for IEMs is the increased pressure in the ear canal considering that IEMs sit directly into your canal. Compared to other options like headphones, IEMs include more pressure.
It’s easy to see why in-ear monitors are quickly taking over as the norm for live music, and now gaming, when you consider all of its benefits. Whether you should choose IEM over headphones for gaming is always going to be subjective based on your preference and what you’re looking for.
IEMs are affordable, comfy, and sound decent enough for gaming, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on audio cues. They also don’t require any additional gear to function at their best.