In-Ear Monitors and Isolation
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between In-Ear
Monitors and Isolation Earphones?
There is no difference really.
Both are designed to do two things: deliver sound (usually music)
directly into the ear canal, and block external sounds from entering the
ear canal. By reducing the amount of ambient noise that can get
into your ears, these earphones let you hear your music at much lower
volumes than you can with ordinary headphones or speakers. When an
earphone is used as a monitor by a sound engineer in a studio or on
stage by a performer, the device is referred to as an in-ear monitor.
When that same earphone is used by an airplane passenger to listen to
her music in the noisy cabin of the plane, it is called an isolation
What is a canal phone?
Listening devices come in a
variety of types: Muffs and headphones, called supra-aural devices,
cover the outer ear and use small speakers to deliver sound into the
opening of the ear canal. Canal phones, more commonly called earphones,
("canal" phones just sounds yucky to some people) do not cover the ear,
but use tiny little devices called drivers to deliver the sound from
inside the ear canal. By actually inserting the drivers into the ear
canal you can get the device very close to the ear drum, thereby
reducing the opportunity for distortion to get in the way of the pure
sound you are seeking.
What is the difference between single and
A single driver must do all the
work of delivering the full range of frequencies and no device can do it
all perfectly. Think about a stereo speaker: nearly all have at least
two separate speakers inside, one for the high notes and another for the
bass notes. In a similar manner, dual driver earphones offer greater accuracy across the full audible spectrum,
at a much wider range of volume settings, than is possible with
a single driver. If you want really loud music without distortion, you
need dual drivers. Otherwise good quality single drivers will do quite
What is the difference between balanced
armature and dynamic drivers?
Balanced armature drivers are
tuned at the factory to produce a particular quality of sound across the
whole spectrum. Usually these devices are tuned to provide as flat a
response as possible, meaning that you hear the music accurately and if
you want more emphasis in the bass, treble or midranges, you must adjust
the source to provide that emphasis.
Dynamic drivers are designed to
try and emulate the normal hearing response curve of the ear. This means
they emphasize some frequency ranges and de-emphasize others, trying to
mimic what you would hear if you were listening to sound without a
listening device, as from an ordinary speaker in a room. For example,
human hearing tends to emphasize sounds around 3 kHz because that is
resonant frequency of the ear canal and the surrounding structures.
Canal phones do not let the ear resonate because most of that structure
is bypassed, so dynamic drivers are virtually all made so that they
produce a louder sound around the 3 kHz frequency to simulate what you
would "normally" hear. This is important because quality recordings are
also tuned to this reality, by reducing the volume in this same
range...Okay, enough. I can see your eyes beginning to glaze over from
Suffice it to say that both
balanced armature and dynamic drivers have their supporters. Both are
capable of producing sound of a stunning quality. In the case of
isolation earphones, you tend to get what you pay for, but even at the
lowest prices which can start below $100, these phones all deliver