Best IEM For Gaming
Beyond music, I can’t imagine a better use of IEMs than when gaming. Strong highs, punchy mids and deep bass to compliment even the most intense games of Fortnite or Plants vs Zombies. Bring on the noise.
If you’re a regular to make life click you’ll know I have deep knowledge and passion for in-ear monitors. As a guitarist and vocalist, I’ve used more than a few pairs of IEMs and as the former owner of Headphones Canada, I’ve sold more than most people have owned games consoles.
There are no bad choices on this list but if you want to try your toes in the water and you want to manage your budget, the KZ ZAX are an excellent choice. A large number of drivers (both Dynamic and BA) bring a deep sound to your gaming.
If you have options for a 3.5mm or 1/4″ jack, or you have a USB headphone amp with jacks then these are worth serious consideration.
IEMs for gaming don’t need to be expensive but if you want to go all the way with a pair of high end or custom in-ear monitors then I’ll include recommendations in this list to meet your needs.
A popular iem that gamers recommend is the iBasso it01. I first sold the iBasso range of DAP (digital audio players) and they had a great reputation. The it01 are no exception but they are not as young as they used to be and there are other models to consider.
I’ll get the only real criticism that IEMs have for gaming sessions and that is that they include more ear pressure than earbuds when gaming, or headphones. Because they technically fit into your ear canal there is more pressure on your ear canal than other options but, the benefits are many. If you really need airflow then earbuds might still suit you but as musicians can handle in-ear monitors for hours during long gigs, you’ll probably be fine.
Many of those benefits you won’t find in a gaming earbud. I believe they just don’t have the depth, punch and sound isolation needed for the best gaming experience.
Some of the benefits of IEMs for gaming are:
- Great sound isolation – passive sound isolation IMO (rather than active noise cancelling) leaves you with a more natural sound
- Deep bass – with many in-ear monitors sporting more drivers than earbuds, and many with crossovers, you can get some deep, impactful bottom end. Combine that with the sound isolation and boom, feel that bass rumble from your Forza exhaust.
- Wider soundstage – typically the multidriver configuration of IEMs allows sound frequencies to be isolated to unique drivers. That relates to balance armature (BA) or hybrid IEMs and less so to single dynamic drivers (typical in gaming earbuds).
- Replaceable cables – like you’ve never got up and walked away still plugged into your console or headphone amp? Yeah, me too. With in-ear monitors you’re generally going to have a detachable cable – MMCX or 2-Pin being most common. This means you can not only replace the cable but you can also upgrade the cable and you can get a cable with an inline microphone so you can talk with your squad while questing for a Battle Royale.
Some of you are already thinking that a set of Google Pixel Buds, Apple Airpod Pro or Bose QC20 will suffice. If so, I’d say you’re missing out on the depth iems give you.
There is a difference between earbuds and IEM. Driver count, fit, design and engineering are all very different. A set of earphones are not IEM and you can read more on that in this article.
With all that said here are a few starter IEM for gaming I would highly recommend. Some affordable and some less affordable. For example, my Heir Audio 8.0 CIEM has 8 balanced armature drivers in each ear and the Bass is enough to leave you thinking you’re playing in front of a Home Theatre system.
|1. KZ ZAX IEM from Linsoul||1 x DD|
7 x BA
|10Hz – 40kHz||$|
|2. LINSOUL TIN Audio T2 in-ear monitors||2 x DD||12Hz – 40kHz||$|
|3. Ultimate Ears UE 18+ PRO IEM||6 x BA||5Hz – 22kHz||$$$|
|4. Shure Aonic 215 in-ear Monitors||1 x DD||21Hz – 17.5kHz||$$|
|5. Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus True Wireless IEM||1 x DD||NR||$$|
Recommended List of IEM for Gaming
1. KZ ZAX IEM from Linsoul
For under $60 you get an IEM with 1 Dynamic driver and 7 Balanced Armature drivers in a smooth, refined shell.
The frequency range is 10Hz to 40kHz which is technically beyond your ability to hear so needless to say you’ll get a full sound and enjoy some feeling to the sound.
What the KZ ZAX has bought to the IEM sound scene is a well developed full sound stage with deep bass, strong mids and pleasant highs. A good evolution from previous models like the ZS6 from Linsoul.
The driver configuration is 1 x dynamic driver (10mm) to handle bass and deep frequencies, 2 x BA drivers for midrange, 2 x stacked BA driver for midrange (total 4) and 1 x BA driver for the high end.
Technically it is an open-back design so the bass might not be as tight as some desire but needless to say this will handle all the gaming audio you can throw at it. It’s a universal IEM and comes with multiple tips for different ear sizes. You can get replacement tips also.
- A solid array of Drivers
- Price is impressive considering features
- Good build – always improving
- Good sound signature (not amazing)
- Nice build quality
- Silver cable
- KZ can offer highs that some find too high
View price at reviews for the KZ ZAX IEM on Amazon
2. LINSOUL TIN Audio T2 in-ear monitors
I am almost reluctant to recommend the TIN T2 these days (not the TIN T2 Pro but they’re also worth a look). Not because they are a bad recommendation but because they have a reputation that proceeds them.
They were one of the first Chinese HiFi in-ear monitors to really crack the US IEM earphone market and for good reason – they sound amazing especially for the price – under $50!
Unlike the KZ ZAX, these little MMCX cable (silver plated) touting IEMs only have 2 dynamic drivers. Dynamic drivers are well known for managing solid bass. The bass driver on this earphone is a 10mm DD and the tweeter for high end is a 6mm dynamic driver (DD).
These take up less space in the ear and have less pressure on the concha of the outer ear makes them comfortable for long gaming sessions.
The frequency response is 12-40000Hz and the impedance is 16 ohms meaning they are very easy to drive from any device. Gaming on mobile devices would be particularly well served.
While these are not a new model to market, they are still a solid and well-priced choice for gaming with.
You do have the choice of three in this range or signature. The T2, T2 Pro and T3. The T3, if you have the money might be a better choice for you because it has a similar fit but with hybrid drivers including a single Knowles BA driver.
- Excellent price
- Detachable MMCX Cable
- Wide soundstage
- Low fatigue sound signature
- Neutral tuning isn’t for everyone
- No earth shaking bass
View price at reviews for the LINSOUL TIN Audio T2 on Amazon
3. Ultimate Ears UE 18+ PRO IEM
Now I ain’t playing on this IEM. I figure if you’re going to spend thousands on Xbox, Playstation or PC and games then you’re not going to be afraid of a $1500 IEM for gaming.
Rather than starting at some of the lower IEMs in the Ultimate Ears Pro range, I figured I’d take you straight to the top. Like a punch in the face with enough oomph to make you power down for a moment just to appreciated it.
These are the kind of IEM that will also convince you to use them for music and more. Keep in mind these are designed for professional musicians.
The UE 18+ Pro have a frequency response of 5Hz – 22kHz and more drivers and crossovers than you can poke a controller at. Four-way crossover with 6 balanced armature drivers punches hard and tight.
Important to note this is a Custom IEM you keep in mind you’re going to need to get in-ear molds done. You can’t just buy these and stick them in your ear. There are two types of IEM – custom and universal. The other IEM on this list is universal which means they are good to go when you purchase them and can be used in any ears. The ear tips on those use foam or silicon.
- Excellent 3D printing accuracy
- Excellent crossover set up
- Low impedance for a high-end IEM – easy to drive
- Custom-fit really levels up feel and impact
- Waterproof cable connectino system in case you sweat while gaming (it happens)
- Really excellent sound profile with excellent reputation
- Need custom ear molds done
View price at reviews for the UE 18+ PRO IEM on UE Pro
4. Shure Aonic 215 in-ear Monitors
The Shure SE215 make most of my recommended affordable IEM lists because they are a great sounding unit with good comfort and a cheap price…and good accessories.
The Shure Aonic 215 is essentially the Shure SE215 IEM with Bluetooth adaptors that wrap over your ears (like a typical in-ear). This means you have a good sounding IEM with Bluetooth portability and a Mic for audio calls and voice use.
The battery lasts about 8 hours and there is a charging case. The negative for this unit being that the charging case is pretty huge.
I haven’t tried it yet but in theory you should be able to change out the 215 earbud for other Shure IEMs like the 315, 425, 535 or 846 as it is just a MMCX cable connection. Don’t quote me on this one yet and do let me know in the comments below if this is something you’ve tried.
These are a single dynamic driver IEM.
- Shure sound signature – I like it
- Well thought out for True Wireless IEM
- Good bass for the price
- Comfortable fit, as the SE215 are
- Looks may not please all
- 1st generation bugs
- If you don’t mind a cable you could just go for the SE215-K or SE215-CL
View price at reviews for the Shure Aonic 215 Wireless in-ear Monitors on Amazon
5. Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus True Wireless IEM
I know being wireless is a big deal and it’s a whole lot easier connecting to a console with a Bluetooth compatibility. For this reason I’ll stick with another set of great wireless in-ear monitors. This is the second generation of MW07 so make sure you look for the MW07 Plus not MW07.
With plenty of colors and designs available, different sized foam tips and a good range of accessories, the MW07 Plus bring a more audiophile sound to gaming.
These are true wireless in-ear monitors and come with a charging case which will give you about 10 hours of playing and gaming time, or music if you decide to use them for that. The case will give you an additional 3 charging cycles so if the stars align and you hold your head at the right angle while sipping your coffer, you should get 40 hours. The MW07 battery life fell short and M&D have tried to rectify this with the MW07 Plus.
Master & Dynamic have stepped up a notch to really bring HiFi to IEMs and the custom 10mm berrilyium drivers deliver a really good sound.
BlueTooth 5.0 and a tasty looking Stainless Steel charging case that any Call of Duty fan will be proud to show off.
- Plus model improves the battery life
- Great shot for audiophile quality
- IPX5 Water resistance rating
- Great noise-cancelling
- A little pricey
View price at reviews for the Master & Dynamic MW07 on Amazon
So…which one to choose?
Best IEM for anything, let alone the Best IEM for Gaming is always going to be subjective but I honestly believe in what I add to lists based on years of experienced listening and retail sales history.
Always read more reviews as you will pick up little nuances that people leave in the comments which help you decide what is going to be right for you. Here, there is no bad choice.
Let me know if you have comments or questions below.
This post was last updated on 2020-11-02 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.