Best IEMs for Gaming in 2023 – Expert Reviews

KZ AS16 Pro IEM vs other KZ earphone designs

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Best IEM For Gaming
2024

Are you a gamer looking to up your audio game? You’re in the right place! Our guide to the best gaming In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) of 2023 is perfect for gamers at any level. We’ve tested and reviewed a bunch of IEMs to find the ones that really make a difference in your gaming sessions. Whether you’re all about that crystal-clear sound, need something super comfy for long gaming marathons, or are watching your budget, we’ve got you covered. Dive in with us as we explore the world of gaming IEMs and find the perfect pair for your needs.

Editor’s Pick
Final Audio VR3000

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 Final Audio VR3000 is an excellent choice. With 6mm drivers and a V-shaped signature, these IEMs bring a deep sound to your gaming.

IEM ModelDriverFrequency RangePrice
1. Final Audio VR30001 DD20 – 20,000 Hz$
2. Simgot EA5001 DD10 – 50,000 Hz$
3. Moondrop Variations1 DD + 2 ED + BA9 – 40,000 Hz$$$
4. Moondrop Chu II 1 DD20 – 20,000 Hz$
5. Final Audio E5001 DD20 – 20,000 Hz$

Why Buy IEMs For Gaming

When you look into gaming audio products, you’ll find an overwhelming emphasis on headphones and headsets while earphones and IEMs are mostly neglected by comparison.

For most gaming brands like Logitech and Razer, the idea is that headphones usually produce better sound for gaming thanks to the larger space that they work with.

The reality, though, is that since they’re larger, they can slap on more features and generally charge more than they could with gaming IEMs. But people still look for IEMs for gaming for a reason—and if you’re reading this guide, chances are you have one of these four reasons for getting one: portability, isolation, and latency.

Portability

A gaming headset usually makes sense for a PC or console setup, but things change a bit once you take your gaming sessions on the go. 

Sure, there isn’t anything stopping you from wearing your HyperX Cloud headphones outside, but you definitely won’t be able to stuff your gaming IEMs into a shirt or jacket pocket that way.  

Isolation

One of the biggest benefits of using IEMs for gaming is their isolation. Since they enter and seal your ears at the ear canal, IEMs generally do a better job at blocking outside noise compared to headphones. 

In fact, if you look at footage of professional esports players, you might find them wearing earphones underneath their headphones. This way, they get even better noise isolation from the usual noise of a live crowd so they can focus on game audio and communicating with their teammates. 

Latency

Some of the more involved gamers might want wired IEMs for gaming because of their optimal latency compared to the wireless solutions that mainstream audio brands have been pushing out quite a lot. 

For those out of the loop, latency is the time of delay between an action happening in a game and its corresponding sound effect being played out of speakers or headphones. 

For most game genres this isn’t something you need to worry about but anyone who plays competitive shooters would want minimal latency to stay fully aware of the game. And if you play music and rhythm games, minimal latency is required or the game becomes basically unplayable. 

5 Best IEMs for Gaming

The Best IEMs For Gaming Reviewed

With all of that in mind, we’ve chosen the best IEMs for gaming with a focus on the ones that provide the best sound quality and ergonomics for both competitive and casual gamers. 

While some might prefer different sound signatures depending on the game being played (competitive shooters usually prefer a lean and clean sound for maximum spatial awareness), all of our picks here should sound satisfying enough no matter what game you play. 

editorspick

Final Audio VR3000

True to its name, the Final Audio VR3000 offers VR-ready imaging that’s perfect for games—and all at $75

4.5/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Final Audio
Final Audio VR3000 - Best IEMs For Gaming

The Download

Final Audio is one of the more niche brands in the audiophile space. Based in Japan, they’re known for their wild statement pieces like the Sonorous and LAB series, but there are highlights from their more conventional models because of their very specific design philosophies. The VR3000 is one of them.

As the name suggests, the VR3000 was designed for VR applications and provides “accurate reproduction of binaural sound”. It does this through amazing soundstage and imaging performance, which just so happens to also make it one of the best IEMs for gaming. 

There’s no DSP or virtual surround at play here — with a single dynamic driver in each ear, the VR3000 offers positional accuracy in competitive shooters like VALORANT and Apex Legends that’s tough to beat even by earphones far above its price bracket. 

Of course, they can’t quite do everything. For one, the VR3000 takes on a rather neutral sound with tight bass and clear upper frequencies that won’t impress those looking for a more “cinematic” sound. Their housings aren’t the most smoothly shaped, with rather hard angles that might dig into some ears. The lack of a removable cable is also a bit unfortunate. 

But the VR3000 is an earphone with a very specific mission: to provide exceptional spatial audio as it is used in VR and video games. And to that, I can say “mission accomplished.”

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Closed-back in-ear monitor
  • Driver Type:  6mm dynamic driver
  • Frequency Response:  20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  101 dB
  • Impedance:  18 Ohms

What’s in the Box?

  • Final Audio VR3000 earphones
  • 5 pairs of Final Type-E silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L, XL)
  • Locking ear hooks
  • Carrying pouch

Stuff I like

  • Best-in-class soundstage and imaging
  • Tight, focused, and clear sound signature
  • Lightweight and easy to fit

Stuff I like less

  • Housings can dig into the ears after a while
  • Cable is non-removable
  • In-line microphone is lackluster
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
contender

Simgot EA500

One of the better releases to come out of 2023, although its bright sound may be too much for some

4.5/5
Price Range: $
Brand: SIMGOT
Simgot EA500

The Download

The 2020s so far have been one of the most interesting times for IEMs, especially in the sub-$100 budget segment. Sure, a bird’s eye view of it could sum up the task as “making great-sounding earphones cheaper”, but it’s always appreciated anyway to see the proverbial floor raised a bit higher. 

The SIMGOT EA500 was one of these releases that we looked at. Released earlier in February, this $80 earphone impresses with a bold and bright sound signature that enhances gaming just as well as it does music.  We’re not going to sugarcoat it — the EA500 has a bright sound, and it’ll take some getting used to. Some people never do. Heck, it even comes with an alternative tuning filter that further lifts the upper frequencies. 

But if you give your ears time to adjust, you’ll be treated to one of the best IEMs for gaming to come out this year. With impressive imaging, a great set of accessories, and a gorgeous polished finish that puts everything in its price bracket to shame, the SIMGOT EA500 is a capable and reliable IEM that can handle just about anything you can throw at it.

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Closed-back in-ear monitor
  • Driver Type:  Single 10mm DLC (diamond-like carbon) dynamic driver
  • Frequency Response:  10 – 50,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  123 dB
  • Impedance:  16 Ohms

What’s in the Box?

  • SIMGOT EA500 earphones
  • 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
  • 2 pairs of filters (red ring, black ring)
  • Carrying case
  • 1.2m silver-plated copper cable (3.5mm to 0.78mm 2-pin)

Stuff I like

  • Detailed sound with airy soundstage
  • Two tuning filters to choose from
  • Beautiful chrome-plated housings
  • Includes premium cable at this price

Stuff I like less

  • Bright treble takes some getting used to
  • Alternate tuning filter is even brighter than the default
  • Housing finish is prone to smudges
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
premiumoption

Moondrop Variations

Despite the name, the Moondrop Variations doesn’t need any alternate tunings to excel at just about everything

4.5/5
Price Range: $$$
Brand: Moondrop
Moondrop Variations

The Download

In the world of IEMs, Moondrop is a name that’s often associated with price to performance. No matter what price bracket they hit, they always seem to come out with a result better than second base — if it isn’t a home run out right.

But with a price tag of $520, the Moondrop Variations does seem like quite the ask this time around. Aimed squarely at similarly priced IEMs like the ThieAudio Oracle, the Moondrop Variations makes use of a “tribrid” configuration, commanding three types of earphone driver designs (dynamic, balanced armature, and electrostatic) in unison. 

I do find it funny that the Variations doesn’t actually have any tuning variations — no switches, no filters, nothing. But their impeccably clear mids, crisp highs, and amazingly rich and rumbly sub-bass give the earphones a versatility that more than compensates for it.

Like most of the audiophile space, anything above the budget segment is a tough sell for most people. But if you’re after some of the best IEMs for gaming immersion and sound quality, sometimes splurging for the endgame is the fastest way to get there. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Closed-back in-ear monitor
  • Driver Type:  1x 10mm dynamic driver, 2x electrostatic drivers, 2x balanced armature drivers
  • Frequency Response:  9 – 40,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  118 dB/V
  • Impedance:  15 Ohms

What’s in the Box?

  • Moondrop Variations earphones
  • PCC cable
  • 3.5mm connector
  • 2.5mm connector
  • 4.4mm balanced connector
  • Tweezers
  • 5 pairs of filters
  • Storage case
  • 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
  • 3 pairs of foam ear tips (S, M, L)

Stuff I like

  • Versatile and properly high-end sound signature
  • Deeply immersive soundstage
  • Exceptionally clear midrange

Stuff I like less

  • Price is tough to swallow
  • Not the prettiest design out there
  • Sub-bass might be too much for some
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
budgetpick

Moondrop Chu II

Hands down the best budget IEM of 2023—but not quite the promised upgrade from its predecessor

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Moondrop
Moondrop Chu II

The Download

The Moondrop Chu made waves in the audiophile space last year for offering what’s arguably the best sound you could get from an earphone at $20. The ergonomics could’ve been better, sure, but that was forgivable for what was otherwise the best budget earphone we’ve seen yet.

With the announcement of the Chu II, however, it seemed like these problems would be fixed. And with that, we would get the bona fide best $20 IEM for gaming and music and everything else. What we got on release was…a bit different. 

The Moondrop Chu II definitely fixed all of the ergonomic problems of the previous version. The cable is removable and its quality is a lot better. The housings have been reworked for a simpler fit, and the new ear tips (while no longer the Moondrop Spring tips) are more consistent with their seal. But the sound of the Chu II was also changed. This time around, we’re treated to a more conventional Harman-like tuning with more emphasis on the sub-bass, as opposed to the brighter tilt of the first Chu. 

By all accounts, the Chu II felt like a completely new IEM rather than a complete upgrade. But it’s still an upgrade, and that’s what matters. 

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Closed-back in-ear monitor
  • Driver Type:  10mm dynamic driver
  • Frequency Response:  20 – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  119 dB
  • Impedance:  18 Ohms

What’s in the Box?

  • Moondrop Chu II earphones
  • 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
  • 1.2m cable (0.78mm 2-pin to 3.5mm TRS)
  • Carrying pouch

Stuff I like

  • Extremely great performance for the price
  • Cable is now removable
  • Cable is now removable

Stuff I like less

  • Not a sound upgrade to the Chu I
  • Moondrop Spring ear tips not included
  • Isolation is not very good
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
alsoconsider

Final E500

A small and unassuming earphone that hides some of the best imaging abilities at its price

4/5
Price Range: $
Brand: Final
Final E500

The Download

As we’ve seen with the VR3000, Final Audio is an earphone brand that runs with a lot of different concepts, from the midrange-focused Heaven earphones to the tune-it-yourself MAKE series. The E500 is a bit of a different beast. Although the naming convention puts it in the same league as their rather generic E-line of IEMs, the E500 seems to be specifically made with VR and gaming in mind. 

And indeed, the E500 does seem to do just that. Like a “baby” version of the VR3000, the E500 produces a surprisingly spacious soundstage for an IEM of its size. Its imaging ability doesn’t feel quite as precise as its more expensive counterpart but at $25, what the E500 offers is more than impressive enough. 

Even for music, the E500 is still quite capable. It doesn’t have the intensity of the VR3000, but its smoother and more laid-back sound does take the edge off of sharp and loud sounds. It’s weird to call a sound signature “comfortable” in the context of an intense FPS game, but the E500 manages to pull that off and is a solid choice if you’re after a focused IEM for your gaming sessions.

The Specs

  • Headphone Type:  Closed-back in-ear monitor
  • Driver Type:  Single 6.4mm dynamic driver
  • Frequency Response:  20 – 20,000 Hz

What’s in the Box?

  • Final Audio E500 earphones
  • 5 pairs of Final Audio Type-E silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L, XL)

Stuff I like

  • Small size enables easy fit
  • Impressive imaging ability at this price
  • Smooth, easy-going sound

Stuff I like less

  • Bass can be too flat for some
  • Non-removable cable
  • Build quality is not the best
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Final Thoughts

The best IEMs for gaming can mean different things to different people. Depending on what games you like to play, a good gaming IEM would either provide excellent spatial accuracy to help you find opponents in competitive games, or have a clear and compelling sound that fully immerses you in the game’s painstakingly crafted world.

The Final Audio VR3000 and E500 are our tools of choice for competitive gaming thanks to their stellar imaging abilities, and both at surprisingly reasonable prices. Meanwhile, the SIMGOT EA500 is an excellent all-rounder with its versatile sound and airy soundstage, but the Moondrop Chu II is more accommodating both in terms of its bassier sound and its lower price tag. 

Of course, if you want to splurge there are just as many options up at the top as there are at the bottom but of these, the Moondrop Variations offers the best balance between detail and cinematic power. 

Whether you play on PC, console, or mobile, all of our recommended picks should fit your needs one way or the other. Just make sure your device has a headphone jack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are IEMs good for games?

If you pick the right ones, IEMs can be good for games just like their over-ear counterparts. A lot of the decision-making that comes with choosing between a headphone and an IEM for gaming comes down to form factor—that is, which gives you the best fit and comfort for your gaming setup.

Thanks to the new standard of having removable earphone cables, you can get even more out of an IEM with things like boom mics for IEMs. 

Which IEM is best for gaming?

From our testing, we found the Final Audio VR3000 to be the best IEM for gaming thanks to its excellent imaging abilities that make it suited for VR and competitive gaming. Its sound signature is also quite balanced, allowing it to play nicely with most games without being overwhelming.

Why do pro gamers use IEMs?

A lot of pro gamers use IEMs when they play at live events to get a focused sound that blocks out as much external noise as possible. Because they seal the ears, they tend to provide better isolation than over-ear headsets. 

However, pro gamers can also be seen wearing headsets on top of their IEMs. These serve three purposes: first, it helps isolation even further by physically covering the entire ear; second, they use the headsets for communicating with their team thanks to the clearer microphones; and finally, headphones are big and prominent, making them prime items for advertising gaming brand sponsors. 

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

This post was last updated on 2024-04-18 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.


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7 thoughts on “Best IEMs for Gaming in 2023 – Expert Reviews”

  1. Rodolfo V Valiati

    I play with a KZ ZS10 pro with a CCA BTX Adapter. It has amazing sound quality and is very confortable.

  2. I do heavy gaming with a KZ ZS10 Pro from RPGs to Competitive Shooters to MMOs. I use Dolby Atmos, Dynamic Range tuning, and custom Equalizer to further enhance it to a point it sounds as good as $1000 IEMs.
    I also use it for Movies and TIDAL Master audio music.

    I’m not sure if KZ ZAX IEM (twice the price) is suppose to be an upgrade over the KZ ZS10 Pro, but it’s definitely not a replacement. I initially looked into KZ ZAX, bought it, yet several months later, i find it having softer Bass and fuzzier clarity vs. the KZ ZS10 Pro, which the latter, by KZ standards, somewhat of a perfected entry within that price range.

    In gaming, and movies, the KZ ZAX started to have somewhat of a higher peak treble that pierces my ears in different scenes, or the lower ends had drown out the dialogue. Music wise, it’s quite impressive, and not much different in providing punchy bass and clear vocals, where instrumentals are pronounced.

    1. Thanks Ryu – good feedback. In terms of current models the KZ ZES have some great bottom end which would surpass the KZ ZAX now. This list will be updated over time to reflect newer models.

  3. You said you can get a replacement cable with a mic, I struggle to find any good ones that don’t break the bank and have a decent sound quality, do you have any recommendations?

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