If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos, you’ll know that there’s one thing a lot of the modern budget in-ear monitors are missing that I find to be a little bit frustrating and it would be so simple for them to add it to their models.
Something a lot of people don’t realize is that in-ear monitors are really designed to go down the back of your neck. The two wires should meet at the base of your hairline and be secured and then the cable should run down your back to your belt pack or your portable listening device, whether that be a DAP or a phone or similar.
The benefits of this are that you get a much better fit of the in-ear monitors in your ear, simply from the way that in-ear monitors are tensioned against the top of your ear line, and the way the cable then runs back together.
I’ve reviewed tens, maybe almost hundreds of in-ear monitors over the years, and with all of the budget in-ear monitors that I’ve been reviewing over the last couple of years, the one omission that I find most frustrating is the lack of a tensioner. This includes CCA and KZ as well as others.
The simple addition doesn’t even need to be complicated. A simple small piece of plastic that allows the cables to run through it so that when you run the cable round to the back of your ears, you can pull a tensioner up to tighten the cables at the base of your neck.
All of the long-term professional in-ear monitor companies that are making in-ear monitors include this with their cables and there are some budget brands that also provide this.
Even if you are intending on running the cables down the front of your body (having the cable run down from your ear and the cable running from the front of your body) to your source device, a tensioner won’t interrupt that experience.
If you’re playing live using your in-ear monitors for active activities, such as sports, then a tensioner is really a must-have. Playing live, if the wires are loose around your ears, there’s an increased chance that your in-ear monitor is going to fall out, especially if you’re getting a little bit jiggy with it on the stage.
And we all know the challenge with in-ear monitors is once you lose a good seal in your ear, you’re kind of stuffed and you have to reseal the in-ear monitor.
Even with Custom IEMs while they may not come loose as easily, having a wire flopping around the edges of your ears can be incredibly frustrating.
My personal hack, my personal solution to this is quite simple.
You really just need a very small rubber band, which you can loop over a couple of times on the cable until there is a fair amount of hold to the rubber band around the cable, then when you put your in-ear monitors on, you can simply roll the rubber band up, and that will pull the in-ear monitors up to the base of your neck.
If there’s some vanity involved here, such as the embarrassment of standing on public transport, knowing that there’s a rubber band holding your cables on, this may not be suitable for you, but I can tell you that it is a really great quick fix because the rubber band is a little bit grippy, it doesn’t slide down easily.
Anything else that you try to hold up or tighten an IEM cable with will usually just slide down. So the rubber band solution is actually quite a good one. You can of course get a replacement cable and look for one that does have a tensioner on it, that could be a two-pin or an MMCX cable, depending on what your in-ear monitors connect to, consists of and these can be quite affordable from multiple sources.
So, if you’re making in-ear monitors and you’re reading this, my appeal to you is to go the extra mile for that little piece of plastic to go around each wire to allow tensioning.
If the only in-ear monitors you’ve ever bought are Shure, Westone, or any Custom IEMs, then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about and can therefore move on to another post or even contribute a post to make life click.
I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.
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.