Will in-ear monitors last long enough to give your money’s worth? This is a question you might’ve had about IEMs or drummer earphones for a while. Let’s try to answer that (and more) in this article.
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How Long Will In-Ear Monitors Last?
One thing’s for sure: They won’t last forever. However, it’s definitely possible to use them for many years.
According to the Empire Ears, they’re usually built to last around 3 to 5 plus years. That depends on how you care and use them.
Other sources say they should at least last two years. However, most manufacturers won’t warranty their in-ear monitoring systems past one year.
On the web forum Super Best Audio Friends, the poll question regarding the longevity of in-ear monitors or IEMs produced this result:
- Two people (or 8.3 percent) owned a pair of IEMs that lasted for 4 years.
- Three people (or 12.5 percent) owned a pair of IEMs that lasted for 5 years.
- Nineteen people (or 79.2 percent) owned a pair of IEMs that lasted for 5 years and longer.
Unfortunately, not all IEMs are built to last for years. Based on the experience of other people from popular IEM forums [Popular In-Ear Monitor Forums], the average lifespan of these devices is 6 to 9 months.
Unpopular opinion: There’s no such thing as general lifespan for in-ear monitors. Some people break their IEM in just a few days, while others still hold on to the same pair for 8 years or longer.
The longevity of this device really has nothing to do with the price or sound quality. It depends on several factors, such as:
- Build quality
- Handling and storage (Do you always stuff your IEM inside your pocket? Do you usually forget it in your jeans—getting washed as a result?)
- Frequency of use (Do you use them for your live performances, when listening to your favorite music, or only when you’re working out?)
- Care and maintenance (How often do you clean your IEM?)
Why do most in-ear monitors fail [Common Problems With In-Ear Monitors]? Based on what we read on forums, there are two common reasons their IEMs fail:
Older models of Shure IEMs have a big issue with easily damaged cables. These are one of the delicate parts of IEMs. Unfortunately, they also take a lot of abuse.
Every time you twist, yank, and stuff them (in your bag or pocket), they wear and tear faster. They also become brittle and stiff whenever they come in contact with skin oils and sweat.
So, if you want to get the most out of your IEM, buy a pair that has a detachable cable. This will allow you to safely store your IEM cable in a hard casing, where it’s less likely to get tangled, yanked, or rubbed on things.
One of the most annoying issues with using wired IEMs is tangled cables. Tangling can eventually lead to damage. That’s why it’s important to know what types of cables that are less resistant or most resistant to tangles.
Braided and flat cables are better than the standard rubber cables that come with in-ear monitors. They’re stronger and simpler to manage.
You’ll usually find braided cables on high-end in-ear monitors. The great thing about them is you can buy them separately for IEMs with detachable cables. If your IEM has a non-detachable cable, you might still be able to modify it through a recabling service.
There are actually four factors that greatly influence the tendency of IEM cables to become tangled:
- Y-split (of the left and right channels)
Loss of Sound
This is called channel imbalance. It happens when your IEM losses sound on both or either earpiece. Or, this could also refer to a situation wherein one earpiece produces a louder sound than the other one.
This problem could be due to many reasons, including:
- An adapter that’s not fully plugged in
- Damaged or worn out cables
- Defective earpiece jacks (of the belt-pack receiver)
- Factory defects
How to Extend the Lifespan of Your IEMs
Whether you own a $200 or a $1,000 in-ear monitor, you need to take good care of it—if you want to double or triple its lifespan. One of the best ways to do that is to store them properly.
Most in-ear monitors, even the less expensive ones, come with a little case. But if the case you already have doesn’t meet your needs, you have plenty of choices out there.
Let’s go through the pros and cons of IEM cases based on the materials they’re made of:
Cases made from metal are resistant to dents and scratches. Therefore, they can bear a lot of abuse, without damaging the item inside. Depending on the design, the inside is often lined with a soft fabric or foam to prevent damage to your monitors while they’re in the case.
One downside of metal cases is they tend to be more expensive than cases made of other materials, like plastic. But if you own an IEM worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, we think they could be worth the investment.
Unlike metal or plastic cases, leather cases don’t offer a lot of protection. These cases are often made of soft leather (exterior) and non-woven fabric (interior). However, there are other leather cases that has a harder interior, which doesn’t always guarantee your IEM won’t come out unscathed.
But leather cases feel and look luxurious. They’re also convenient because they’re light, small, and soft, so they can easily fit into your pocket or bag pouch.
To make sure they stay close, they usually have magnetic latches. This type of lock makes it easier and faster for you to put inside or take out your IEM earpieces.
Like what the name says, these cases are made from various materials, such as PU leather (or fake leather), plastic, and fabric. The interior could me made from shock-proof EVA foam and soft and smooth flannelette. There could be mesh bags to hold other IEM accessories, such as ear tips.
Mixed-materials cases offer good protection. They’re shock-proof and crush-resistant. However, compared to metal cases, they won’t be able to withstand large impacts.
Reminder: Don’t put your in-ear monitor back into its casing right away, especially after using it in a situation where moisture or sweat is a big factor [Are In-Ear Monitors Waterproof]. Let it air dry first. If you need to put it back in its case after use, make sure you also put a reusable silica gel packet or use an electric drying case/dehumidifier.
So, we’ve mentioned earlier that tangling of the cables is a constant source of annoyance among IEM users. How do you prevent this? What’s the proper way of storing your IEM cable?
How to Wrap IEM Cables
The popular way of coiling IEM cables is known as the over and under method. It’s quite simple to do. Below are the steps:
- Make sure the cable is straight and doesn’t have knots.
- Grasp one end of the cable with one hand. (This is your fixed hand.) The cable should be running on top of your index finger.
- “Over” loop: Coil the cable back into your fixed hand, and then allow it to run over your index finger again.
- “Under” loop: With your on-hand facing out (with your wrist angled at 180 degrees), grasp the cable from the inside (under). Then, twist your wrist again in order to go back to a neutral position. This will allow the cable to loop on itself.
- Place the loop on your index finger then repeat steps 3 and 4 until your IEM cable is coiled.
- Secure it with a Velcro strap or a twist-tie.
There are other people who don’t agree with the over and under method. Here’s what they do instead:
- Place the palm of your fixed hand on top of the IEM cable (“over” looping).
- Meanwhile, for the “under” loop, put the palm of your other hand below the loop.
- As you pull the coil to your fixed hand, be sure your palm is facing down when laying it.
- Always secure it either with a twist-tie, Velcro strap, or anything you have available.
- Cables have natural coils, which they want to follow. Therefore, it’s important for you to determine which direction your IEM cable wants to coil.
- Never coil cables in the same direction to prevent knots from forming when unwound.
To sum it up, there’s no fixed lifespan for in-ear monitors. It could be days, weeks, or years. There are just too many factors that greatly influence the longevity of these devices, such as the ones we mentioned. But if there are two things you should do to ensure they keep working in the best condition, it’s these: regularly clean them and handle them with care.