Strother Bullins on Audio-Technica E-Series Professional In-Ear Monitor Headphones

12/29/2016 9:17 AM Eastern

A three-model in-ear monitor range, Audio-Technica’s E-Series offer professional grade monitoring devices at attractive, arguably-bargain price points, suitable for a wide range of applications. From the house-of-worship (HOW) assisted listener to the wireless-monitoring musician to the meticulous mixer/audio content producer, there’s something for every type of end user within the E-Series.

Audio-Technica reportedly developed the E-Series as the in-ear equivalent to their lauded M-Series headphones, and I must attest to the comparative quality: they are every bit as useful, aurally detailed and frequency-accurate as IEMs I’ve auditioned at three times the price of an E-Series product. The question is, do you prefer to use in-ear monitors instead of headphones? In the recording studio, I personally say, “no,” but in live performance, public and mobile use, I say “absolutely.”

The flagship E-Series IEM is the ATH-E70 ($399) featuring three balanced armature drivers, a premium detachable cable featuring sculptable “memory” stiffness, to secure the monitor out of and around the ear. As a matter of fact, the middle range ATH-E50 ($199) and entry-level ATH-E40 ($99) also provide similarly useful detachable “memory” cables with some notable differences.

Perhaps the bulkiest of the range yet still comfortable to wear, the ATH-E40 is based on a push-pull style driver, comparatively offering slightly fuller lows with a seemingly flat frequency response across the audible range. It is low impedance, most efficient and sounds comparatively “louder” across a wide range of inputs and amp types; it’s great whether monitoring via smart device output or a premium headphone amplifier. For the money, it’s a superb musician’s IEM, something to note for HOW-based performers or theater musicians, where budgets may be prohibit expenditures of $200-plus per monitor.

Slightly more “open” in its performance and the lowest profile to wear in the range, the ATH-E50 is based on a single balanced armature driver for full-range response. It’s more similarly voiced to the range’s flagship ATHE70 as they both employ armature drivers, yet, to my ears, the ATH-E70 provides slightly better separation within any musical program as well as (or simply as a result) of a slightly fuller sound.

Besides auditioning these IEMs myself in performance (as a drummer), audio production/mixing and general use applications, I also had some audio colleagues in HOW and live sound settings check them out (after cleaning them, of course). Out of the box, each E-Series monitor fit my ears relatively well, yet came well equipped with other eartip sizes for a “closer-to-custom” fitting; one of the other users struggled a bit with a good fit, but was able to make it work when using the ATH-E70’s Comply premium foam eartips, which provide a bit of “memory” in fitting. In all, the E-Series stay snug and do a great job of isolating the listener from aural interferences—nearly as good as custom IEM models costing nearly a grand—and I know, as I’ve used those extensively, too.

In the E-Series, Audio-Technica has an impressive IEM line that rises to meet the high-performance/low cost impressiveness of its extensive headphone line. While the market is arguably flooded with “ear buds,” A-T has hit the market a bit later with it three models that are very reasonably priced, impressive performers.

Strother Bullins is Technology Editor for NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. 

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