What were the first ever IEMs?
Jul 10, 2008 at 9:12 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 25


1000+ Head-Fier
Jul 5, 2007
So IEMs are a relatively new thing out on the market, and I was wondering what the first IEMs ever released were?

Who was the first company to really push them?
Jul 10, 2008 at 10:32 AM Post #2 of 25
I thought it was Etymotic...they're the first I recall hearing about. But other old, grizzled HeadFiers may know more...
Jul 10, 2008 at 11:42 AM Post #3 of 25
Hey, NICE question!
You've tickled my curiosity on this too- anyone know what the first IEM model was?
Jul 10, 2008 at 11:51 AM Post #4 of 25
I don't know if they were first, but the ER-4 have been around for at least ten years.
Jul 10, 2008 at 12:00 PM Post #5 of 25
Okay, though I am not very old, I will give you an IEM's history 101:

IEM is born in the development of In-Ear Monitoring System. During late 70s, various small companies (most have disappeared) started to develop small scare stage monitoring system for musician. One of the very first musician who used custom IEM on-stage is Stevie Wonder (on the early ~ mid 80s).

Around 1984, Steve Miller Band started to fund the development of full scare In-Ear Monitoring System to be used on tour. They tried and discarded several system until they adapted a system called 'Ear Monitor' on 1990 by Crystal-Taylor Sound (which is found by the same person who later established Future Sonics). Another musician, Todd Rundgren, also adapted the same system on 1986 when it was under development. Few years later as the technology got adapted by more musicians, a few other companies also developed similar systems (Circuits Maximus' C-MAX system, Bross Audio Designs' EarWorn system, Etymotic Research's CanalPhone system, Sensaphonics' ProPhonic system, etc).

By mid ~ late 90s, Sennheiser started to manufactured In-Ear Monitoring System as well. About the same time (1997), Shure enters the market (with earpiece made by Westone). It is not until the new Millennium that the earpeice (or universal IEM as we know today) that are once intended for In-Ear Monitoring System starts to become available to the general public, mostly due to the release and popularization of iPod at 2001. IEM isn't really much a new thing in comparison to mp3 player.

To answer your question, no one seems to know who made the first IEM, but Future Sonics is often credited as the first company that developed a successful In-Ear Monitoring System that resembles what we have today.

^I dug these info out when I was researching material for my IEM guide. It might not be totally correct, but I believe it is very close to the truth.
Jul 10, 2008 at 12:05 PM Post #6 of 25
Wow, never knew that Futuresonics was around for so long, and pioneered one of the earlier IEMs to be used professionally. Very cool, considering how much I like their Atrio IEMs.
Jul 10, 2008 at 12:08 PM Post #7 of 25
You might also want to know that early Future Sonics' IEM used Balanced Armature too, and they supplies the earpiece to other companies that build In-Ear Monitoring System.
Jul 10, 2008 at 12:10 PM Post #8 of 25
Thanks fo such an infomative reply! Just what I was hoping for, even if the anwsers it bears can't be conclusive. I had a hunch you garnered this knowledge when comprising that guide of yours (which is excellent btw)
Jul 10, 2008 at 2:21 PM Post #9 of 25
Awesome, thanks for the info ClieOS.


I don't know if they were first, but the ER-4 have been around for at least ten years.

10 years? I guess if they're not broken, they don't need fixing.
Jul 10, 2008 at 2:25 PM Post #10 of 25

Originally Posted by Dublo7 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
10 years? I guess if they're not broken, they don't need fixing.

Well put, since the ER4 still smokes a good majority of IEMs out there, including most of the new ones.
Jul 10, 2008 at 3:51 PM Post #11 of 25
LOL I always knew it was either Etymotic or Future Sonic, since I always hear about their "long" history. Nice to know the "semi-facts" now. It's interesting though since I knew about Etymotic WAY before I knew that Future Sonic existed...
Jul 10, 2008 at 4:08 PM Post #12 of 25
^ Same! Although I think I learned of Ultimate Ears before Future Sonics as well, LOL. :p
Jul 10, 2008 at 4:21 PM Post #13 of 25
These snips from Etymotics PR material


Etymotic Research was the first company to develop commercial products utilizing in-ear technology, with the introduction of the ER•1 and ER•2 insert earphones in 1984.


Etymotic Research invented noise-isolating high fidelity in-ear earphones. All earphone and headset products from Etymotic are noise-isolating and all are designed to reproduce sound as close to the original as possible.


The ER•4S earphone was the pioneer when introduced in 1991, and is still the most accurate of all in-ear earphones. It remains a reference earphone in the audio industry among sound engineers, recording and monitoring crews and audiophiles.

Jul 10, 2008 at 5:35 PM Post #15 of 25

Originally Posted by nc8000 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
These snips from Etymotics PR material

The ER1 mentioned is not really for the music industry. Early Ety's products (ER1/2/3) are all for research and testing purpose. It was not till 1991 at the release of ER4 that Etymotic starts to target the audiophiles' market. Before that, Etymotic is almost purely a hearing aid company.

If you take a look at either ER1 or ER2, they do not resemble what we would call IEM today.

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