Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shure's e2c headphones and friends

I'm a bit of an "Audiophile" [a.k.a. music snob]. I LOVE music, and I absolutely MUST have the best headphones available for listening to said music. Over the last year alone I've probably spent nearly $2000 on headphones trying to get the best experience possible from a couple of tiny speakers jammed against my head.

A decent sized chunk of the 2G's that I blew, was on my beloved Shure e3c's. But wait, isn't this article titled Sure e2c headphones? Why yes it is. The reason that this is not on the 3's is because I was having just a "peachy" day, and nothing was going well. Topping it all off, while listening to a little Rammstein, I didn't quite find my jacket pocket with my ipod in it's nice protective case.... the heavy tug on my ears told me that something had gone terribly wrong, specifically that I was no longer listening to 'Ich Will', but rather to a crackling buzz. What this meant was that my 3's had met a fate that fell well outside of the realm of "normal wear and tear", sending me on a crusade to find a cheaper, but no worse sounding pair of buds.

I am now the proud owner of a drawer full of various quality headphones, mostly earbuds. The best 3 that I still use on
a regular basis are my Griffin [imagine that] EarThumps: $30; JVC HA-FX55W: $80; Philips SHN060: $80.

The EarThumps are fantastic for cheap headphones which kick the crap out of the included ipod buds, but a bit muddy in the low end.

The JVC's are all around good, with great sound quality, but the rubber that houses the extraneously long cord, [it's a feature, not a bug], gets REALLY dirty, and my friend Josh found out, also breaks apart over time.

The Philips are not only noise isolating just like the other two, but also have active noise canceling, this is not only good for killing that annoying white-noise pumped into my office, but also drastically improves the sound when turned on.

Even after getting all of these, and tweaking all of my custom eq presets for them, I was still not entirely satisfied. Which is when all of the listening to Josh hum and haw about whether it would be worth the hundred bucks to pick up the Shure e2c's, got me to missing my good ol' 3's, but not enough to hit up the Long and McQuade for a new pair, So I got the "entry-level" e2c's.

The Shure e2c headphones are, for those unfamiliar with Shure's products, very funky looking, and odd to put on. When you hold the packaging it feels like it was worth the money, something that is surprisingly important when you think about the fact that you are dropping a decent chunk of change on a little pair of earbuds. When opening the packaging with a very sharp knife [since it has that really heavy plastic] you behold a veritable onion of red and white plastic. The contents of the package are the e2c's, the hard case, the dozen or so interchangeable ear cups, and of course the all important instructions.

It took about an hour of trying all of the different ear cups to eventually just settle on the same ones that I used for my 3's. The sound reproduction is nearly as faithful as the 3's, but slightly less bass. The audio is clear across the entire spectrum is overall spectacular, the highs are crisp without being hissy, the mids are clear and do an excellent job with speech, and the lows thump along without distortion. Shure is a company that is known as a pro-audio company, and the build quality of these headphones definitely show that they belong to that pedigree. Unlike some other headphones the cable is thick, but still flexible, generally two things that are generally not found together in the same product.

The over-the-ear upside down fit of the cables take some initial fumbling with, and will continue to be frustrating for the first week or so, until you figure out the best way of putting them in. For me it's the cable over the ear first, followed by the [awkward looking] tugging on the ear for the best fit, inserting the buds into the ear canal, and a final adjustment of the cable. It's important to get the fit just right as it makes all the difference in the sound quality that you will get out of the e2c's, especially the bass, the better the fit [seal] - the better the sound. To ensure that you get the best fit possible there are 3 types of cups in the package, each with 3 sizes, and include the disposable foam earplug style. With such great ability to get a perfect fit, resulting in excellent sound isolation, these would be fantastic earbud monitors for stage performers. That all this is found in a 1 oz package is pretty impressive.

The only real problem with these headphones is not exclusive to this particular pair but symptomatic of all headphones, in-ear buds in particular, and that is that you can SERIOUSLY damage your hearing if you crank the volume. Thankfully since you get so much better sound isolation than standard buds, and such an increase in audio quality, you really won't need to turn things up as much; saving your ears, and still enjoying your audio.

If you are new to the in-ear style of headphones you may be fighting the urge to gag when you first put them in, since you aren't going to be used to having something that deep in your ever-so-sensitive ear canal, but once you get to know how you fit them to your ears, that feeling will go away, and you will very much enjoy the listening experience.

The Shure e2c headphones are overall an amazing pair of headphones for around $100-$130. The sound reproduction is faithful across the board, though not as full as much more expensive headphones [My e3c's were just under $300 when I bought them]. The "custom" fit will have a near-perfect fit for 99% of the people who will try them.

I highly recommend the Shure e2c Headphones for anyone who takes their listening experience seriously, but either can't [or won't] afford the more expensive professional/prosumer pairs. These may be the entry level model from Shure, but they sure don't sound like they are.

Until next time,


[Notes] The right ear is the clear and grey bud, and the left ear is all clear. Shure also has come out with the e2g "Gaming edition", which are the same as the e2c's but in all black, and have R & L stamped on them and have an MSRP that is $10 cheaper.