June 20, 2006 at 2:17 AM by Dr. Drang
Overall, I like them. If you’ve read about these earphones or their more expensive Shure siblings, you know that they fit in your ear and the cords are angled to be wrapped up and around your ears. This arrangement works well. I’m hearing bass that I didn’t hear before, and I’m isolated enough from outside sounds that I can keep the volume lower.
They come with three types of removable covering: hard plastic, soft plastic, and foam. And each type comes in three sizes, so you might find yourself trying many combinations before deciding on what works and feels best for you. Each type of covering is annular and fits around the tube that feeds sound into your ear.
I started with the foam covers—probably because the reviews I read focused on them—but have settled on the medium-sized soft plastic. The foam covers are like the disposable foam earplugs you get to keep sound out. The idea is to squish them down to a diameter smaller than that of your ear canal, then stick them in and let the expand out against the canal, forming a seal. Because the sound tube takes up a lot of the squishing space at the center of the cover, I couldn’t get a consistent seal with any of the foam covers.
The soft plastic covers are like the covers for Apple’s in-ear earphones but fit better in the ear canal, probably because of the design of the outer part of the earphone and the up-and-over routing of the cords.
I confess I haven’t tried the harder plastic covers. Even the soft plastic can get uncomfortable after a while, so I’ve been too cowardly to jam in the hard plastic.
The cord on the Shure is distinctly longer than the cords on either of the Apple-branded earphones. Whether this is good or bad depends on where and how you carry your iPod. I always wear my iPod clipped to a pants pocket. When I’m walking around, the Shure is maybe a bit too long, but gives me the freedom to turn my head and twist my upper body without pulling out an earphone, something that happened frequently with my Apple earphones. On the other hand, when I’m riding my bicycle, the extra length of the Shure cord can sneak out and get caught around my knee while I’m pedaling. Tucking a few inches of the cord behind the iPod’s clip solves this. On balance, the longer cord works better.
The Shure’s cord is also a lot thicker than Apple’s. One reviewer (can’t remember who) said that the Shure conducted less extraneous noise into his ears when the cord was bumped or handled than the did the cord on the Apple in-ear model. He attributed this to the thicker cord. I find the physics of this dubious, to say the least, but don’t dispute that the Shures are quieter. I think it’s more likely that the sound conducted along the cord is deadened as the Shure cord goes around the outside of your ear. And it wouldn’t suprise me to learn that the fit in the ear plays a role; the noise conducted by my Apple in-ears varied greatly from day to day, probably because they didn’t go in my ear the same way each time.
The combination of thickness and length makes the Shure cord a pretty big bundle when it’s wound up. I definitely prefer the small package presented by the Apple earphones.
I mentioned the superior sound isolation of the Shures. This is particularly noticeable on
- airplanes, where engine noise had always forced me to turn up the volume to a level that worried me (I’m middle-aged, I worry a lot); and
- my bicycle, where the wind noise from air rushing past my head had had the same effect as the airplane engines.
The e2c earphones are Shure’s least expensive, but their list price is still $100, dangerously close to what I paid for my iPod (mini). But Amazon was having a sale, and I used some certificates to drive the price down to about $20, which made them seem almost free. Now that I’ve had them a while, I would not hesitate to recommend them at the typical street price of $70.