I’ve been in a bit of depressed state the past couple of days and, as is customary for me during times like these, I went and splurged on this afternoon at the Apple Store.
I first read about Shure’s In-Ear phones in this IGN review several months ago, and although I was impressed as hell about the idea, I never actually expected that I’d be able to find a pair locally. For those who aren’t familiar with the in-ear concept, the e2C (along with the rest of its brothers) takes the notion of "high-fidelity music" to a whole other level by almost completely blocking out outside noise. How does it do this? Well, you can probably already guess that just from the name. Yes, it goes straight into your ear canal. The picture on the left shows what the e2C looks like straight out of the box.
In theory, the rubber white tips are burrowed ostrich-style in your ear canal, so that only the smallest top portion of the earphones protrude. This creates a "tight seal for sound isolation and a snug, secure fit."
In practice though, the e2C’s were a bit hard to use the first time around. I quickly discovered that Caucasian ear canals tend to be a lot larger than Asian ones, so before I could even turn on my iPod, I had to replace the rubber tips with a smaller pair (the box comes with 3 pairs of different sizes – I chose the smallest one). This proved to be a more comfortable fit, but it still wasn’t blocking out noise at the level I was expecting (I could still hear people talking around me, which was kind of the whole point why I bought these phones). After a few minutes of inserting and reinserting the rubber-tipped phones, I decided to try the included foam tips (also available in 3 sizes), which were softer and could theoretically fit the contour of your ears to produce a tighter seal. It turns out that this is exactly what I needed — the foam tips felt great and, more importantly, sounded great.
I think that thought deserves its own paragraph, so here it is again, for emphasis:
These phones sound great.
The closest analogy I can come up with is graduating to a Digital-SLR after years of taking photos with a consumer-grade digital camera. The difference is fairly friggin’ obvious.
I queued up my Radiohead collection on the drive home and I have to say, it was like I’d never actually heard these songs before. You could pick out every instrument, every jangle and every wail; I was hearing little details and nuances that I never knew were even there. "Idioteque"’s multi-layered soundscape was exposed in startling clarity, as was "Exit Music"’s elegantly subtle chords. (With these phones, silent portions of a song are really silent.)
Although I wholeheartedly recommend these phones to anyone who loves their music, the price (US$100) is pretty darn prohibitive. I guess the only consolation is that this is probably the last pair of phones you will ever need to buy, unless you decide to go professional, or require the additional features of the even more expensive e3C (US$180) or the top-of-the-line, fuck-the-almighty e5c (US$500).