- Review Price: £157.00
MP3 players have made a huge impact on the way we enjoy music today. Gone are the days of clunky, battery gobbling CD players and bags filled with but a handful of albums. Instead, we revel in the luxury of carrying around a lifetime of music on a player barely the size of a wallet.
With player capacity increasing regularly, relatively poor quality 128kbps MP3s are quickly being replaced by higher bit-rate files and more often superior formats such as AAC and OGG Vorbis. With near-CD equivalent quality at your finger tips, it’s an audio crime that so many people are using headphones that aren’t even worthy to hang washing on. Sound quality is only as good as the weakest link in the chain and if you’ve spent good money on a portable media player it makes sense to ensure that your headphones do it justice.
With this is mind, we decided to take a look at the Shure E4c sound isolation headphones. Shure is better known for its range of microphones – most notably the SM57 and 58 series, which are pretty much the de-facto standard for instrument and vocal recording around the world. With an obviously excellent understanding of speaker technologies, one would expect it to be able to make a decent set of headphones.
The E4c headphones are very small and lightweight. The cable is thicker than you usually get with headphones due to superior shielding. The cable is also fairly long at around 1.5m.
Unlike traditional in-ear headphones, these are designed to fit as far into your ear canal as possible. This is to ensure the best sound reproduction and also has the benefit of keeping almost all outside noises from entering the ear. Several sets of ear buds are provided, and these are made of differing materials and sizes to suit almost any ear size. Along with this, there is a 6.3mm adapter and an inline volume control should you need one. All of these are gold plated to match the headphone jack for superior contact. This is all included in a discreet carry bag, which is also large enough to house the headphones.
Unlike sound cancelling headphones, which reduce noise by emitting a sound that is an exact opposite to the noise you want to remove, these work on the principle of just physically blocking out noise. This makes the whole experience a lot more immersive and means you music can be playing at a much lower volume as you don’t have to compete with the noise of trains, planes or automobiles.
The first buds I tried were the plastic ones you see in the picture on the previous page. Much to my suprise, music sounded completely deviod of bass – as if it had been completely cut-out and as a result the mid-range also suffered. However, the upper end did sound crystal clear. We tried all the ear buds provided with similar results and my conclusion was essentially one of disdain.
This was however, until I used the foam buds. Similar to ear plugs that you might use for aiding sleep, you squeeze the foam to make it fit into your ear. The foam then expands, conforming to your ear canal perfectly. With these, the sound was completely transformed, with the bass finally being added in to the equation. However, there is no denying that even with these buds, the e4cs bass is lacking – despite claims of “brilliant highs and extended bass”. This problem stems from the fact the driver is so small. On the plus side – the highs really are brilliant with amazing clarity. I could pick out every instrument individually without any problems and I could hear new detail in familiar music that I’d never heard before.
The down side to the foam buds is they do get dirty very quickly and also lose their ability to expand over time. A quick bath in hot water soon sorts this out, but they won’t last forever and £7.99 is a lot for replacements.
The two year warranty is reassuring, but at £156.89 you would expect nothing less. This price is too high for my liking however. I’d quite happily pay around £70 for the quality these headphones provide but believe anything more is extortionate.
The Shure e4cs deliver a very pure sound that’s true to the recording, but for the most part they lack bass – though but this can be countered using EQ if you find it necessary. If you listen to complex, layered music, that doesn’t rely on a repetitive “boom” to carry it along however, then these headphones will give you even more appreciation for the music you love. Even so, the price is still too high for my liking.
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