A Pain in the Ear

by David Parmet Mar 12, 2006

When writing reviews, you have to balance your expectations over what the product actually turns out to be. In the case of the Shure E2c Sound Isolating Earphones, my expectations were trumped but not in a good way.

Let’s start with the good. The sound is just what you would expect from a pair of earphones costing $109 (MSRP). Nice clear highs, bass that makes your heart skip a beat and midranges that sound like midranges should. All in all, a nice warm hi-fi sound, nothing to complain about there.

The carrying case is a nice touch - a hard plastic case with a post in the middle to wrap the cables around. It protects the earphones while still fitting comfortably in your pocket.

Now, notice I used the word comfortably in the last paragraph. That’s what we call foreshadowing. Because the E2cs are the least comfortable things I’ve ever put in my ears (no jokes, please).

I tried the flex sleeves and the foam ones. I tried them at the gym, at home, on a plane, listening to music and to a DVD on my PowerBook. Trust me, these suckers hurt.

According to the spec sheet on Shure’s web site “(t)he soft, flexible sleeves in the Fit Kit gently contour the inside of the ear for a comfortable, secure fit so that the earphones don’t fall out while you’re exercising.” Well, I beg to differ. To get them in your ear so they don’t fall out, you have to really jam them in there. And once you do, they are so painful, you’d rather just watch whatever is on the TV at the gym than suffer so much ear pain.

Part of the problem is the basic design. The drivers are fairly large and according to the user manual you are supposed to drape the cables over and behind your ear. Otherwise the weight of the drivers pulls the earbuds out of your ear canal. But even that is uncomfortable. The cables themselves are bulky - thicker than anything I’ve seen on a basic set of earphones.

I can’t really say how well these block outside sound since I was more focused on the massive pain in my ears than in the sounds around me.

So what did I expect for $109? A decent set of earphones that balanced great sound with design and ease of use. Nothing spectacular, just something good. What I got instead was a massive pain in the ear.

My advice is to save your money and buy the Apple iPod In-Ear Headphones for $39 and spend the rest at the iTunes Music Store.


  • wow that’s heavy man

    MyWeeping had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Ah well, not all IEM designs are for everyone, that’s why there are so many of them. Some people never like IEMs at all. Apple’s In-Ears are notorious for falling out of people’s ears or not sealing properly. They are not bad for the money, but you can do better and cheaper with a pair of Koss KSC-75. They won’t isolate though.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 371
  • I have had exactly the same problem with exactly the same headphones. £80 down the drain, effectively, on headphones that sound great but are just such a pain to use I don’t bother with them any more.

    If you find something better, let me know!

    Benji had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 927
  • Shure has long been known to be hi-priced, but mediocre quality.  You can find decent quality and nice comfort for $$ in a pair of good Sony in-ear phones.  The cables are more than a bit annoying though and tend to tangle at every opportunity.  But if you really want superior sound quality and comfort, then I advise you to seriously check out ULTIMATE EARS.  I have a pair of UE10 Pros and they are in a pardigm of their own.  They are $$$$, require a special visit to an Audiologist, and take about a week to manufacture to a custom fit, but once you have them everything else is child’s play.  Low imependce helps your battery if your using an iPod, and the better the amplification, the better the sound quality.  UE also sells lower priced, one-size-fits-many “Super.fi” in-ears that sound wonderful too.

    Morgan had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Well, I own these headphones, and I have to say that I somewhat disagree with the reviewer.

    First of all, full disclosure: I am a professional audio engineer and producer.

    I think the E2cs sound pretty good, not great. The mids (300Hz - 1k) sound a bit pinched to me, and the lows (below 150Hz) really depend heavily on how the driver is sealed or coupled to your ear/head. This is an endemic problem with all sealed headphones, of course. Having said this, they are very good sounding for consumer headphones. Shure has been making IEMs (In Ear Monitors) as long as anyone, and their experience in the professional market is paying off here.

    In terms of usability and comfort, pretty much any IEM that is going to have decent bass response will require the over-the-ear cabling that the E2c does. It does take a little getting used to, but once you get used to the feel, they’re fine.

    In terms of the inserts, it REALLY matters which size insert you put on your headphone. I don’t want to be presumptuous here, b/c I’m sure the reviewer tried the different sizes, but for me, I started with the large size insert, and when it was painful, I switched down to the medium sized insert. That one works beautifully. Also, each of the three different types of inserts feels very different. The black soft rubber inserts seem to be the most comfortable to me. Also, in terms of sizing, don’t assume you need the large ones just because you are a 6’3” male. Your ear size may be smaller. Everyone is different.

    And the biggest reason for sealed ‘phones has been FANTASTIC for me: listening volume. I wear mine pretty much exclusively at the gym, with lots of loud treadmills around me, and these really do a good job of sealing off that external ambient noise. I can listen to my iPod at half the volume I had to before. That saves my hearing, and I like that.

    Anyways, I didn’t mean any of this to be disagreeable or anything, so I hope no one took it that way. Just wanted to share my opinions and thoughts, being an E2c owner and user myself.

    Mark Williams had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Shure has long been known to be hi-priced, but mediocre quality.  You can find decent quality and nice comfort for $$ in a pair of good Sony in-ear phones.

    Well, the Sony in-ear-canal phones are comfortable. That part is true. The part about “decent quality”, though, is pretty wrong from my vantage point. Aside from the fact that they pretty much only exhibit bass and nothing else, the cable on the Sony in-ear-canal phones starts to disintegrate within weeks. If you budget for the necessary monthly replacements, you’ll end up with something else higher priced initially, but ultimately much cheaper before long (and much better sounding.)

    Which is not to say that I have found a satisfying in-ear-canal phone. The two I"ve tried (Etymotic ER6i, and the Sennheiser CX 300) have proven quite disappointing. Oh, and the Sony’s, but they barely even count. How much more money do I risk?

    sjonke had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 12
  • i have been using E2C’s for over 2 years now. I have not experienced the pain David did. As Mark pointed out, the audio reproduction is good, not great, but these headphone stand out in their sound isolation capabilities. They make listening to an ipod through all the noise of NYC far more enjoyable.
    i tried apple’s in-ear headphones, but they did would not stay in my ear (after trying all the available sizes).

    kzar had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 2
  • There’s no guarantee that these things feel good in any one person’s ears. But a quality vendor will stand behind the suitability and usability of its products. Why not try to return these?

    PS: there ARE other alternatives! I have found the Etymotic 4P earplugs to have excellent sonics, to cut out external noise effectively (better on both counts than the Bose monsters) and to be so comfortable that when I want to minimize disturbances so that I can sleep on planes, I keep ‘em in.

    WaltFrench had this to say on Mar 13, 2006 Posts: 5
  • I have the Shure E2C’s and the foam set works perfectly for me - including the gym and on the treadmill. They stay put and don’t come out.

    Yes, wearing them at first is a bit tricky since you have to insert it a bit deeper than you would normally. This is a matter of getting used to it.

    Also, these types of reviews rarely add any real value. The fact that our ears are all very different means a poor fit for you does not mean a poor fit for others.

    The sound is excellent. I highly recommend it.


    P.S. To get a good fit, pull up on your ears as you insert it. If you are using the foam set, then after you squeeze and insert hold it for awhile till the foam expands and forms the seal.

    bacchus1 had this to say on Mar 14, 2006 Posts: 9
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment