Recently, I tried to find some great headphones to wear during my upcoming bike tour. After becoming tired of the stock iPod headphones [sound like crap], plus the Griffin EarThumps [which are extremely susceptible to wind noise], I went looking for something that would give me an experience that rivaled my studio monitors at home while also keeping out the road noise.
Some of the best recommendations were for the Shure E2C sound isolating type, so I ordered a pair from Amazon. I’ve always been skeptical of in-ear headphones, especially since they never seem to fit my ears well, fall out, and aren’t comfortable. I’m happy to report that this was not the case with the E2C’s. I give them an A+ for sound quality and general satisfaction all around.
Read more for the rest of the review.
To really put the E2C’s to the test, I took them on a 6-mile bike ride through the rural outskirts of Athens.
I decided to test 3 different types of music and recordings I am most familiar with:
- Summer In Abaddon – Pinback [rock]
- Shrink – The Notwist [electronic-ish]
- All Eyez On Me – 2Pac [rap]
These albums are all very well-mastered, with clear instrumentation and tight low end. I’ve listened to them all numerous times on my home setup which consist of Event PS8 studio monitors and a 12″ sub, so I know how they are supposed to sound. All were encoded on my iPod at 192 kbps VBR.
The question is, can a $100 pair of headphones give me the same quality sound as $1,000 worth of speakers? The answer, in short, is YES. Even the bass on the 2Pac songs was clear and true (although, obviously, it won’t rattle your head).
For my test ride I used all of my regular gear including helmet and sunglasses — the things that usually generate some of the wind noise. The iPod was set to approximately 60% full volume. While riding under 12 mph, the wind noise was only noticeable between songs when the music was silent. Even then, it was like a whisper: the E2C’s fit snugly in your ear like an earplug, completely sealed from the outside world, and work just as effectively. From 12-18 mph I could hear the wind at all times but it was a very faint low-key rumble. The important part is that the music was still clearly audible. Between 18-28 mph (my top speed during the test), it was a bit noisier but I could still hear the music very well, unlike other earphones where only the vocals are audible when wind disturbance is present.
These headphones exceeded all of my expectations for wind resistance as well as general musicality. A couple times during the ride I heard soft backing vocals on some songs that I had never noticed before — not even on my studio monitors in the silence of my own bedroom. The music was also very clear and balanced. No tinny highs, no harsh vocals, no lack of bass… none of the problems that seem to plague headphones I have tried before. Then again, they did cost twice as much as any I’ve bought in the past.
The beautiful thing about the E2C’s is how well they fit and stay in my ear. The kit includes three different types of fittings: An earplug-style orange foam insert, a soft hollow black rubber insert, and a clear semi-rigid silicone insert. There are small, medium, and large sizes of each. I chose the medium silicone insert for my ears. It’s incredibly comfortable, and the outside of the housing (where the driver is) sits within the outside ridges of the ear like peas in a pod. There are no rough edges to the enclosure, nothing to irritate your ear. To top it off, the kit also includes a sturdy circular case that keeps them safe in your backpack.
My only complaint is that Shure uses that god-awful plastic “blister” packaging that you can’t remove without a sharp box cutter, and there is yet another layer of wasteful plastic packaging once you get inside. Seriously, the packaging is about 8 times larger than the product and probably weighs just as much, if not more. Shame on them — Haven’t they heard of a simple cardboard box?
One warning on usage: The E2C’s really do block out nearly all external noise. If you do not have a helmet-mounted rearview mirror that you check often, do NOT use these while cycling. You cannot hear cars approaching. Even when cars passed, I only heard the big trucks with 4×4 tires. I recommend using them only with aforementioned mirror and on rural roads where you are unlikely to encounter high traffic. You should also follow all rules of the road and pay attention to your surroundings.
That said, here are some hi-res pics I took. Click them for a larger version.
These photos show the E2C’s in my ear and ready to go, plus a view of from the top and bottom. The right ear has one part frosted black, the left ear is a completely clear frost so you can tell them apart.
This is the cord, showing the junction of the main cord and the split that feeds the drivers, as well as the jack. During the test, I ran the cord down the back of my neck, under my t-shirt, to the iPod in my pants pocket and still had 8″ to spare. It is a very long cord and should be sufficient for most needs. Also, the length of the cords that feed your left ear and right ear are the same, unlike other earphones where one ear cord is shorter (like Sony).
The different types of inserts and the travel case. Note that the medium silicone insert is missing from the picture because it’s the one I use.