According to Shure, the E500s are derived from personal monitor technology designed for professional musicians. The E500PTHs are said to be the ultimate in consumer earphones. Shure, experts in high-end audio equipment, has crammed in an awful lot of technology that not only helps promote incredible audio fidelity, but also pushes the price tag to a whopping £420. Read on to find out why.
The E500PTHs are the crème de la crème of sound-isolating earbuds -- and they certainly look the part. Shure may have shied away from using white iPod-style cables, but the bizarre greenish colour of the earbuds, and its accompanying dongle attachment, promote a feeling that you've just bought something special.
Like all earbud headphones, they feature sound-isolating sleeves that are inserted just inside the ear's external auditory canal -- just beyond the reach of your little finger. This allows them to (according to Shure) block approximately 90 per cent of external noise. We can't verify Shure's claims, but suffice to say we couldn't hear a thing while wearing them -- even with no music playing.
With the sounds of the outside world almost completely excluded, the E500PTHs are left to pump music directly, it seems, into your brain. They're the first in the Shure range to feature three separate 'high-definition' audio drivers in each earbud -- one tweeter for high notes and two woofers for the bass frequencies. They also have a set of integrated passive crossovers that separate the low and high frequencies, helping to ensure competing sounds remain distinct.
The result of all this clever technology is awesome sound quality. The E500PTHs don't sound that much better than an ordinary set of mid-range headphones when the playback volume is low to medium, but crank up the tunes and you'll love it. Bass thumps, mid-range is loud without being overpowering and treble is well-balanced. They're so good we were able to hear sounds that we were previously unaware of in some of our favourite music.
The overall volume of the earphones was also impressive -- we dare anyone to crank their player up to maximum levels without suffering a headache the next day.
Most sound-isolating earbuds have to be removed from your ear before you can hear what's going on in the ouside world, but the E500s come with a unique push-to-hear (PTH) dongle. This activates an in-built Voiceport microphone, which sits halfway down the main cable at about chest height. This reduces the sound volume from your MP3 player to a barely audible level and amplifies sounds around you. With it you can hear train announcements or speak to people at supermarket checkouts without ripping the earphones out. Unfortunately the microphone amplifies far too much background noise to be used in lengthy face-to-face conversations.
The E500PTHs come with a small carry case to transport the earphones and PTH dongle, plus 230mm- and 1m-long cables, so you can have just the right length of cable depending on your preference. The accompanying Premium accessories kit includes a variety of sleeves -- Flex, Clear Flex, Triple Flange and standard universal-fit Foam. You'll need to experiment with the various sizes and styles to get the right fit.
Though it should increase flexibility, we took issue with the aforementioned cable arrangement. When using the E500PTHs, you'll have a cable dangling from your ear to a mic attachment, from the mic attachment to the PTH dongle and from the PTH dongle to your MP3 player -- all of which results in a tangle of wires.
The dongle itself is bigger than an iPod nano, and heavier because it's powered by a single AAA battery. Despite being fitted with a belt clip, it's prone to falling off your waist during strenuous physical exercise. Putting the PTH dongle and your MP3 player in the same pocket causes an unsightly bulge, and while you could put them in separate pockets, it's quite annoying to have a cable dangling between them.
Though the E500PTHs come with a variety of sleeves, it takes a bit of practice to properly get them in your ears. You'll need to insert them into your external auditory canal, then wrap the cable around your pinna (your upper earlobe thingy) then tighten the cable below your chin (the thing that protrudes below your mouth). It's really not a case of popping them in and forgetting about them.
The biggest problem with the E500s is their price. They retail for a whopping £420 -- you could buy four and a half iPod nanos for the same money.
The difference between this product and ordinary earbuds is quite astounding. Instruments that sound murky on ordinary headphones come alive on the E500PTHs -- bass thumps, cymbals crash and vocals sound as if the very soul of the singer were implanted in your head. The high price tag is an obvious concern, but audio enthusiasts who can afford such luxuries would be stupid not to buy a set.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield