+Mid-High Freq Detail
Off The Record:
Are the Shure's worth $169 dollars more than the high end Etymotic's? That's the question I found myself asking several times as I
compared both models. Both models had outstanding sound quality, but I just kept wondering what I could buy with the $169 difference
and ultimately that translated in Etymotic coming out ahead. I just didn't think the Shure sounded $169 better.
In the end, it came down to comfort for me. Both sounded great. But, I found the Shure's to be cumbersome to insert, and itchy after
a while. The Etymotic's were so lightweight, flexible and natural that I didn't even realize they were in until I saw someone's lips
flapping and I realized they were trying to talk to me.
I found the Shure E5C to be unsurpassed. The bumping bass action, around the ear design and build quality eclipsed the ER-4P in
every aspect. Althought the Etymotic's were very comfortable, I felt that they protruded way too far out of the ear. In addition,
they were so dainty that I thought I was going to break them at every contact.
If you're considering using these buds when working out, snowboarding or in any active environment, then the only choice is the
Shure E5C's. However, if you're in a controlled environment such as in a train, airplane, listening at home, etc. then I think
the ER-4P's are the way to go.
What I'm wondering is how much Shure could shave off the price if they didn't use the fancy metal box packaging.
December 7, 2005
The Shure E5C and the Etymotic ER-4P are some of the very best earphones money can buy.
Both contain high-quality components and have expansive signal to noise ratios that reveal details in music that most never knew existed. These earphones, sometimes
called "earbuds" by the industry, are reserved strictly for audiophiles who demand the very best in listening, and at $499 for the Shure E5C, and $330 for the
Etymotic ER-4P, you can see why.
Etymotic ER-4P VS. Shure E5C Earphones
When this Head2Head was first proposed, we thought it would be a snap to determine a victor;
listen to one, then the other, and whichever sounded better would be the winner. Easy, right? Not at all. Every single reviewer that took part in this
TestDrive had a distinctive opinion, and on a variety of issues. There
was much more to this comparison than we first imagined, and being true to our readers was of utmost importance, especially since this was the first Head2Head
review of these two models.
Shure's $499 E5C Earphones
So what were some of the issues we faced? Obviously, each of us perceives sound differently.
Although we all have the same organic hardware, outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, etc., the way that we
individually hear is vastly unlike. Another major issue with earphones is comfort. What's comfortable to one person could be the most irritating experience
for another. Another consideration is how do you use earphones. Do you require earphones for
exercising? Commuting? Or just because you like the isolating properties of earphones as compared to headphones? All these matter, but some much more than others,
and thus a comparison of this nature is very relative. To make sure that we were fair to each
manufacturer, we expanded our review team from two to ten different evaluators and created a
form that listed all the criteria that we found critical to an outstanding listening experience.
Both the Etymotic and the Shure phones produce exceptional sound from a variety of sound sources.
To demonstrate the quality we often required the reviewers to spend some time listening to the mediocre earbuds that come stock with the iPod, the Nomad, and several
other portable music players. The reactions were astonishing. Watching someone's jaw drop revealed
just how remarkable the audio quality is in both the Etymotic and Shure earphones.
One of the main things that most people don't realize is how adaptable our hearing is to sound quality.
Laypersons may initially wince at poor sound, but after a few minutes they adapt to the quality and it doesn't bother them anymore. Audiophiles and even listeners that we
dub "Golden Ears" can't, and will not tolerate inferior quality because it's just too irritating. This
is the main reason why the lossy MP3 file format has swept the general landscape without much fuss. Fact is, the majority of people aren't concerned about sound quality
because their ears acclimate, unlike visual quality, which people are much more sensitive to.
Etymotic's $330 ER-4P Earphones
The Etymotic earphones are extremely lightweight, bordering on what some reviewers called "delicate" and
"fragile." They are strictly in-the-ear and come with an assortment of ear cushions from rubberized tree to memory foam. All
reviewers commented on the audio quality and felt the full spectrum was represented with a startlingly clarity. Several commented on a
"distinct bump in the upper mid range" and somewhat "diminished low end bass" which took away from
their overall experience. "The Etymotic really shined listening to Pop, Jazz and Classical, with the more
pronounced mid-range revealing details in the instruments that made listening to several well-known tracks feel like it was the first time." The Etymotic were easily
the most comfortable of the two, with comments such as "forgot they were in my ears" and "weightless design made
them a delight to wear."
Shure, inspired by Apple, packaged the E5C's in a beautiful box that made opening the container a memorable brand
experience. Like the Etymotic phones, the E5C's came with a large assortment of ear cushions for every taste and ear shape.
Shure trumped Etymotic by including a high-quality and compact hard case compared to the ER-4's neoprene number.
The E5C's are extremely well constructed with a substantial gold-plated 3.5mm minijack, reinforced wiring and dense
plastic protecting the ear phone's crossover components. The robust quality made one reviewer claim "the E5C's
look like they could last a lifetime" and "I've never seen such quality in ear phones."
Shure uses a dual driver design with an inline crossover to separately handle the low and high frequencies.
The ER-4P, like most earphones, only utilizes a single driver. The "dual low mass/high energy" driver design enables the Shure E5C's to focus on the separate frequency ranges
allowing the inline crossover to provide a smooth transition. Our reviewers found that the concept works well,
especially on the low end of the spectrum where they felt the E5C's outperformed the ER-4P's. Etymotic claims the frequency range of the ER-4P's are between 20-16 kHz, but
our tests found that the low end wasn't properly represented much below 50 kHz. The Shure's sensitivity,
tested at 1kHz, was 120 dB while the Etymotic at the same 1 kHz was 106 dB. The E5C's weighed in at over 1oz while
the lighter Etymotic's were about 0.8 oz, although they "felt like wearing feathers."
An interesting aspect of the comparison was that the different cushions significantly impacted the essence of the
perceived sound. For instance, foam cushions generated more bass response than the rubber trees. It was an important facet of the comparison, and all reviewers where mandated
to compare the earphones with the same type of cushions. Both yielded superior outside noise reduction and we would
certainly recommend these types of earphones over noise cancellation devices. Shure even conducted their own tests between their earphones and the latest noise cancellation
phones from Bose (Quiet Comfort 2), Sennheiser (PXC-250) and Sony (MDR-NC20). Shure discovered that their earphones reduced noise by 93% as compared to the bulky noise cancellation
phones 77%. With a 10 to 27 decibel reduction, a consumer's best bet is to purchase a quality set of earphones, and
not opt for the bulky and expensive noise-cancellation models.
The Envelope Please:
With all the evaluation forms tallied, the Shure E5C's come out just ahead of the Etymotic ER-4P's. Despite the
comfort issue and the large price difference, the Shure product just hits the mark on construction quality, full spectrum
frequency response and advanced technology. It was a close race with a few staffers giving the nod to the Etymotic, but in
the end the Shure delivered everything one would expect in a top-of-the-line earphone.
For more information hit:
Shure.com | Etymotic.com
The Future: If Shure can reduce the size of the earpiece, then they'll be able to address two of the negatives
of the E5C, comfort and weight. The around-the-ear design is just too awkward for many consumers and a smaller earpiece would solve this problem.
>>> Back to Digihear?
Employment Opportunities | Contact Us
Copyright © 2005 Futuremusic® All Rights Reserved.
The Shure E5C earphones score a 90% PowerRating with the Etymotic ER-4P's just behind at 80%. Shure edged out Etymotic with advanced dual driver technology, superior
build quality and more powerful bass response.
As the name correctly implies, Experiments In Sound, is Futuremusic's latest endeavor for pushing electronic music technology to the very edge of what's possible.
Experiments In Sound grew out of Futuremusic's avant-garde events in
New York City that featured DJ's taking mixing and live sound reinforcement to a whole new level with the very latest gear and software.
Now Experiments In Sound has become The Ultimate Mix Contest...
After the tremendous success of our groundbreaking The Next Big Thing DJ Contest, Futuremusic has decided to once again create a new paradigm...
Learn more about Experiments In Sound!
Futuremusic wants to thank everyone who participated in The Next Big Thing 2004. John Digweed, Beatport, Alienware, M-Audio, Native Instruments, IK Multimedia,
PVDJ, PK Graphics, Ableton, The DubHouse, Propellerheads, Technics, FreeFloat, The Church, PCDJ and every DJ who entered this year's event thank you. From the sheer number of
quality mixes, we can tell you that dance music is thriving in the United States. The amount of outstanding talent and creativity really blew us away, and every DJ who's putting
their heart, mind and soul behind the music is a winner. John Digweed has
made his decision and the winner is...
Think you got skills?? Then start practicing! The Next Big Thing 2005 will kick off at the end of the summer!!
Digihear? Stories: November 2005
Digihear? Stories: October 2005
Digihear? Stories: September 2005
Digihear? Stories: August 2005
Digihear? Stories: July 2005
Digihear? Stories: June 2005
Digihear? Stories: May 2005
Digihear? Stories: April 2005
Digihear? Stories: March 2005
Digihear? Stories: February 2005
Digihear? Stories: January 2005
Digihear? Stories: December 2004