Shure E3c in-ear headphones Shure E5c, December 2004
My current headphone of choice is Shure's E5c in-ear model. Sure, the Shures are expensive at $500, but after a year's listening, I'm convinced they're worth it. They can be surprisingly comfortable, once you've chosen the correct in-ear plug size. Their isolation rivals that of any of the electronic noise-canceling models I've heard—and whether it has to do with the Shures' lack of electronics, two drive-units per channel, or something else, they sound much, much better. Plus, the E5cs are tiny, unobtrusive, lightweight, and my ears don't get hot and sweaty. I've had them in all across the ocean without fatigue—I've fallen asleep listening to music, awakened, and not known I was still wearing headphones.
I'll never forget the first time I heard the Shure E5cs. I was on a plane, and I had some solo piano on the iPod that I'd been listening to during recent flights: Murray Perahia performing J.S. Bach's English Suites (Sony/Legacy 093083). What I heard this time was very different in terms of midrange richness and, especially, texture. The sensation of hearing actual piano keys striking strings—something easily heard through loudspeakers—replaced the cardboard "tinkle" I'd become used to, and the bass became nuanced, nimble, and incredibly deep.
Your results may be different, and you may prefer other 'phones—this is not a headphone review. My point is that, driven by the iPod, the Shures were impressive.—Michael Fremer