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Shure E3C Earbuds
Professional quality earbuds for serious music lovers
Date Created: 01/18/2005 Last Updated: 04/28/2006 Authors: Pisarra & Maas

We all love listening to some guilty pleasure, whether it's Thomas Dolby, Perry Como, or Ashlee Simpson. And what better way to isolate yourself in a world that you love and others hate, than by listening to your music using noise-reducing prosumer grade headphones with amazing sound? Enter the E3C headphones… and prepare to be Blinded (or Deafened) With Science.

Earbuds have been around for quite some time. However, it was the iPod that can be credited for recently immortalizing the style with its trademark white headphones. A growing and popular variant of the standard earbud is an in-ear version with sound isolation; Shure's E3C is such an example. To prevent ending up with headphones that produce the audible equivalent of Grandpa from The Simpsons, it's wise to look into companies like Shure and reap the benefits of their extensive research and field testing. Shure's E3C offers a powerful alternative to the standard earbud, with professional features and priced at the prosumer level. Not to be praised completely, we also take a look at some of its miscues.

In case you are unfamiliar with the manufacturer, Shure is a renowned maker of professional studio quality audio products. Shure has little ancestry of consumer products and the E3C is its latest attempt to introduce the consumer audio world to studio quality earphones. These aren't just any pair of earphones; these are personal monitors that just happen to fit inside the ear. This is a distinction that sets the E3C apart from other comparable earphones. Consumers beware; the E3C is for people serious about their music!


  1. Listen to your music at a lower volume
  2. Removable silicone sleeves help block out ambient sound
  3. Great mid- and high-range sound
  4. Studio grade components
  5. Thick high quality wires


  1. Achieving a proper fit is tedious
  2. Wires wrap behind the head and make you feel like a horse
  3. Needs more low-range bass


Comfort, Fit & Construction
The outward appearance of the E3C is quite interesting. While it mimics the same white color as stock iPod earbuds, they differ in every other respect: dark gray wires, silicone ear sleeves, and a low profile stereo male connector. The low profile connector is a nice alternative to that of the stock iPod earbuds that soon frays after frequent in-pocket playback. This means the wire forms a 90-degree angle to the connector so the wire is not subjected to stress from being tossed around in a jacket or pants pocket. Yes, power users, you can now safely play the iPod from your pocket!

Inserting the E3C earbuds takes some getting used to and fine-tuning. The earbuds are inserted upside down one at a time. You will probably need to use both hands to make the snugness feel al dente. The audio wire loops around your outer ear and goes behind the head. This is helpful in keeping the wires out of the way of your hands, but your friends may pull on them and call you Mr. Ed. The user has a choice of six variable size pairs of silicone (three soft and three ultra-soft) or one pair of foam sleeves. The sleeves help to seal the ear canal and to enhance the aural experience. If the ear canal is not properly sealed, the sound quality is significantly degraded. This is a common complaint among inexperienced users of sound isolation earbuds.


Save Ferris – and Your Ears
Because the E3C earbuds seal off your ear canal, you can actually listen to your music at a much lower volume without artificial amplification. This aspect garners high praise. No more boosting the volume while you're on a city street. Your audio intake remains volumetrically constant without bothering that guy asleep next to you on the bus ride to work.

The E3C earbuds are very comfortable once properly fitted. They do not seem to irritate the ear as much as the traditional, plastic molded earbuds, such as the stock iPod one. Earbuds have changed as much as other things in the world; Jimmy Carter is no longer the U.S. president and Kristin Shephard shot J.R. on Dallas.


Put it to Work
How sure can you be that the Shure E3C headphones will work for you in real world? We put it to the test.

Our first test measured the E3C during a morning jog with an iPod Shuffle. We quickly realized the E3C earbuds and sweat, much like oil and vinegar, do not mix. Keeping the E3C comfortably nestled in the ears remained a constant problem, even after two minutes of jogging. After working up a real sweat, it was near impossible to keep the E3C from falling out. Nonetheless, the sound-isolating design blocks much of the ambient sounds that disrupt the music listening experience during a morning jog.

*NOTE: We only used one of the six available earplugs for this test, so it's possible one of the others would fit more comfortably, most notably, the foam insert.

A second test consisted of a casual walk outdoors with an iPod. We found that we were more aware of the placement inside the ear during even this menial physical activity than standing still. This distracts from the pleasurable aspect of these high quality earphones. The fact that they are placed inside the ear takes some getting used to. Once used to it, car speakers and even home stereos seem like they're hiding audio that only the Shure E3C is able to extract from your music.

Our third test posed the E3C during office work. The E3C will easily drone out co-worker banter and the occasional phone call from the Human Relations department that you want to avoid. While seated at a desk, the high quality of the E3C is immediately recognized. We were delighted by the crisp midrange and high-end response of Mazzy Star's Into Dust that is imperceptible with conventional, mini-system speakers. We're still puzzled by the scarcity of bass with the E3C; the low range is hard to come by. One tester noted it might have something to do with the presence of the E3C so close to the eardrum. Another noted the E3C replicates sounds as they ought to be heard, not some enhanced bass as found with Mega or Super Bass. If extra bass is what you want with the E3C, try adjusting your EQ settings.

The downside to sound-isolation design is that every other movement during physical activity is amplified. Amazingly, the sound of one tester's own footsteps was overwhelming from walking on cobblestones and concrete sidewalk. While this may have something to do with the leather soled dress shoes, the same "thump, thump, thump" was also noticed from sneakers. There is little surprise to this; try palming your ears to create suction and your breathing and heartbeat is more audible. This is not a flaw in the E3C design; it's a trait inherent in sound-isolation design in general.

Final Thoughts
The casual music listener will not be a sure-fit for the E3C . Even though the E3C is priced well below comparable Bose products, the average user will simply find the E3C's price point too high to justify the purchase. From a company known for making professional studio quality equipment, the E3C is as ‘consumer' as Shure will allow.

Those who love their music true and clear will want to listen to every song with the E3C earbuds. Ideal users include music aficionados, video editors, and those who work in music and audio industries. These earbuds can wear many hats, and it's the beauty of a Vivaldi violin or even a Perry Como melody, that will have you sounding off on these babies to all of your friends.

This item is available for purchase from

Founded in 1925, Shure Incorporated ( is widely acknowledged as the world's leading manufacturer of microphones and audio electronics. Shure's corporate cause is dedicated to hearing conservation. By working in tandem with national organizations and hearing professionals, the company hopes to raise public awareness about this very important issue, which is critical to the music community.

Any audio device with a headphone jack

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