Product Review (June 2004) - SHURE
E2c, E3c and E5c High Performance Earphones

By Kevin Nakano

SHURE has always been known for their high performance microphones in the music industry. Whether on stage or in the studios, Shure has a long history with musicians around the world. Their professional series earphones have also been used by top musicians in the industry and are commonly seen on stage. Recently, they have introduced an E Series line for consumers, taken from their professional products. The E Series earphones feature advanced, high-energy drivers that are capable of producing the sound quality of larger headphones in a portable, lightweight package. The low-mass, high-energy drivers not only contribute to the compact design, but also deliver impressive sound quality.

The new E Series earphones are unique in that the design helps isolate the listener from the rest of the listening environment compared to conventional headphones. The professional models were originally developed for musicians who needed to hear themselves in loud onstage environments. Similar to earplugs I've used in the past, E Series use soft foam or silicone sleeves to seal out background noise. As a result, the listening experience is intimate and the noise floor is greatly reduced.

The E2c is the least expensive of the three E Series offered by Shure. The earphone design houses a single high energy driver in a comet-shaped enclosure resulting is an impressive sounding earphone that only weighs 29 grams. The earphones mates to several different disposable and reusable sleeve options with three different sizes available. The E2c kit includes a sample of six different sleeve options and a very cool zipper case to keep your earphones from getting tangled and damaged.

We measured the E2c impedance using our Sencore SP295C Audio Analyzer across the usable frequency spectrum. Our measurements show a relatively constant impedance of around 16 ohms. These earphones reveal a lot of detail especially since most of the background noise is completely removed. It's almost as if your hearing sensitivity has been improved. We tested the E2c's with the Digital Innovations Neuros HD Digital Audio Computer. This portable audio player was a perfect source for these earphones. The E2c's are capable of playing very loudly without breaking up and went far beyond my tolerance level. We also used a Sony DVP-NS900V SACD player along with a HeadRoom Little (Premium Module) headphone amplifier. We could hear even more detail in this configuration.

A step up from the entry level model is the E3c, which actually replaced Shure's earlier E1c design. These audiophile-grade earphones offer listeners improved sound quality while still achieving low background noise and a comfortable fit. The single high-energy micro-speaker produces excellent fidelity. Chesky Records has a great recording by Sara K. that produced very smooth sounding vocal with intricate details in the instrumentals. Due to the sensitivity of these earphones in the upper frequencies, it's easy to pick up low level hiss in some recordings. The E3c are also supplied with a kit that includes three sleeve sizes (S, M, L), each of flex and ultra-soft flex sleeves, in addition to a pair of foam sleeves. The zippered carrying case holds the earphones in a convenient package.

Impedance measurements on the E3c earphones took on some interesting characteristics. The impedance stayed between 20 and 45 ohms at all frequencies below 5kHz. Beyond that, the impedance began to rise as a function of frequency all the way to 20kHz, where it measured 160 ohms. This may account for some of the brighter sound in the upper frequency range we heard. We listened to audio directly from the headphone jack on our Sony DVP-NS900V and also through the HeadRoom Little with the Premium Module upgrade. The Headroom amplifier module clearly made an improved difference in the sound quality we heard with the E3c headphones. As a result, your mileage may vary with the source electronics that is used to drive these earphones.

Shure's high-end entry to the E Series earphones is the model E5c priced at $499. These earphones incorporate two low-mass, high energy drivers along with an in-line crossover designed to optimally blend the low and high frequencies to the listener's ear. The bass extension was noticeably deeper than what we heard on the E2c. The mid-high frequencies were also a bit livelier than with the less expensive E2c earphones. When we listened to some vocals using the Neuros HD player, we heard what seemed to be an over emphasized "s" sound with certain vocals. However, when I moved to the Sony DVP-NS900V along with the HeadRoom Little, this wasn't as obvious. The E5c earphone has very high sensitivity even when compared to the E2c which is also on the high side. The varying output power from different devices may require the use of the included external attenuator accessory to maximize sound quality. The kit also includes four types of disposable and re-useable sleeve options and a zippered carrying case. The headphones are light weighing only 31 grams or 1.1 ounces.

We ran the same impedance tests on the E5c using our Sencore SP295C Audio Analyzer and found some interesting results. The impedance started out around 30 ohms and peaked around 110 ohms at 1KHz. The impedance dropped to just about 10 ohms at 7 KHz. Depending on the drive capabilities of the device being used with the E5c earphones, the response may vary. As mentioned we heard significant differences with our portable Neuros HD audio computer and the HeadRoom Little (Premium Module).

The E Series earphones offer exceptional audio performance with a unique in-ear design to seal out unwanted background noise. Comfort may be an issue for those who wear them for long periods of time. However, they do have many fit options available. The E2c is priced right and offers great performance for the money. The E3c is a higher performer and geared for audiophiles who want the extra performance while still at a reasonable cost. The E5c carries a substantially higher price tag, but does offer extended frequency range particularly in the bass region and is more sensitive than both of the other earphones.

- Kevin Nakano

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Review System

DVD/CD/SACD Player - Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
Neuros Audio (Digital Innovations) - Neuros HD 20GB Digital Audio Computer
Headphone Amplifier: HeadRoom Little (Premium Module)

Review at a Glance

Shure - E2c E Series Earphones


  • Driver Design: Single high energy dynamic speaker
  • Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 105dB SPL/mW
  • Impedance (at 1kHz): 16 ohms
  • Connector: 3.5mm stereo, gold plated
  • Cable Length: 1.57m (62 inches)
  • Net Weight: 30g (1 oz)
  • E2c MSRP: $99

    Shure - E3c E Series Earphones


  • Driver Design: Extended frequency, single high energy micro-speaker
  • Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 115 dB SPL/mW
  • Impedance (at 1kHz): 26 Ohms
  • Connector: 3.5mm stereo, gold plated
  • Cable Length: 60-inch (1.52 m) cable
  • Net Weight: 28 grams
  • E3c MSRP: $179

    Shure - E5c E Series Earphones


  • Driver Design: Extended frequency, dual high energy micro-speakers
  • Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 122 dB SPL/mW
  • Impedance (at 1kHz): 110 Ohms
  • Connector: 3.5mm stereo, gold plated
  • Cable Length: 61-inch (1.55 m) cable
  • Net Weight: 31 grams
  • E5c MSRP: $499

    Company Information
    Shure Incorporated
    222 Hartrey Avenue
    Evanston, IL 60202
    Phone: 847.866.2200

    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    Warranty: 30-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee, plus a two-year warranty on materials and workmanship

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