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Christmas Toys

Ooooh, new toys. Yup, got myself some new toys to write about. To go with my iPod Nano, I decided to invest in a pair of Shure E2C’s. For those that don’t know, these are “noise isolating earphones” that basically sit deep in your ear canal. A little like hearing aids, but don’t help you hear external noise.

What they do instead is give you a much better sound by having a large “driver” that gives you plenty of bass as well as good all round coverage of the frequency range… but these are kept outside of your ears, and the sound is directed through a small tube into your inner ear.

So how does this all help? Well, quite frankly it would all be for nought if it weren’t for the ear seals. Basically what these do is hold the tube and seal your ears up so that essentially they cut out all external noise and allow you to hear the music better.

Do they work? Oh yes indeed. The package comes with three sizes of three different types of ear seals. Yes, that means there are 18 of them in total. Sheesh! Anyway, the three types are;

  • Rubber Seals: These are clear and slightly hard. they last well, and some may find the comfortable. I personally don’t, but that’s my ears for you.
  • Gel Seals: These are black, and are a lot softer than the rubber seals. I use these for daily use. They don’t last quite as long as the rubber seals, but are more comfortable in my opinion for daily use.
  • Foam Seals: Anyone who’s bought ear plugs from Walgreens or Boots (take your pick depending on country) might be familiar with those foam earplugs you squeeze and push into your ears. I have some for biking… and these seals are just like that with a hole through the middle. Not tried these with the E2C’s yet though.

These three types come in small, medium and large. It takes a little experimentation to get a handle on which seals you personally prefer, but once you find a good comfortable fit you then will rarely change seals… at least from what I hear from friends.

So how do they sound? Well, the first thing that struck me is how much lower I have the volume now compared to with my earbuds, or even with my noise canceling headphones. I now keep the volume on my iPod around 70% instead of 90% with my earbuds or 80% on my headphones. Why? Well, the earbuds you need to overcome the background noise… and the headphones are physically larger and therefore you need to overcome the air between the headphones and your ears. The E2C’s work by sitting inside your ear canal, thus they have a very low output speaker… and because you’re not trying to drown out external noise you don’t need to turn them up as much.

The ear seals cancel external noise pretty significantly… but like ear plugs you do become aware of “body noise” if you’re doing anything such as walking or eating. However, I have to say I’m amazed at the quality of the sound. I can hear things in the music I never heard before with any other type of headphones or earphones. The amount of bass seems a little lacking compared to my really ancient Sony ear buds, but a quick tweak of the EQ on my iPod soon put paid to that.

There’s a slight amount of discomfort at first… you have to reject the feeling that you’ve got your pinkie finger stuck in your ear, but once you get used to it (takes only a few minutes to get comfortable), then you can hear great quality sound. Now, because of the size of the ear canal, it is quite easy to get the earphones turned around slightly so that you can’t hear it properly… but a little fiddling gets you comfy.

At first the sound is quite disconcerting; you can’t hear any background noise except for quite loud noises… but the music comes through loud and clear. The negative aspect of this is that I’m now more aware of the “pop” between songs on my iPod… and I find I’m playing with the volume control more to get the perfect sound.

Now the ultimate question though; are they worth $100 retail? Well, that depends. How much is your hearing worth? Because you perceive higher volume due to little background noise, you don’t need it turned up so much. As a result, lower sound equals less hearing damage. Earphones and earbuds both cause hearing damage… these I don’t have facts and figures on-hand but I have to believe the long term damage will be less.

To me, my hearing was worth spending more than twice that on a good aviation headset. So yes, to me they’re worth it. YMMV.

Happy new year to anyone reading 🙂

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