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View Full Version : Looking for good in-ear headphones. Shure? Etymonic? Klipsch?


Brad
2010-04-11, 14:02
It's finally time for me to start looking for a good pair on in-ear headphones for tuning out everyone's chatter listening to music during the day at work. I've been using a Sony MDR-V600 (http://www.amazon.com/Sony-MDR-V600-Studio-Monitor-Headphones/dp/B00001W0DI/) set of cans for about ten years. They've served me well enough for music, but they've never been that good at blocking outside noise, of which there's lots in an office environment. So, I usually end up cranking up the tunes a little bit louder than I should. Also, the weight of these larger headphones starts to feel heavy after a few hours of intense coding. So, something smaller would be nice.

I read that the in-ear headphones are usually better at blocking ambient chatter better than noise-cancelling cans. True? False? Experiences? I've been browsing for good in-ear headphones and keep seeing Shure, Etymonic Research, Klipsch, and Monster (wait, really??) getting positive reviews for the mid-to-high end models. What do you guys own? Have experience with multiple brands/models and can give comparative reviews?

I'm willing to spend $100-200 for a good set. I listen to enough music for this to be a worthwhile investment. I listen to all sorts of music from acoustic piano and orchestral to electronica and heavy metal. I want headphones to have a good range, but bass response is also important since I've been used to listening to cans that have provided pretty good oomph.

So not to immediately color your response/advice, spoiler tagging one I've been considering.
The Shure SE420 look really good based on specs and reviews I've read. Overrated? Or are they really worth the price? Amazon has these for just under $200, fitting into my price range.

jdcfsu
2010-04-11, 14:08
While they aren't branded as "noise canceling" per se, the Apple In-Ear Headphones are pretty fantastic. I got them over a year ago for bus and plane trips and while they don't knock all ambient noise out, it's enough to really focus on the music coming through and not the outside world.

Maciej
2010-04-11, 14:27
You're gonna have a problem finding IEM with adequate bass response. I have ER-4Ps, while decent they don't match the bass of my cans. You'll definitely get more detail and resolution out of a pair of Shures or Etys - for acoustic, piano and orchestral you'll do well.

What is your source, headphone jack on computer I'm guessing? If so, you'll want to stick to low impedance phones, which most IEM fall into so you should be fine.

Have you done any reading on Head-Fi? It can be daunting to sift through all the crap but there's some good info to be found.

curiousuburb
2010-04-11, 14:33
I've had a pair of Shure E4Cs for a few years.

They came with a variety of noise-reducing sheaths... from little cones to foam to encase the in-ear bit.

Took me a while to get the placement right and discover I preferred the foam (more customizable seal, IMO).

Best in-ear headphones I've ever owned in terms of sound quality and blocking out idiots.
Wrapping the cord up over the ear from behind while wearing glasses feels odd the first few times, but that layout actually keeps them more secure I find.

I've read that some of the Etymotics are similarly solid, but can't speak for them.

YMMV.

tomoe
2010-04-11, 14:35
I've had both the Etymotic ER-6i and the Shure SE110 headphones. I liked the fit and noise canceling experience of the Etymotic more than the Shure's. Specifically, the Etymotics came with (to my ear canals) very comfortable triple flanged ear bud attachments that also did an almost too awesome job o blocking ambient sound. Unfortunately, the wiring on them is rather thin & flimsy and the left earphone stopped working after a bit over a year of light use. I then switched to the SE100's by Shure (which have a much hefter wire), but the earbud covers aren't nearly as comfy. I've never looked to see whether Shure makes the nice flanged covers that I had with the ER-6is (though writing this makes me realize I should). IME, the sound quality was comparable between the two, but I've never done a head to head comparison.

PKIDelirium
2010-04-11, 14:52
I've been thinking about the Apple In-Ears, but $79 is a bit much to pay for something that I won't be using at home much after I get around to getting a new set of regular headphones.

I had a $25 set of Koss in-ears recently, but they died after less than 2 months. Right bud lost almost all volume. Fortunately they were from Walmart so I was able to return them.

Gargoyle
2010-04-11, 15:00
The last set of in-the-ear headphones were Sennheiser CX's (http://www.sennheiser.co.uk/uk/home_en.nsf/root/private_headphones_classic-line_cxseries_502737?Open&row=1) chopped off and soldered onto my standard iPhone remote. (At the time there were no good ones that had the Mic input and volume / playback controls)

SpecMode
2010-04-11, 15:01
I used to have a pair of ER-6i phones, which were pretty good. The Shure SE420s, though, are some of the best I've ever used, in-ear or otherwise. Very good reproduction across the board (though you probably won't match the bass of a good set of cans, as has been mentioned already), and pretty comfortable once you get a good fit. And for under $200, they're a pretty good deal for the price; I paid close to full retail when I got mine a few years back, and they were still worth it - to me, anyway.

Kickaha
2010-04-11, 15:36
I've had a pair of Shure E4Cs for a few years.

They came with a variety of noise-reducing sheaths... from little cones to foam to encase the in-ear bit.

Took me a while to get the placement right and discover I preferred the foam (more customizable seal, IMO).

Best in-ear headphones I've ever owned in terms of sound quality and blocking out idiots.
Wrapping the cord up over the ear from behind while wearing glasses feels odd the first few times, but that layout actually keeps them more secure I find.

I've read that some of the Etymotics are similarly solid, but can't speak for them.

YMMV.

I was just going to post almost this exact post, word for word. Love 'em.

RowdyScot
2010-04-11, 15:59
Same opinion as 'burb and Kickaha.

Brad
2010-04-11, 16:35
I've had a pair of Shure E4Cs for a few years. [...] Best in-ear headphones I've ever owned in terms of sound quality and blocking out idiots.

The Shure SE420s, though, are some of the best I've ever used, in-ear or otherwise.

I was just going to post almost this exact post, word for word. Love 'em.

Same opinion as 'burb and Kickaha.

Quite the consensus! :) Reassuring, too, since the Shure SE420 (http://www.amazon.com/Shure-SE420-K-Sound-Isolating-Earphones/dp/B000NDR2PA/) is the model I'd seen with stellar reviews and (AFAICT) the SE420 is effectively the successor to the E4C.

Anyone else have opinions on Etymotics? Otherwise, it looks like I'll be dropping some cash online very soon (using the above AppleNova referral link, of course ;)).

Mac+
2010-04-11, 16:44
I had the Ety HF2 model for the iPhone.

In terms of noise suppression, particularly tuning out everyone's chatter, these are superb.

The sound quality is clear across the range. I have found myself picking up subtleties I had long since forgotten were present in some tracks... I haven't listened to a CD via studio monitors for years now. :(

Bass response is tight, but not overpowering. It may not be enough for some tastes.

They come with a carry case, cleaning tool and a variety of ear pieces. I started with the triple flange and once the seal was locked I never looked back.

One caveat - cord noise can be a problem. However, if these are going to be used primarily whilst seated at a desk, or you employ the over the ear technique, this may not be much of an issue.

This is the same company that designed my musician ear plugs and I read on their website that they also offer a discount on this service via a voucher which is redeemable in the UK. I know you're in North Carolina, but I'm putting it out there if this of interest to others. At the same time, if this is something you think you might appreciate, you can check with the Etymotic directly, but don't forget that Shure are renowned for this as well.

spotcatbug
2010-04-11, 17:07
Make sure you take into account in-ear comfort. My Shure whatevers (been too long since I bought them to remember the model number) have a cone shape to them. The points of the cones poke my ears in an uncomfortable way. It's OK for half an hour or so, but I couldn't imagine wearing these for an entire work day. Just putting them in to test fit, I probably wouldn't even notice it. It's not until after about 30 minutes that it becomes noticeable.

Brad
2010-04-11, 17:20
Make sure you take into account in-ear comfort. My Shure whatevers (been too long since I bought them to remember the model number) have a cone shape to them. The points of the cones poke my ears in an uncomfortable way. It's OK for half an hour or so, but I couldn't imagine wearing these for an entire work day. Just putting them in to test fit, I probably wouldn't even notice it. It's not until after about 30 minutes that it becomes noticeable.

Good point. I just checked and the SE420 ships (so Amazon says) with: "(3) pairs black foam sleeves (S, M, L); (3) pairs soft flex sleeves (S, M, L); (1) pair triple flange sleeves" — hopefully something in there will fit comfortably.

I think I'm sold. I just read some experiences with Shure's return/repair policy and I'm even more impressed.

Thanks again, everyone, for the advice. A few more dollars should be going to the AppleNova fund tonight. :)

Maciej
2010-04-11, 17:49
Ive had nothing but good luck with my ER-4Ps. They've been repaired "out of warranty" twice, for free I might add by the kind folks at Ety. Came with fewer tips, some three flanged ones, foam, filters, tools, adapter, case and carrying pouch. I bought them over 5 years ago, and still use them to the day. Comfort is a must with IEM, but with all those diffent tips I don't anticipate you having a problem. Cord noise is a big deal for me, behind the ears helps, but if I ever wear a tall collared sweater they rub against the zipper. Isolation is good, better with newer tips gets worse as the rubber/silicone gets older.

You won't be going wrong with the Shures either, they're a solid brand. I intend to upgrade to some later this year, maybe winter time.

Let us know how you like them.

noleli2
2010-04-11, 23:24
I've also been considering getting some isolating earphones, but my experience with earplugs is that they aren't particularly effective at blocking out the low end (darn physics…).

The main reason I want something isolating is so I can listen on airplanes without having to turn the music up so loud to beat the noise floor. Does isolation work for engine rumble, or would active cancelation be necessary?

Also, I haven't heard anything bad, per se, in this thread about the Ety er6i, just that they aren't as nice as the Shures that are twice the price. Would I regret getting the Etymotics?

Maciej
2010-04-12, 12:42
Never had the er6i, but I can say that my ER-4P have dealt well with flying. not 100% isolation, but it is also all in the seal. Last time I flew was January, and I had some old earpieces, so thye might not have been up to the job. I'll be flying in late April so I would be able to give you a better idea how they hold up with fresh pieces then.

I think the IEM are pretty much your best bet for isolation, I haven't heard much about the active noise cancelling phones but I think Quag got a pair of those bose ones just for flying.

Mac+
2010-04-12, 19:06
The Shure model looks good - especially with dual drivers.

Re: isolation - I can attest that the HF2s were superb. In flight they were fantastic - I heard nothing but my music and loved the ability to retreat into "Mac+world". I also tried them skiing, but the lack of external audible feedback was too unnerving for me. :lol:

Finally, I should add that the HF2s are a headset model with a built in mic to handle phone calls. I bought this model due to the amount of conference calls with work. If this is a factor I noticed that Shure offer accessories to provide this functionality as well.

Maciej
2010-04-12, 20:26
I also tried them skiing, but the lack of external audible feedback was too unnerving for me. :lol:

Took mine skiing, too. A couple times, in fact. It certainly was a harrowing experience, I wouldn't recommend these on a bike ride, skiing, any action sports really - at least I'm not man enough to do it consistently.

nikstar101
2010-04-14, 05:49
I must admit i do like the Apple in-ear headphones although it sounds like you'll be using your 'phones with a computer therefore i don't know how the slightly longer headphone connector will work with a standard jack??

Other than that they give really good sound quality although slightly lacking on the bass. But the top and mid are clear and balanced. They, like other high quality phones, allow to hear bits of the tune that you may have missed before.

One major failing of the Apple headphones are that if you loose the silly little silicon/rubber tips you end up having to buy whole new headphones as Apple doesn't carry spares!!!! Or at least they don't in the UK