Sunday, February 18, 2007

Shure E500 headphones

Soundstage has a review of Shure's top-of-the-line "in-ear-monitors", model E500PTH. Reviewer John Crossett concluded "... If your situation runs to needing a way to cut yourself off from the outside world while listening to your favorite music and you want to spend that time listening in the highest possible sonic fidelity, then the Shure E500s become a must-hear product -- and very possibly a no-brainer purchase. They met all my expectations and then exceeded them."

I read the review with some interest as I purchased Shure E500 for my 80GB iPod, replacing my previous earphones, Etymotic ER4P. Around the same time I sold my HE-rig headphones, 5 years old Stax SRM-T1S & Lambda Nova Signature earphone system. How do all these earphones rate in my subjective listening using iPod as a source?

In Stax case I connected iPod with Stax amp by a cheap cable consisting of 1/8" plug on one end and RCA jacks on the other. Using WAV-files I would rate without doubt Stax the best sounding in all audiophile terms, so lets give it the comparison rating of 100. Shure E500 comes at 85 and Etymotic ER4P 78. Comparison is of course not fair as I compare here iPod as a standalone product vs. Stax with its dedicated headphones amp. Stax's superiority would even be more evident were it connected with proper cabling, i.e. using AudioLineOut's special cable which takes benefit of iPod's dedicated audio line-out. See attached picture of AudioLineOut's iPod line-out - RCA cable.

Which brings me to the only thing which really annoys me with iPod, i.e. background noise, default which is highlighted with the high quality gear such as Shure E500. Only way to get better sonics is to capitalise on iPod's dedicated audio line-out situated in the bottom of the unit, like when it is placed in Apple docking station, thereby by-passing the player's low-grade headphone jack output. But then you need of course a dedicated headphone amplifier like HeadRoom Micro Amp.

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