My Shure E500s have arrived. I've had them on order since May, but it's definitely been worth the wait. A bit of audio history, I started out in this headphone hobby a few years back when another site pointed me towards the Sony EX71s. They were stolen, but I wasn't all that impressed with them, and so went seeking another set of earphones that would replace them at a similar price but better performance. I ended up with E2c which were stolen in the mail before ever reaching me. I then decided to go for the E3c instead, and haven't looked back since. I wish I had, if I'd taken stock of all the money I'd spent, I might have had enough sense to quit long ago. No such luck. The earphones I finally settled on for a long stretch of time were the E5c. In the IEM world, I have heard the E2c, E3c, E5c, Westone UM2 and the Etymotic ER4P. I have no bias to any brand in particular, meaning that if Etymotic made a set of earphones I liked the sonic signature of, I'd buy it, likewise for Westone, Shure, Ultimate Ears or Sony. That said, it's clear from my past that I prefer the Shure signature, although I really like certain parts of each of the IEMs I have mentioned. With that out of the way, let's get on with it. Build & Quality/Finish They're far more stylish than the E5cs. Not that it's any concern of mine what they look like, but given the choice between two identically good products, good looks never hurt in making a choice. The high gloss brown oil-slick type finish won't be to everyone's tastes though. I'd be surprised if Shure doesn't release a few more colours in the future. I really like the lightweight design of both the phones themselves and also the cable. It makes for a far more comfortable fit. I can't believe they've added an extra driver and lost all that weight, and the E5c weren't all that heavy to begin with. I also like the new ridges on the barrel. It works for a couple of reasons, firstly it prevents tips falling off if the sleeves are slid over the top of it, it makes them that little more secure and difficult to get off. Secondly, my ear canals are quite deep and the soft-flex sleeves used to fit poorly on the E5c. With the E500, I can slide them up to the ridge but not over it, and now I can use the soft-flex sleeves too. I still prefer the sound that the tri-flange delivers, but having the extra option is nice for the days when my ears are feeling a little sensitive, as tri-flanges are slightly more intrusive than the rest of the fittings. Presentation out of the box is of a high quality, although those familiar with the E5c will know what to expect. Again, spending money on boxes and extraneous items is fairly pointless if you're trying to make good earphones, but if you believe you've made them great, then adding an extra nice touch on packaging can't hurt. Accessories The Push-To-Hear (PTH) accessory is a nice idea, but it's one I'll seldom use because the E500 are far easier to put in and out than the E5c, and so removing one for a few seconds while I talk to someone else is an easy task. For those unfamiliar with PTH, it's a module that's attached in between your source and your headphones with a microphone in it. When you need to hear the outside world, you just push a button and it cuts out the music and allows outside sounds to be piped into your ears through the microphone. I can definitely see the uses of the PTH module, but it doesn't suit my needs, although things like aeroplane travel or public tranport with regular announcements may entice me to use it. I like the fact that a battery (and a decent one at that) is included with the module. It costs very little, but it's a touch that few companies manage to add. There are some reports around of the PTH module slightly affecting the sound quality, but the effect seems to be minimal. I haven't spent enough time playing with it to comment, as I bought these for the E500s, not the PTH feature. I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. The extra cabling options to allow for fitting around whether or not you use the PTH module are also good options. I'm a bit of a worrier over things like this though, the fewer connections and switches in the audio path, the better for me. I'm fairly sure it makes no discernible audible difference, I'm just funny like that, so the fact that I have to add another cable if I want to put my iPod and amp into my jeans pocket is something that bothers me slightly. The standard fit-kit is a familiar accessory, but no less useful for it's familiarity. My past experiences with straight 3.5mm stereo connectors has been extremely poor, while my past experience with right angled connectors has been excellent. I believe this may be due to the angles of stress placed on the connector, and so this is a slight concern to me as well. Only time will tell on this one though, and I suppose that the extra connection options meant that a right angled connector was a little unpractical. Still, another slight difference worth mentioning. Fit and comfort I've already touched on the extra comfort that I've felt in comparison to the E5c through the weight difference in the E500s favour. In terms of fittings, the standard Shure fit kit is present and correct, and will provide something in there for the majority of users. For those unfamiliar with the kit though, there are three pairs of silicone sleeves (a clear plastic that seems fairly tough.) Sizes for these sleeves are small, medium and large. Along with this, in the same three sizes, are the grey soft-flex sleeves, a more malleable and mouldable material made of what seems to be a more rubber based material. The final two types of tips are the ubiquitous 'foamies' that have a big fanbase amongst IEM users, and finally the white tri-flange tips, which are my tips of choice. Of the choices available, I find the soft-flex sleeves to be the most comfortable, although everyone's mileage will vary. The tri-flange tips are very slightly less comfortable as they're more intrusive, but the sound benefits that I gain through using this type of tip far outweighs the minor comfort difference. It's worth noting that many people report slightly altered sound signatures just through changed tips, although radically altering the basic sound signature of the E500s isn't going to happen with this. All in all, a clear gain in comfort and ergonomics over the E5c in my opinion. Listening impressions I've been listening to the E500s as much as possible since I've had them. I could work it out in hours, but I'd prefer to work it out in albums, which is to say that I've listened to most of my favourites, albums that I know and know well. Put simply. on comparison with my E5c, it immediately became clear that I'd be selling the E5c on. I love the E5c and for more than two years they were my travel companion of choice, but there's a definite edge held by the E500 in my view. For the sake of reference and interest my listening so far has been through an iPod 5th Gen 60Gb, with a line-out dock and an RnBAudio Diamond reference IC feeding a Ray Samuels Hornet portable amp for portable use, and home use has been through a Musical Fidelity X-Ray v3 CD player feeding a Ray Samuels 'The Raptor' headphone amp, or PC files into a Benchmark DAC1, also feeding the Raptor. These are my standard reference setups that I use almost daily. In the past I've always used IEMs as travel 'phones. They perform an excellent job for travel, isolation and a 'fun' sound signature are always prevalent and welcome, and the E5c delivered plenty of what I wanted in spades. I had no real complaints. They could have been more detailed, but in the hum-drum of public transport I never really noticed the odd bat-frequency hi-hat, so it never bothered me. Critical listening, however, wasn't all that useful through them. For instance, many times I'd listen to an old favourite on my Sennheiser HD650s and hear a sound I'd never heard in the past and think "cool, never noticed that before." The E5c never delivered similar mini-revelations. It's not a complaint I had of them, I never expected them to do that, that's not really what they're made for. Or at least, it wasn't what I bought them for, at any rate. The E500s, however, have changed that. And they did it within 30minutes of me putting them on. I was listening to Pearl Jam's 'Vs.', an album I know better than any other. And I was struck by a little detail I'd never heard before. It was a small detail, but it was there, I heard it, and I'd never even picked it up, even on my Sennheiser HD650s before. Now I'm not saying these are better than the HD650s. They're excellent headphones and I'm not sure that we'll ever see the day that the best IEMs really compare with the best headphones. What I am saying, though, is that the E500s have the detail revealing capabilities to help show sounds I've never heard through IEMs before. I've got IEMs that are now very, very close to what my full headphones achieve. I would guess that the only thing really restricting them now is how good my portable player's DAC is, because from what I hear now (I'm listening to them through the X-Ray v3/Raptor combination) they scale well enough for me to enjoy them on my main rig, something I seldom bothered doing with my E5c. In the time that I've had them, I'd say roughly 80% of that time I'll reach for them even at my PC desk where my Sennheiser HD650s, audio technica ATH-A900LTDs and Sennheiser HD25s are all within reach. Now there's no doubt that much of this is due to new toy syndrome, that's natural. But it's notable in that I never felt this way when I bought the E5cs, it never really even occured to me. I'm fairly certain that in a few months time, when these are familiar and taken for granted, I'll still hook them up to the main rig for a bit of fun on more than one occasion. They lend themselves to that in both the sound and the comfort stakes. As time has gone on, other things have struck me about these phones. One of the main things is the stereo imaging, which is excellent, while instrument separation is better than any other IEM I've heard, and a good few full sized cans too. The midrange, important because that's where we do most of our listening, far outstrips the E5c. Vocals are well presented, at times scarily realistic. There's no muffled edge to the notes as is sometimes found on certain types of music through the E5c. Most of my listening so far has been with rock and acoustic music, I prefer to get the flavour of a set of headphones this way first, because electronica is great, but it's open to interpretation how a computer generated noise should sound in real life. I've succumbed to the temptation though, and stuck on Erlend Oye's excellent 'DJ Kicks' album, as well as Wiggle's 'Fabric28' mix. The DJ Kicks album is one I used frequently, because it has some lightning fast music that tests out speed, timing, rhythm and handling of attack transients and decaying notes. Minizza's "Winning A Battle, Losing A War" is my favourite for this purpose, and I have to say that for sheer speed, I've never heard anything that beats the E500s. I'm sure the electrostat crowd can shout about a few things that best this, but outside of those realms, I think the E500 will be tough to beat unless you head some way north of its price point towards the custom IEMs. While it's impossible to call anything in electronica natural, I'd say the E500 do a great job of representing what I believe the musicians were trying to accomplish. A real asset of the E500 is the control it seems to excercise over everything that comes its way. The sounds all seem to start and end at the correct point, there's no bleeding of bass over the rest of the sound spectrum, a drum strike sounds like a drum strike and just as importantly, stops sounding like a drum strike in the same fashion as a drum itself. I love to hear sounds that sound like real life from equipment, as do most people involved in this hobby. I listen for it in all of my audio experiences and there aren't many things I've heard that perform this task as often as the E500s. I've certainly never experienced it in the IEM world to this degree, and only the best designs achieve it. A few times over the last few days I've been walking along listening to the music and actually had to crack a full smile at the noises I was hearing. Half because I love the music, half because I've seldom heard it sound so real. It's made little children walking past me run away afraid of the scary grinning man, but I paid a lot for this pleasure, so I'll smile when I feel like it. I've spoken about the midrange already, so I'll move onto my most feared area, the treble. My issue with treble is well known to certain forummers, but I'll try and explain why I have such a problem with it. Treble hurts my ears. Well, more accurately, badly done treble hurts my ears. I'm not saying I'm right here, we're all different and we all hear differently, so I'm usually quick to point out on equipment that I don't like that it's probably more my ears than the equipment that's tuned wrong. So what do I mean by wrong? Put simply, real life never hurts my ears. Although I'm sure there are natural sounds out there that would hurt my ears, it's a rare occurance. Real life has sweet treble. Even when things get up high, it's never splashy and irritating. There are few piercing sounds out there. In the world of audio reproduction, however, there's quite a bit of it about. Recordings themselves can be sibliant, equipment can be the wrong side of 'bright' and when these things are done wrong, it really does sound awful. The point of all of this? Well it should be obvious, the E500 has to try and perform the tast of extracting detail while avoiding the pitfalls of becoming bright. In my eyes, it has succeeded, and not only that, it's done it pretty well. Top end is present and correct, and as mentioned already, there have been times already where I've had 'detail epiphanies' while using the E500s. I don't want to wax too lyrical about the top end though, as it does have its slight faults. When driven at higher volumes, treble can get a tiny bit single-toned and although it's not 'splashy' it can sound a little forced. As mentioned, this is at higher volumes. Not at unlistenable volumes, mind you, so it's something that won't annoy me, but has to be mentioned as a slight downside. In comparison with the E5c, it's phenomenally good. In comparison with real life, it's most of the way there, but for a few faults, and only if I'm being picky and harsh. Another slight 'issue' I had with the E500 is that I slightly prefer the 'fun' bass of the E5c, the E500 is probably more correct and controlled in audiophile terms, but I quite like the bass that the E5c reproduces. Having said that, as I spend more time with them, I'm appreciating the extra things that control brings to the party, and even in the bass department, it's a 50/50 decision whether I prefer the extra bass quanitity or the extra bass control. As the days have gone by, the sound of the E5c is becoming more muddy (in my own head) while the sound of the E500 is becoming more the norm, a form of psychological burn-in which has no doubt been driven by my preference for the rest of the spectrum on the E500. After listening to both, I'd have chosen the E500 without a doubt, but I'm under no illusions about how the mind works, and justifying my purchase is probably a factor in this development. That said, I mentioned straight away that in audiophile terms, the better control of the bass is preferable, my mind remains unwavvering on that point. Bottom line, though, the bass on the E500 is excellent, if slightly lower on impact than the E5c. Conclusion With all being said and done, the E500 is a superior all round IEM to anything else I have heard, beating the E5c/Westone UM2 into second place (I like them both and feel they're broadly similar with the E5c having the slight edge due to me spending far more time with them), the Ety ER4 into third, and the E3 further back into fourth with the E2 bringing up the rear. Please note that this list is in order of absolute sound and not value/sound. The E5c will always be one of my favourite earphones, it did everything I wanted it to do for years. But there's a new toy in my playpen, and it's bigger and better than the rest right now. For those wanting comparisons with the ER4P, (and there usually are in the impressions threads,) it's a shaky piece of ground, people love their earphones and it's not in my nature to say that earphone X will be better for you than earphone Y. However, I feel I'll be forgiven for mentioning a simplified method for those considering a purchase coming from the Etymotics side of things. If you're listening to ER4s now and you love them but feel they lack a little in the bass department, but you're happy with them otherwise, then the E500 could well be for you. If you're listening to ER4s now and you love them and feel they lack nothing at all in bass, then I'd probably say the E500s aren't going to give you any improvement in detail. To some ears they may, to some ears they may not. I personally feel they're on a par in the detail stakes. It's possible that the extra bass will overpower to certain Ety users, so I'm not sure the move would be worth it. If you're listening to the ER4s now and you'd like a change... look no further :veryevil: I'm always careful in my reviews to end by mentioning that my opinion is exactly that. These cans are worth the money to me for sure, but it's absolutely impossible for me to say it's worth it for anyone else. A millionaire might not blink at the price tag, but it doesn't mean that the price provides him with value for money or that it's justified justified. Likewise, I'm hardly a millionaire, and yet I devote a considerable proportion of my income to sound (and vision.) In absolute terms, I'm not really someone who can afford to shell out thousands on equipment, but I enjoy my music so much that, within a few short weeks, I've got my money's worth in my own opinion already. The point I'm making is that, while I hope these impressions are useful to someone, whether these (or any other) earphones are for you is a question only you can answer. I'd hate for someone to shell out large wedge on these and then say "Hey, I never heard those attack transient thing-a-majigs you were talking about!" Take it for what it's worth, and I hope you enjoyed my review. I'm enjoying my E500s though!