Want a surefire way to make the best headphones on the market even better? Easy, add a mike. Confused? Well, Shure (the makers of my favorite E4c and runner-up E2c headphones) did just that, and believe it or not, it all makes perfect sense.It turns out you can divide people into one of two camps when it comes to headphones: innies and outies. Innies are the people who enjoy wearing in-ear headphones, the ones that go inside the ‘lobe and pump the sound right into your brain. Outies prefer on-ear headphones, such as the Bose QuietComforts, which sit on top of your ears. I’ve tried quite a few of both, in a variety of situations, and am quite certain of the fact that I’m an innie. I like being able to fall asleep with the buds in my ear, I find the Bose set makes my head get a little, sweaty, and I find they simply can’t block out the sounds of a wailing child three rows behind me.
Until a short time ago, the Shure E4c’s were my favorite headphones. I’d even tried the E5c’s, and while the sound quality was stunning, they just weren’t comfortable for a 13-hour flight to Hong Kong. The E4c’s were the king of the innies in my world, with only one major nag: the process of removing/inserting them is unpleasant to repeat on a frequent basis. Welcome to the Shure E500PTH’s.
As with all Shure products, the headphones are nicely packaged inside a small box. The box has an inner metallic shell with a very nice finish, and inside that shell is a molded foam case to hold all the pieces. Nice, simple, luxurious, and not overly wasteful.
- The headphones
- The microphone
- A mini-extension cable
- A 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter
- Oval carrying case
- Lots of extra earbuds
I’m going to stay a little light on discussing the headphones themselves this time. Others like Gary Krakow have already reviewed the overall sound quality of them (here’s Gary’s take on the E4c’s, and he’s about 100x a discerning listener compared to me) and CNet made them an Editor’s Choice. Suffice it to say – they sound as good, possibly better, than the rest of the Shure lineup. You’ll have nothing to complain about when it comes to the sound quality, be it at home, on a plane, or anywhere else you are using the E500PTH’s. They sound great.
Now this is where the E500PTH’s get interesting. Their noise-cancelling capabilities are tremendous, but as I said above, taking out and shoving in little rubber buds in your ear every time the person next to you wants to share some little detail of their life and why they love their home town can get, well, annoying. And I have a hunch quite a few of Shure’s customers shared that sentiment with the company, since the E500’s specifically address that situation.
Through some quite clever ingenuity (in my opinion), Shure added a microphone and a little on/off switch to the headphones. When switched “on” (which does require a single AAA battery), the E500’s effectively mute the incoming audio source, and amplify the microphone. This translates to: when you turn them on, you can hear the outside world again. There’s actually a little volume control dial to adjust the level of amplification, and while it took me a little tweaking and a lot of getting used to, I finally got it right.
The next time the flight attendant walked by my seat (my original fiddling with them was on a plane), I was able to order my drink (and, of course, thank her for it), without whispering or screaming at the top of my lungs. Again – it takes some getting used to, but once you’ve tried it for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself hitting the switch and carrying on a conversation as if you weren’t wearing the headphones at all. Very very impressive!
I have only a single annoyance with the Shure E500PTH’s, which is the size of the carrying case. Granted, I was spoiled by the “fits in the palm of my hand” size of the E4c’s, and it’s still nothing compared to the mega-case which carries the Bose QuietComfort 2’s (forget the 3’s, they make ya puke). So chalk that up as the only negative thing I have to say, otherwise, the E500’s are a winner. Another nice touch is if the microphone battery dies, the headphones still work (unlike most over-the-ear noise reduction headphones).They are now, in fact, a permanent addition to my laptop case, and should be in yours as well. However, they do cost over $400 (Amazon link), so if you already have headphones you like, you can opt to purchase the “push-to-hear” component instead (Shure site).