First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- Excellent sound quality, comfortable, wide sound stage, background noise cut in.
The E500s are the best pair of IEMs we've looked at. They combine incredible sound with excellent comfort and the nifty built in microphone
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 33 stores)
There is a rare breed of people for whom, spending more than $700 on a pair of headphones isn't just a rarity, but a somewhat regular occurrence. If you consider yourself an audiophile, and have been craving something new to pair with your iPod, the Shure E500 In Ear Monitors (IEMs) are for you. Offering some of the best sound we've heard from a portable, unamplified headphone, they are sure to please even the most discerning listener. Be wary however, they don't come cheaply.
Once you listen to them however, idle concerns like money (may) simply drift away. The E500s offer quite a laid back sound; they don't have the same sort of forward presentation you'll find on something like the Koss s, but they sound absolutely exquisite across all registers. Bass, an area IEMs often struggle with, is tight and powerful. While it is the strongest element of the music, it doesn't sound bloated at all, as it tended to on Shure's previous flagship model, the . The E500's lows are powerful and crunching and offer excellent detail.
In fact this detail extends across the whole musical spectrum, with both the mid and treble ranges exhibiting excellent clarity. These are quite revealing headphones, so don't be surprised if you notice a few flaws or new elements you hadn't previously heard in your music. The mid and treble ranges are well balanced against each other, and while they aren't quite as prominent as the bass (this is only really noticeable in the mid range), at no time are they overshadowed. The treble has a nice smoothness to it that really complements the powerful bass.
The other area in which the E500's really excel is with regards to soundstage. They offer one of the best soundstages we've heard on an IEM. While it is extremely difficult for a small IEMs or earbuds to compete with bigger, over the ear headphones in this area, the E500s do an admirable job. Music is well positioned, sounding as though you're listening from the front row of a small, intimate concert.
One issue we've commonly encountered with IEMs in the past is a difficulty getting the correct fit, but we had no issues with the E500s. Most companies provide a series of different tips with their canal phones, to allow you to get the best fit possible. In this case we disliked the rubber tri-flange tips which were on by default, but had much more luck with the yellow foam plugs. These can be squeezed just before insertion, allowing them to expand and take the shape of your ear canal for a perfect seal.
In general we were pleased with how comfortable the E500s were. Unlike some of Shure's other offerings, which are quite large and can cause pain after prolonged use, we found the E500s were perfectly comfortable whether we used them for five minutes or five hours. They achieved a good seal, which helped block out external noise. They don't do the job quite as well as a pair of over the ear headphones with active noise cancelling, but as far as IEMs go, the level of isolation on offer is great.
However this time round, Shure has also catered for those who regularly need to converse while listening to music. The E500s come in two parts, the main pair of headphones with a short cable, and a second section of cable containing a small microphone. The microphone, which operates off a single AA battery, can be switched on at any time, which in turn dims your music, and pumps any background noise, such as people talking or busy traffic, through to the headphones. The quality is excellent, and at medium to high volume we had no trouble conversing with the E500s in. There is a slight delay, but it is no more than a split second, and won't cause big problems. Also note, if you don't want to lug the microphone around, an alternate section of plain cable is provided.
Overall, the E500s are the best pair of IEMs we've looked at. They combine incredible sound with excellent comfort and the nifty built in microphone. While the price tag is high, with audio equipment you usually get what you pay for, and for most audiophiles, the E500s will be worth every penny.
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