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The EarBud Challenge

by Ari Bendersky in Tech on 07 April 2005

Etymotic_earphones.jpg6isolator Earphones, a set of in-ear earphones designed in the same manner as EarLove, but as a sonic helper specifically for iPods. This got me thinking about other in-ear devices so I popped over to Shure and found their E3c Sound Isolating Earphones.

A challenged was hatched.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve used both earphones in a “side by side” comparison and found that they both have great qualities and a couple of downsides. While they both fit snuggly into the ear canal (they’re designed to fit in deeper than most common commercial earphones, including the earbuds that come with the iPod), the Etymotic triple-flange earbuds tended to hurt a little. The Shure set not only fit more comfortably, it also gave you a sense of being inside the womb – you could hear yourself breathing quite loudly when the music wasn’t playing.

But as far as sound is concerned, both companies won out in their own way. Etymotic creates Musicians Earplugs, not only to help professionals hear better on stage, but to also protect their hearing. This is an element that translates over to the 6isolator earphones. The music comes through crisp, clear and loud enough – you don’t need to have the volume up to hear really well. And they pick up background music really nicely. While listening to “Amsterdam” by Coldplay, I could actually hear the wind blowing at the beginning of the song.

The Shure earphones also had great sound – so clean in fact that I found myself listening to lyrics more clearly. While I love Belle & Sebastian’s “It Could’ve Been a Brilliant Career,” I never before really paid attention to the story within the song. With these earphones, I had no choice. This might be due to the fact that all outside noise was virtually blocked, although there was some occasional fuzz around the fringes, but not much. I was able to really focus and hone in on the lyrics, unlike when music is playing on a stereo or computer and you have other outside distractions.

Overall, both sets of earphones are great, but I would go with the Shure set. They fit better in the ear, the sound was just slightly more crisp, they’re more stylish and they come with a protective carry case that, frankly, is pretty nice.

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