Shure makes excellent headphones. We realised this when some nice chaps from the company came to visit us recently to show off the incredible E500. The £400 pair made Pink Floyd's Time sound incredible, with hitherto unnoticed detail rising to the fore. And as for The Chemical Brothers... They could almost have been in the room with us. While the somewhat lower-end E2c series, coming in at £50, may not make such a splash, they're still impressive.
These aren't your usual in-ear headphones; you'll need to encode your music at higher than 128kbps for starters. The E2c has a second section that's almost perpendicular to the first. These fit deeply into the ear - a Shure speciality - but can render the headphones uncomfortable if you're not used to them. Plant then twist, that's the idea.
Initially, you'll need to bend the cable over the top of your ears. It's hardly a natural state, but it's one you'll have to get used to if you want to make the most of them. The crucial result of the deep fit is the blocking out of background sound. The headphones achieve this by coming in three sizes for a precise fit: choose from foam or rubber ear-pieces, depending on what's most comfortable.
We'll be honest. We didn't get on with the E2cs at first. They're awkward to put on and awkward to take off. We live in Bath... when a tourist asks you the way to the theatre, should it take five minutes to remove your earphones before helping them?
We have to admit that the sound is wonderful. Especially when you remember that other noise-isolating headphones come in at twice the price. You also get a nice case that lets you wrap the headphones around without fear of tangling.
All of which means you no longer have to turn the volume up full on your iPod. No more Click Wheel action to tune out the blue-rinse conversation next to you. What you have here is a tremendous pair of earphones. Dan Grabham