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When many people first see the Shure IEMs they reel at the price... I remember when I first got my E4c's about 6 years ago nearly all of my friends laughed when they found out I'd spent £180 on them - I didn't even point out that these were far from the most expensive earphones you could buy by a long long way.
But 6 years on and who is laughing now? Because they've lasted so long, that means they've effectively cost me £30 a year for a very decent pair of earphones. I know people who spend £30 every few months in an endless cycle of buying cheaper headphones that don't last very long.
Admittedly mine are now nearing the end of their life as the cable shielding is starting to deteriorate and split, but having made so much use of them I'm not too bothered and will happily pay the money for a new pair knowing that they will probably last me another 5 years at least.
So what is so great about them?
The sound quality is top-notch. I've used mine for listening to everything from symphonies to heavy metal. They've even had a bit of use on-stage where IEMs were originally intended for!
Out of the different earpieces that come with them I've preferred the triple-flange tips the best - these provide the best isolation and the good seal also helps with the bass response. They look like they might be uncomfortable at first, but you soon get used to them. They also stay in your ear very well so you don't have to worry about them constantly falling out. Note that these are designed to be worn 'upside down' with the cable trailing round the back of the ear.
The isolation means that you can listen to music at much lower volumes than you might with normal earphones as you're not having to drown out surrounding noise. This makes listening to music much more enjoyable and also reduces the risk of ear damage from high volumes. That doesn't mean that you have to listen to them quietly (we all like to listen to loud music don't we!) but it seems a lot louder at quiet volume because all the background noise is blocked out.
The only downside of this is you are completely isolated, which can be a bit disorientating if you're listening whilst walking around, and possibly even dangerous if you are out on the street, crossing the road, etc. I find myself walking around with only one in so that I can hear what's going on and also have conversations with other people. Shure recognised this problem somewhat when they released the e500, by including a little 'push-to-hear' inline microphone thing so you could add some of the outside-reality back in to your hearing if you needed to!
As I said before, the build quality is very good. The cables are a lot thicker than most earphones and generously long. The included carry case keeps them nice and safe though for the past few years I've stuffed them carelessly in my pocket without any damage.
Just keep an eye out for fake Shure earphones as they are all over the internet, on eBay in particular. These aren't cheap headphones, and if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is!