The $129.99 E3M is the flagship model in Paradigm's Shift headphone line, and while it's certainly a beautifully crafted in-ear, the sonic standards don't match its ambitious price tag. The bass is bloated, thick, and muddled, as is the midrange, and the overall sound balance comes across soft and muted. Despite the beautifully machined earpieces and noise-isolating performance, the E3M's sound design needs work before I'll recommend these $130 earbuds.
Design and features
Thanks to the machined metal earpieces, the E3M have a quality build you rarely find in this price class. Paradigm claims the rigid connection between the silicone tip and the earbud body enhances bass performances by lessening the loss of low frequencies, and each bud houses an 8mm super-neodymium driver.
The 48-inch cable lends a touch of luxury to the design, but the sound of the cable rubbing against my clothing (the so-called "microphonic effect" is more apparent than other headphones. The cable houses an inline microphone and smartphone controls for track navigation, but it feels unusually flexible and prone to tangles. The metal 3.5mm plug has a quality feel, but with no strain-relief where the cables attach to the earpieces, the long-term durability prospects are likely below average.
The headphone comes with three sizes of silicone ear tips. Fit will vary with each person's ears, but I found them very secure and comfortable. Instead of "R" and "L" markings on the earpieces, the silicone tips have red and white inserts to indicate right and left channels.