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Shure E500PTH Sound Isolating Earphones review: Shure E500PTH Sound Isolating Earphones

If you're the type who prefers uncompressed or lossless formats, require low-profile headphones, and don't mind investing in high-end headphones, the Shure E500PTH should be on your short list.

James Kim
Account in memoriam for the editor.
James Kim
3 min read
It's always a pleasure to use fancy in-ear style headphones, so we were thrilled when Shure's E500PTH Sound-Isolating Earphones arrived in the office. The $550 pair may be for serious audio heads only, but they produce such dynamic sound that we can't say they are overpriced. In addition to its triple-driver design, the E500PTHs include a push-to-hear adapter that allows you to have a conversation with someone without pulling out your earphones. While in-ear 'phones at half the price offer nearly the same sound, the E500PTH set takes portable sound to a new level.

Shure is no stranger in the fledgling in-ear style headphones market. The E series, which include the "low-end" $109 E2c's and the midrange $319 E4c's has made its mark in a world of brands such as Ultimate Ears, Etymotic, and more recently, Creative and Sennheiser.


Shure E500PTH Sound Isolating Earphones

The Good

Shure's E500PTH 'phones offer exceptional sound quality with a three-driver design that's previously been available only for hundreds of dollars more; comfortable and do a great job of passively blocking out noise; includes push-to-hear control; multiple ear adapters and a nice set of accessories.

The Bad

Pricey but a solid investment; switch on push-to-hear controller feels cheap.

The Bottom Line

If you're the type who prefers uncompressed or lossless formats, require low-profile headphones, and don't mind investing in high-end headphones, the Shure E500PTH should be on your short list.

The E500PTH 'phones (announced at CES) take the E series to a new level with its triple-driver design--basically three tiny high-definition speakers, a tweeter, and two woofers in each earphone (sensitivity at 1kHz, 119dB). Integrated passive crossovers keep the highs distinctive from the lows. Ultimate Ears' custom-fitted UE-10 Pros and UE-7 Pros both offer a triple-driver design, but they cost $900 and $850 respectively, and they don't offer the universal fit of the E500PTH headphones. That is, the UEs' ear fittings are custom molded, so they can be used by only one person.

The Shure E500PTHs up close, with a soft pliable rubber sleeve attached.

We fell in love with the E500s' sound immediately, listening to everything from Roots Manuva to John Coltraine on an iPod. Tight, rich bass and razor-sharp highs were expected, but the midrange surprised us with distinctive power and clarity. Instruments typically buried in sound pop out; acoustic guitar riffs hover then dissipate; spoken voice is almost spooky. Quick listening tests versus the sub-$100 Creative Zen Aurvanas and the $250 Ultimate Ears Super fi 5 Pros proved that you get what you pay for, though the Super fi Pros certainly give you lot of bang for your buck. Further sessions listening to Bob Dylan and Ulrich Schnauss in lossless and several CDs confirmed that these are the best in-ear style headphones on the market for less than $600 (I haven't personally listened to the UE-10s).

They are also comfortable to wear and very low profile, and they block out ambient noise extremely well (Shure claims 90 percent of external noise is blocked out). The triple drivers are sheathed in a lightweight and shiny gunmetal-colored plastic, and a variety of earphone sleeves come bundled. I prefer the yellow foam sleeves, though you also get translucent PVC, rubber, and triple-flange options in a variety of sizes. The attractive earphones are shaped to conform to the ear, so they don't stick out. Like other Shure 'phones, the cable is designed to wrap around the ear down the back.

The Shure E500PTHs fit snugly and are both comfortable and low profile.

The E500 cable is durable and easier to untangle than the Super fi Pros' superthin cable. The E500 system is modular, with the main earphone cable reaching only 19 inches. An extender cable adds an additional 3 feet, an ideal length. Or you can attach the push-to-hear adapter that fits between your headphones and audio player. This remote-size controller (about 2.5 by 1 by 0.5 inches) has a built-in microphone; activate the switch, and your audio will fade into the background while the microphone connects you audibly to the external world. The AAA battery-operated controller includes a volume adjuster, and the mic picks up sound really well. Basically, this technology keeps you in touch with the external world without having to remove your headphones. It's a useful extra, but for the sake of portability, I personally wouldn't use it. Shure intends to sell a version without the push-to-hear controller, but gave us no firm date.

In addition to the aforementioned cables, you also get a 9-inch extension cable, a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch stereo adapter plug, a cleaning tool, a level attenuator (a small adapter that controls master volume), and a sturdy oval carrying pouch. If you're the type who prefers uncompressed and lossless formats, require low-profile headphones, and don't mind investing in high-end earphones, the E500PTH headphones should be on your short list.


Shure E500PTH Sound Isolating Earphones

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 9