Our preferred in-the-ear 'phone sleeves are of the foam variety as these tend to conform to your ear canal better than other ones do, making for a more comfortable fit. Shure provides four sets of dome-shaped silicone buds of various sizes. These aren't quite as comfortable, and if you're the type of person that is constantly pulling earphones in and out, they'll soon start to irritate.
Comfort aside, these sleeves are just as good as the foam variety when it comes to sealing out noise. By blocking so much noise out, you can also listen to the music at a lesser volume and still make out the subtleties.
Not much sound leaks out
Equally, the drivers are considerably smaller than traditional in-ear 'phones, so much less noise leaks out. Unlike the iPod owner sitting next to you on the train, blaring out Cradle of Filth through his trademark white earbuds, nobody is any the wiser that you are even listening to music, let alone what poor taste you have.
The 'phones themselves only have an 45cm cable, with the rest of the length being provided by a 90cm extension cord with gold-plated connectors. The cable end is cut away so it fits into a first-generation iPhone. If you're rather clumsy and damage the ends, you can replace the chord instead of the earphones. It also gives you flexibility of buying one of Shure's microphone units for using these with a mobile phone, which saves you constantly having to pull them out of your ears to answer a call.
Shure's two-year warranty is also a good indication of quality, as well as a good fall-back if you happen to work with anyone who uses scissors regularly. Shure bundles a felt bag for carrying the 'phones in, which should protect them from getting snagged if you throw them in a rucksack, or from collecting dirt if they're in your pocket.
ER6i for iPod... great headphones and similarly priced.
Just replaced mine with some HF2's so i can have handsfree calling on my iPhone, but they're £99 - better mind!
Re: Diminishing returns
I'm one of those audiophiles as I spet 200odd quid on on my Etymotic ER4 headphones when I bought them.
Simple, I love music, and want to hear it how it was intended warts n all. I have 20k's worth of stereo at home to listen to music (2 speakers, 1 cd player, 1 pre amp, 1 power amp + assorted cables). Listening to music on that is almost as good as listening live.
I wanted that sort of experience on a portable for when I was out and about, and the Ety's were the best in ear phones at the time that I tried. I rip lossless as I can tell hear the difference when lossy. The sound I get out and about is fantastic and I'm happy with it.
200 quid is a small price to pay as far as I'm concerned for something I get so much enjoyment out of.
as for the Etymotics, they are brilliant and way above other portable headphones I've tried and I tried a few. They don't emphasise any part of the frequency range, sound stage brilliantly, and are very well made. they block almost all outside noise, so music can be listened to quieter.
Their bad points though is that the cable is pretty microphonic (something all headphones of this type suffer from), so you can't go jogging in them. Getting them correctly fitted into your ears takes a lot of practice and getting used to, as does the feeling of them being in there. And they are useless if you have sore ears due to cold or something as they do irritate if you try to wear them then.
Oh and unless you get them correctly seated in your ears, they do not sound all that special.
for the days I have a flu / cold etc, I have Koss Porta Pros which have a fantastic build quality, great sound quality (though nowhere near as good as the Ety's, but still vvery good), no noise cancellation though but they were cheap as chips.
Some of us like to listen to music properly, and listen to proper music. Not this compressed, volume recorded so bloody loud so it sounds good on iPod, but crap on anything half decent chart crap.
Paris cause she would sound decent on anything.
"The cable "problem" is a load of bollocks". I can unfortunately disagree, my E4C's are cracking on one side where they go over my ear. They're less than 2 years old and they've got a lot stiffer which has led to one side starting to go through normal use, though it does mean I can tell the left from the right side in the dark now!
Excellent sound though, when they finally crack to death, I'll probably buy a pair of these.
right in time
As my Koss Spark Plugs just crapped after roughly 7 momnths of light use. Not the kind of quality I expected after owning a Sporta Pro for years.
Well, not just right in time, as it seems i missed a bargain on play..
I suspect some 30 quid of the price is brand tax.
I've bought myself a JVC HA-FX34 (also in-ear, "marshmallow") and it sounds great. Well, at least to me -- so much of this is subjective anyway. For $20, it's great. Very good bass, not so clear trebles, but OK -- middle freqs included. In some songs, I can hear details I had not noticed before on car stereos or other earphones. It is so silent when stuck in the ears that it is scary. Maybe it's not as silent as the Shure, don't know, but it's enough. I pay twice the attention when using it, because if there is music playing, I won't be able to hear anything but the loudest things. I sometimes use it *without* music, just to get some silence (a science lab can be a noisy place most of the time).