Pros: Relatively affordable for demanding audiophiles; excellent sound quality particularly in mid range; good bass response for an ear bud.
Cons: Still too expense for most of us; high frequencies could be better.
Nothing immerses you in your music collection quite like a top notch pair of headphones. But most great headphones aren't very portable. Taking a huge pair of cans on a business trip just sucks. An excellent pair of ear buds is what you need.
Shure's new E4c in-ear headphones fill in the gap between the entry level E3c series at $179 and the over priced but excellent sounding E5c ear headphones at $499. Priced at $299, the E4cs are still damn pricy but include Shure's "Tuned-Port" micro driver design similar to their higher-end sibling.
Each ear bud's driver is sealed in a tiny canister that helps reproduce more accurate lower frequency bass and mid range quality. The high frequencies were not as good as I expected but the E4cs are still not shabby for an ear bud. Still, they produce quality that is, quite frankly, as good as you will ever need for portable digital audio playback, what ever the bit rate.
Shure loaned me a pair for review in the afternoon and they literally kept me up until 4am rediscovering my mostly 320Kbps. MP3 collection of music on the 3rd gen. iPod and Creative Zen Micro.
Strangely enough, they take a bit of time to grow into. It took me awhile to find just the right of ear piece from Shure's "Personal Fit Kit" to match my ear and a few attempts at cranial exploration. But once I had the right fit the excellent quality sound was worth the fitting process.
Once you're trained in amateur brain surgery, the E4cs make you remember why you love headphones. Compared to my mid-range Grado SR80 headphones, the E4cs can't compare with the bass response but they're still good enough to deliver similar quality at a fraction of the space if not the price.