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For the price of one set of Shure’s SE530PTH earphones, you could buy two 30GB iPods, 17 sets of Apple earbuds, or 500 encrypted songs from iTunes. A worthy investment or Marie Antoinette–style consumption?
With that question in mind, we couldn’t resist auditioning these pricey phones to the sound of Cake’s Fashion Nugget, ripped and FLAC-encoded, on Cowon’s D2 digital media player. We don’t know if Shure’s BOM (bill of materials) justifies a $500 price tag, but we did have awfully big smiles on our faces after using these earphones.
The SE530PTHs fit snugly in your ears and prevent outside noise from reaching your eardrums, just as Shure’s other in-ear phones do. In the past, there’s been a downside to this setup: When you need to hear outside noise—such as when your roommate is desperately trying to tell you the house is on fire—you’ve had to pull the buds out of your head. So Shure came with a brilliant solution called Push to Hear (PTH).
Push to Hear is a slightly bulky module that fits in-line between the earphones and your MP3 player. Activating PTH turns on a directional microphone and cuts the player’s volume. A green LED assures whoever is speaking that yes, you really are listening. PTH is a terrific, albeit expensive, solution to a common problem.
The earphones themselves feature three sets of microdrivers in each earpiece: a tweeter and two woofers. These bass twins deliver a heaping helping of low end—not as much as M-Audio’s IE-20XBs (reviewed in the March 2007 issue), but it’s much better defined in the Shures. They deliver faboo sound at the other end of the spectrum, too. The vibraslap opening on Cake’s title track sounded like it was drilling deep into the left side of our brain—and we mean that in a good way.
Every link in the audio chain is crucial to delivering a great audio experience, but we draw a (dotted) line at spending twice as much on your earphones as you do your MP3 player. So, no Kick Ass for you, Shure.
Push to Hear is an ingenious alternative to poppin' your earbuds out every three minutes. Plus they have great sound.
$500 is a lot of money for a pair of earphones.