These in-ear phones are $499.99 MSRP, have an impedance of 36 ohms, and a sensitivity of 119 dB/mw. They weigh 1 ounce (each ear phone).
Well, 500 bucks is a chunk for a little set of phones. But, maybe it just seems that way because the product is small. Lots of things that are small, are expensive. We all pay a premium for car audio, because the technology is miniaturized and high performance. That is the case here.
They have the elegant detail one would hope for. They sound very musical.
But wait a minute. They all have that detail. It is benefit of using such a small driver and having it close to your eardrum.
So, what do you get for the increased dollars?
Take a look at the frequency response, shown below. Notice how it is very flat down to 20 Hz. That is tough to do with tiny drivers. Notice also that the upper end does not have the hump between about 1 kHz and 4 kHz that many other ear phones do.
They do roll off in the high frequencies, and in fact, starting earlier (4 kHz) than some of the other phones that we tested, which roll off starting at 7 or 8 kHz.
The E500-PTHs were very easy to listen to, and I think that it is because the part of the spectrum where most of the music is (60 Hz - 6 kHz) is quite flat. The attenuated response at 6 kHz will minimize tizziness, including sibilance in voices, and this makes the sound mellow. I liked it.
One interesting feature of the ear phone set is that a battery powered microphone is included in a small clip midway down the cord (photo at right). That is the PTH in the name, which stands for "Press to Hear." So, if you are on an airplane listening to music, and the stewardess asks you what you want for dinner, you press the button, and you can hear what she is saying.
THD+N at 20 Hz was pretty low, compared to some of the other ear phones, and there is nothing like clean bass. I would hate to hear boominess with speakers plugged right into my ears.
At 1 kHz, THD+N was also low, but within the range of less expensive ear phones.
At 10 kHz, the second harmonic was very low, lower in fact than the E3Gs, even though the number is higher here. That is because the noise factor is a bit higher here. Again, when distortion is less than 1%, we need to look closely at the actual height of the harmonic peaks because noise is a bigger portion of the whole picture.
Compare the IMD of the E500s to the E3Gs. The number was higher here, but the peaks adjacent to the 2 kHz fundamental were actually somewhat lower.
In sum, the Shure E500-PTH ear phones are good performers, but in my opinion, there are some others that cost less, but perform better. I gave them an 8 for sound, and a 9 for fit. The flatter response outweighs (to me) the higher IMD that it has compared to some other, less expensive, ear phones that have less IMD but a bumpier frequency response.