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July 10th, 2006 · No Comments · Gadgets, iPod, Reviews

After several years of rather careless use, I lost one of the little rubber ear cuffs on my wonderful Sony MDR EX71 Fontopia headphones. This was the perfect excuse to get a new set. This time, I decided to make everything match and went with a white version.

Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea. As I should have known, Sony resents iPod owners and their cursed little white headphones. They have managed to make the white plastic insulation of these headphones decompose gradually with contact with skin. It isn’t just a case of my mutant genetics making me sweat acid as I know of two other people, much less mutated than me, who also had the same thing happen. In a matter of months, the plastic gets gummy and starts to peel off, something that the black version never did. Eventually one of the leads fails and the headphones are rendered useless.

In spite of how good they sound, and how comfortable they are, I was hesitant to buy a third replacement set, even in the more durable black plastic, because Sony seems to be such a bunch of douchebags. I couldn’t bring myself to give them any more of my money.

The alternative I decided upon was the Shure e3c. These swank little headphones seemed to get a lot of raves, and I’ll confess that the price ($180, over four times as much as my previous Sony headphones) made me think they must be awesome. If a $40 set of headphones sounds great, an $180 set must sound fabulous.

Or not.

I really tried to like these headphones. After all I invested $180 in them, so I didn’t want to admit that I had been rooked. But basically these headphones weren’t half as good as the Sony MDR EX71.

The cord on the Shure is long, heavy and stiff. Combine this design with the rather long earbuds, and you have a headset that is constantly tugging and levering itself out of the ear. I tried to wrap the cords over my ears, even that didn’t help. If I wore this headset while sitting perfectly still, I might not mind, but for active wear (and by active, I mean a brisk walk), they are useless.

The sound quality and isolation are marginally better than the Sony headphones, but only at moderate volume levels. The Shure’s sound becomes noticeably muddy on songs with loud levels even when the iPod is only at 80%. I never got muddy sound on the Sony’s.

To top it off, after only a few months of use, the Shure’s left channel stopped working. The headphones are under warranty, so I will be sending them back, but I will take the replacement set I get and sell them to someone who likes to sit very still and listen to music quietly. I don’t want them any more.

So Sony may be a douchebag company, but they make good headphones for a reasonable price, as long as you get them in black.

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