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IEM Comparison: Westone UM1 UM2 vs Shure E2C E4 E500

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I would just like to share personal opinions of Westone, Shure, Sennheiser, and Ultimate Ears. The reviews are not technical in nature and I kept ratings basic to what's important to me: Overall Sound, Comfort, and Value. These ratings are based on a (1-10) scale for each category.

Please also note that any comparison/ranking includes some subjectivity. What sounds best to me may sound terrible to others. I may get a horrible seal or fit with an IEM, but others may get a perfect fit and seal.

Also included are the average retail prices (at time of purchase). Current retail or market prices may be different depending on when/where you purchase.

All tests were done on the following sources (unamped):
Source # 1: Dell Inspiron 9300 Laptop, Windows Vista, WMP11
Source # 2: Samsung YP-T9JQB
Source # 3: Ipod Touch 16GB (1st Gen)
Source # 4: Shuttle XPC

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Ranking:

High-End IEMs ($300-$500 range):
#1 Westone 3 (9.0/10.0) = Best 3-driver headphones. If you can afford these, go for it!
#2 Shure E500 (8.7/10.0) = Best for portability & bundled accessories. Great sound detail. PTH can be useful.

Mid-Priced IEMs ($200-$300 range):
#1 Westone UM2 (9.0/10.0) = Best mid=priced IEMs in my opinion. Improved bass & trebile over UM1 while keeping the same great balanced sound signature. UM2 offers excellent performance and value. Comfortable fit and new tips are easy to acquire.
#2 Sennheiser IE7 (8.7/10.0) = Great detail and bass. Slight problem with getting a good seal, but otherwise a solid pair of IEMs.
#3 UE TripleFi 10 (8.0/10.0)= Great triple-driver sound. Slightly awkward shape, so the fit may take some getting used to.
#4 Shure E4 (7.0/10.0) = Great sounding but not too comfortable. Other owners have reported getting a good fit if you don't use the behind-the-ear approach.

Budget-Priced IEMs ($100 range):
#1 Westone UM1 (8.7/10) = Best budget IEMs in my opinion. Great sound, comfort, and price.
#2 Shure E2C (8.0/10) = Best price. One of the cheapest entry-level quality IEMs, very durable.


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Shure E2C
Retail: $100
Included Accessories: Case, Orange Foam Sleeves (S/M/L), Clear Flex Sleeves (S/M/L), 10 Wax guards
Comments: This was my first IEM and it handled many jogging sessions without any problems. The design is great. It took me a little while to get used to them, but found I get best sound and seal from the foamies (which require replacement).
Sound: 7 (Good entry-level headphones)
Comfort: 8 (Due to round shape and orientation in-ear)
Value: 9 (Great bargain for entry level IEMs)
Advantages: Price, comfort, durability
Disadvantages: Bass needs improvement


Shure E4
Retail: $299
Included Accessories: Volume Attenuator, Case, 1 Pair Yellow Foam Sleeve, 1 Pair Tri-Flange, Clear Flex Sleeves (S/M/L), Soft Grey Sleeves (S/M/L), Replacement Nozzle, Filter Cleaner
Comments: Great upgrade to the E2C in terms of bass (more punchy) and overall sound quality (cleaner and more refined). The only disadvatage is the fit/comfort. These headphones seem to stick out for me rather than rest on the eardrum. I also got the best result with foamies here (only 1 is included, so plan on buying more). I actually found these to be the least comfortable IEMs out of all the ones I tried (may be a personal opinion). Sold due to lack of comfort.
Sound: 9 (Lots of detail/clarity. Just fun to listen to)
Comfort: 5 (Feels like a stick coming out of my ears!!)
Value: 7 (Mid-range price for quality. I can't justify paying the retail price of $299 for these)
Advantages: Clear improvement in sound quality over E2C
Disadvantages: Does not sit flush in ear (not as comfortable as E2C)


Shure E500 PTH
Retail: $499
Included Accessories: PTH Device, Volume Attenuator, Headphone Extension, Case, 1 Pair Yellow Foam Sleeve, 1 Pair Tri-Flange, Grey Foam Sleeve, Clear Flex Sleeves (S/M/L), Soft Grey Sleeves (S/M/L), 1/4" Adapter
Comments: The first notable difference is the packaging ans accessories; Shure did a really nice job with the compact aluminum box, PTH device, and large array of tips. The finish on the casing is really clean and the E500 is the coolest looking pair of IEMs I've seen. The best features about the E500 is it's easily driven by a portable source and sits comfortably in the ear. This is what makes me justify keeping them at that price.
The biggest downside has to be the price. Also, the chord with the headphones is really short and needs to be daisy-chained with an extension chord, volume attenuator, or PTH device. Due to the daisy chaining, all plugs are straight plugs instead of Y-shaped. Overall, these are recommended for a critical listener or someone who wants the best sound output on the road without carrying an amp. You can get great sound with pretty much any tip with these. Sold due to high price and the sound signature just not appealing to me so much.
Sound: 10 (Triple-driver provides lots of detail ad clarity. Depending on your listening preference, you may not like the sound signature)
Comfort: 9 (Great design)
Value: 7 (Expensive)
Advantages: Easily driven by portable source, PTH device is good, amazing clarity, comfort
Disadvantages: Price, too much detail causes sound to be fatiuging


Westone UM1
Retail: $109
Included Accessories: 3 Orange Comply Foam Sleeves, nozzle cleaner, Case
Comments: The first thing I likes about these is how well they rest in the ear and their design. I agree to the points mentioned by other people that Westones are more fun and less critical than Shures, but I also find them less fatiguing, which is great. I found the UM1s a little lacking on bass compared to the E500s, but with both of my portable player and laptop, they gave more than enough punch. They offer the best price/quality combination out of any IEM.
Sound: 8 (Great sound)
Comfort: 9 (Sits flush in-ear)
Value: 9 (Best bargain IEMs in my opinion)
Advantages: Design/Comfort, great bass, very laid back presentation
Disadvantage: Not as detailed as E4 or E500


Westone UM2
Retail: $299
Included Accessories: 3 Orange Comply Foam Sleeves, nozzle cleaner, Case
Comments: More bass and detail than the UM1 but at 3x the cost. Comfort is about the same as UM1. Very solid IEM.
Sound: 10 (Great balance. Love the sound signature)
Comfort: 9 (Also sits flush on-ear, although slightly bulkier than UM1)
Value: 8 (Good IEMs for the price. These tend to also hold their value well considering how long they have been out - this may change with Westone 3 release)
Advantages: Nice warm sound signature with amazing clarity and comfort
Disadvantage: A bit expensive


Westone 3
Retail: $399
Included Accessories: 1 tri-flange, 3 gray complies, 3 dark gray silicone, 3 clear flex sleeves, 2 nozzle cleaners, Case, volume adapter, 1/8" to 1/4" adapter.
Comments: More bass and detail than the UM2 but at $100 more . Comfort is about the same as UM2. Very solid IEM. Lots of accessories and tips to try for perfect seal.
Sound: 10 (Great balance. Love the sound signature)
Comfort: 9 (Sits comfortably flush on-ear. Amazingly slim for a 3-driver IEM)
Value: 8 (Best in class (3-driver) but very expensive)
Advantages: Nice warm sound signature with amazing clarity and comfort
Disadvantages: Very expensive

Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10
Retail: $399
Included Accessories: Three pairs single silicone flanges (S/M/L), one double-flange, one pair foam tips, 1/8"-->1/4" converter, extension cable, case, and cleaning tool.
Comments: Not quite as detailed as the E500/SE530. I could not get them to work as behind-the-ear (unless I switch sides).
Sound: 10 (Good balance and detail)
Comfort: 7 (The fit is somewhat awkward)
Value: 7 (Expensive)
Advantages: Sounds amazing
Disadvantage: Expensive and not too comfortable

Sennheiser IE7
Retail: $299
Included Accessories: Three pairs single silicone flanges (S/M/L), three pairs of black comply tips (S/M/L), three pairs of bi-flange tips (S/M/L), case, and cleaning tool.
Comments: Great detail, bass, and clarity. This is currently my favorite pair of IEMs along with the UM2s.
Sound: 10 (Great detail and good bass)
Comfort: 8 (Comfortable but could not get a full seal)
Value: 9 (Excellent value)
Advantages: Great sound and excellent value
Disadvantage: Could not get a full seal
post #2 of 35
Where do you get your street prices from? Im looking for a pair of UM2's and would love to pay $190-$220 for them!!! Never seen them that low though...
post #3 of 35
No offence, I know you didn't want to get too in-depth and meant well but numbers alone mean nothing. A couple of interesting lines only isn't very useful. The only thing I've taken from this thread is that the grey E4 is darker than I thought it was. What music did you use? What are your musical preferences?

Example:
Quote:
Originally Posted by smoka
Westone UM2
Retail: $299
Street Price: $190-$220
Included Accessories: 3 Orange Comply Foam Sleeves, nozzle cleaner
Sound: 10
Comfort: 9
Value: 7
And from that alone we get 2nd place and "Best high-end (Improved bass & trebile over UM1 while keeping the same great balanced sound signature)"? I'm not saying you have to write as much as others do, but come on!

P.S. I promise its all constructive criticism
post #4 of 35
Interesting comparison but... "too much detail causes sound to be fatiguing." I've never heard that one before.
post #5 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by tmoth View Post
Where do you get your street prices from? Im looking for a pair of UM2's and would love to pay $190-$220 for them!!! Never seen them that low though...
Write vendors and ask what their prices are.

Road Dog and Earphone Solutions are two examples.
post #6 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrentRS View Post
Write vendors and ask what their prices are.

Road Dog and Earphone Solutions are two examples.
oh vendor's will go that low from 299$ on best offers and such? (wouldn't want to low ball as it were)
post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tmoth View Post
Where do you get your street prices from? Im looking for a pair of UM2's and would love to pay $190-$220 for them!!! Never seen them that low though...
That's the average price on these forums when I was searching to buy them. Westone IEMs are pretty popular around here though, so they don't last too long. While $299 is the retail price and authorized retailers are not allowed to advertize them lower than that, they will sell them for lower if you ask. With the margin on the UM1s and UM2s, I would buy new and get the warranty just in case. They should hold up their value pretty well unless Westone releases a triple-driver (UM3) and all the head-fiers get upgraditis
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post
No offence, I know you didn't want to get too in-depth and meant well but numbers alone mean nothing. A couple of interesting lines only isn't very useful. The only thing I've taken from this thread is that the grey E4 is darker than I thought it was. What music did you use? What are your musical preferences?

Example:

And from that alone we get 2nd place and "Best high-end (Improved bass & trebile over UM1 while keeping the same great balanced sound signature)"? I'm not saying you have to write as much as others do, but come on!

P.S. I promise its all constructive criticism
Thanks for the feedback.. I listen to and did my comparison with r&b, alternative, and arabic music (mostly drums and vocals)! My biggest complaint about the E4s was the comfort (they just didn't fit right after trying all tips over the period of 1 month). The UM2s only placed lower than the UM1s due to price, otherwise they would be #1.
post #9 of 35
I'm curious to know if anyone else has tried the E4's. When I tested the E4c's out I found them to be rather comfy.
post #10 of 35
I'm fine with my E4 with foamies. I'm OK with the comfort ratings - if one person can't get a good fit, there's not a lot you can say.. well other than get customs lol. Saying that I wouldn't say they stick out a lot. They're not flush like my UM2s but they're not handlebars like my now sold UE 5Pro's lol
post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 

E4/E4C COMFORT

Again, I think this is a matter of preference. I don't think it was so much the texture of the tips or pain of any kind (although the comply tips are a little softer than shure foamies), what bothers me the most about E4s is that they felt awkward in my ears. I think this is because of their shape & orientation to the ear (like a stick in your ear), whereas the Westones, Shure E500s rest more on the eardrum. Shure actually got help from Westone in designing the E500s (according to a Westone rep). I even found the E2Cs to fit more naturally although they are bigger and clunkier!!
post #12 of 35
Thread Starter 

UM2 @ $215

removed
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post
I'm fine with my E4 with foamies. I'm OK with the comfort ratings - if one person can't get a good fit, there's not a lot you can say.. well other than get customs lol. Saying that I wouldn't say they stick out a lot. They're not flush like my UM2s but they're not handlebars like my now sold UE 5Pro's lol
After seeing the UE-5 pics, I think that I would not buy them even if they had the best sound. I've thinned out the collection and use the UM2s as my primary IEMs now. Coupled with the Samsung player, I love the sound, portability, and comfort. Now if I can just avoid coming on head-fi because I'll eventualy give in and get the Westone 3's
post #14 of 35
u really gotta hear them amped to give any comparison
post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by bellsprout View Post
u really gotta hear them amped to give any comparison
but, not everyone has an amp. Maybe the review should include with and without amp?
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