Innovative In-Ear Headphones for All Budgets

At a Glance
  • Creative Zen Aurvana In-Ear Headphones

    TechHive Rating
  • Sennheiser MX 55 VC Street

    TechHive Rating
  • Shure Sound Isolating Earphones

    TechHive Rating

Even the best MP3 player is useless without a decent pair of headphones. Three new earphone models from Creative, Sennheiser, and Shure aim to improve your on-the-road listening--whatever your budget. Shure's E500PTH set was by far my favorite of the group; the Sennheiser earbuds were also impressive.

Shure's earphones, though expensive, sound exquisite.
Shure's earphones, though expensive, sound exquisite.

Priced twice as much as some MP3 players, the sound-isolating, $499 E500PTH in-ear headphones simply amaze thanks to a three-driver design (most Shure models have only two drivers) that pumps out exquisite sound over a full range of frequencies.

An innovative feature is the E500PTH's bundled Push-to-Hear module. At the flick of a switch, it silences the music from your player, while a microphone pipes the sound of the outside world into your ears. The module, which runs on a AAA battery, is bulkier than I'd like, but it's invaluable for anyone who has stood in line for coffee deciding between removing one's earphones or yelling "What?" a lot while ordering a latte.

Good Sound, Price

Sennheiser's well-priced set (top) plays better than Creative's offering.
Sennheiser's well-priced set (top) plays better than Creative's offering.

Sennheiser's $40 MX 55 VC Street earbuds offer their own innovation with a "Twist-to-Fit" extension: Place the earbud in your ear, twist it forward, and its little stabilizer wedges the speaker into place.

The headphones also come with a number of interchangeable plastic sleeves that help you attain a perfect fit. They work well--the pieces stayed comfortably in place in my ears even while I was running. My favorite addition is the adapter that places a small rubber flange around the speaker, providing the tiniest bit of sound isolation.

As earbuds go, the MX 55 units sound quite nice. The bass response won't blow you away, but the headphones produce clear, detailed sound that's a definite upgrade over a standard set of earbuds.

Creative's $99 Zen Aurvana set isolates sound, but the light, minimalist design has significant drawbacks. Bumps and brushes against the Aurvana's thin headphone cable are very audible, and uneven sound quality caused me to have considerable trouble finding an appropriate volume on MP3 players. At low volumes the bass seemed weak and mushy, and when turned up high, the Aurvana units sounded harsh, bright, and fatiguing. When I did find the perfect level, however, the audio was pleasing.

Shure E500PTH Sound Isolating Earphones

Pristine sound quality and the innovative Push-to-Hear feature come at a steep price.
Price when reviewed: $499
Current prices (if available)

Sennheiser MX 55 VC Street

Relatively inexpensive earbuds sound good, fit great.
Price when reviewed: $40
Current prices (if available)

Creative Zen Aurvana In-Ear Headphones

Creative's first attempt at in-ear headphones offers light weight and passable audio quality.
Price when reviewed: $99
Current prices (if available)

This story, "Innovative In-Ear Headphones for All Budgets" was originally published by PCWorld.

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Creative Zen Aurvana In-Ear Headphones

    TechHive Rating
  • Sennheiser MX 55 VC Street

    TechHive Rating
  • Shure Sound Isolating Earphones

    TechHive Rating
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.