Early last year I was shopping for in-canal earplugs because I wanted a pair of reasonably sound-isolating plugs that stay in my ears, even when running or biking. The standard iPod plugs are not meant for me. Even if I could stand the sound quality (which I don’t), all I have to do is to lean my head on one side and the earplug drops on the ground. The same goes pretty much for all the “normal” earplugs, thus I needed more drastic measures.

My first idea was to buy a pair of Sennheiser CX300 plugs, cause I’d had a couple of different Sennheisers in the past and been fairly happy with all of them. James proposed that I’d get Shure E2C’s instead; he’d used both and thought the Shures were vastly superior, sitting tighter in the ear and being better sound-isolating. I believed him and ordered a pair from Amazon.co.uk, which he then brought to our Caboose meetup in Paris.

In general I’ve been very happy with the earphones. They sound great, pretty much as good as my Sennheiser PX200 headphones. And most of all, after you find the best fitting sleeve for your ear (they come with a selection of sleeves), they sit in your ear like plague.

However, while the Shures have worked really well in sometimes fairly rough use, their cables haven’t stood up the use as well. The rubber covering the cable first started cracking from behind my ears, and now there are even more cracks where the protective metal coil comes out of the cable covering.

Yesterday’s tweet by lazyatom finally pushed me over the edge to ask for a replacement. I started with the Finnish distributor even though I bought the pair from UK, just to try out my luck. And lucky I was (unlike some others). The distributor promised to send me a replacement pair if I’d just mail them the phones. They’re now in the mail, fingers crossed that I’ve got a new pair soon. Kudos for that to Noretron.

In July, when we jumped on a train for our honeymoon in Norway, I forgot my E2C’s back home. Two weeks without earplugs just couldn’t do, so I went shopping in the airport to see if they’d have some good alternatives on sale. One reasonably priced model that looked liked it would fit the bill was Koss The Plug. Priced at less than €20, I figured I wouldn’t lose much even if they wouldn’t turn out to be good. Which they didn’t.

While The Plugs sit fairly well inside the ear canal, the foam plug is the only thing keeping them in place. The Shures, no the other hand, have the earphone body sitting inside the earlobe as well, and the cable going behind the ear. So sooner or later gravity will pull The Plug out of the ear, and that moment comes very soon if you’re both sweating and moving at the same time.

The biggest problem with the Koss plugs, however, is that (at least with my iPod Shuffle) they somehow hugely amplify the silent humming caused by a player when it’s on. That causes the phones to be nearly unusable on lower volumes, e.g. when I listen to a podcast before falling asleep. With the lowest volume I can hardly hear the voice of the hosts from the humming. This is a problem I haven’t encountered with any other pair of plugs, including the ones coming with iPods. Thus I don’t recommend buying The Plugs even though they are cheap. Cough up a few dozen bucks more and get a good pair of Shures instead. I’m at least eagerly waiting for my replacement Shure buds, that’s how big the difference between the two is.