Paradigm SHIFT E3m Earbuds Review 
Home Theater Accessories Accessories
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 27 April 2012

I’ve enjoyed Paradigm products for a number of years now. The Canadian loudspeaker company is well known for producing a wide variety of products across most price points. They make everything from 5.1 mini systems, like the Millenia System to mid priced home theater speakers in the Monitor Series, and reference level, no compromise two channel floor standers.

Paradigm recently moved into one category for which they were not previously known: headphones. Paradigm's SHIFT series has a host of newly designed products, including powered monitors (review forthcoming), headphones, and three different earbuds. I received for review a set of the SHIFT E3m earbuds. The E3m is the top of the line among three separate models, all priced according to bass performance. E3m’s are $130 retail.

E3m earbuds feature an airtight seal for noise isolation, a tangle-resistant 1.2 meter cord, and an in-line remote and microphone for use with mobile phones or computers. Supplied with E3m’s are three sets of ear tips and a padded travel case for protection. They are equipped with 8mm super neodymium drivers and a stated frequency response of 8hz to 19kHz. The connectors and earpiece are precision machined from aluminum and give one confidence in their durability.

Paradigm SHIFT E3m microphoneVery uniquely, Paradigm has its own audio research and development facility, with a 36,000 cubic foot anechoic chamber. Paradigm also has multiple double-blind listening rooms used to test every product. Specifically for earbuds and personal audio products, Paradigm SHIFT uses a head and torso “manikin” that acts as a human simulator, measuring the sonic performance while helping with ergonomic design and frequency response adjustments. SHIFT earbuds and are “critically” tuned to Paradigm’s three main speaker lines, the Monitor, Studio, and Signature series products. All three SHIFT earbud models are available in black and white finishes. My review sample was supplied in black.

I must say upfront that I have never been fond of in ear buds and I have always used traditional headphones or portable models with ear hooks. I simply could never get earbuds to stay in properly and have always been underwhelmed by the sound, which tended to be thin. The SHIFT in ear buds are the first such products that I have had no issue with. They fit perfectly, did not come out at any point, and never got tangled up. Since I generally use headphones exclusively for the gym and occasionally while traveling, this is a major plus. E3m’s were very comfortable and I barely noticed they were in my ear, and they were totally unobtrusive.

How did they sound? In a word, terrific. I would characterize their overall sound as a bit on the warmish side. High frequencies were mellow, midrange textures were supple, and bass was weighty and articulate. I happen to have a preference for a slightly darker tone on headphones. Shrill, tinny sounding cans are just not my cup of tea, and easily become very irritating after a short while. No such issues here with the E3m’s. These earbuds were also very easy to drive, with plenty of usable volume range. Even the quietest portable devices should have no problem.

I used the E3m’s on my Apple iPod Nano and really enjoyed the plush sound across all genres of music, including alternative, jazz, classic rock, world, and R&B. I thought imaging was excellent, and at certain points I had forgotten I was even listening to earbuds, as there was the illusion of three-dimensional sound on well-recorded material. There was also very good insulation from outside noise. These are not active noise cancelling earbuds per se, but they were great at not letting competing ambient noise in.

Paradigm SHIFT E3mMy wife used the E3m’s on her iPhone 4S for music and phone calls. She concurred with me about fit, ergonomics, and sound quality. On phone calls, the built in microphone proved to be very good indeed. Obviously a lot of engineering went into the E3m’s performance and the microphone and volume control are not just tacked on features.


Paradigm has yet again done their homework, developing a great sounding product that is well built and ergonomically impressive. I must admit that the overall warmish sound may not appeal to all, but I made it clear that I lean that way for headphone listening, especially for portable devices. Bass was clearly the E3m’s strong suit; its rendering of the lower frequencies provided excellent body to the music.

E3m’s also lived up to their billing as tangle free and great fitting. The volume control and microphone worked flawlessly, and the earbuds themselves and the connectors were well above average in build. Certainly, at $130, E3m’s are not geared towards the cheapo market. However, their performance is in line with, or even surpasses, headphones and earbuds I have owned costing the same and even much more. If you are shopping for an upgrade to the crummy earbuds that come with your iDevice, put the Paradigm SHIFT series at the top of your list.


Paradigm E3m SHIFT Earbuds
Price: $129.99.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.

Paradigm Electronics, Inc.
205 Annagem Blvd.
Mississauga, Ontario Canada L5T 2V1
(905) 564-1994

Review System 1

Apple iPod Nano Generation 4
Apple iPhone 4S
Mac Mini/iTunes

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