thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Fix that Faulty Shure E3c – No soldering needed!

My broken Shure E3c’s been sitting in its case for more than 2 years now. It’s been my ticket through audio engineering class in ’04 before I owned my decent Genelec nearfield monitors. Yeah, that makes it an 8 year old vintage piece. I usually fix small electronics myself, like my Canon EF-S 17-85 lens, thus I thought this thing should be no biggie unless if its the connecting cables that snapped in their rubber shieldings. Heck I don’t mind giving it a surgery if it needs to. It got tucked away in the dark cold cabinet instead.. almost forgotten.

Fast forward today, I thought I give it another go before I toss it off into the bin.We all know Shure makes great audio gears. I own a couple of SM57s and they’ve survived being thrown onto brick walls. But for this in-ear, I almost mailed it back to Shure, with a NO THANK YOU NOTE for suggesting buying a new pair of in-ears. They claim that its ‘irreparable’. Or.. was it some EU70 to have it fixed. Well you get the drift.

The Symptoms

You first notice that the audio from either side of the in-ear begins to become softer or certain frequency range seemed to be ‘filtered’ off. I instantly thought, ok cable is slowly getting busted. Thus I kneaded some parts of the cable wire to see where that fault might be. I couldn’t find the ‘breakage point’.

Next thing I thought, maybe one of the audio drivers’ gone faulty. There’s 2 microdrivers in the E3c, similar to that of your HiFi speaker but in miniature sizes, lower registers and the tweeter. Listening to it, I only hear bits of highs, but its intermittent, thus the thought of DIY repair got a little bit trickier I thought.

Crack It Open And What Do I see. Oh What Do I Hear!

Shure E3C earphones - Cracked open.

Shure E3C earphones – Cracked open. The black rubber is the driver coil. This reverberates air / sound which is channeled into the extended tube that was twisted open.

The problem with mine lay on the Right in-ear.  I noticed there’s a small possibly glue-joined crevice on the ear-piece from where the ear-funnel protrudes. I held it carefully with rubber gloves and twisted it anti-clockwise with some force. Be careful not to snap the elongated ear tube. It was my lucky day! Probably due to age, the glue might have worn down. It seems to be designed with a 3 point snap-on bayonette mount (look diagram above). There’s no wiring from that front tip, now if you plug in the earphone jack voila! You’d gloriously hear full frequency audio again. It was working all this time!! SO what caused the audio to be ‘blocked’ then? That was the clue.. Too much ear wax?? No. Stopping is blocking the audio out.

THE PROBLEM? Faulty design of the ear-wax filter itself!! 

The small green cellophane diaphragm less than 2mm wide may have got pushed a little bit too far than its supposed to that it blocks the auditory canal. This explains the the higher frequency leaks, but no bass. Bass frequencies will only be re-produced when the bass-ports are wide open as they need more room to travel.

Shure-Wax-Filter-Jammed

After multiple cleanings with supplied cleaning pick tool, one might have pushed the diaphragm a little too far from its nestling space causing audio blockage. Originally, the diaphragm should be on the brown grilled section, where air / audio is allowed out and simultaneously keeping debris (ear wax) out from the speaker chamber.

What’s the ULTIMATE Shure E3C Repair?

You got to thank me for this!!

Since that filter is plunged too far blocking the audio canal tube, there’s only one thing to do, take it out and place it back it to its proper position.

Shure-Wax-Filter-Shoving

Using a fine blunt object carefully push the diaphragm out completely. Careful not to tear the diaphragm. It’s your golden ticket for this fix.. Once you got the filter out. Place it back in again from the front port and stop when you feel it resting on the metal grill. It should be something like what’s shown in the last illustration below.

I used a blunt-edged copper wire. A paper clip might work too but make sure it doesn’t have a sharp end. Push it completely through the audio tube and you’d see a tiny small green plastic cap. That’s your golden ticket. 😉 You should now be able to see through the audio canal now without anything blocking your sight of path. The grill or spring coil would still be intact in the tube. Now here’s your opportunity to clean those audio grills! I used a cylindrical interdental brush and gave it a good spin and even a quick wash and self-dry before replacing the green ear wax filter.

Once clean and dried, now its time to place the diaphragm back in place. Very gently push the filter into the tube again. I can’t tell you exactly how far it should go. But comparing the visual distance from the working in-ears, I’d say it’s good as long as you have it seated on the grill. Do A-B monitoring between the Left and Right in-ears. I’d suggest using a Mono Signal of various audio frequency to to be sure that all frequencies are coming through on same amplitude on both Left and Right side. If you did it right. Voila! You’ve fixed your expensive in-ears with a paper-clip. Next – the glue.

Correct Position For SHURE E3C Or E2c Ear Wax Filter

Shure-Wax-Filter

There’s a spring-like material that rails half the inner length of the ear tube. The green diaphragm (ear wax filter) should sit on this rail blocking debris from entering the speaker chamber. This grill allows air to be pushed through. At the same time it serves as a resting space for the ear wax filter. Smart design Shure!! NOT

Right, the glue. I used quick drying industrial glue. Even if you’re an expert on glueing, I’d suggest applying the glue on a toothpick first before dapping the plastic directly onto the glue tube. You don’t want excessive glue on this in-ear. Any added material weight would increase the mass of the reverberating unit and may cause faulty frequency re-production. Keep it as minimal as possible. Dab a tiny bit of glue, twist in back on and away you go. Let it cure fully over couple of minutes. And if all is placed correctly, you should be ready to blast off those good in-ears again.

There you have it! Tell your mama you fixed your hundred of dollars worth of in-ear yourself and be proud of it!

So how you should care for your in-ears matters. Drops or sudden shocks could shake the movable driver magnets, or possibly in this case re-locate the ear wax filter to a point that we think is irreparable. That cleaning pick that Shure provides should not be used.. or if necessary, only used minimally.

You don’t need no screw drivers to fix this. And I don’t understand why Shure say it’s non-self-reparable. Well look at what I just did today. And look what you can do today with your ‘bad’ Shure E3c.

Hasan Ismail

www.rastAsia.com

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16 responses

  1. Bob Gontarek

    I had 2 pair of these no longer working and was considering buying a 3rd if I could find them but your fix took all of about 5 minutes and saved me over $100. I now have 2 pair of working EC3’s with their great sound. Thank you.

    September 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    • Glad that it helped! I’m sure there’s more in the same boat and threatened by Shure’s ‘repair’ cost after warranty. Spread the word.

      September 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm

  2. Julie

    Hey rastAsia, I notice that you got the stem piece off just fine. My problem is that I’ve just (yup, yesterday) broken the stem on my wonderful e3c and am trying to find some replacements. Shure won’t repair it since they would rather sell me a new pair. Any ideas on where I can find some new stems?

    October 16, 2012 at 12:42 am

    • Hey Julie, Sorry to hear about your broken e3c stem.. I’m afraid I don’t have any info about specific replacement parts on this old in-ear. My apologies.

      October 16, 2012 at 12:51 am

  3. Nick

    Great tip. I’ve now repaired my own E3c’s and my wife’s. I found it simpler to just leave the green baffles out altogether since we use the 3 flange earbuds and can keep a close eye on the earwax situation. It may be that this increases the high frequency “response” but what the hell – we’re 60 so we need a bit of help in that range. Thanks for going to the trouble to put this out there and presenting the fix so well.

    January 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    • Glad to hear this blog helped! Shure good to know. 🙂

      January 24, 2013 at 5:47 pm

  4. Your strainb reliefs are much beefier than mine – which have both torn/cracked. AND my cables are white. Are yous a special job/improvement that you performed? Many thanks for this tip!

    August 24, 2013 at 4:58 am

    • It might be different based on country of manufacture? Mine comes standard.

      August 25, 2013 at 11:07 am

  5. Dave

    awesome page! The metal tube inside the plactis piece was pushed in. Gently pulled it out a bit with the Shiure tool and music again!

    June 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm

  6. Gunnar

    An old blog, but I just had the same problem with an old pair of Shure E3c that had been laying in a heap of some old dust and forgotten items.
    The left channel was “soft” and undistinct in the sound, the right was OK.
    These were nice sounding IEM’s, for use with a portable radio etc.
    Not like the Shure E4 or E5!, which are very high class HiFi IEM’s!
    But much better then most you get for 100USD ! ( And they trade used on eBay for almost USD 200 today!)
    I carefully opened the defective side, by removing the end part with the tip from the main housing , and without the tip and filter, the sound was OK.
    I also have a set of Etymotic Research ER4P that bit the dust some time ago, still have the tools and spare filters.
    So using the tool for replacing the filter in the ER4P, I got the filter out from the tip of the Shure E3c, replaced it with a new filter for the ER4P, and carefully glued the end housing with the tip back to the main housing of the Shure E3c.
    Also took out and replaced the filter in the right side of the Shure E3c. (Without removing the tip from the housing first! This is easily done from the front with the ER4 extraction tool!)
    Now these are working fine again!
    Balance is established!
    The filter tool and filters for the Etymotic Research ER4 are available on the Internet for not that much, if you have the steady hands to do the job.
    Sometimes the IEM drivers do die! So some may not be able to fix.
    Good luck!

    September 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    • Priceless tip. Thanks dude. Sorry for the late reply.

      September 19, 2015 at 1:20 am

  7. I have done some search around the Internet, and found these filters are actually Knowles electronics acoustic dampers, and the ones used in both the Shure E3c and the ER4P are the green ones.
    Here is a log where the use of various types of these dampers have been tested with ER4B :

    http://rinchoi.blogspot.no/2012/08/the-effect-of-acoustic-dampers-on-iems.html

    Seems you can tune your IEMs quite a lot using different dampers!
    Replacing them using the Etymotic Research tool is sadly not possible without destroying the filters.
    But they are not that costly, if you just find a source for them.
    The green ones for the ER4P I bought a pair in Bangkok for 200 baht.
    Or else from Etymotic Research direct, but the shipping from there was too much!

    October 2, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    • Thanks for the info. I think tweaking the IEM dampers would cause more damage than good if you are not sure about what is proper frequency response for neutral monitoring.

      October 4, 2015 at 9:46 am

      • I guess you are quite right about that: if you are not sure what you are doing, don’t do it!
        But the Shure E3 was such an underrated IEM in most headphone/personal listening sites, and I liked them all the time.
        It has qualities when you need something not too highly specialized and expensive, yet does give a sound from most devices that is highly correct and involving.
        I have the E4 as well as the E5, also had the E500 but they failed on me after some years.
        The E500 I was never really happy with!
        The E3 was the low cost alternative, but worked best with cell phone and not so exquisite setups!
        I am trying to find some of the other colored acoustic dampers, maybe do a test with the E3 to see if I can change them into something even better!
        I am in some of the other headphone sites, like HeadFi and HeadCase, not really like to be in there anymore!
        I have STAX and custom IEMs from Ultimate Ears too.
        Still the Shure E3 outside, and the STAX at home, is the most used!

        October 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm

  8. Mark C

    Thank you, Hasan! I’ve been putting-off trying this fix for quite some time, but finally gave it a try today. I ended up cracking the base of the tips a bit (I squeezed too hard), but I got them back together ok with some glue. They may still not be like-new, but they are so much better now—which saves me from buying a new set!

    October 11, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    • Great to hear that it’s back in use. Enjoy the revived E3c!

      October 12, 2015 at 1:04 am

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