The new iPods are out. Digital music is more ‘in’ than ever before. We can store our music library on dedicated portable devices like the iPod or we can take our music with us on most of the mobile phones we carry. As consumers get more comfortable with the technology, we realize that our music never needs to be far away from us.
When I go for my bike rides in the morning, I just switch to the media player on my BlackBerry and shuffle the music in my playlist – it is easy and convenient. Whether the music is stored on the phone or the iPod or whatever – one thing remains a constant – the earphones included in virtually every portable media player or mobile phone are terrible.
The worst offender is Apple who bundles in crappy earbuds with every high end music player. Purchasing good quality after-market earphones is now pretty much a requirement. With the preponderance of music players out there, the market for high quality earphones is exploding.
The number of choices for the consumer is also exploding – so, what’s a consumer to do? Well, set your price point, try to listen to lots of different pairs and read all our reviews past, present and future!
Arguably, the fastest growing and most competitive market is the ‘under $100.00’ segment. With technological advances, it is pretty amazing what sound quality can be had for under $100.00. At this price point, some of the finest names in the earphone business are really making some waves. While the advertised MSRP is $119.00 for the SE110’s – on line discounts bring them down to right around the magic $100 mark.
Names like Shure – makers of very expensive and high quality earphones – are releasing some pretty amazing products. In this review we take a look at the brand new SE110 from Shure – do you need to look anywhere else? Read on for my full review. About Shure:
Shure has been enthusiastically dedicated to helping you tell the truth in notes, words and sound since 1925. We make microphones and audio electronics to help amplify, process, and mix your sound. Perfectly. Transparently. Reliably.
So, what do we make? Lots of great gear for stage, studio, and personal use: Microphones. Wireless microphones and wireless guitar systems. Digital signal processors and feedback eliminators. Personal monitor systems. Hi-Fi phono cartridges and DJ needles. Portable mixers and digital signal processors Sound Isolating Earphones and portable audio electronics.
Shure was one of the first companies to burst onto the scene of the after-market earphone solution for the iPod generation. They produced a line of Earphones from about $100 – to close to $500, each of which seemed to set the standard for its particular price bracket.
As more and more Earphone manufacturers saw this very lucrative market develop, Shure received competition from other audio giants such as Ultimate Ears, Westone, Sony and newcomers like V-Moda and others.
Featuring Balanced MicroSpeakers, these sound isolating earphones deliver optimized audio for a rich, lifelike listening experience Assorted sleeves and a modular cable provide unmatched comfort and customization.
– Sound Isolating Design – Speaker Type: Balanced MicroSpeaker – 2-Year Limited Warranty – Included Fit Kit – Also available in black
Designed for music lovers looking to upgrade the earphones included with their MP3 players, the compact SE110 is a perfect introduction to the stunning performance of Shure earphones. Evolved from earphone technology road-tested by pro musicians and perfected by Shure engineers, the compact SE110 delivers a rich, lifelike listening experience that’s free from outside noise.
Balanced MicroSpeaker Developed for the discerning music lover, Balanced MicroSpeakers deliver optimized audio for a vivid and detailed listening experience. Rediscover your favorite music-richer and more lifelike than you’ve ever heard it.
Sound Isolating Design Comfortable sound isolating sleeves block over 90 percent of ambient noise. Combined with the compact design and a modular cable, interruptions from the outside world are minimized, enabling you to focus on your music.
Fit Kit Includes:
– Sound Isolating Sleeves The role of the included sound isolating sleeves is twofold: blocking ambient noise and ensuring a comfortable customized fit. Because every ear is different, the Fit Kit includes three sizes (S, M, L) of the Flex and Black Foam Sleeves. Experiment with the size and style that creates the best fit for you-a good seal is key to optimizing sound isolation and bass response as well as maximizing comfort during extended wear.
– Modular Cable Based on extensive user feedback, Shure engineers have developed a detachable cable solution to enable unmatched personal customization. An included 3-foot cable allows you to tailor your experience depending on activity and application.
– Carrying Case A durable and compact carrying case is included to provide a convenient, tangle-free solution to store and travel with your earphones.
Two-Year Limited Warranty The SE110 comes with a two-year limited warranty on materials and workmanship.
Speaker Type: Balanced MicroSpeaker
Sensitivity (1mW): 113 dB SPL/mW
Impedance (1kHz): 27
Frequency Range: 22Hz – 17.5kHz
Cable Length/with Extension: 18 in. / 45cm (54 in. / 136cm)
Color: Available in Black and White
On to the Review……..
The Se 110 is a single Micro-Speaker Earphone. It is designed (like the entire line of Shure Earphones) to be inserted into the ear canal to make a semi-tight seal to keep out outside noises. This is a ‘Passive’ noise canceling design. The Earphones are also designed to be worn in a manner that some would consider to be ‘upside down.’ The tips of the earphone are inserted into the ear canal and the body of the unit sits in the ear opening with the cord running from the top around the users ear and down the neck. I did find that the SE110 could be worn in the more ‘traditional’ manner as well – but they were actually more comfortable in the ‘upside down’ manner of insertion.
The tips can be adjusted with different sizes of silicon, foam or triple flanged ends which are easily inserted onto the earphones. I really liked the addition of the compressible foam tips – you squeeze them and then they expand to fill up your ear canal. Shure included about six or seven different options in my pre-production kit which means that anyone should be able to find a comfortable fit. Earlier models from Shure used a harder ‘yellow’ foam tip – these are different. The tips are soft, black foam that compress easily and then expand when inserted in the ear canal.
Shure has given the SE 110 a very sturdy and heavyweight cord than just cannot be tangled. The build quality of these things cannot be over-emphasized. The cables are thick in the manner of quality audio cables. The housing is a very sturdy plastic and the tips are also of very high quality materials. In addition, there is a cord-lengthening attachment if you tend put your MP3 device in a pants pocket or on your belt. Connectors look to be gold plated and are of a very high quality.
I have commented in reviews of other Shure Earphones that comfort was a mixed bag for me, but this is so highly subjective of a category. I generally do not like the feel of my ear canals being blocked. That being said, because of all the variations in the size of the ear tips, I was easily able to find a comfortable fit that I could keep in for hours at a time. I must say that I found the SE110’a to be more comfortable for extended periods of time than previous Shure Earphones I had tested. I had several people try out these Earphones and all of them found them to be a little tricky to insert the first or second time, but then all said they were very comfortable and they could wear them for extended periods with little discomfort.
The cords are heavy and are certainly more noticeable than other ‘skinny’ corded earphones. The fact that they are thick means there is no ‘tangling’ which is a common problem with earphone cables.
I have long said that I will put up with a little discomfort for amazing sound quality. My attachment to my Ultimate Ears and Westones (which are both in-ear designs) are a testament to that fact. Last year, I found the entry level model from Shure to be somewhat lacking in its soundstage and overall all sound. The SE 110 is a definite jump from the E 2 series. After hours of testing these things I am hard pressed to find an appreciable difference between the much more expensive SE 210’s and the SE 110’s. (More on that later.)
The sound was very full and balanced. Bass was actually more pronounced than the $179.00 SE 210 and more pronounced than many other earphones. While there was more bass, it was not ‘bass heavy’ which some people prefer and others seems to disdain. The sound seemed to be more ‘accurate’ than other single driver models than overly emphasize the lower frequencies.
Shure is known for their ‘true’ sound signature. Your would expect a company that makes $1,000 in ear monitors for professional musicians to produce ‘accurate’ sound. The SE 110’s do not disappoint the family tradition. When I listened to varying kinds of music it just seemed like this was the way the music was supposed to sound.
The vocals of Norah Jones, Bruce Springsteen and Ray Lemontagne were very clear and believable. The bass of Aerosmith and Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd was solid, not boomy and for my tastes deep enough. These won’t produce the bass of a $250.00 dual driver Earphone – but it is very good at this price point.
Instrumentals were really beautiful, a very nice soundstage was created with great separation of the channels and that feeling of sound coming from every part of the stage. Eric Clapton’s guitar sounded natural and clear. Elton John’s piano was also natural and believable.
These Earphones produce accurate, believable music that is such a huge upgrade from the included earphones of every MP3 player and rivals(if not surpasses) the entry level Earphones from the finest audiophile manufacturers.
I was curious to see just what the difference was between these and the more expensive SE 210’s – which list for $179.00. The SE 110 are bigger – making initial insertion in the ear a little more tricky – but I actually found them to be more comfortable than the SE 210’s. The advertised frequency response gives the SE 110’s an advantage with the bass and that was noticeable. The less expensive 110’s had slightly more pronounced bass – not boomy – but deep and crisp.
When I closed my eyes and listened, I did experience a greater sound stage with the more expensive SE 210’s – the instruments and voices were more easily placed on the stage – but the overall sound was very similar. So similar, in fact, that I was really just about equally happy with the sound of the less expensive SE 110’s. Every listener is different – so you should certainly compare them for your selves and see what your hear.
The Shure SE 110’s are a pretty amazing sounding pair of Earphones. At their price point they might just be the best crafted, most well made and the best sounding earphones you can buy. Other manufacturers will give you more bass – but it is not natural bass – rather, it is enhanced and boomy bass. The Shure sound is one that is balanced, accurate and, I would imagine, the way the music actually sounds.
High’s were clear and crisp and bass was tight. Vocals sound beautiful and instruments seem to resonate and sound very natural. The size is a little big and it does take some getting used to to insert these properly in your ears. They effectively block out outside noise (which also means you can keep the volume down – saving your ears.)
Shure gives you very thick and sturdy cables and a nice soft carrying case and several different ear tips as well.
If you are in the market for high quality earphones and you don’t want to spend as much as you did for your iPod – you owe it to yourself to give the Shure SE 110’s a listen.
Final Grade: A
Pros: Beautiful, accurate sound. Comfortable fit, great build quality
Cons: A little tricky to get into your ears at first, slightly larger than most Earphones
The Shure SE 110’s are available at www.shure.com for $119.00 and from many retailers on line for even less.