Shure SE 110 Sound Isolating Earphones – Review

Company: SHURE INC.

PRICE: $119.99 MSRP

The business of sound reproduction never sleeps. R&D departments are working overtime for your attention, and your money. With the advent and proliferation of so many portable music players, music listening has taken on a life of its own. On any given day one can see people listening while: walking, running, skateboarding, in-line skating, ice skating, skiing, bicycling, weight lifting, relaxing, riding the bus, and on and on. There is almost no activity left which cannot be supplemented with your “fave raves” (music).

Shure, makers of quality sound products such as microphones, and the subject at hand, has yet another offering designed to titillate your sonic fancy: The newly released SE110 Sound isolating Earphones (“Developed for THE PROS” is stamped on the box).

First let me complement Shure for making this product infinitely easier to access from its plastic cocoon. Thanks Shure. They must have read my previous review on their SE 210’s and 310’s. The company simply packaged the set with two pieces of plastic which fit into (and slide away from) each other.

Again, this unit comes with a short chord, about 18″, attached and sealed to the buds. Have no fear. Shure has included with its fit kit an extension which should give the user plenty of latitude. My guess is that Shure knows that lots of users will place their iPods or MP3 players in their shirt pocket close to their head. Why have a management problem with excess chord when unnecessary? The included extension solves more lengthy proximity issues.

Also included in the fit kit are five extra sound isolating sleeves, six all together including the ones already attached to the buds. It’s up to the user to find the one which works the best for them. They should fit snugly, but not too tight, and should allow the user to experience good sound isolation from the outside while experiencing all the sonic attributes your player can muster.

I switch on my iPod and cue up “Get Back” from the Beatles new release, “Love.” I went downstairs to get my Ultraphones, a set of sound isolating headphones which fit over the ears and cuts about 25 db from the room. These I use for practicing the drums, and for studio work. Because these phones isolate so much of the room sound when I’m in a recording session I want to hear what my drums sound like coming from the board and in relationship to the rest of the musicians on the track. They do a great job. But is it fair to compare these two different animals. After all, the Ultraphones go over the ears, and the SE110’s go into the ears.

But hey, sound isolation is sound isolation. So here it is.

The Ultraphones blocked a lot more of the room sounds—better isolation—but had none of the crystalline highs and mids that the SE110’s had. On the song “Get Back” the SE110’s caught the jangling guitars and even the value of the reverb used on the vocals. I could hear the Ringo’s “train beat” clearly and the cymbal splashes with the guitar echoing the title line.

But where was the bass? Not a whole lot there, I’m afraid. Hey, let’s switch tunes and try something else.

To Bonnie Bramlett’s latest, “Roots, Blues, and Jazz.” On the opening track, “Love the One You’re With,” we get a great studio band playing a pithy arrangement of this old Steven Stills classic. Lot’s of good playing here with very clear instrumentation.

Okay, there’s the bass. but still not very present. If I push the buds gently in a bit the bass springs to life. The mids are a little thin and the highs are crisp. This, I believe, is the way these are supposed to sound. But I’ll be damned if I can get these buds in position in MY ears so I can get all of the sound without holding them in with my fingers.

This is what I don’t like about ear buds, as opposed to over the ear phones. Yeah, earbuds are way more convenient and easy to carry and store. But they never seem to fit my ear properly. I tried all of the sleeves and this is the best I can do. If I’m placing them in my ears improperly then I’m an idiot. If not, then they’re not doing their job.

It seems that Shure is trying to capture a market of medium range users of audio equipment. By this I mean that their SE line of earphones are priced anywhere from $119.99 up to $499.99 for the SE530’s. This ain’t cheap, folks. Even at the low end of this scale for over a hundred bucks I’d better be getting something tangible I can love. But with this new SE110, I’m not feeling the love.

I’ve listened to this set now for about half an hour on different tunes and styles. There just isn’t enough there to justify the price, even though I know that Shure puts its heart and soul into the making of their products. I’m sure all the components in this set are quality and they’ll last. But when you’ve got any number of sets out in the market for half the money doing about the same thing, quality aside, the sound simply does not justify the price.

MyMac Rating: 2 out of 5

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