Shure SE420 Sound Isolating Earphones

SE420 Sound Isolating Earphones
Company: Shure

Price: $400 US

Shure is throwing another hat into the over-$250-super-premium-earphone arena. Summer 2006 brought us their ultra-expensive “500 series” with a price to match, reviewed here at We had a few gripes in addition to the hoorays in our evaluation of this product, which has been rebranded SE530 to fill the top spot in the company’s newly-introduced budget-to-pricey comprehensive SE lineup.

Artie recently reviewed SE210 and SE310 here. These models received a high rating. He is currently listening to the brand new SE110. His review will probably be posted soon after this one you are reading.

Modular components are the highlights of Shure’s entire SE family. applauds the several different ways you can configure SE420 and its siblings. Audio delivery improves both objectively and subjectively as SE-series prices ascend. Knowing that fact, SE420 should sound r-e-a-l-l-y splendid.

SE420 by Shure is worth rating on our exclusive 20-point headphone/earphone evaluation scale:

COMFORT and FIT (6 points possible) = 6, based on variety of insertion tips included, and on nicely-sized driver shells that conform beautifully to the ear. This is the exact same score we gave to Shure’s “500” series ‘phones last year.

AUDIO QUALITY and SOUND ISOLATION (6 points possible) = 4.5, with high marks for isolation and clarity, but a reduction based on audio balance heavily weighted toward the midrange, with noticeable lack of a powerful bass. See company explanation below.

ACCESSORIES, CASE, and MANUAL (4 points possible) = 3, thanks to thoughtful modular components, and a thorough English/Spanish/French-language manual, but a case that is way too small to contain SE420 with all its accessories. For $400, two companion cases should be included, since users typically won’t carry every possible attachment.

CONSTRUCTION and DESIGN (4 points possible) = 4, with plenty of attention to detail and quality in every aspect.

TOTAL = 17.5, for 4 out of 5 recommendation by

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We received the following audio-balance explanation by Matt Engstrom, Category Manager, Listening Products, Shure, Inc.

“Generally speaking, the overall frequency extension increases as you move up the line from the SE110 to the SE530, and the path from lows to highs has a different shape as well so that each earphone has its own characteristics. The SE420 has a very similar mid and high frequency response to the SE310 but leans more toward the SE530 for lower frequencies. The end result is a very different balance from the SE530. The SE530 has an extended low and high frequency response versus the SE420, which has a more even overall tonal balance (as does the SE310). This means that the SE420 tends to bring out more mid-range details like vocals and electric guitar, whereas the SE530 tends to bring out deep undertones in music and also sounds such as fingers moving on acoustic guitars and breaths between words while singing.”

Translation by Nemo: SE420 has a lot of punch within the audio spectrum where most music is heard. For $400 you get brilliant clarity throughout this region, without potential aberration from cranium-splitting highs or bowel-churning lows. A lot of money buys a lot of sound delivered to your sonic sweet spot.

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We’ve raved over super-premium in-ear headphones by Etymotic Research and Ultimate Ears here and here. Either of these ‘phones offers outstanding audio for listeners with outstandingly deep pockets and golden ears. Shure’s SE420 is another candidate for this class of music aficionado.

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