Review: Shure SE in-ear sound isolating headphone range
If you’ve decided you like in-ear sound isolating earphones it’s quite likely that you have come across theShure SE in-ear sound isolating headphone range . This round-up is a brief review summary of Shure’s range of ear canal headphones.
Shure have a long heritage of designing microphones and earphones for the professional audio industry. Shure’s build quality is normally excellent, you get good value for money and their headphones come with a reassuring 2 year Shure warranty. Shure’s previous range of ear canal headphones (EC2 and EC3) were generally very well regarded and the SE range is the evolutionary next step.
So let’s see what they have to offer…
Shure SE110 and SE210 – entry level
Currently the entry level in-ear headphone is the Shure SE110 sound isolating earphone. The SE110 is a very worthwhile upgrade from standard iPod headphones. You will be able to hear detail in your music that you simply could not hear before. Saying that the SE110 does lack the bass punch that many listeners expect when upgrading to a more ‘expensive’ pair of headphones.
The Shure SE210 earphone adds another layer of definition and a small amount more bass response than the SE110. For the modest difference in price it really is worth upgrading to the SE210’s.
Both the SE110 and SE210 earphones are very sensitive and you may find that you have to watch the volume levels. For example when listening to an iPod Nano I found that anywhere over half volume is too much for extended periods. With the standard iPod headphones I regularly listened upto 75% volume. This is partly due to the fact that they are sound isolating and your music is not competing with the sounds around you, but is also due to the sensitivity of the headphones. It’s unlikely you will want a headphone amp with either the Shure SE110’s or SE210 headphones.
Shure SE310 – midrange
The Shure SE310 earphone is still just a single armature driver design, but the sonic clarity is absolutely spot on. The single speaker design gives the SE310 the advantage that it’s smaller than it’s bigger brothers (the SE420 and SE530). This mid-range offering from Shure has quite a bit of competition, including the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro, but holds it’s own with the best of them.
While the SE range are ideal iPod headphones you will only really get the best from your headphones when listening to uncompressed (e.g. AAC and FLAC) digital music. If you try listening to poor quality, low bitrate MP3’s you may be disappointed by all the sonic artefacts you can hear in your music, e.g. normally resulting in a ‘crunchy’ sound. If uncompressed audio is not possible then 192Kbps is really a minimum when listening with good quality in ear sound isolating headphones.
Shure SE420 – audiophile quality with twin micro-speakers
This is the first in Shure’s range to introduce the idea of more than one driver within the earphone, much like a multi-way speaker. The Shure SE420 earphone utilizes a dual armature driver, with the lows driven by one driver and the high frequencies driven by another dedicated speaker. The result is an extra clean punch to the bass and a slightly more accurate response across the board than the single driver SE310. Compared to the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro the SE420’s bass response is stronger and overall slightly warmer sounding. If your preference is for clean and accurate response then you may prefer the UE 5 Pro.
Shure SE530 – top of the range
The flagship in-ear-monitor from Shure is currently the spectacular Shure SE530 earphone. Whilst not cheap, this headphone really is the pinnacle of consumer ear canal headphone technology. The earphone utilizes three tiny micro-drivers, just like a three way HiFi speaker. The end result is an extremely accurate, dynamic earphone with deep, powerful bass response.
The fact that the Shure SE530 headphone contains three speakers does increase the size a little, but the earphone is very comfortable to wear for long periods and is as easy to fit as the other Shure models.
The bottom line is that the SE530 is one of the best in-ear headphones you will find. The SE530’s sound absolutely stunning, with accurate response across the full frequency range and when called for a deep powerful bass response.