Digital music is everywhere. Remember when you would clean those big vinyl records, get the dust out of the stylus of the turntable and sit back and just listen to you music? Well, those day are pretty much gone. We want to take all our music with us and have it accessible at all times. Even though most of us realize that today’s digital music is compressed and not the same ‘audiophile’ quality as our LP’s and even our CD’s – it doesn’t seem to matter.
That makes having a good set of earphones more important than ever. The biggest names in the audio world have been hard at work releasing the next generation of high quality, affordable earphones so we can get the absolute best out of our compressed, non-audiophile digital music.
Last year, Shure released a full line of wonderful earphones which received rave reviews on pretty much every web site. Not resting on their laurels, Shure has just now released their new SE series of sound isolating earphones. I got my hands (and ears) on the the new SE 210 – read on for my thoughts and a full review. One of the great names in Audio is Shure. Here is a little about them from their web site:
‘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.
The SE 210 is a brand new model designed to compete with the single driver, full range micro speaker family of Earphones. As the prices increase, Shure adds a tuned bass port and, then, separate low and high frequency drivers in the most expensive models.
The SE 210 will replace the E 2 series – the entry level Earphone.
Here is the ‘company line’ on these Earphones from the Shure site.
SE210 Sound Isolating Earphones
High Quality On-The-Go Audio Ergonomic and lightweight sound isolating earphones offer the most accurate audio reproduction from both portable and home stereo audio sources-for the ultimate in precision highs and rich low end.
– Sound Isolating Design
– Speaker Type: Hi-Definition MicroSpeaker
– 2-Year Limited Warranty
– Included Deluxe Fit Kit
– Also available in black
Evolved from personal monitor technology road-tested by pro musicians and perfected by Shure engineers, the lightweight and stylish SE210 delivers full range audio that’s free from outside noise.
Sound Isolating Design Included sound isolating sleeves block over 90 percent of ambient noise. Combined with an attractive ergonomic design and a modular cable, interruptions from the outside world are minimized, enabling you to focus on your music.
Designed for music lovers looking to upgrade their portable listening device, the stylish SE210 allows you to bring the performance with you.
Hi-Definition MicroSpeaker Developed for high-quality, on-the-go listening, the SE210 employs a single balanced armature driver to deliver full range audio. The result is a jaw-dropping listening experience complete with all the thrilling details of a live performance.
Speaker Type: Hi-Definition MicroSpeaker
Sensitivity (1mW): 114 dB SPL/mW
Impedance (1kHz): 26
Frequency Range: 25Hz – 18.5kHz
Cable Length/with Extension: 18 in. / 45cm (54 in. / 136cm)
Color: Available in Black and White
The Se 210 is, as I said above, a single driver 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 most 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.
Now, this sounds kind of confusing and it does take some getting used to – but this is the way that works best for comfort and sound quality and is employed by virtually all of the ‘audiophile’ earphone manufacturers.
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.
Shure has given the SE 210 a very sturdy and heavyweight cord than just cannot be tangled. In addition, there is a cord 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.
This 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 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.
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 210 is a definite jump from the E 2 series.
The sound was very full and balanced. Bass was a little thin, but the sound seemed to be more ‘accurate’ than other single driver models than overly emphasize the lower frequencies. The vocals of Norah Jones, James Taylor and Elton John were very clear and believable. The bass of Aerosmith 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 pretty 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.
These Earphones produce warm, believable music that is such a huge upgrade from the included earphones of every MP3 player and rivals the entry level Earphones from the finest audiophile manufacturers.
This is a great set of ‘entry level’ audiophile earphones. $150.00 is still a lot of money – but you most likely paid much more than that for your iPod or MP3 player and nothing brings out your music better than good earphones. The bass was not as strong as others in this price category, but the music was clean and clear. Sound isolation was very good and these were quite comfortable for in-ear models.
Final Grade: A-
Pros: Nice, balanced and clear sound, comfortable, sturdy design
Cons: a little weak in the bass, cord was almost too thick, a little pricey for ‘entry level’ Earphones
The Shure SE210 can be found on www.shure.com for $149.99 (list is $179.99)