Shure has several models in its SE line of in-ear headphones, starting with the SE110s ($90 list) and moving all the way up to the SE530 ($500 list). Its newest model for 2009 is the SE115, which, at $120 list, is a step-up from the SE110 but still would be considered more of an entry-level model in the Shure line. The SE115s feature Shure's signature sound-isolating design and the Dynamic MicroSpeaker technology, which purports to offer a "warm, detailed audio listening experience." We're not sure we agree with the last part of that statement, but if there's one thing the SE115s do deliver, it's bass.
The SE115 earphones are Shure's most colorful set, available in your choice of black, red, blue, and pink versions. Like all Shure earphones, these come with a collection of foam-tipped and silicon eartips that let you find a nice, snug fit for your particular set of ears. The SE115s also feature an elbow-style plug that helps prevent shorts in the cord from having it yanked on or bumped when it's plugged into your MP3 player. Another plus: a protective carrying case is included.
The SE115 earphones' strong suit is bass--there's a lot of it (just make sure to really get a tight seal in your ear or you'll lose some low-end). However, while the bass sounds full, we didn't feel these earphones were terribly detailed; the SE115s sound a little lifeless (read: not incredibly dynamic) compared with some competing models that cost a bit more. The potent bass definitely pumped up the reggae and hip-hop tracks we listened to, but overall, these earphones just don't sound very open. As audiophiles like to say, the sound feels stuck in your head.
We compared them with Etymotic's HF5 earphones ($150 list)., and while the Etymotic earphones didn't deliver as much bass, they offered more detail. We prefer our music with the level of detail offered by the HF5. We also put them up against Altec Lansing's $40 BackBeat 326 earphones, and although the Shure 'phones offer a tad more bass, the BackBeats held up pretty well in comparison. That's surprising, considering the Altec earphones cost about $80 less than the Shures.
Overall, we were slightly disappointed with the SE115s. The big caveat here is that this reviewer's tastes run toward more detail over huge bass (of course, if you can have both, even better). However, if you listen to a lot of hip-hop and other bass-heavy material, the SE115s should appeal to you. At $120, they're not a good value, but we've seen them for closer to $70 online, which makes them more attractive.