Shure is a big player in the world of high-end headphones, and for good reason -- the company makes some of the most impressive units in the business. Its SE315 sound-isolating earphones are aimed at people whose budgets can't quite stretch to the all-conquering SE535s, but who want better sound quality than that offered by the entry-level . You can expect to pay around £180 for the SE315s.
If you've used Shure earphones before, the SE315s will seem familiar. Each V-shaped earbud is satisfyingly chunky and quite pretty. They're finished in glossy black and emblazoned with the word 'Shure' on the outside. The inner portion of each earbud bears an 'L' or 'R' denoting which ear it's supposed to be inserted in, while the end is home to squishy, user-replaceable tips.
The SE315s fit quite comfortably once they're in your ears, but it can take some work to get them in there. Unlike most earphones, which simply plug into your ears, the SE315s must be inserted into the lugholes and rotated clockwise until the cable is wound over the ears. Both cables then have to be drawn together using a sliding rubber grip along the main cable, which tightens them together below your neck. The entire ritual is an enormous pain in the backside, particularly when you're in a hurry.
Silence of the trams
One of the SE315s' biggest selling points is their excellent sound-isolation capability. Stick them in your ears and they'll shut out a massive amount of noise from the outside world. This can be slightly disorientating at first. You'll struggle to hear public announcements at train stations and you'll need to be extra careful when crossing the road, as traffic will be all but silent.
But the extreme sound isolation has numerous benefits. Firstly, it prevents sound from the earphones leaking into the outside world, so you won't annoy those around you. More importantly, it keeps external sound out, so you needn't crank the earphones up to maximum volume, potentially damaging your hearing in the process. Also, if the volume isn't turned all the way up, you'll find the battery in your MP3 player lasts slightly longer than usual.
Sounds like teen spirit
The SE315s contain a single high-definition driver, or speaker, which is designed to deliver clarity across the audio range. Bass is said to be boosted by a tuned bass port, designed to optimise low-end performance.
In practice, the SE315s sound very good. The sound is pretty well balanced across the spectrum, with perhaps a slight leaning towards the high end, although the mids are strong and there's just enough bass to keep most people happy.