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Shure SE110 review: Shure SE110

Shure SE110

Donald Bell
Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
3 min read

With the majority of us simply looking for a reasonably priced upgrade from the stock earbuds that came with our MP3 players, Shure's SE110 earphones are one of the best values you can find for under $100.


Shure SE110

The Good

The Shure SE110 earphones are the most affordable entry point for high-endurance, high-fidelity earphones. They are especially adept at delivering bass.

The Bad

The SE110 earphones sacrifice some of the high-frequency sparkle and low-end definition found in Shure's more premium-grade earphones.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for a relatively affordable pair of earphones that can withstand both audiophile scrutiny and physical abuse, the Shure SE110 can rise to the challenge.

When you look at any pair of Shure earphones, it's easy to see the difference in construction quality compared to a budget set of earbuds. Shure's reputation of making professional-grade products for touring musicians is evident in its consumer audio products as well. With the included two-year limited warranty against manufacturing defects, there's a good chance that your Shure SE110 earphones will outlast your MP3 player.

One of the secrets to Shure's earphone longevity is its recognition that the weakest link in consumer earphones is the connection between the cable and the earphone. No matter how expensive your earphones are, if this connection breaks or starts to deteriorate, repairs to the miniature components are nearly impossible. Shure's earphones (including the SE110) hold one of the highest standards we've seen for construction quality. The SE110's cables are three times the thickness of the cables found on earphones like the Etymotic eR6i or Sony MDR-EX71SL and the critical connection between the cable and earphone housing is impressively reinforced with soft rubber. We also found that the thicker cables prevent those inevitable cord tangles from turning into tight knots.

The second-weakest link in consumer earphones is the seal the earphones create in the user's ear. Shure's included "Fit Kit" is one of the best around, offering multiple sizes and types of earphone fittings (foam and rubber) to create what is hopefully a well-sealed and comfortable fit. Without a good seal in the ear, even a $500 pair of earphones will sound thin and tinny, so we're happy Shure didn't skimp with its sub-$100 product. A zip-up carrying case and cleaning tool are also included.

The SE110 earphones take advantage of a single balanced-armature driver designed by Shure specifically for this model. Shure's previous sub-$100 set of earphones, the E2c, used only dynamic drivers, which were incapable of matching the detail produced by balanced armature designs. While the SE110 doesn't offer as much high-frequency clarity or low-end detail as the SE310 model, at less than half the cost, most people will have a hard time spotting the difference. When we compared the two, we noticed the differences mainly in the high-frequency ranges, places where the sparkle and twang of acoustic guitars or the flourishes of orchestral strings live. On the upside, the SE110 earphones do not lack for bass. Hip-hop and electronic music sounds fantastic. We did notice, however, that the more defined low-end sounds of upright bass were hazy compared to the SE310.

Labeled as a "Sound Isolating" earphone, the Shure SE110 earphones do not disappoint when it comes to offering peace and quiet. We were more than happy with the SE110's ability to isolate us from background noise, but again, finding an earphone sleeve that provides a tight, yet comfortable, fit is crucial.

All in all, the Shure SE110 earphones have the highest quality construction of any earphones under $100. Their sound signature leans a little more on bass than high-frequency detail, but in our experience, that's a good thing. Competing products such as the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 3 or V-moda Vibe also favor bass, but use a dynamic driver technology, instead of a balanced armature technology--giving them a different character.


Shure SE110

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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