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Shure SE110 sound-isolating earphones review: Shure SE110 sound-isolating earphones

Don't be put off by the professional way the Shure SE110s are worn. If you stick with them looping behind your ears, you'll hear impressive bass and punchy mids in your music. Plus, it kits you out with a range of tips to enhance your listening experience so you can consider yourself an expert

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
3 min read

Shure's new SE110 sound-isolating earphones take the 'entry level' crown from the SE210s and promise to let you 'hear music as it's meant to be heard'. This is a bold statement for a pair of £70 earphones.


Shure SE110 sound-isolating earphones

The Good

Overall sound quality; price; supplied carry case; good range of earpiece tips.

The Bad

Lack of definition in the high end; some may be put off by the professional wearing method.

The Bottom Line

An attractive first step into the world of sound-isolating earphones. Shure has produced a very decent set of 'phones but the power of the bass and mids has compromised the clarity in the high end

Can an entry level set of 'phones truly reproduce music the way the artist intended? 

The term 'entry level' shouldn't be confused with 'budget'. The SE110s boast the excellent construction granted to the manufacturer's more costly alternatives. The body of each 'phone is built from a strong, lightweight plastic while the audio cable running into each earphone is secured by a section built from a smooth rubbery material. This strong yet flexible material ensures the cable doesn't break away from the earpiece during its lifetime of being wrapped around an ear.

The modular cable design allows you to disconnect the 18-inch earphone cable from the 36-inch extension cable. This is useful for iPod Shuffle users who clip the player to their jacket lapels and don't want a load of cable flapping aimlessly. The cable itself is extremely durable and connectors on each end of the modular cable are gold plated to ensure optimum carriage of audio signals.

A range of silicon, foam and triple flange tips of various sizes are part of the SE110s 'fit kit', itself contained inside the earphones' oval-shaped hard case. Each tip offers differing levels of comfort and performance -- experimentation is advised in order to discover which is best for each user. The foam tips offer the best sound-isolation and an enhanced bass experience. Safe to say if you like dance, pick the foam tips.

Performance-wise, the SE110s deliver impressive results for their price bracket. A pair of £70 earphones won't ever produce the hi-fi-esque fidelity of models several times their cost, but the SE110s offer a powerful experience with notably deep bass and punchy mids. The stomping bass lines and regimented, hard-hitting drum tracks of Rammstein's Rein Raus pounded through the 'phones with the force of a German Panzerkampfwagen.

KT Tunstall's delightful new track Little Flavours bursts with warmth and tight definition. The SE110s balanced MicroSpeaker does a great job at concurrently managing drums, three guitar layers, bass and vocals.

Every silver lining has its cloud and it's the high end that rains on the SE110s. There's a slight muddiness noticeable in the mids and highs. While this is justified by a low price, it may upset fans of acoustic music that their £70 doesn't give them the clarity they require in the higher end of the audible spectrum.

The dream-like quality of Glósóli from Icelandic art rockers Sigur Rós is a product of the crystalline sound of strings, glockenspiel, bright cymbals and bowed guitars. To do this beautiful and truly harmonious track justice, clarity in the high end is paramount.

Notably, the tambourine hidden throughout the duration of KT Tunstall's Little Flavours is barely audible through the SE110s. This high-frequency sound requires earphones capable of significantly greater definition in the high end.

For the above reasons, we feel the SE110s are more suited to rockier and more bass-driven recordings.

Shure could put spin on our final point as in many ways it isn't a weakness. The method of coupling the earphone to your ear requires some fiddling. The 'phones loop up the back of the ear, over the top and is inserted into the ear canal in a way that may seem upside down to Shure newbies. This is the way professional earpieces are worn and it does feel very natural after a while. Some may be initially put off by the level of effort needed here.

Considering their power, bass and professional build quality, Shure has produced a very decent pair of earphones for £70. The SE110s will utterly destroy the bundled earphones that come with most MP3 players these days. However, if you pride yourself on being able to hear the subtle intricacies embedded in well produced music, you may find the SE110s don't quite offer everything you want.

For those that demand crystal-clear definition for the same price, prepare to sacrifice a good deal of bass; the similarly priced Etymotic ER-6i earphones offer tremendously detailed audio but at the cost of the deep rumblings needed to fully appreciate dance and pop.

Available from AdvancedMP3Players

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday