CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Shure SE115 review: Shure SE115

Shure SE115

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read


Shure SE115

The Good

The Shure SE115 earphones offer a comfortable fit; full, beefy bass; multiple eartips; and a useful carrying case.

The Bad

The SE115 earphones' sound isn't as detailed as we would have liked.

The Bottom Line

While they fall short on clarity and detail, the Shure SE115 earphones deliver impressive bass, making them a solid option for people who listen to a lot of hip-hop and reggae.

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.


Shure SE115

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7