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 SE115s. 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.
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.
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.
Jay Electronica's Exhibit C sounds big and imposing through these earphones. The synths in the track tear into your soul, with the mid-range delivery suiting Jay's introspective brand of street poetry.
Up the tempo a tad and the SE315s perform just as well. The horns at the start of the Prodigy's Warrior's Dance build to an impressive crescendo, and are then replaced by a violent, chopping snare drum, which may cause you to decrease the volume. But balance is restored as the bass is dialled in, leaving you with an enormous grin on your mug.
The SE315s are no one-trick pony. Throw some mellow acoustic or vocal-led music in their direction and they'll leave you pretty breathless. Seal sounds like he's in the room with you as his voice dances around the piano of It's a man's man's man's world.
As good as the SE315s are, it's important to remember that they can't work miracles. If you're the sort of user who listens to heavily compressed music from streaming services such as Spotify, or dodgy MP3s acquired from questionable sources on the Internet, you definitely won't get the most out of these earphones -- you might as well buy something cheaper, such as the SE115s.
It's also crucial to point out that these earphones don't deliver the bruising sort of bass required to make the most of some forms of music. If you love to have your ears kicked into submission at the expense of mid-range and treble, the SE315s probably aren't the earphones for you. They'll still drop pretty low, but they're more about overall balance than turning your brain into mush.
The Shure SE315 earphones are very good. They deliver clear, well-balanced sound and will almost certainly put a smile on your face, provided you invest in music that's been encoded to a high standard.
Edited by Charles Kloet