Shure has been churning out impressive-sounding in-ear headphones for consumers for more than 15 years, and any new models from the company have featured mainly evolutionary changes from their predecessors. The latest update to the Shure consumer line is no exception, with the new SE models featuring a few fairly minor--but mostly welcome--tweaks.
First up in the hot seat are the Shure SE425 earphones, a $299 follow-up to the Shure SE420. The earpieces of the SE425 feature a noticeable design shift from those of the SE420. Rather than the bulbous teardrop shape that tends to stick out of the ear, Shure has moved to a contoured mold that's meant to sit inside the outer ear. We saw this originally with the Shure SE530, and--for most users--this design means a more ergonomic fit. Plus, in the case of the SE425, the size of the earpiece is actually smaller, so it should fit better than that of the SE530.
Of course, this newly contoured earpiece shape also means the SE425 earphones need to be worn a bit differently from their predecessor. Namely, the earbuds need to be twisted in just right, and the cable is then looped over the top of the ear. Shure has built in a few inches of memory wire right near the earbuds to help with this. Still, not everyone will like the feel of the cord over the top of the ear, and the initial tweaking to get the earpieces just right is tiresome at first; practice helps over time.
As for the cable, Shure provides plenty of length: 64 inches to be exact. However, those who had a pair of SE420s might be disappointed to learn that the design is no longer modular. That is, you can't split the cable at the Y-junction in order to make a shortened length for a player clipped to a lapel or worn in a shirt pocket. This is a bit of a bummer, because the cord is quite heavy and tends to pull at the earpieces with the entire length hanging free.
That being said, we appreciate the thickness and flexibility of the cable of the SE425 as it speaks well to the headphones withstanding the test of time. Plus, the Y-junction and L-plug housings are extra rugged, and Shure now reinforces the wire with Kevlar. Add to that a two-year warranty and the fact that the earpieces are user-detachable, and you have a setup that practically screams "durability."
As for extras, the SE425 earphones include the usual suspects. You get a hard-sided, zippered carrying case, an earwax-cleaning tool, and a quarter-inch adapter. Plus, there's Shure's standard fit kit with three sizes (S, M, L) of the flex and black foam sleeves as well as one pair of triple-flange and one pair of universal-fit yellow foam sleeves.
Of course, sound quality is perhaps the chief concern for a pair of earphones costing several hundreds of dollars, and the SE425s don't disappoint in this department. We wouldn't expect them to, either, given the fact that they feature the same impressive internal technology found in the SE420s. The earpieces cram in dual High-Definition MicroDrivers, which means that each one has a dedicated tweeter and woofer.
Music piped through the Shure SE425 earphones sounds fantastic, pure and simple. The earbuds offer excellent passive-noise isolation, and the seal of this design allows for deep, tight bass response--it's enveloping without being overwhelming, and there's no distortion. The highs are sparkly, and music overall has impressive clarity; even during frantic hard rock riffs, we could pick out the varying sounds. No detail is lost, and mids provide the warm richness we crave across the board. There's not a particular genre that stands out here, so if you have eclectic listening tastes, rest assured that the SE425s will not disappoint.