2. Design and Use, Conclusion
The Se 110 is a single Micro-Speaker Earphone. It is designed (like the entire line of Shure Earphones) to be inserted into the ear canal to make a semi-tight seal to keep out outside noises. This is a "Passive" noise canceling design. The Earphones are also designed to be worn in a manner that some would consider to be "upside down." The tips of the earphone are inserted into the ear canal and the body of the unit sits in the ear opening with the cord running from the top around the users ear and down the neck. I did find that the SE110 could be worn in the more "traditional" manner as well - but they were actually more comfortable in the "upside down" manner of insertion.
The tips can be adjusted with different sizes of silicon, foam or triple flanged ends which are easily inserted onto the earphones. I really liked the addition of the compressible foam tips - you squeeze them and then they expand to fill up your ear canal. Shure included about six or seven different options in my pre-production kit which means that anyone should be able to find a comfortable fit. Earlier models from Shure used a harder "yellow" foam tip - these are different. The tips are soft, black foam that compress easily and then expand when inserted in the ear canal.
Shure has given the SE 110 a very sturdy and heavyweight cord than just cannot be tangled. The build quality of these things cannot be over-emphasized. The cables are thick in the manner of quality audio cables. The housing is a very sturdy plastic and the tips are also of very high quality materials. In addition, there is a cord-lengthening attachment if you tend put your MP3 device in a pants pocket or on your belt. Connectors look to be gold plated and are of a very high quality.
I have commented in reviews of other Shure Earphones that comfort was a mixed bag for me, but this is so highly subjective of a category. I generally do not like the feel of my ear canals being blocked. That being said, because of all the variations in the size of the ear tips, I was easily able to find a comfortable fit that I could keep in for hours at a time. I must say that I found the SE110'a to be more comfortable for extended periods of time than previous Shure Earphones I had tested. I had several people try out these Earphones and all of them found them to be a little tricky to insert the first or second time, but then all said they were very comfortable and they could wear them for extended periods with little discomfort.
The cords are heavy and are certainly more noticeable than other "skinny" corded earphones. The fact that they are thick means there is no "tangling" which is a common problem with earphone cables.
I have long said that I will put up with a little discomfort for amazing sound quality. My attachment to my Ultimate Ears and Westones (which are both in-ear designs) are a testament to that fact. Last year, I found the entry level model from Shure to be somewhat lacking in its soundstage and overall all sound. The SE 110 is a definite jump from the E 2 series. After hours of testing these things I am hard pressed to find an appreciable difference between the much more expensive SE 210's and the SE 110's. (More on that later.)
The sound was very full and balanced. Bass was actually more pronounced than the $179.00 SE 210 and more pronounced than many other earphones. While there was more bass, it was not "bass heavy" which some people prefer and others seems to disdain. The sound seemed to be more "accurate" than other single driver models than overly emphasize the lower frequencies.
Shure is known for their "true" sound signature. Your would expect a company that makes $1,000 in ear monitors for professional musicians to produce "accurate" sound. The SE 110's do not disappoint the family tradition. When I listened to varying kinds of music it just seemed like this was the way the music was supposed to sound.
The vocals of Norah Jones, Bruce Springsteen and Ray Lemontagne were very clear and believable. The bass of Aerosmith and Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd was solid, not boomy and for my tastes deep enough. These won't produce the bass of a $250.00 dual driver Earphone - but it is very good at this price point.
Instrumentals were really beautiful, a very nice soundstage was created with great separation of the channels and that feeling of sound coming from every part of the stage. Eric Clapton's guitar sounded natural and clear. Elton John's piano was also natural and believable.
These Earphones produce accurate, believable music that is such a huge upgrade from the included earphones of every MP3 player and rivals(if not surpasses) the entry level Earphones from the finest audiophile manufacturers.
I was curious to see just what the difference was between these and the more expensive SE 210's - which list for $179.00. The SE 110 are bigger - making initial insertion in the ear a little more tricky - but I actually found them to be more comfortable than the SE 210's. The advertised frequency response gives the SE 110's an advantage with the bass and that was noticeable. The less expensive 110's had slightly more pronounced bass - not boomy - but deep and crisp.
When I closed my eyes and listened, I did experience a greater sound stage with the more expensive SE 210's - the instruments and voices were more easily placed on the stage - but the overall sound was very similar. So similar, in fact, that I was really just about equally happy with the sound of the less expensive SE 110's. Every listener is different - so you should certainly compare them for your selves and see what your hear.
The Shure SE 110's are a pretty amazing sounding pair of Earphones. At their price point they might just be the best crafted, most well made and the best sounding earphones you can buy. Other manufacturers will give you more bass - but it is not natural bass - rather, it is enhanced and boomy bass. The Shure sound is one that is balanced, accurate and, I would imagine, the way the music actually sounds.
High's were clear and crisp and bass was tight. Vocals sound beautiful and instruments seem to resonate and sound very natural. The size is a little big and it does take some getting used to to insert these properly in your ears. They effectively block out outside noise (which also means you can keep the volume down - saving your ears.)
Shure gives you very thick and sturdy cables and a nice soft carrying case and several different ear tips as well.
If you are in the market for high quality earphones and you don't want to spend as much as you did for your iPod - you owe it to yourself to give the Shure SE 110's a listen.
- Beautiful, accurate sound
- Comfortable fit
- great build quality
- A little tricky to get into your ears at first
- slightly larger than most Earphones
The Shure SE 110's are available at www.shure.com for US$119.00 and from many retailers on line for even less.