For close to a year Shure has pretty much dominated the market when it comes to in-ear headphones. From the low-priced SE110's and SE210's, through the SE310's and brilliant dual driver SE420's, to the top-of-the-range triple driver E500PTH's (now available as the SE530s) whatever your budget, Shure has an earphone to suit it. And, more importantly, it was almost universally accepted that the Shure option was the one to go for.
However, recently, the Shure party gate has been crashed by a relative newcomer called Klipsch. Both the Images and the Custom-3's offer stiff competition to the SE420's, and fundamentally, they hit the streets at prices it has taken the Shures over a year to fall to.
Now Philips is also throwing a new offering into the ring to fight it out with Shure, in the form of its SHE9850's that I'm reviewing today. The last pair of Philips in-ear headphones we looked at were the noise cancelling SHN7500's and we weren't exactly enthralled, deciding that we preferred the Shure SE210's. We did, in fact, suggest that if Philips could get similar drivers into a decently-priced package then it could have a winner on its hands.
However, with the SHE9850's, our suggestion seems to have been heeded. In a nutshell they come in at a price that rivals the £65-odd SE210's and should, by also using a single driver, offer audio quality that is at least comparable to the three Shure models below the SE420's. And that's not all. Philips' engineers have apparently worked some extra magic on its driver technology, which they claim improves sound reproduction. As ever, though, we'll be the judges of that.