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Shure SE102 Noise Isolating Earphones review



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Shure SE102 Noise Isolating Earphones


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As we've said more times than I can count, bundled earphones supplied with portable media players are (almost) inevitably awful. Sadly, there are too many non-discerning users out there who, frankly, don't give a damn how good or bad their earphones sound and wouldn't justify spending £10, let alone £100 on an upgraded pair.

While their argument has some weight to an extent, enjoyment of music isn't entirely dependant on the reproductive quality, it's a simple fact that if you listen to a song with a better pair of earphones it will sound better - it really is as uncomplicated as that. It's pretty much par for the course that the more you pay, the more you get, too.

Luckily you don't have to spend a huge amount of money to get a decent pair of earphones. Personally, I'd recommend most buyers look in the £70 region because that's where the best selection, in terms of price versus performance, sits. At this price point you'll be looking at single-driver stuff, but if you want to be more discerning a £70 budget is a ludicrous proposition. Best of all, in the single-driver ballpark, pretty much the entire crème de la crème of the market sits under £80.

At such a price point, then, we have the Shure SE210s, the Philips SHE9850s, Ultimate Ears super.fi 4s and the comply NR-10s, to name but a few. Between them they offer enough range to suit anyone's musical tastes. And if you take my word for it, the Philips SHE9850s were probably the pick of the bunch.

The reason I'm using the past tense there, if you noticed, is that Shure has a new set of single-driver earphones. They're called the SE102s and for the £70-odd you can pick them up for online right now, they are pretty much a must buy. I kid you not, Shure is well and truly back with a vengeance.

It must be admitted that Shure has made a few trade-offs to get this quality of earphone at such a low price. But, and this is a big 'but', the compromises that have been made, are applied to the right areas and aren't likely to be noticed by anyone buying into this price point.

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October 25, 2008, 4:51 am

and i had just finalised my decision to buy the Philips SHE9850 the other day :)

thinking time again.


October 25, 2008, 4:34 pm

Now I really don't know what to buy and I need new buds quickly as I need replacement quickly. I have used the Shure SE210 in the past, it's just that I could not get used to the way they sat in my ear and they therefor made me feel 'ill' after more than 15 minutes no matter what tips I used. I don't know of this is something personal, or that others have experienced the same thing with in-ear headphones. For this reason it's very important to me that the headphone is as comfortable as possible and these don't have the foam tips. That's why I'm not yet sure if these really are what I need.

One more thing, I'm missing the comparison between the Philips SHE9850 and the Sennheiser CX-95. The CX-95 weren't even mentioned, not in this review and not in the SHE9850 review. In this review you guys only say that these Shure's will replace the SHE9850's in being the best in their price range, but how did the CX-95 compare to that offering from Philips. Over here the headphone from Philips is the cheapest, then the Sennheiser and the Shure SE102 is the most expensive of the 3. That's why I'm more inclined buy the 9850's, but the Sennheiser's might be more comfortable as they do not intrude the ear as much as other in-ear's in their class. It just is really tough to choose between any of these three, because they have not really been compared directly. I have no clue how build quality, sound quality and comfort compare between them and I don't have the ability to try them all myself.

Is the Sennheiser CX-95 simply not even in the same league as the other two options?

Which is most comfortable?

Is the Shure SE102 (󌎒 incl. shipping) really good enough to spend 󌍉 more on them over the Philips SHE9850 (󌍸 incl. shipping)?

I hope someone can give me some answers on this, just to know how these three compare.

BTW, why are all Shure headphones so ugly and do they have those very very thick (and thus annoying, they are too stiff) cables?


October 25, 2008, 4:35 pm

Sorry, but isn't the Smashing Pumpkins song from the Batman and Robin Soundtrack? I imagine listening to "The Dark Knight" soundtrack will sound awesome through these. I only wished they looked better, like my cx95 phones.


October 25, 2008, 5:59 pm

Thought I'd take the opportunity here to recommend and say thanks to Shure. I've had a pair of 210s for just under two years, but the right ear-piece died a couple of weeks back. I no longer had the receipt and the Apple Store (where I bought them) could not help without it. I phoned Shure and after they had taken the serial number off the phones they asked me to send them in. Within a couple of days I had a brand new pair of 210s boxed and fresh delivered to me with no quibble.

Okay, the speaker on my old pair failed, but that was excellent service and support, given I no longer had a receipt. I would definitely recommend any of their ear-buds if you are considering. Sometimes the follow-up support can be just as important as how they sound.


October 25, 2008, 8:46 pm

I've neve rused a pair of CX-95s so I can't draw a fair comparison between those and the SE102s.

Darkspark - you are entirely correct, I don't know why I mis-remembered that :s

Luan Bach

October 25, 2008, 9:03 pm

I just ordered the Phillips 9850, oh well.

Question, what does "As Shure's design has you run the cable over your ear and then down the back" meant ?


October 26, 2008, 1:11 am


The one in the middle is how I (and I believe most users) wear Shures. Although the left-most works too.

Luan Bach

October 26, 2008, 1:46 pm

Ah ok, thanks Hugo. I've never considered wrapping the cable round the ears, probably because I wear glasses so the cable would get in the way.


October 26, 2008, 8:42 pm

I don't find it an issue with sunglasses...

Lon Bailey

October 27, 2008, 10:58 am

I wear glasses and wear the Shure 210 as per "how to wear "diagram in the middle - totally ok and and does not interfere with the glasses. But needs a little care when taking the 210 off- if your glasses are very light then removing the 210 quickly can twist your glasses around a bit.


October 27, 2008, 5:30 pm

Hang on, are these not just E2Cs?


October 28, 2008, 2:01 pm

Similar (very similar) casing, other than that, no.


October 30, 2008, 8:24 pm

I'm in a quandary, I was going to purchase a pair of SE310s to replace/upgrade my aging E2Cs as one of the cables is cracked and has caused the right ear bud to lose bass.

Should I wait until the rest of the Shure range is refreshed as you indicated this could be soon or take the plunge now?

Alex 11

November 9, 2008, 2:58 pm

Will Comply tips for E2C work with these as Comply hasn't released a version for the SE102 yet.The headphones are extremely tempting for their price.(found them at Advanced MP3 for 㿔)


December 16, 2008, 9:05 pm

I've just bought a pair of these for my dad as a Christmas present on the strength of your review....given the review was looking at them as a 㿲 pair...I wonder how the score would be at 㿓? 10 for value methinks! lol

In fact I don't think I've seen them anywhere over 㿞, and advancedmp3players are just ridiculously good value at 㿓.

PS if my dad doesn't like them I'll be writing a letter of complaint to TR for ruining Christmas! ;-)

Dave 12

February 1, 2009, 5:41 pm

On the basis of this review I wasted nearly 㿔. I already own a pair of EC2s (comimg to the end of their life)and whatever the review says they are superior to these with my new ipod classic. The 102s shout at you while the the EC2s draw you into the music and I don't notice any lack of base. The EC2s have more time and space around the vocals and instruments. I find them less "digtal" and more comfortable to listen to. NB my preferred musical source is vinyl. I'm now saving for a pair of either se210s or better shure headphones.


March 6, 2009, 4:48 pm

I was a big fan of Creative's EP-630s, and their price of 㾶.- is well worth it. But, the build quality is horrible and I went through 4 pair in a year. Based on this review I tried the Shure SE102s. I must say I'm very disappointed in the audio quality. Bass distorts very quickly, even at low volume levels, and the frequencies around 4kHhz are way too loud. Without a proper EQ, music sounds like it's amplified through a telephone speaker. Furthermore, the design is awful. I'm going back to the Creative!


March 16, 2009, 11:33 am

Can't even find a single pair of these in Singapore... Any alternative headphones?

Neville Mosey

April 28, 2009, 4:34 pm

I 100% agree with Vandera I ask the author of this review to reply directly to Vandera's comments I asked my brother to buy me these headphones for christmas, and they are just awful. The bass is pathetic my 㿀 pair or Senheisers wipe the floor. Unfortunatly he bought them of a reseller on amazon I could not send them back. Thanks for my brother wasting 㿔 on junk!!! Possibly if you like music with zero bass they might be ok but otherwise dont buy them 2/10!

Gabriel Balazs

May 28, 2009, 3:47 pm

OK.. I bought these in February this year. When I tried them the first time, I thought they sucked (yes, because of the complete lack of bass). However, based on my previous experiences, I kept them hoping they would become better by time. Guess what, now is the end of May, and they still suck. Too noisy, no bass.


June 11, 2009, 4:07 pm

All of you who complain about lack of bass on these earphones should really go and visit a doctor, because of permanent hearing loss. It is not a joke. (now I know why shure's putting these healthcare brochures into their boxes). For the hardware itself - I have to agree with this review's author. Crystal clear and powerful sound, wide soundstage as for such type of phones that's for shure. Sometimes I can't really feel the difference between my HD380Pros and these :)

Neville Mosey

July 25, 2009, 12:13 am

Why do all the other earphones i try have great bass then? I wonder what the people that say they have great bass listen to? Try some minimal techno or dubstep on them or something then say whether they still have great bass.


November 7, 2009, 1:52 pm

I have pair of these bought on the strength of this review. I'm not that keen to be honest. I don't like the way the design almost forces you to drape the cable over your ears (otherwise the weight of it tugs the buds out I find) and I don't like the large connector in the cable when wrapping them around my player (to avoid tangles). Might try some of the CX95s for low end pair and get some of the top priced Shure for 'best'.

Alice Inordnung

November 28, 2009, 11:05 am

Hugo , I also am confused with your statement"Shure's first departure from its norm with the SE102s is a pretty obvious one; the design is entirely unlike anything preceding it."

As Dave says above , this looks to me like a rebadged SCL2 (introduced early 2008) which itself seems to be a rebadged E2C. I bought the E2C's around 2006 and they came with a great hard shell carrying case and a full selection of foam and silicon tips both of which features appear to have been removed...... also no model number appears on the earphones , so its difficult to tell them apart....

But I really like these E2C / SCL2 earphones though , great sound and isolation as long as you push them into the ear canal.

Just wondering if any need to use a separate amp (eg the Fiio ), along with my Creative Zen as I do need to have the level up to near max and it does seem to cause distortion....


March 19, 2010, 4:01 pm

I got SE102 yesterday. Sound is good and build is sturdy. Few problems though - first, cables are a bit stiff, thick and heavy. Second, these buds a BIG, so much so that stretch my ear a bit (and I don't mean just the ear canal). They also can't seem to decide how to fit in and tilt around the bud axis freely. As others have noted, you also have to wear them with the cable over the ear otherwise they slip out even more frequently.

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