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The biggest consideration, obviously, with a pair of earphones is sound quality and here the Shure SE102s excel. It's been a long-standing fact that Shure's earphones simply cannot be beaten on clarity and that definitely hasn't changed. However, the SE102s don't suffer from the same problem as their predecessors, because this clarity no longer comes with the trade-off of a slight lack of bass.
Having fallen into a spate of Green Day nostalgia recently (and why not?) I decided to fire up Insomniac, probably my favourite album, for a quick listen through. The brilliant Brain Stew proved a great demonstrator of the punch and clarity Shure's SE102s provide, the main guitar riff blending perfectly with the vocal overlay, without any loss of detail in either, even when the drums kicked in.
Sticking with Green Day, but moving onto the eminently well known Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) and the SE102s are equally pleasing. Billy Joe Armstrong's vocals standing out from the acoustic guitar and strings in the background fantastically well for what are, after all, only single-driver earphones. Doubtless, feeding the Shure's lossless audio files was some help in getting the best from them, although a 320kbps MP3 of the same file sounded pretty darned good, too.
The End is the Beginning is the End by The Smashing Pumpkins, which you'll probably recognise from either the Batman & Robin soundtrack, or the recent Watchmen trailer is a great track for showing up the deficiencies of lesser earphones. The SE102s performed admirably though, even managing to reproduce the subtle background buzzes, crackles and ticks often lost in the mix with lesser earphones, all of which add to the song's rich atmosphere.
What's interesting about the SE102s is that despite being a replacement, in principle, of the bottom-end SE110s, they have performance almost on par with older Shure 'phones which cost almost twice as much. What's particularly exciting about that is the potential improvements once the rest of Shure's range sees a refresh, which it is surely due.
Shure was never likely to disappoint us with its new entry-level earphone offering and such an expectation was more than justified. Summing up the Shure SE102s in a single sentence is ridiculously easy. If you have £70 to spend on some earphones, buy the SE102s - it really is that simple.
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