While I was attending CES in January I shared a very pleasant breakfast with the folks from Shure. In between munching on omelettes and toast I got the chance to try out Shure’s new SE range of earphones that were being launched at the show. Since then I’ve been waiting to get my paws on review samples of the new SE range, but now the wait is over.
A few days ago I received a package containing the SE210, SE310 and SE420 earphones – quite a nice package to land on your desk first thing in the morning, that’s for sure (no pun intended). With “kid in a candy store” mentality I went straight for the SE420s and still have them plugged into my ears right now.
The SE420s differ from the SE210s and SE310s in one very important area, they incorporate a twin driver model. This means that inside each earphone are two discrete speakers – one speaker for the high frequencies, and another low frequencies. A crossover is employed to separate the audio stream and send the correct portions to each speaker.
The result of a dual driver setup should, in theory, produce a soundstage with both increased clarity and warm, full bass. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case as a poor crossover can result in the high and low frequencies sounding distinctly separate, resulting in a loss of cohesion when listening to music. This is a problem that’s often encountered with 2.1-channel speaker sets, where the bass often comes across very heavy handed, with the high frequencies sounding like a separate entity and the midrange lost completely. Thankfully Shure hasn’t fallen foul of these issues – not that I would have expected a company with Shure’s audio heritage to get something so fundamentally wrong of course!
To be honest, I knew that I was in for a treat when I plugged the SE420s in, since the last Shure earphones I reviewed were the E500PTHs, which are without at doubt, the best in-ear earphones that I have ever listened to. The E500PTHs actually employ a triple driver model, so getting things right with a dual driver set of earphones should be a piece of cake for Shure.
For anyone who’s been waiting for Shure’s new line of earphones to break cover, you’ll be pleased to know that it was definitely worth the wait. If you lusted after the E500PTHs but couldn’t afford the stellar price tag, you need to take a close look at the SE420s. The dual drivers in the SE420s give a very good account of themselves, producing a completely cohesive sound – vocals are crystal clear while bass lines thump and flow through your head.