It’s not just the superb sound quality that Shure earphones have going for them either, the build quality is also second to none. In fact if you put the SE420s next to the super.fi Pros, the two products look worlds apart. Shure uses thick, heavy duty cabling on all its earphones, that looks like it can easily survive a life of being wound and unwound, tugged, folded and generally abused. Also, the cabling is modular – the cable directly attached to the earphones is short, while a 91cm extension cable is also supplied. All the plugs and connectors are gold plated and have the same heavy duty feel as the cabling. The modular design also means that you could add the Push To Hear module that came with the E500PTH earphones – this is now available separately, allowing any Shure user to add one to their setup.
Shure has also changed the design of the foam sleeves with the SE range. The foam sleeves seen with previous Shure earphones were bright yellow and flat at the end. The new foam sleeves are black, have a silky coating and are tapered at the end – this makes it easier to insert the earphones into your ears, while also making them more comfortable to wear for extended periods. You get three sets of foam sleeves and three sets of silicon sleeves – both come in small, medium and large sizes. You also get a pair of triple flange silicon sleeves, although I’ve yet to find anyone who finds these comfortable. The SE420s also come with a zip up carrying case, like the ET500PTHs, a wax cleaner, an airline adapter and an inline volume control.
As with any high quality product, the SE420s don’t come cheap, and because Shure sent me early samples of the SE range, there aren’t any retailers actually selling them yet. I therefore have to go with the retail price, which is a substantial £249. Now, there’s no denying that this is a lot of money to spend on a pair of earphones, but if you’re serious about your music, you’d be a fool to use the earphones that came bundled with your MP3 player.
Ultimately the SE420s, like the ET500PTHs before them, are aimed at the mobile audiophile. Whereas the premium ET500PTHs are targeting the serious audiophile who will only ever listen to lossless or uncompressed encodes, the SE420s are aiming at the user who will employ the highest possible bit rate, for the best combination of quality and storage. What ever music player you use, I can guarantee that these earphones will make it sound better and you’ll wonder how you ever listened to your music without them.
Shure has created a superb set of earphones in the shape of the SE420s. I maintain that the E500PTHs are still the best earphones that money can buy, but the SE420s are a far more affordable option. As I said earlier, if you’ve been lusting after the E500PTHs, but could never afford them, take a close look at the SE420s – they offer much of the performance of their big brother at a fraction of the price.