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CES 2009: Shure Launches SE115 Earphones

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Back in 2007 at CES I shared a breakfast with Shure and had a chance to listen to the company's new SE range of earphones. It was the launch of the SE range that brought Shure's legendary sound quality to a wider market, with the then entry level SE210s being far more affordable than most serious earphones. Since then Shure has added the SE110s and the recent SE102s to the mix to try to open the brand to an even wider audience. At CES this year Shure has announced its SE115 earphones, which unsurprisingly, slip between the SE110s and the SE210s.

The SE115s will be available in four colours, indicating that Shure is targeting the younger, more fashion conscious buyer this time around. You can choose between traditional black, blue, red and a rather unpleasant pink - well it's no more unpleasant than any other shade of pink, but I just don't really like the idea of pink earphones! If I had to choose a colour other than black, I'd go for the red, which is far more understated and stylish than the blue, and obviously the pink.

The SE115s maintain Shure's impressive noise isolation, especially when the foam tips are employed. In fact, considering that I auditioned these earphones out here at CES in a room filled with thousands of people and so much background noise that you could hardly talk to the person next to you, it's safe to say that the SE115's noise isolating credentials are well earned.

From my short time with the SE115s I can say that they sound very different to the SE210s. Whereas the SE210s favour clarity over bass response, the SE115s are very bass heavy, possibly too bass heavy in fact. Of course there's every chance that Shure has tuned the SE115s to favour bass response, since many younger listeners tend to judge sound quality by how much bass is thrown out. Listening to Teardrop by Massive Attack really highlighted the heavy bass, creating a veritable assault on my brain. Turning to something more acoustic like Corinne Bailey Rae's Like a Star, and the bias towards bass results in a slightly muffled sound, with some of the delicate beauty of the song lost.

All that said, I'm not going to draw any definite conclusions on sound quality until I get my paws on a full retail set of SE115s, and spend a lot more time with them, listening to a wider range of music. On the plus side, Shure is predicting a $99 retail price for the SE115s, which, even with the appallingly weak Pound, should mean that you'll be able to pick up a set online for around £70.

I'll be requesting a sample of SE115s as soon as I get back to the UK, so watch this space for the full review.

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