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There's good news for those of you who have just bought an MP3 player and - quite sensibly - want to ditch the bundled earbuds. Only a month ago, our Hugo was looking at the Shure SE102s and suggesting that £70 will now get you a pretty excellent pair of earphones. Looking around, we might want to start moving that figure downwards. Not only can you buy a pair of SE102s for less than £50 if you shop around, but Philips is offering some strong competition with these SHE9800s at a similar price point (between £40 and £70, depending on where you shop).
These are budget 'phones, but like their more expensive siblings, the SHE9850s, they pack in some interesting technology. Can they stand up to the mighty Shures? Well, there's only one way to find out.
On unboxing, it's obvious that the SHE9800s are built to a lower price point than the 9850s, but the overall package is still fairly strong. It's good to see a tough, zipped, plastic carry case with space to wind and stow the cable, while the cable itself still benefits from metal sheathes over the 3.5mm jack and the point at which the twin cables from the earphone meet, along with a tight-fitting rubberised jacket covering the spot where wires and earphones connect. The wire itself, however, is a little insubstantial in comparison to those you would find on some premium earphones, and there's a bit more cable noise - the dull clanging you get when the cable smacks against clothes or buttons.
The design, meanwhile, isn't quite as graceful as the SHE9850s, but the dome-like units containing the 13.5mm drivers don't protrude much out of your ear, while the angled sound channel ensures a snug and comfortable fit inside it. Three sizes of silicon cap are included and the lightweight feel of the SHE9800s makes for pain-free listening over long-ish periods. As always, these things are highly subjective, but I've used the SHE9800s over several three-hour long train journeys and not had any cause for complaint.
These tips also gave me plenty of opportunity to see how well the earphones masked external noise. The answer is, not as well as earphones like the SE102s, which describe themselves as 'noise isolating', but well enough that the sound of teenage girl gossip won't drive you completely mad should you have the misfortune to sit within screeching distance of the loud-mouthed, empty-headed harpies that I always find on the 8.57 to Waterloo. And to be fair, Philips makes no claims about the SHE9800s in this regard.
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