On the plus side, the Philips set really does have something to offer if you prefer things a little more rocky. The Thin Lizzy-inspired guitars in The Hold Steady’s ”Hot Soft Light” sound great: edgy, beefy and full of thick Marshall tone. Through the Shures the sound is still excellent, but the guitars seem to have lost a little of their attack. Fans of the classic Gibson/Marshall school of rock might like to bear this in mind.
Still, things swing back the other way when it comes to big, orchestral sounds. Giving the ”Act 1” prelude from Wagner’s ”Tristan and Isolde” another run, I’m again struck by how well-defined and immersive the sound from the Philips set is, but there’s still the sense that you’re not quite getting the whole rich blend of sound. No pair of sub £70 earphones is going to give you the full, concert hall sound, but the Shures get just that little bit closer.
And that’s really the problem Philips faces with the SHE9800s. They’re a fine pair of inexpensive earphones, but the market at this price point is awash with quality sets from Shure, Denon, Ultimate Ears and others, and heavy discounting in the online stores is only making it more difficult to stand out. Arguably, some people will find the SHE9800s more comfortable than the SE102s, bearing in mind the Shure’s bulky design and strange, over-the-ear fit, but when it comes to build quality, sound quality and price, the SE102’s recommendation is staying put for now.
A strong contender for the sub £70 earphones crown from Philips, with excellent clarity and a surprisingly expansive soundstage. However, the Shure SE102s still win our vote for overall sound quality and tone.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8