- Review Price: £89.86
In January at CES Shure showed me its new SE line of in-ear, noise isolating earphones and recently I’ve reviewed both the SE420s and the SE310s. The SE420s employed a dual driver design and produced superb sound across a whole range of music. The SE310s were considerably cheaper than the SE420s, but didn’t quite blow me away in the same manner. In fact the problem with the SE310s is that the price wasn’t quite low enough when compared to competing products, like the Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 Pros. But the SE210s that I’m looking at now could well be the best value, high-quality earphones out there.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the SE210s sit at the bottom of Shure’s new range, because you need to put that fact into context. If you assume that the earphones that shipped with your MP3 player are completely useless, which most of them are, then even the entry level Shure SE units will give you a massive increase in audio quality. And comparing the SE210s to various bundled earphone sets that I have knocking around in the office, it’s fair to say that they’re in a completely different league.
The SE210s are very similar to the SE310s, in that they are based on a single driver model, so there’s no need for a crossover to direct upper and lower frequencies to discrete drivers. Instead the single driver provides the full range – much like the majority of earphones out there. However, the SE210s don’t have the Tuned Bass Port technology of the more expensive SE310s, which means that they shouldn’t, in theory at least, handle low frequencies as well.
Surprisingly though, after extended listening and comparison to the SE310s, I found that the SE210s provided decent bass performance that wasn’t too far from what their pricier siblings were outputting. Things are helped by the new, improved foam sleeves, which really do seal Shure’s new earphones into your ear canal, forcing every drop of sound directly into your eardrum and through your skull. Listening to a range of music on the SE210s left me feeling very positive towards these entry level earphones – OK, so they’re no match for the Shure E500PTHs, but at less than a quarter of the price, they really shouldn’t be.
Starting with Lebanese Blonde by Thievery Corporation, the SE210s gave a good all round account of themselves. The strong underlying bass line was well resolved and flowed through my ears convincingly. Meanwhile, the haunting vocals that somehow seem to float over the mix were beautifully rendered – I can guarantee that if you usually listen to this track using Apple Earbuds, it will be a revelation listening with the SE210s!
Turning to some classic R&B I unleashed Everything is Everything by Lauren Hill – no matter how many years after its release I listen to this track it sounds as fresh and powerful as the first time I heard it. Once again, the SE210s managed to bring out the heavy bass line without letting it overpower everything else, while that overlaid snare drum beat cuts through the other sounds like a knife through butter. Meanwhile, Lauren’s powerful vocals and harmonies just flowed through my head, leaving me feeling completely connected to the music.
Changing direction completely I queued up Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp. As well as being a superb song and one of Supertramp’s best, Goodbye Stranger is also a masterpiece when it comes to arrangement. There is so much going on, with the main vocals, the background harmonies, the melodic keyboards, ambient percussion and superb guitar solo at the end. Also, the whole track has a kind of echo effect as if you were listening to a live performance in an empty auditorium. With so much happening, it’s easy for lesser headphones to lose some of the effects, leaving the song sounding flat and lifeless, but the SE210s did a brilliant job. Even the finger snapping that appears halfway through the track cut through the proceedings convincingly, complete with reverberation.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed with the way the SE210s handled themselves across a wide cross section of musical styles. Obviously if I listen to the same music using the dual driver SE420s they will eclipse their cheaper cousins, but that’s why you’re paying over twice the price for them. What the SE210s offer is the best price/performance ratio when it comes to good quality earphones.
Like all the more expensive SE series earphones, the SE210s feature heavy duty cabling that instils confidence in the user. The earphones themselves have a short cable, which then plugs into a supplied 91cm extension cable – all the connections are gold plated and have a very solid feel to them. Like the SE310s, the SE210s ship with Shure’s Deluxe Fit Kit comprising three sets of foam sleeves in small, medium and large sizes, along with three sets of soft flex sleeves, also in small, medium and large sizes. You also get a pair of triple flange sleeves for anyone with very strange ears, a tool to clean any errant wax from the earphones and a zip up case.
There are optional accessories available like the inline volume control, a shorter 23cm extension cable, an airline adapter and the Push To Hear module that comes with the E500PTHs. Hopefully Shure will bring a smaller PTH module to market soon, because it really is a great concept, but a little bulky in its current guise.
With an RRP of £99.99 Shure has placed the SE210s well within the reach of the average consumer. In fact, even though these earphones aren’t actually available yet I have already found one retailer offering them for under £90! At that kind of price, anyone who’s even semi-serious about their music should think hard about buying a set of SE210s.
The SE210s can’t compete with Shure’s more expensive dual and triple driver models, but they’re indiscernibly close to the SE310s while costing considerably less. With a street price of under £90 the SE210s should be a tempting proposition for anyone that encodes their music at a decent bit rate. If you want great sound quality from your player without breaking the bank, the Sure SE210s should be top of your shopping list.
Score in detail