Perhaps bending to economic will, well-respected audio companies are now offering a middle ground between cheap and state-of-the-art headphones. Shure’s SE115, the latest attempt to balance quality and price, is a very nice compromise, though bass-loving audiophiles will definitely recognize some tradeoffs have been made in favor of the unit’s lowered cost.
Features & Design
The SE115 comes in two pieces. The bulbous left and right earphones are connected about a foot down, giving plenty of chin room. A separate three-foot wire attaches to the earphone cord and, subsequently, plugs into the music device. The SE115 uses the standard 1/8 inch/3.5 mm headphone jack used on portable MP3, CD and DVD players.
Three feet (plus the additional foot or so from the earphone wires) is plenty for portable music players and computer listening, but a little too short for decent television or movie watching from a distance. The detachable earphone wires make it easy to upgrade to one of Shure’s longer extensions, however.
There are four SE115 colors – black, blue, red and pink. The style changes the color of the earbud connector, but otherwise the wires are black.
Inside the Shure SE115 package are the earphones and the three-foot extension, a palm-sized plush zipper case and two pairs of three earbud sizes. The small, medium and large buds should fit nearly any ear. Also included is a small pin hook used to clean the earbuds.
Comfort And Operation
Despite the extras, the Shure SE115 is simple to use – no batteries, no excessive equipment. Aside from connecting the earphone and extension wires, the only operation is sticking the earbuds in and seeing which set is the most comfortable.
These are noise-canceling headphones, so the flexible earbuds do sit snuggly and seem to expand slightly once inside the ears. The buds remain comfortable, even after hours of use.
The SE115 really shined when it came to ambient sounds. Video and game listening were great – car crashes, birds chirping and other dynamic noises shifted well from the left, right, center and areas in between.
Less impressive was the bass, which lacked heft in the aforementioned situations as well as during music listening. Bass was definitely present, but it didn’t carry as much weight as with higher-end headphones or even non-earbud headphones that cover the entire ear. The deep resonance wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Shure hadn’t advertised the new Dynamic MicroSpeaker II driver (featured in the SE115) and its bass capabilities as a core selling point.
The heavier sounds aren’t weak – they just aren’t that impressive. Alternatively, the treble and vocal clarity were solid and clear, particularly when it came to woodwinds and lighter, higher pitch instruments.
Note that the Shure SE115 headphones can play sound from 22 Hz to 17.5 kHz.
Noise cancellation features proved fairly good for earbud headphones. With the secure buds in place, surrounding sounds were muffled and removed – almost as if they were in a distant tunnel. But the SE115 will not replace, say, a premium set that one could take on an airplane. The noise cancellation is just strong enough to put the emphasis on the music, not to isolate you.
Shure’s SE115 features a $119.99 MSRP – pretty reasonable for headphones of this quality. If you need a reach longer than four feet, you’ll want to factor in at least another $15 for an extension wire. More info is available at shure.com.
Shure’s SE115 is a decent set of headphones, and most will appreciate the quality for the price. That said, the package’s biggest selling point – the bass – isn’t as strong as advertised and an extended reach requires buying more equipment. Consider the unit to be fairly solid for the price range, but hardcore audiophiles – particularly lovers of bass-friendly genres such as hip-hop and jazz – would be better off paying a little extra for superior performance.
- Effective noise-canceling
- Nice ambient sound
- Optional extended cord
- Bass not as strong as advertised
- Short cable reach
- Middle-of-the-road quality