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Shure SE310 Review

Highs

  • Excellent sound; comfortable design; adjustable cord length

Rating

Our Score 8.5
User Score 0

Lows

  • Single driver design; high price
The Shure SE310s are the best single-driver canalphones we have auditioned to date.

Summary

Featuring Hi-Definition MicroSpeakers plus Tuned BassPorts, the Shure SE310 delivers extended range audio for optimal high frequencies and enhanced low-end performance. The Shure SE310 also provides enhanced bass.Evolved from in-ear monitor technology pioneered by Shure for pro musicians, the SE310 uses premium Hi-Definition MicroSpeakers plus Tuned BassPorts to deliver stunning audio quality. The sound isolating design blocks most background noise. This translates into even greater depth and accuracy. Shure earphones can turn a basic MP3 player into a high performance audio machine, just like good speakers work wonders with your home stereo system. Sound isolating earphones were originally developed as Personal Monitor Systems to allow musicians to hear their own performances in loud onstage environments. Sound isolating earphones work by using soft, pliable sleeves to block background noise, allowing small, high-performance drivers to deliver incredibly precise sound directly to the ear.

Features and Design

Shure, one of the premier players in the canalphone world, has introduced a number of new cans to sooth your ears with sweet, sweet tunes. The revamped drivers are advertised as offering more punchy and accurate sound in a more stylish package, and we have to agree that these headphones live up to the marketing hype.

Across the line, Shure’s new generation of products have been slowly creeping into major retailers, finding a place between the 40 flavors of Sony’s $10 USD junk-grade cans and the over-hyped, overpriced Bose TriPorts. If the average consumer knew of these gems hiding in plain sight, it would be hard to keep them in stock.

The SE310s come in that plastic bubble-wrap packaging that says, “We hate our customers!” Luckily, after prying your new toys from the case, you are only seconds from blissful, brain-enveloping audio. Accessories included in the “box” are a semi-soft carrying case and earpiece fitting kit. Admittedly, the headphone wire is very short, designed for use with pendant-style players that are worn around the neck rather than MP3 players held in armbands. Nonetheless, Shure also includes an extension cord to bring the length to an acceptable, standard 2.5ft.

Unlike the Super.fi 5 Pros and Etymotic ER-6i, the cords used by the SE310s are thick and feel substantial. Other manufacturers go with thin cords in order to combat the loud noises that can be caused by the brushing of the cord against clothing or bouncing against the body. (These small collisions are conducted up the cord and amplified by the design of the canalphone.) A thicker cord means more forceful bouncing of the cord in the air with movements, but Shure uses a nice, absorbing insulator, reducing the transmission of micro-vibrations. The result is a pleasant reduction in mechanical noise and a substantially solid-feeling product overall.

Also worth keeping in mind: There is a significant change in Shure’s sleeve-fitting options, and it has taken top place as our favorite option when it comes to pure ergonomics. The new higher-density, black foam sleeves easily fit deep into the ear, seal quickly, and are extremely comfortable, making them the most pleasing option we’ve encountered from any manufacturer by far. As an added bonus, they’re colored black, so ear gunk doesn’t show too easily, feel great, and after a month of extensive use, they still maintain their malleability. But enough with aesthetics and design… let’s talk about important details like how they sound.

Shure SE310
The Shure SE310 canalphones and included accessories

Setup and Use

We tested the SE310s with a selection of jazz, classical, pop, rock, and techno tracks. All music was played through an iPod photo, iPod Classic, and a Creative X-Fi Elite, all of which were in MP3 format and encoded at VBR at 320kbps. We used both iPods because of some reports that the lower end roll off is worse than previous generations. As an aside, we could not tell much difference between the two iPods listening to the same track.

The general sound signature is punchy on the low end, offering plenty of energy and accuracy. Granted, there is a lack of boom and atmosphere on the low side, which is typical of single driver in-ear-monitors. (We have no doubt that the dual-driver models will fare better.) The highs are nice and accurate, but not shrill, and the mids sound clear. The balance across the spectrum is very smooth, and the soundstage adequately distant, but not too far away. Even the stereo effects are better than what we’ve heard in other options. Happily as well, the sound is not fatiguing, which can be a problem when isolated from environmental noises.

As for the “weakest” performing genres, think Classical and Jazz. Mind you, we only use the term weakest because across the board, these little buggers surprised us in their overall top-notch quality. Classical music lacked a little atmosphere during quiet, bass-heavy lulls. Likewise, the slight low-end roll off made live jazz recordings a little less unique to the venue they were performed in.

Shure SE310
The Shure SE310 canalphone come with a nice thick cable

Rock and acoustic music fared very well though, with plenty of punch and energy. Fingers sliding across strings and the nuances of the instruments are easily discernible, while providing a comfortable soundstage. Pop, techno, and other synthesizer-heavy music sound excellent too. Of course, we have become used to a slightly different sound signature from months of listening to dual-driver canalphones, and in comparison, the SE310s sound slightly flat. However, after a few weeks we warmed up to the differences in signatures, despite never feeling as if the SE310s had a distinct character that they could call all their own.

The responsiveness to different frequencies creat an across-the-board excellent signature, but no single stand-out performer. This can be both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, the SE310s can handle anything you throw at them, but on the negative side, people with very specific musical tastes might fare better with a more strongly-biased option. In other words, if you’re looking for a good present for someone whose musical preferences are mostly unknown or ambiguous, don’t worry too much… the SE310s will not disappoint.

Of course, the suggested retail price of $299 USD for a single-driver model is a little too steep – we would be happier to see an asking fee around $175-$200 USD. That said, it shouldn’t be a total deal-breaker. Afterall, these are the best sounding single driver canalphones we’ve heard.

Conclusion

The Shure SE310s are the best single-driver canalphones we have auditioned to date. While they lack a unique signature and sound slightly flat, overall performance was excellent. The design showcases the maturity of Shure’s place in the market, and the new ear sleeves are the most comfortable we have used. The build quality feels solid, the fit is great, and we have no reservations about recommending the SE310s to anyone in the canalphone market… presuming, that is, you can afford them.

Pros:

• Excellent sound
• Comfortable design
• Adjustable cord length

Cons:

• Single driver design
• High price

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