Shure's entry-level earphones used to be the £80 SE210s. Then Shure blasted the more affordable £50 SE110s at the cost-conscious iPod fanatic. Now it's embracing the global economic collapse with its most affordable pair yet: the £39 SE102s.
They're on sale now from Advanced MP3 Players.
In terms of appearance and build, the sound-isolating SE102s are the odd ones out of the SE range. Although they're still best worn over the ear, as is the more professional Shure style, their bulkier, fatter enclosures don't share the same high-end appearance as their more costly siblings.
Having said that, the cabling appears to be identical to the £250 SE530s which sit at the top of the Shure range, with the same gold-plated plugs, ultra-durable cable sheath and detachable extension cable.
Although every ear is different, we found that prolonged wearing became uncomfortable, partly due to the larger enclosures, when compared to other Shure 'phones. And interestingly our US colleagues shared the same feelings when they tested them. Larger ears are likely to cause less concern, but we advise owners of dinkier lugholes to consider an alternative at this price point.
These are sound-isolating earphones and while they don't block out as much of the noise around you as foam tips, they're arguably less intrusive and still very effective. A range of sizes are included to fit most ear canals.
Behind them sit single, full-range, dynamic drivers in each enclosure responding to frequencies between 22Hz-17.5kHz. They offer a sensitivity of 105dB/mW and an impedance of 16 Ohms, but if you don't know what this means, relax. It just means they'll work great with portable players and will be loud enough for outdoor use.
In the box is a fit kit and a carry case. However, only a couple silicone tips are included and foam tips from other SE models do not fit, should you have any lying around.
As performers they're certainly a step above anything that's coming bundled with your MP3 player, and the sound isolation is effective. Their voice is fairly flat, with a responsive but not overly powerful bass.
Overall it's a bright sound, with a cool, clear mid-range and decent transparency in the treble, so music sounds more open and more airy, with instruments sounding less scrunched together, like you're listening with cloth between your headphones and your eardrums.
Although on a subjective level we didn't fall in love with the sound of these earphones, we can appreciate that they offer a clear audio quality at this price point -- you'll hear guitar strings more audibly than some other models, and vocals are bright and clear.
We must concede, however, that for the small difference in price we'd advise most people consider an extra £10 and plump for the SE110s, which give a slightly fuller performance. Or if bass is more your desire, consider Sennheiser's CX 500s.
But if your budget is strict and this is the absolute top you can run to, they're an above-average upgrade from the shoddy plastic insults to the ears that came with your music player.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis