The earphone market can seem like a bit of a minefield for anyone who doesn't know exactly what they're looking for. And with the sub-£100 section of the market literally bristling with different options, it can be hard to work out what to buy.

After all – everyone knows that the tacky little white earbuds that come with iPods are unrivalled in their awfulness. But how do you know that any new ones are going to be any better?

Well, as a rule of thumb, the earphone market is a perfect example of that old adage: you get what you pay for - the more you spend, the better the earphones will be.

How much should you spend?

So the only real problem is: how much should you spend, and will you really notice the difference between these Shure SE115's and their much more expensive brothers and sisters?

We're pleased to report that for the recommended retail price of £99, the SE115 earphones offer a pitch-perfect balance between price and performance. We're even more pleased to tell you that on most online retailers you can pick these up now for less than £70.

It may seem like a lot to spend on earphones, but you will absolutely notice the difference between these buds and their cheaper challengers, both lower down in the Shure range and from rival manufacturers.

At the same time, unless you're a particularly picky audiophile with super-sonic hearing, you're unlikely to pick up any noticeable differences between these and its much more expensive rivals.

The top of the range Shure earphones fly well above the £300 mark, which is completely unnecessary for anyone using earphones with compressed audio files – especially in these money crunchy times.

So ok, we've established that the Shure SE115's sit at the right place in the market. The problem is that there are plenty other very similar products that offer similar performance at the same price. See products from the likes of Sennheiser, Philips and new kids on the block, Atomic Floyd.

Healthy competition

Shure has a lot of competition then, and so the SE115 need a bit of cutting edge awesomeness if they're to make some kind of dent in the market. Do they have this? The answer is a bit of yes, and a bit of no.

They're certainly very well put together, and the dynamic drivers inside the buds offer a powerful, rich and smooth sound that put those bundled iPod earphones to shame in dramatic fashion.

However, while they sound fantastic – and make no mistake about it they really do sound great – they're certainly not streets ahead of rival manufacturers.

And when you bear in mind that many products in the same price sector offer extras such as built in microphone for answering phone calls, it's hard to absolutely justify buying the Shure SE115's over, say, the Atomic Floyd HiDefDrums or a pair of Sennheisers.

You also need to consider comfort. The noise isolation offered by these and other Shure earphones, is possibly the best on the market. But they can also be a somewhat traumatic experience for your ears.

If you don't like stuffing fairly hefty padded ear buds in your ear canal, the default buds are not for you. However, if you don't mind that kind of thing, you'll find yourself immersed in sound in a way that cheaper earphones simply can't manage.

Luckily, the earphones come with five sets of replacement buds, some are made of the patented dense foam that mould themselves to your ears, and others are silicon rubber which don't offer the same level of noise isolation but they're easier on small, sensitive ears.

Available in four colours, the Shure SE115s do offer fantastic audio performance for the price. And for £99 we would have recommended you be wary before buying them - to make sure they were right for you. But for around £66 and falling, these are a steal.