Shure SE102 earphones review

Looking for an alternative to those crappy plastic earphones you get with the iPod?

TechRadar Verdict

A big step-up from the earphones that come bundled with most MP3 players, the SE102s are capable of producing a surprisingly decent sound. True audiophiles will quickly want to upgrade, however.


  • +

    Good sound quality for the money

  • +

    Modular cable design

  • +

    Isolation sleeves cut out 90 per cent of ambient sounds


  • -

    Not as good as other models

  • -

    Can sound harsh

  • -

    Bulky MicroSpeaker housing

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Shure's latest pair of budget earphones are aimed at 'aspiring audiophiles' - people like you and me who are fed up with the poor quality cans that come bundled with most MP3 players. That's especially true of iPods of any generation, despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Those white earphones? Yech!

The SE102s then do what Shure earphones always do. That is to serve up a bulbous business end, which contains the MicroSpeaker drives unit, plus a bunch of sound isolating sleeves which aim to cut out 90 per cent of ambient noise.

In the SE102s case it's bundled with four pairs of soft flex sleeves, which are available in small, medium and large to accommodate different sized ears.

Like all other Shure earphones, the SE102s are designed in such a way that you actually run the earphone cable around the top of your ear and down to your MP3 player, or to the 1m extension cable supplied.

It takes a bit of getting used to - and can be a pain if you wear glasses - but the end result is a snug fit that enables your ears to really suck up the sounds that comes from the cans.

So how do they sound?

One of the obvious benefits of Shure's method of cutting out ambient sound is that you don't need to listen to your music as loud as you would do with conventional earphones or cans. That should help alleviate problems caused by excessive noise levels (as the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging And Newly Identified Health Risks warned this week), but it also means your attention really is focused on the SE102's performance.

To be honest, the SE102s aren't too bad at all. Fire some high bit-rate AAC tracks from your iPod at them and the SE102s do a credible job of conveying the sound - vocals are clear and comprehensible, guitars ring out, drums clatter, cymbals goes 'ting'.

Comparing them to a pair of much more expensive Shure SE310s however does reveal some flaws. The SE102s simply don't sound as rich or as detailed as the SE310s (which cost more than three times the price at £180).

You also have to crank your volume control up a notch to get the same level of sound from the SE102s compared to the SE310 - something that's probably due to the fact that the SE102's lack a separate tuned bassport.

The results arevery listenable with almost any kind of music - although the SE102's slightly harsh edge could ensure you don't listen as long. Bass heads will pleased by the SE102s ability to reach down to 22Hz though.

The other obvious downer is the drive unit enclosure itself. It's considerably bulkier than other models higher up Shure's SE range, something again which could make them harder to wear for extended periods.

But given the keen price tag and undoubted qualities, we're happy to give the Shure SE102s a qualified thumbs-up.