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Shure SE420 review

One of the more refined ways to plug music into your head

Fashion-conscious iPod users will be glad to hear these also come in white

Our Verdict

Excellent sound quality and the useful ability to cut out most ambient noise


  • Superb clarity

    Comfortable when properly aligned

    Dynamic, punchy mids

    Sound isolation


  • Heavy price tag

    Take some getting used to

Surely £202 is far too much for a rational human being to spend on a pair of earphones? Together with one of the bigger iPods the pair would cost you over £400. That's an expensive way to block out the chattering and sniffing on the Tube.

Fortunately, the price is almost justified as the sound quality is exceptionally neutral and clear. The earphones isolate most background noise, then Dual TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers pump crystal clear sound into your ears; one speaker produces the highs and other the lows. Passive crossover controls keep the sound balanced.

The isolation is achieved by wedging the rubber sleeves deep into your ears. No wave-matching technology is on hand to cancel out noise, instead it's the physical barrier of the sleeves that does the job - in fact, sound quality suffers greatly if the earphones are too loose in your ears.

Shure reckons that 90% of outside noise is cut out when it's all properly aligned, and our test would back that up. You can hear yourself breathe quite clearly, though.

You have to be careful when you jam these earphones in place. There's a technique that involves wrapping the cable around your ear. If you overdo the wedging you'll hurt your ears, which can't take much abuse in the soft inner parts.

Shure has added level attenuation technology to protect you from other amplifier sources - aeroplanes, for instance - which is a perfect place to use these phones as they fit the seat's armrest socket comfortably.
The sound quality is wonderful but you need great sound to feel it all.

A compressed MP3 downloaded from some dodgy peer won't do it justice. With fat files from iTunes, they rock. Shure is up against a raft of expensive earphones coming on to the market, noticeably from Bose. Despite the competition these earphones are bloody great, and if you have the budget, we recommend buying a pair.