If you’re looking for sturdy earphones with good sound isolation, the Shure SE110 may be a good swap for your Apple earbuds — if you don’t mind the bulky, three-foot cord.
First the good:
The Shure SE110 headphones come with a two-year warranty for materials and workmanship, the first thing you’ll notice after unboxing is that are built to withstand a lot of wear.
The cord and jack are thicker and more solid than regular Apple earbuds and, even after a short trial, I’d be willing to wager they last the warranty. If they do, at $79 per pair, the price is decent for the overall quality.
I like to think I’m a lover not a fighter, but the beating my iPod earbuds take indicates otherwise: a pair lasts about six-to-nine months, if that, in the cycle of gym bag to computer bag to handbag. (My old Apple pair in the pics below have been glued back together, note the sad fray around the buds).
So sturdy is a big selling point for me. Over the years, I’ve waffled between getting Apple replacements or versions that cost about half of the $30 Apple price, since they seem to last about as long anyway.
More pics and full review after the jump.
Another big selling point: sound isolation. If you wear your headphones in situations where you want to cut some of the static but it would be dangerous to drown it all out, these work well.
They claim to block 90% ambient noise, here are a few practical examples: they cut through store muzak (a pet peeve of mine) but you can still hear people talking to you, or catch every word in an audio book while riding a screeching subway car and hear music while vacuuming — all with the volume at reasonable levels (less than half the bar).
If you have fit issues with earbuds, the Shures come with a selection of five sleeve pairs — soft flex in small medium or large or soft foam that you can mold with your fingers to fit. (The out-of-the box foam ones, though a little but bulky, worked fine for me).
Now the bad: Using these Shures is like walking around with something nicked from airline inflight entertainment.
The thick base cord is short — just long enough to reach a breast pocket. Then there’s a three-foot extension cord (included) that plugs in via a very awkward jack, itself over half the length of an iPod Nano.
So the result is rather Easyjet, which, again aesthetics aside wouldn’t be so much a problem but the full length is way too long for a bag or backpack and, no matter how you tuck the extra cord in, it seemed prone to escape and get caught up in handles and doors, on your knee while biking etc. Not good.
Shure suggests you loop the first short cord behind your ear — which might be ok for running, although the extension cord jack then hits mid-chest — but they were fussy to put on/take off and easily tangled in hair, glasses, scarves, clothing etc.
As for the sound, this is the least expensive model in Shure’s line and some of the subtlety you’d expect in high-end headphones was sacrificed for price. The sound quality is about equal to Apple earbuds, but the sound isolation and better fit quality give Shure’s a slight edge.
Verdict: If you’re looking for sturdy replacement headphones that will last and find the short cord suits your needs, Shure SE110 are a good bet.