by Kevin O’Brien
Listening to music from your notebook can present a few problems for mobile users, depending on the situation. You can’t just crank up the volume in class to listen to your favorite song, and even if you could the speakers on your notebook probably don’t even sound that good. What about listening to music in your apartment or dorm, where noisy neighbors invade your personal listening space? Earphones can work great in these different scenarios, with the best style being inner ear sound isolating for blocking out almost all outside noise. In this review I will cover the Shure SE210 sound isolating headphones as I attempt to cope, living around really noisy neighbors.
- Speaker Type: Hi-Definition MicroSpeaker
- Sensitivity (1mW): 114 dB SPL/mW
- Impedance (1kHz): 26 Ohm
- DC Resistance 19 Ohm
- Frequency Range: 25Hz – 18.5kHz
- Cable Length/with Extension: 18 in. / 45cm (54 in. / 136cm)
- Weight 13g
- Color: Available in Black and White
- Price: $179.99 (MSRP), $150 (Street)
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Why I picked Sound Isolating Earphones
I live in an apartment setting with an incredibly annoying selection of neighbors. Figure one gamer, another who loves playing his guitar at night, and one that just cranks his music high during the day. To not only gain some peace and quiet, but also enjoy my games and music I turned to various styles of headphones. The first choice I went to was a common over the ear style Sennheiser headphone, which sounded great, but didn’t fully block out all the outside noise. The problematic noise was lower frequency bass, and the only sure bet to stop it was ramming my fingertips into my ears.
After researching the subject a bit, I found that inner ear sound isolating headphones worked best in this situation. They tend to fully seal off your ear canal from the outside elements, giving you a noise free listening environment to enjoy games, music, movies, or even silence. The Shure SE210 earphones were available locally in stores (which helped to feed my interest in them), so I reached out to Shure and got a loaner set for my review.
Build Quality and Design
Build quality of the Shure earphones is top notch, although it is strange feeling how light they were compared to the price tag. I usually have the bigger/heavier = better mentality, even though 1lb earphones probably wouldn’t be too comfortable. The construction of the body is plastic, and even with rough treatment they held up great.
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Opening up the retail package for these headphones, one of the first things you notice is the vast assortment of tips to customize the fit inside your ear. The earphones are designed to work in a variety of different ear shapes and sizes, so they give you plenty of options to pick from when trying to get that perfect fit. You get one pair of triple flange sleeves, three sizes of soft rubber sleeves, and three sizes of compressible foam sleeves. After trying out the various pieces, I settled on the small sized foam sleeves, as they fit best, and gave the best isolation from neighborly noises.
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When most people think of earphones, earbud style probably comes to mind, where they just hang down after slipping inside your ear. The Shure SE210 earphones are designed to work a bit differently, where they are inserted into your ear canal, instead of resting on your ear lobe. I found this to feel pretty strange at first, almost like a sinus cold with pressure in my inner ear. Once I got used to it though, it was a completely new experience listening to music or movies without background noise.
Sound Isolating Performance
The best test I could think of for the Shure headphones was hearing how well they worked up against my incredibly annoying neighbors. First up was the singing, guitar playing, loud walker; who was guaranteed to annoy under all circumstances. The earphones blocked out almost everything but his singing, which still came through above music at a moderate level. His harsh voice was softened up quite a bit, and to the earphone’s credit, not even my hands or pillows could block that out. For a comparison of loudness, it would be the difference between someone singing right in front of you, or someone you just shoved into a closet that was still singing.
Next up was the gamer below me, and the loud music listener next door. Both of these situations had low frequency (bass) coming through the walls or floor, which disrupted any TV or games I would try to enjoy. In this situation the earphones worked perfectly giving me silence even when the audio wasn’t playing.
The final situation was on an airline out to Vegas for CES, where you generally have to put up with the droning engine noise for hours. This level of noise is hard to speak to your neighbors through, let alone hear yourself think. Here the earphones blocked out much more noise than I could have dreamed, even compared to my freebie iPod earbuds. In the past I used to have the volume levels set to almost max on my notebook to understand movies, I now could have it at 25-30%. The only downside to this situation that I could think of is I missed one soda cart as I didn’t even hear the stewardess ask me if I wanted a beverage.
Sound quality was far above what users might expect if they are comparing it to a pair of freebie iPod headphones. Everything across the board including bass, midrange, and treble sounds incredible. While I won’t say they hit the lower bass notes as much as my Sennheiser HD280s, they do bring out low frequency notes very well. The one area that did seem lacking in my opinion were the high-end notes, like a chime or bell ringing inside a game, didn’t seem to hit their peaks that the HD280s brought out with ease.
The Shure SE210 Sound Isolating Earphones lived up to their name perfectly in my almost too harsh real world conditions. For blocking out annoying noises, they bought more silence than I expected, letting me have some truly needed peace and quiet. While the price (MSRP: $180, Street: $150) is steep compared to other models on the market, it’s hard to pass up the audio quality and customizable fit. I highly recommend these earphones to anyone that has to put up with audibly invading neighbors.
- Many pieces to pick from the get the best fit for your ear
- Great sound quality
- Blocks out tons of background noise