More Options from Shure

Shure's Chris Lyons explained that the new SE series of sound-isolating earphones will complement, rather than replace, the acclaimed E series models. While they use much of the same technology found in the E series, the new line will offer their own unique sonic signature, characterized by "a warmer overall sound," said Lyons.

A hundred honking horns rise from busy Madison Avenue to my window, interrupting the presentation. Lyons looks up from the SE210s and into my eyes.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" I say.

"Yes. What's going on out there?" he asks.

"New York City," I say.

It would be nice if we could totally isolate my office from the sounds of the street below. Can you work on that, Shure? Give the horns a warmer overall sonic signature, make them sound like Quercus lobata. Make it so the horns wrap gently, discreetly, around my tired ears, massaging away this New York City headache.

In addition, the SE models employ a modular design making the use of variable cable lengths, and the addition of Shure's nifty Push-To-Hear (PTH) accessory, a cinch. I saw it in action: up and down, very smooth. Shure's also going further to combine function with fashion, giving all of the SE models a slight facelift [earlift?] with soft-impact bodies and a cable curvature designed to better accommodate the shape of the outer ear.

The sleeves, too, have been revised. Lyons explained that many people enjoyed the feel of the yellow foam sleeves, but preferred the look of the grayish soft flex sleeves. "So, we combined the two," he said. Combiner! The new sleeves, then, which will come in three sizes, should expand into the ear just as the yellow foam did, but without appearing... icky. "You won't have to compress them, either, in order to get a good fit," explained Lyons. "But you can if you want to."

Finally, the construction of the sound tube has been enhanced. In his review of the Shure E4 earphones (Stereophile, March 2007, pg. 118), Jim Austin recounted his troubles with the delicate sound tube which snapped after repeated use. This, Lyons says, should no longer be a concern. "The tubes weren't failing. It was the glue that held them in that failed. So, we did away with the glue."

The SE210 is the entry-level, single-driver model. It will be available next week at a retail price of $149.99. Next up in the line, the SE310 ($249.99), will also be available next week, and also uses a single driver, but adds Shure's Tuned BassPort in an effort to provide greater low-end extension. The SE420 ($349.99) uses a dedicated tweeter and woofer, said to offer extended highs and better-defined midrange. Finally, the SE530 ($449.99) uses Shure's Triple TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers, a three-driver array, and is said to impart the most expansive soundstage and fullest sound across the entire frequency spectrum.

The SE530 is, in fact, an updated E500. Shure's press literature explains, "The E500 represents the bridge between the E Series and the new line and has therefore been renamed the SE530 to signify its place as the flagship of Shure earphones." The SE530 will also be available with the PTH accessory for an additional $50. Look for the '420 and '530 some time in May.

All models in the new SE line will also be compatible with 1/4" jacks via a 1/8" to 1/4" adaptor, making them well-suited for use with most CD, MP3, and DVD players, in addition to most portable music player phones. There will be no special gaming version of the new SE line because, duh, all of the new models will already be compatible with portable and PC gaming devices. So, you can feel free to isolate yourself from this life while enjoying your Second Life.

"We realized that our customers were attracted to our earphones for the isolation they provide, and found that they wanted to be able to get that same isolation when using other devices, such as music phones," Lyons said.

"We wanted to provide people with options," he concluded.

At that, Shure has certainly succeeded. John Atkinson and I will give the new SE line a listen. Meanwhile, a formal review of the top-of-the-line SE530 is being considered. Now, about those horns...