The Shure SE102s are Shure's earphones for "aspiring audiophiles".

Shure isn't a name that's bandied about lightly. The audio brand is synonymous with professional musicianship - Shure even supplies the audio setup at legendary jazz joint Ronnie Scott's.

In common with Denon, Etymotic, Sennheiser and other brands you'll hear audiophiles mention in soft and reverential terms, Shure sells some rather effective and extremely sophisticated noise-cancelling earphones for £150 to £500.

About four years ago, Shure decided to broaden its scope and started making earphones that the discerning iPod fan could appreciate. Since digital music continues to be hugely successful and the audio processing in portable players has improved, there's a sizable market of everyday music fans keen to make the most of their iTunes and Napster playlists.

For most people, such an outlay is inconceivable, which is why Shure and some of the other big names have lowered their prices and come up with more pocket-friendly earphones such as the Shure SE102s.

The Shure SE102s are Shure's earphones for "aspiring audiophiles". In other words, if you can't wait to discard the uncomfortable plastic earbuds that came supplied with your MP3 player in favour of ones that deliver really good sound that you - and you alone - can enjoy, these are for you.

Rather than cancelling out the background noise around you, Shure describes its Shure SE102 earphones as "sound isolating". Dynamic micro-speakers within the earphones deliver the sound straight to the ear, with up to 90 of background noise cut out in the process.

The Shure SE102 earphones certainly deliver some impressive sound. We used them with our DAB radio as well as trying them with three different MP3 players. The diagrams supplied as part of the packaging suggest you wrap the cable round the back of your ear and use that to help secure the earphones in place. This took a bit of getting used to, but was more successful once we'd swapped the rather large sleeves for a smaller pair. Shure supplies three sizes.

There's also a cable extender in the Shure SE102's box, so you can add extra length if you prefer. The standard cable is just about the right length if you've got them attached to an iPod or mobile phone in your pocket, but you'll need the extension attached if you're listening to music stored on the laptop you're working at, for example.

The Shure SE102's main cables are slightly thicker and noticeably stiffer than those you get on cheaper earphones. At the business end of them is a sizable nub containing the micro speakers. It's a far chunkier design than on some of the more expensive Shure earphones we've tried, but they are actually very light.

The Shure SE102s come with their own drawstring pouch in which to stash them and any alternative fittings you want and, assuming you get on well with the over-the-back-of-your-ear arrangement, we can't see a real issue with the design.

However, we found the Shure SE102s noticeably louder than some of the other in-ear earphones we tried. The sound was a little harsh but once we'd got a comfortable ear fitting and adjusted the volume, the sound isolation was good.


These Shure earphones are better than the standard ones you get with budget music players, but if you've bought a quality MP3 player from Sony or Philips, you're likely to have some half-decent earphones as part of the package and these don't add much over and above those. We also found it tricky to get them to stay put.