Although the SE-110 is lowest-priced in-ear headphone in Shure’s SE-series lineup, it also enjoys the distinction of being a product that many big-box retailers treat as the top-shelf offering displayed in their stores. So, from one frame of reference the SE-110 is an entry-level product, while from another perspective it’s a flagship of sorts—two very different roles that this affordable and capable Shure earbud fills with real grace.
The SE-110 offers near-neutral tonal balance that is characterized by a gentle touch of warmth and a very slight hint of treble roll-off—qualities that may make this earbud an ideal antidote to slightly shrill or hard-sounding MP3 tracks. While it does not offer quite the same levels of textural and transient detail as some of the best models in the $120-and-under class, the SE-110 is an unfailingly listenable earphone that never, ever sounds harsh or frazzled.
One of the strengths of the SE-110 is that it can draw out the inner beauty in tracks that are basically well recorded, yet have a tendency to exhibit overly “hot” treble response. A perfect example would be “Narrow Daylight” from Dianna Krall’s The Girl In The Other Room [Verve]—a record that occasionally puts a hard, “glassy” edge on Krall’s voice. Thanks to their gentle warmth and mild treble roll-off, the SE-110s made the record sound smoother and more natural than it otherwise might have—a desirable trait. But the downside of the SE-110’s voicing is that it sometimes leaves you wishing for more detail, subtlety, and nuance. On Chris Jones’s gorgeous acoustic guitar solo in “The Last Fallen Leaf” [Roadhouses and Automobiles, Stockfisch], the SE-110s missed out on some of the high overtones and fingering noises that normally make this track sound achingly realistic.
The SE-110s are moderately lightweight earbuds whose earpiece cables can be worn straight down in front or looped up and over your ears. I felt the bodies of the earbuds were large enough to make overthe- ear cable routing desirable (because otherwise the tug of the cables could dislodge the earpieces). However, not all listeners find over-the-ear cable routing comfortable. It’s easy to get a good seal with the SE-110s thanks to Shure’s excellent “Fit Kit,” described under “Accessories,” above.
The SE-110 is a good, solid general purpose earbud that offers near-neutral tonal balance (balance I preferred to that of Shure’s much more costly SE-310), a delicate touch of warmth, and a hint of treble roll-off that makes the earbud forgiving of so-so recordings. This already good earbud would be even better, though, if Shure could give it a bit more detail and nuance—yet without losing its other positive attributes.