Shure SE112 Headphones Review
Loads of performance for a reasonable price
The Insides That Count
Headphone testing tells you everything you need to know about a given product: Is the volume louder in one speaker than the other? Does blaring bass obscure high notes? Do the headphones sound strange because of added distortion? We run tests to answer all of these questions.
The Shure SE112 in-ear headphones (MSRP $49) faced every test in the book—and passed them. Any flaws I found were mild, meaning these headphones land toward the top of the performance heap.
The most distinguishing attribute of any set of headphones is its frequency response—or how it emphasizes different points across the audible spectrum. To measure this behavior, we feed every product a frequency sweep: Is bass extremely loud? Is the middle range audible enough in comparison? Are very high notes overly prominent? A frequency response test answers all those questions.
The SE112 didn't ace this trial, but it came extremely close. Low frequencies of 20Hz to 300Hz hover in the vicinity of 80 and 85dB—making bass quite prominent—but much of the middle and high range receives sufficient emphasis, too; since the bulk of the midrange lives between 70 and 80dB, wonderful details on strings, brass, and others don't get obscured by bass.
That said, certain overtones in the middle range as well as some very high notes (3kHz and 6-7kHz) fall a bit too much in emphasis. This is inconvenient: I would find myself increasing volume to enjoy more detail throughout those points—and then a very high cymbal crash (10kHz) would make me wince all of a sudden, causing me to quickly lower volume again. The flaw isn't the worst thing in the world, but it pesters one's ears every now and again.
Total harmonic distortion (THD) on a set of headphones needs to stay below 3% to remain inaudible. THD simply refers to additional noise or clipped harmonics—sounds that the musical artist never intended for you to hear.
Shure's SE112 in-ears absolutely dominated this test: All told, I found less than 1% of THD across the board. This means that listeners will enjoy nothing but good, clean music—no additional garbage here.
The one thing you don't want to buy the Shure SE112 in-ear for is noise isolation. While these headphones do block a decent portion of outside noise, they aren't nearly as powerful as an active noise canceling set.
The SE112 didn't totally bomb the test: They barely block any bass noises at all, but middle range outside noise gets reduced to as much as 1/4 while high-pitched clatter gets hushed to just upwards of 1/8.
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