Over the past 18 months or so, we've been shoving things up our nostrils and down our throats to check that we haven't caught the dreaded lurgy. So, when presented with the chance to review Shure's SE425 Wired earphones, we figured: why not complete the set and stick something inside our lugholes, too? With any luck, the experience would be a little more pleasurable.
The early signs were certainly promising; according to the Shure website, these sound-isolating earphones “show you how your favourite artists hear music” (better just hope that your favourite artist isn't Beethoven, eh?). They also look like a premium product – and so they should, considering they have an RRP of £209. But how would they fare upon closer scrutiny, and would they compare favourably to the best in-ear headphones and earbuds on the planet? Only one way to find out...
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Shure SE425 Wired earphones review: Design
You could argue that it doesn't really matter what earphones look like, since they spend most of the time stuffed inside your head-handles. But we'll tell you anyway: the Shure SE425 Wired are a snazzy-looking set of buds.
OK, they don't look entirely unlike king prawns, but thanks to their curved plastic casings and neatly positioned logos, it kinda works. There's a reason for that prawn-like shape, anyway – it enables the earbuds to be rotated fully 360 degrees, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your ear shape.
The aforementioned plastic casings (which, by the way, can be either silver or transparent) are designed to cover your entire earhole, helping to isolate exterior noise and keep you immersed in your music.
For what it's worth, we prefer the transparent ones as they enable you (when you're not listening to them) to view the earphones' inner workings, including the gold-plated MMCX connectors.
What are the connectors for? Well, these being wired earphones, they connect to a phone or similar device using the 3.5mm Kevlar-reinforced cable. However, Shure has made the cable detachable (hence the connectors), meaning you can easily replace it when it starts to show signs of wear and tear.
A couple more things to mention: the Shure SE425 Wired earphones come with an in-line remote control and mic, and are packaged with numerous sleeves of various sizes and materials, giving you the freedom to experiment.
Shure SE425 Wired earphones review: Features
Due to their flimsier build, listening to music through earphones can often leave you exposed to outside noise. That's why we always wear our over-ear headphones to the gym – anything to avoid overhearing that godawful pop pap while pulling a few squat thrusts.
Of course, this weakness doesn't apply to all sets of earphones, and some of the more expensive models do a fine job of keeping out unwanted din. Indeed, four of the products on our list of the best in-ear headphones – the Sony WF-1000XM3, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the Apple AirPods Pro and Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 2 – boast genuine noise cancelling technology.
That's not something you get with the Shure SE425 Wired earbuds, though they do offer the next best thing – sound isolation. This means that instead of using electronic trickery, they rely on ergonomics to plug your ears, thus shutting out unwanted noise. Shure claims that these buds will reduce 37dB of it, which is competitive but not best-in-class.
To further enhance your listening, Shure has installed dual high-definition MicroDrivers in each earphone. The US manufacturer reckons that these tweeter/woofer partnerships deliver “true-to-life sounds”, enabling you to “hear music as you're really meant to”.
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Shure SE425 Wired earphones review: Sound
We've lost count of the times we've had to stuff our earbuds back into our lugholes because they've fallen out during rigorous exercise (and by that, we mean walking).
However, as soon as we inserted the Shure SE425 Wired earbuds, they felt snug and secure. The side effect of that – as Shure intended – was that the world around us became instantly muted. We've tried a fair few pairs of noise cancellers in our time (including the best budget noise cancelling headphones), and, with the possible exception of the most expensive models, the level of isolation with these buds really didn't feel much different.
As a consequence, the listening experience was all-encompassing. Streaming I Think I'm In Love from Sprititualized's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, we became so immersed in the Pink Floyd-esque ambience that we almost forgot that we were wearing earphones.
The SE425 Wired earbuds delivered incredible detail and energy, without ever sounding over-excited. Vocals were presented with clarity and nuance, and even though the bottom end didn't quite stand up to some buds we've heard, we weren't left thinking that the bassist had gone on strike.
On the whole, listening to music through these earphones was a lovely and encapsulating experience that – just as Shure promised – enabled us to hear our favourite tunes in a whole new light.
Shure SE425 Wired earphones review: Alternatives
If bass is important to you, then you might want to take a look at the Klipsch XR8i wired earphones. Made in the US, these buds offer thundering bottom-end along with decent 26dB sound isolation. They're a bit more expensive than the Shure set, though.
Prefer to listen to your music wirelessly? The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus tick so many boxes, and at a very affordable price. They look sophisticated, they're comfy and they offer a generous 36-hour battery life (when used with the charging case). There's no noise cancelling, and they're not right at the top of the tree for sound quality, but they're a very impressive all-round package.