So, the big question is: how do they sound? When compared to the iPod earphones, frankly anything sounds good, but we also have a pair of Shure's E4C earphones, which although now superseded, used to retail for around £229 and their astounding quality makes them a good benchmark.
One of the complaints about the E series was the lack of bass, partly due to the use of a single driver. Although the SE102s are also single-driver 'phones, their drivers are considerably larger than the ones in the E4Cs. Shure takes the view that sound reproduction should be as close to the studio as possible and this means not artificially boosting bass as many units do.
Good bass, good highs... but weak in the middle?
The upper end was responsive, but didn't show the clarity of the E4Cs, making it harder to pick out the various different frequencies with an almost distorted sound. The sound is very bright with any 's' sounds being exaggerated, yet with decent bass, which gives the impression of the middle frequencies being drowned out. We couldn't shake the feeling that the sound was incomplete.
The E4C sound is very forward and encapsulating – to the extent that if you closed your eyes, you could imagine the violin player in the corner of the room, or the guitarist soloing away right next to your face. The SE102s have a different sound, somewhat expanded and a little distant.
Comparing the SE102s to earphones that cost four times as much is a little unfair and you can only expect them to come out worse – which they do. But line them up against other earphone pairs in their class, and they impress - the overall quality is certainly better than any in-ear 'phone set we've tried. At forty quid, you can't go wrong - you'd be expected to pay close to £80 for similar quality from other manufacturers.
ER6i for iPod... great headphones and similarly priced.
Just replaced mine with some HF2's so i can have handsfree calling on my iPhone, but they're £99 - better mind!
Re: Diminishing returns
I'm one of those audiophiles as I spet 200odd quid on on my Etymotic ER4 headphones when I bought them.
Simple, I love music, and want to hear it how it was intended warts n all. I have 20k's worth of stereo at home to listen to music (2 speakers, 1 cd player, 1 pre amp, 1 power amp + assorted cables). Listening to music on that is almost as good as listening live.
I wanted that sort of experience on a portable for when I was out and about, and the Ety's were the best in ear phones at the time that I tried. I rip lossless as I can tell hear the difference when lossy. The sound I get out and about is fantastic and I'm happy with it.
200 quid is a small price to pay as far as I'm concerned for something I get so much enjoyment out of.
as for the Etymotics, they are brilliant and way above other portable headphones I've tried and I tried a few. They don't emphasise any part of the frequency range, sound stage brilliantly, and are very well made. they block almost all outside noise, so music can be listened to quieter.
Their bad points though is that the cable is pretty microphonic (something all headphones of this type suffer from), so you can't go jogging in them. Getting them correctly fitted into your ears takes a lot of practice and getting used to, as does the feeling of them being in there. And they are useless if you have sore ears due to cold or something as they do irritate if you try to wear them then.
Oh and unless you get them correctly seated in your ears, they do not sound all that special.
for the days I have a flu / cold etc, I have Koss Porta Pros which have a fantastic build quality, great sound quality (though nowhere near as good as the Ety's, but still vvery good), no noise cancellation though but they were cheap as chips.
Some of us like to listen to music properly, and listen to proper music. Not this compressed, volume recorded so bloody loud so it sounds good on iPod, but crap on anything half decent chart crap.
Paris cause she would sound decent on anything.
"The cable "problem" is a load of bollocks". I can unfortunately disagree, my E4C's are cracking on one side where they go over my ear. They're less than 2 years old and they've got a lot stiffer which has led to one side starting to go through normal use, though it does mean I can tell the left from the right side in the dark now!
Excellent sound though, when they finally crack to death, I'll probably buy a pair of these.