By now, you’ve doubtless heard me complain countless times about the exceedingly hyped sound of “lifestyle” headphones, earbuds, and in-ears. It doesn’t matter how much you want to spend, or what features you desire — most headphones on the market these days are anything but accurate. So, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I come upon a personal monitoring product that offers a truthful sonic portrayal, without overweighted bass and overbaked highs. That’s why I was happy to hear the SE425 from Shure’s trademarked Sound Isolating Earphones line.
As we all know, when it comes to live performance, Shure is the standard-bearer. You’re just as likely to see the company’s in-ear monitors on stage as you are their mics, and the design of the SE425 reflects the roadworthy nature of Shure’s products. The reinforced wiring is incredibly robust, the strain reliefs are more than ample, and the housings of the snap-lock, gold-plated MMCX connectors are chunky. You won’t find any of the crap cabling and near-zero reliefs that are typical of consumer electronics products designed by someone who speaks with an annoyingly affected accent and wears $150 tee-shirts. The fit kit is comprised of a wide selection of foam and rubber sleeves, including a pair of triple-flanged ones. The zip-up case is rigid and durable; and it’s shaped and sized so that it holds the cabling without a fight. A tool is even provided to clean out any earwax buildup (from the earphones, of course — not your ears). Shure’s catalog of optional accessories includes everything in the fit kit, but also cables with an inline mic+remote for phone use, and even a Lightning cable with an embedded DAC.
The SE425 relies on discreet, balanced-armature micro-drivers for bass and treble. Low-frequency extension is exemplary. Listening to test tones, I can clearly hear fundamentals down to 20 Hz, and my calibrated mic proves that there’s usable signal down to 15 Hz. Listening to music, bass response is what I would call very tight, and my measurements of impulse response corroborate what I hear. The midrange is neutral, without any anomalies. In the upper-mids and highs, again listening to test tones, I hear a +4 dB bump that’s almost an octave wide, centered at 3 kHz, followed by a −5 dB drop at 5.5 kHz. From 8 kHz upward, the response slopes gently downward, in a way that sounds very natural with music. These numbers may seem like wide swings, but keep in mind that in-ears, especially ones that seal the ear canal, will be affected by resonances specific to the size and shape of your ear canals. Therefore, what you hear may not correlate exactly to my experiences. With that said, my measurements of the SE425 reflect the results of my listening tests.
I have only two complaints. Any friction against the cable — even just the cable moving across my shirt — is mechanically transmitted into my ears. Also, despite the wide assortment of included ear sleeves, the shape and size of the SE425’s plastic body that surrounds its dual drivers is such that the earphones don’t seat in my ears with as much purchase as my compact, single-driver Shure E3c earphones [Tape Op #46]; therefore, bass response can be finicky as the quality of the seal can vary when I move my head. Again, your ears may or may not agree with mine.
If you, like me, prefer unhyped sound for your personal monitoring needs, and if you’re looking for the extra sonic detail that a multidriver earphone can offer, give the SE425 earphones a try. They may not look as stylish as tee-shirt-designer earbuds, but I’m certain Shure’s earphones will sound more truthful and will far outlast those.