Q: Hi. I’ve been looking. through the site reviews, but can’t see a clear answer to my question. I just finally purchased an iPhone, and would greatly appreciate your recommendation as to the best headset to use with it. I’ve used a pair of mid-level Shure earphones (E3Cs) with my iPod for years and years now, but the cord is far too long to use with the headset attachment. So I need a new pair of iPhone-ready earbuds. Given my good experience with Shure (and zero experience with anything else) I am inclined to buy the SE 420MPA or the SE 310MPA. Thoughts? It looks like the 420 might be a fair bit larger than the 310. Is that true and, if so, is the sound quality/noise reduction sufficiently worth the increased size? I am not so worried about the cost, given how much use I will get out of these. Thanks much for you assistance!
A: If cost is not a concern, our recommendation would be to go with the Shure SE530 (iLounge rating: A), as these are definitely among our favorite earbuds, and the best in the Shure lineup by far. Note that the “MPA” suffix simply indicates that the earphones come bundled with the MPA-3C Music Adapter, which can also be purchased separately. The standard SE series packaging includes the identical Shure earphones, but provides a simple extension cable rather than the MPA-3C Music Adapter. This is an important consideration as you may find the SE series earphones in the standard package for a better price without the “MPA” designation. The earphones are exactly the same in both cases, and the $30 MPA-3C can just as easily be added separately.
Within the current Shure lineup, the sweet spots are actually the SE210 (iLounge rating: B+) on the slightly lower end, and the SE530. In our opinion, the SE310 (iLounge rating: B-) do not offer enough of a quality increase to justify the $100 price tag over the SE210. On the other hand, the difference between the SE420 (iLounge rating: B and the SE530 is significant enough to easily justify the increased price.
While the SE530 retail for around $500, many retailers sell them for considerably less, and we’ve seen prices as low as $250 USD in the past. If you shop around fairly aggressively you should be able to find a pretty good deal, but even at the normal price they’re well worth the investment if you’re a serious music listener who is going to use them a lot.
Also be sure to check out our five-part series, The Complete Guide to Earphones for some more information and insights. While this article series does not reflect all of the models that have since become available, most of the principles outlined still apply and some good general information is provided.