The Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones provide good sound quality and secure ear inserts for an affordable price, but they're a hassle to put on.
When I have my earbuds in, I expect to hear nothing but my music. The Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones make that happen by blocking out ambient noise from the outside world. At $49, they're an inexpensive pair of buds that offer solid sound quality that would make them seem pricier. However, the inconvenient over-ear wire design prevents them from being stellar.
The Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones look unassuming at first, but they have small design touches that make them unique. First, the earbud backs are little orbs, rather than torpedolike ovals or flat disks like other traditional earbuds. These orbs are friendly and satisfying to hold, and they also provide a good base for gripping the buds and putting them in your ear.
Immediately noticeable are the upside-down left and right indicators on each earbud. These confused me at first, but then I learned that these buds are meant to be worn upside down, with the cords draping over the backs of your ears.
Attached to the orbs are domelike silicone ear inserts, which are pretty standard. The buds are connected to a thin, black cord that gets slightly thicker when the individual wires from each bud meet in the middle. However, unlike the $59 Sennheiser CX 686G Sport headphones, the SE112s don't have an inline remote on the wire.
The more structured part of the cord kept these buds from tangling because I could wrap the buds around my hand and store them in my bag as a loop. With the CX 686G Sport earbuds, the same attempt would be met with a jumbled, tangled mess.
MORE: Best Headphones
Comfort and Fit
I chose to wear the largest of the three sizes of ear inserts available for the Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones. They felt like suction cups in my ears, turning the noise of passing cars into faint whispers and totally blocking out the stop announcements on my subway ride to work. (I had to be a bit more vigilant than usual.)
Shure suggests wearing cords draped down the backs of your ears, and this is both important and uncomfortable. While the ear inserts fit more securely when worn in the right position, the over-ear cord design is inconvenient. It took me a few tries to successfully drape the wire over my ear and to get it to stay there without tangling in my long hair.
Once they were on my head, I adjusted the fastener that clips the earbud wires together, sliding it up just under my chin so the buds would stay in place. This worked, but I always felt like the wires were coming out of place, thus making the earbuds more likely to fall out. After wearing them for a few commutes to and from work, the backs of my earlobes were sore because the wires pulled down on them.
You can wear the SE112 earphones upside down without having the cords around the backs of your ears, but they won't be as secure. I did just that while listening to music at work, and I was more comfortable, but the buds felt wobbly.
MORE: Best Bluetooth Speakers
The Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones pump out very good sound but could stand for more oomph behind the bass. Ne-Yo's "Let Me Love You" had strong pianos and loud, robust vocals, but the ever-important beat could have been punchier.
These buds excel at bringing vocals front and center. Janelle Monae's funky, fresh, soulful voice was the driving force of "Q.U.E.E.N" featuring Erykah Badu. The track's zippy electronic notes in the background and twang of the guitar melody also came through nicely. Bass had a presence, albeit a soft one.
When I listened to the same track on the Sennheiser CX 686G Sport earbuds, I heard stronger bass, but Monae's vocals didn't shine. I was left wanting more and missing the soul of the track.
The Shure earbuds amplified the vocals on Juanes' "Yerbatero" to the point where I could imagine him singing right next to me. The intro's electric guitar was crisp and vibrant, ushering in the rest of the track, which had strong highs and mids with a demure bass.
With solid audio quality and supersecure ear inserts, the Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones are worthy of the brand's name. However, I'm not a fan of the over-ear construction — it makes the buds time-consuming to put on correctly and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. I prefer the overall design of the $69 Sennheiser CX 686G Sport earbuds. If you don't mind the design, the $49 Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones will keep you plugged into your music and block out the rest of the world for an affordable price.
Follow Valentina Palladino at @valentinalucia. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.