Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shure SE215 earphone home user review

My listening profile
My listening preference is slight v-shape in music and I don't mind a bit of colorization. I would use EQ to enhance my listening if required.

Short Story
Update (26/11/2017): If you're wondering whether to get the Shure SE215, my advise to check out other IEM (e.g. ATH IM70) because the overall impression on the Shure SE215 is technical, reference, with clarity but lack of bass. EQ doesn't help on improving the bass. Not recommended if you're a casual listener. I have update the article below to bring my impression of this product up-to-date.

Long Story
The price I got my Shure SE215 was reasonable (AUD 107). After having the Shure SE215 for months, in summary, I am very satisfied with the product but reserved recommendation for casual listeners. Below are my findings for this earphone (as always, not much about sound quality description like an audiophile).

Pros
  1. Amazing vocal and detail sound. Music sounds what they should be. I can hear the squeaking sound from the piano which I never heard before (Birdy - Skinny Love) and there is clear instrument separation in the music. SE215 picks up some extra detail which I never heard before. Simply amazing.
  2. Build quality and style is very good. Cable is chunky and able to take a beating. The Y splitter feels durable and not easy to break. The earphone housing is made of translucent plastic, which looks cool on the ear but not too catchy. Believe me, I got a few eyes turning my way because of the Shure.
  3. Good in-ear comfort. I only have minor ear irritation after an hour of listening.I used the comply foam tips at first but they suck some of the clarity out of my listening. I recommend use the silicon ear tips which they are more durable and last longer.
  4. Great noise isolation allows listening at low volume. Outside noise is reduced a lot more than my stock earphone and this helps a lot on low volume listening experience. After months of listening on public transport (noisy morning trains and buses), the isolation work so well that I love the Shure on the isolation more than its sound quality (check the cons below). Absurd, yes.
  5. No sound equalizer(EQ) is required. There is enough vocal and detail. In general, (vocal, instrumental, pop, rock) it works alright without equalization. However, bass does not response to EQ which will be address in con section.
  6. A small zip lock pouch and different size of ear tips included. Great for keeping the earphone in a case for travel and different ear tips (soft foam and silicon) for small to large ears.
  7. More "air" to your listening. Maybe it's the clear music instrument separation that makes a feel of space/air but it's not like listening in a hall with a stage. However, I have been listening to generic earphone and headphone for years where music felt close to my ears (and I enjoy it), the new sensation feels kinda weird at first.
  8. Cable length (~162cm / 62" inch) long enough to connect music player in a backpack and it's replaceable. I put this as a pro as I usually connect the Shure to my tablet and then, I throw it into my backpack. I find it very handy because of the long cable. However, for those who listen from smartphone/portable player, the cable might be too long for some. For me, it's always better to have a long cable rather than a short one. Besides that, if the cable wore out, it can be replaced especially for those who are not willing to spend more to replace the earphone.
Cons
  1. Putting on/taking off the earphone is tricky. Because the earphone is designed for the cable to hang over the ears and putting/taking them on/off takes a little more effort. Furthermore, getting the tip to play nicely with the ears might take a while to get them right. For those who impatient or frequently taking on/off their due to environment (e.g. workplace) might be better off with a headphone or earbud (e.g. iPhone Earbud).
  2. No microphone and buttons for accepting calls. However, the cable can be changed with the microphone cable accessories from Shure but that's going to cost another AUD 70. I will wait for the stock cable to wear out before upgrading the cable. Furthermore, the cable length is a bit long (162cm) but manageable for portable use.
  3. 3.5 mm plug does not fit well with phone protective case. The plug is chunky and I carved out a bit on my phone silicon case just to make way for the plug to attach perfectly to the phone. Problem solved. However, for people who have a hard plastic phone case, it might be a problem.
  4. Lack of Bass (potential deal breaker). I have the Koss Portapro and a stock earphone SonyEricsson which has booming bass. Shure SE215 does have bass (solid) but it was not much of a feel (no boom, maybe more burn-in required but from internet sources, there is not much of a difference in sound change after burn-in for more than 100 hours.). Anyway, without the booming bass, the sound becomes very detail and bass sounded far behind the stage. For those who like bass guitar/drum in certain songs, this will be a deal breaker. On top of that, EQ doesn't help on tuning the bass thus leads to a conclusion that it's a hardware/physical design that can't be fixed using EQ, which is a letdown.
  5. Price is a bit high for casual listeners. AUD 107 is a bit steep in my opinion. I would expect the budget for home listeners would be around AUD 50 - 80 for a good quality earphone. However, for greater isolation (especially for train commuter) and detail sound, I find it's worth it but won't recommend to listeners on a very tight budget.
Finally, I would recommend Shure SE215 for people who hear their music in high-quality format (e.g. Flac, Ape) and would like to take a step forward on the music listening experience (Not so great for Basshead, but for vocal, instrumental and jazz, the sound is amazing). Furthermore, they are made for travel and high noise isolation especially public commuters (Highly highly recommended for people who take the noisy morning trains/buses because the Shure isolate noise very well!). Stock earphone and Koss Portapro are fun to listen to with their booming bass but Shure SE215 brings out the extra detail of the music. Recommended for people enjoys more detail than bass and looking very high isolation earphone.

Other similar priced earphone to consider:
ATH IM70Chinese brand product (XiaoMi, Hifiman, KZ, VSonic etc)

Update 29/06/14: After abusing the Shure for more than a year (I use it almost every day traveling to work and back) and happy to report that this earphone is still going strong. I found some articles reported that there is some issue with the cable connector that caused silent to one earpiece. What I did was pull out the cable from the earpiece and give it a wipe (exterior metal plate only) with a dry tissue. It seems that there is dirt trapped on the connector that blocking up the metal conductor and hence silent the sound. After that, it doesn't happen again.