The Shure SE215 is the replacement for the SE210, moving to the over-ear cable design and more organic shape of its big brother, the SE535.
So how does this new kid compare to its popular predecessor and the competition?
Let’s take a closer look
Shure SE215 TL:DR Review
- Rich, strong bass performance
- Well detailed mid-range
- Detachable cable
- Lovely, precise soundstage
- High-end muddy and lacking detail
- Sound is a bit too restrained
Design & Build
Shure have adopted curvy, organic design for their other in-ear headphones. I am not 100% sure (Shure?) I like it and having the cable hooking over my ears was also a little odd. However, this is the style used by many musicians for their in-ear monitors and you can see why as it is very secure once you get used to it.
The replaceable cable is shared across the entire Shure range of in-ears including the range-topping SE535s, so it is very high quality and resists tangling well.
I am always a little wary about replacement cables as the join is a weak point and you should not need to change it unless you break the cable. Since the cable Shure supplies is really well made, with kevlar reinforcement, it begs the question, why bother? To my mind, it just adds a potential point of breakage and expense. Having said that, the joint in this one seems pretty tight so there should not be any issues here.
Moving on to the fit, once you find the right size tips, these buds fit really well, blocking out most outside noise and sealing really well.
There is no microphone as these are designed as in-ear monitors rather than replacement phone earphones.
They come in black or clear, the latter allowing you to see the inner workings, but I found this to be fairly uninspiring – a few wires are not as interesting as seeing the inner workings of a Swiss watch movement, so I went with the black ones.
These buds come with a plethora of tips, so you should be able to find one that fits well. I went with the black memory foam ones, which were very comfortable and blocked out external noise exceptionally well.
The over-ear cables took a little bit of getting used to, I kept putting them in upside down, but they don’t cause any problems once you get used to it. The other advantage of this is that by hooking the cables over your ears it takes the weight off of the seal, so you do not feel the weight pulling them down.
This means that they are comfortable and much more secure – I went running cross country with them and they stayed put really well. They are not listed as being sweat-proof, but I had no issues.
Overall, I found them surprisingly comfortable given my initial skepticism.
There’s a lot to like about the sound of these Shures. Earlier Shures I tried were very clean sounding but lacking warmth and depth. However these 215s are the aural equivalent of getting into a hot bath – warm and enveloping.
The bass and mids are rich and full, with the bass able to give you a good punch when needed. The soundstage also impressed, letting you really get a feel for where the sounds were coming from. Listening to The Ramones “It’s Alive” you could clearly make out that the guitar was to the right and bass to the left and they gave the whole sound a real presence.
Trying other big sounding productions like Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and there is a lovely weight to the sound. The vocals are not lost either, sounding clear and detailed with a nice weight to them. The harmonies are also picked out well, Shure seems to have got this balancing act well sorted.
The issues only arise at the top end, which is a bit subdued. This tends to make these Shures well suited to big production pieces, but I found it lacking excitement with energetic pop like Lorde’s “Green Light”; the adrenaline rush as the chorus kicks in just doesn’t quite lift you as you want.
One thing I would say though is that if you are thinking of buying a pair of Shure’s SE315s, that come with a single armature driver rather than the dynamic driver in these, is to try these out first. I found the sound balance and quality of these 215s preferable and they are quite a bit cheaper.
Overall the sound is pretty good, with a lovely bass and mid, with only the top end stopping me from really singing their praises.
Shure have got the balance of these SE215s pretty much spot on. Most people buying $100 headphones want good sound but are probably not full-on audiophiles.
So the balance of warm, rich sound is a good one. Real audiophiles might find them a bit muffled at the top end and people that like upbeat pop may also find it lacking, but for most, it is a good compromise.
I am not convinced of the need for replaceable cable and would have preferred Shure saved the money, but since they already had the tooling for this (it is shared across the entire range) it probably would not make much difference and differentiates them from the competition.
The looks are also nothing to write home about, but the comfort and security in your ear is very good. The sound isolation particularly impressive with the foam tips in place
Build quality, as you would expect from Shure, is top notch. While the plastic does not have the tactile feel of aluminum, it is very tough and works well.
If it wasn’t for the looks and the slight lack of top-end clarity I would have put them at the top of the list, but the prize for best in-ear headphones under $100 currently goes to the Sennheiser Momentums for the moment.