Review: Shure SE215 In ear Sound Isolating headphones

Let me start by saying that I have always been impressed with Shure headphones. For many years my standard travel companions have been a pair of aging Shure Ear Phones. These were the top of the range when I got them and have served me very well. Recently Shure offered me the chance to test some of their new range starting with the Shure SE215 which have a street price of £89 (UK pounds). These are just above the bottom model  SE115’s in Shure’s  range.

These are sound isolation rather than noise reduction which means instead of using clever electronics to filter and reduce external noise they instead fit securely into your ear to prevent extraneous sounds. They do this by providing multiple replaceable earpieces one of which should be a good fit for your ear.

Out of the box

Opening the packaging you immediately get a feel of quality. The Kevlar armoured, yes I did say Kevlar, and detachable cable looks like it would last a lifetime. These are the same cables as supplied with Shure’s higher end SE315 phones and whilst they are a little more rigid than you would get with your run of the mill earphone I didn’t find that an issue. They are attached to the phones by a very clever mechanism that allows the earpiece to freely rotate. Being detachable they are also easy to replace and Shure even offer a cable with a microphone for phone use as an accessory.imageErphones Sleeves mitgeliefert mit SE115, SE115m und SE115m+

Images from Shure

Inside the box are the selection of earpieces I found the midsized flexible earpieces  were the most comfortable for me to use and provided excellent noise isolation.

I was able to give the isolation a real test last week as I was staying in a hotel with minimal sound insulation that was sited between two very busy clubs with clients who spilled  out onto the streets with noisy regularity. The SE215’s survived this test extremely well. Fairing indeed much better than my original Shure’s. As I could not see much difference at all between the earpieces provided for both, I would have to put this down to how snugly the whole of the new earphones fit.

The 215’s are designed to tuck very neatly into the outer ear and do not protrude. This means it is quite comfortable to have the earphones in your ears whilst laying your head on a pillow.

 

How does it sound

To give some basis to what is often a subjective opinion I’ve started by showing the specification for the SE215’s from Shure’s site. For comparison I’ve also shown the specification of the lower end SE115’s and the higher end SE315’s

SE215

SE215k Black Sound Isolating Earphones

RRP: £ 99.95

Speaker type:

Single Dynamic MicroDriver

 

SE115

RRP: £ 102.17

Speaker type:

Dynamic MicroSpeaker II

 

SE315

SE315 Sound Isolating Earphones

RRP: £ 189.99

Speaker type:

Single High-Definition MicroDriver with Tuned BassPort

 

Sensitivity (1 kHz):

107

Impedance:

20

Frequency range:

22 Hz – 17,5 kHz

Cable length:

162

 

Colour:

clear, black

Sensitivity (1 kHz):

105

Impedance:

16

Frequency range:

22 Hz – 17,5 kHz

Cable length:

45

 

Colour:

black, blue, red, pink

Sensitivity (1 kHz):

116

Impedance:

27

Frequency range:

22 Hz – 18,5 kHz

Cable length:

162

 

Colour:

clear, black

Whilst the specification of the SE115’s seem similar to the SE215’s, the SE215 is a significantly different beast.

Just to balance the review I gave the SE115’s a listen at a local store. Whilst this is never a good environment to listen in I could immediately hear distinct differences.  

Audio reviews always tend to be a little subjective but to my ears the SE215’s just seemed so much more controlled than the SE115’s with a taut base and dynamic mid range.  Over a longer listen it became clear that dynamics were really good and Shure’s Microdriver seems to be really responsive to changes.

In fact in terms of bass and midrange the SE215’s were as good if not better than many a £200 plus pair I have listened to. Where I did feel there was a slight weakness was in the high frequency area. Whilst still exceptionally good compared to, for example the standard iPhone headphones, there was a little less control and a slight lack of definition compared to really  high-end headphones. With the frequency range topping out at 17.5kHz this is only to be expected.

Having said that I would have to also say that the overall listening experience is very good and exceptional for the price. It is certainly on a par and in many ways – particular in the  low frequency clarity – better than the pair I have carried around for years which cost an awful lot more for.

Shure really have a winner on their hands here and I really don’t want to send the review pair back.

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