Shure SE215 Review

71


Reviewed Aug 2011

Details: Shure’s mid-range dynamic-driver earphone, featuring the same detachable cable system as the rest of the new lineup
MSRP: $99.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $99 from amazon.com; $50 more for Shure CBL-M+-K mic/remote accessory
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 20Ω | Sens: 107 dB | Freq: 22-17.5k Hz | Cable: 5.3’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Shure gray flex, Shure Olives
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Olive foam tips (3 sizes), cleaning tool, and soft clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4.5/5) – The design and build of the SE215 mimic Shure’s newly-redesigned flagship SE535. The plastic housings are complimented by a beefy detachable cable with a locking and swiveling connector
Isolation (4/5) – As with most ergo-fit monitors, the SE215 isolates a lot with the included Olive and flex sleeves and even more with aftermarket triple-flanges
Microphonics (4.5/5) – The SE215 can only be worn cable-up and microphonics are nearly nonexistent
Comfort (3.5/5) – While the SE215 is ergonomically-designed, fairly small, and quite lightweight, it suffers from the same issue as the SE535 to an even larger degree – the cable connectors are big, bulky, and angled too far forward for my liking and the memory helps make the earphones more difficult to position comfortably. I’m sure they will be comfortable for many but I find the fit awkward compared to the similarly-shaped Westone monitors

Sound (8/10) – Up until a recent month-long trial of the SE530 and SE535, my experience with Shure’s earphones was limited to the old SE115, E3, and E4C models, every single of one of which failed to impress when the time came to gauge sound quality against asking price. Shure’s aging mid-range models simply weren’t keeping up with products from many of the smaller Hi-Fi brands so well-liked around Head-Fi. With the dynamic microdriver used in the SE215, however, things are different – Shure has seemingly decided to attack the competition head-on. Of course, the engineers realized that the $100 SE215 is likely also going to be the model most popular in consumer-oriented retail environments and gave it an impressively consumer-friendly sound signature to boot.

Clearly emphasized over ‘flat’, the bass of the SE215 is powerful and carries good depth and detail. The older mid-range Shure models I’ve tried all yield to the SE215 in bass quantity and impact. Impact is plentiful on the whole, though the SE215 is not quite a bass monster. Compared to the Spider Realvoice, for example, the low end of the SE215 is a touch punchier and more detailed but less lush-sounding and liquid. The bass is quite well-controlled compared to bass-heavy competitors such as the Xears TD-III but sounds a bit flabby and slow next to more hi-fi sets such as the VSonic GR07 and Sunrise Xcape v1.

The midrange of the SE215 is slightly warm and a little dry. It is balanced well enough with the bass, avoiding the mid-forward presentation of Shure’s flagships. Compared to the Xears TD-III and N3i, too, the midrange of the SE215 lacks a bit of authority and forwardness. On the whole, it sounds smooth, textured, and detailed – definitely a strong suit of the earphone. The SE215 surpasses the Spider Realvoice in detail and can be compared favorably to the MEElec CC51, with the Shures coming across slightly thicker and less fluid and the CC51s sounding cleaner and crisper, but not as warm or fleshed-out. The upper midrange of the Shures reveals a bit of grain but nothing distracting or even unpleasant. Really, aside from the balance, the biggest concession of the SE215 to the top-tier SE535 is a complete lack of the open feel of the latter.

The lower treble of the SE215 is plentiful but the earphone rolls off slightly at the very top and runs out of steam even earlier than that – lack of upper-end resolution and refinement is slightly more noticeable than with the old SE530. Like the SE530, the SE215 lacks a bit of energy and sparkle and can sound dull with some material. What’s there, however, is clean and inoffensive, though the SE215 does lose more resolution still as things get busy. Sibilance and harshness are usually left out of the equation but the signature of the SE215 does seem to encourage higher-volume listening in order to extract all of the detail the earphones have to offer – a problem I don’t have with the similarly-priced HiFiMan and Sunrise in-ears.

The presentation of the SE215 is pleasant – reasonably wide and with a good overall sense of distance, space, and position. There is less depth and height to the stage than with the Spider Realvoice or Xears N3i but the presentation is generally good. The only real limiting factor is a perceived lack of air resulting from the laid-back treble and the subsequently underwhelming imaging. Still, instrument separation is decent and it is doubtful many will be disappointed with the presentation considering the price of the earphones.

Value (9/10) – Highly isolating for a dynamic-driver set and boasting a smooth and detailed sound signature with an emphasis on bass and mids, the Shure SE215 is poised to be a high-value in the consumer market. However, there are a few issues aside from the dullness of the signature that may make potential buyers wary. One is the unusually high defect rate with early-batch units – Shure doesn’t seem to have all of the bugs of the cable connectors worked out quite yet although complaints about the higher-end SE535, which uses the same connectors, seem far less common. The other caveat has to do with the ergonomics – the stiff memory wire and bulky connectors can get in the way of achieving the perfect fit. Anyone willing to look past these potential issues will be rewarded by a surprisingly competent brand-name earphone at a price that’s almost too reasonable.

Pros: High isolation, solid sound quality with consumer-friendly signature
Cons: Detachable cable can be unwieldy and may be uncomfortable for some users


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

71 Comments

  1. Jasmin on

    Hi!
    I’m looking to get some iem to use when playing acoustic guitar with my church’s worship group but I’m not quite sure which to get. The reason I’m looking to get some is because we’ve been having some trouble with my Taylor 114ce giving feedback. First of all would iem even help with this problem? Since I’m just getting started I don’t want to spend over $100. Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      I’m not sure about those kinds of specifics – I don’t have enough experience with pro/stage gear.

      The SE215 is the best purpose-made stage monitor I’ve tried under $100, but there’s also the MEE M6 PRO which I haven’t tried (but which gets very good feedback). Since you’re just looking to try IEMs out at this point, you might be better off with the $50 M6.

  2. Moys on

    Hello, I’m about to buy a Fiio x1 and I’m unsure if I should get the Shure SE215 or the Yamaha EPH-100 for it.

    I mostly listen to classical or vocals, I want a good isolation and soundstage.

    I won’t really use it for outside much, I actually went to IEMs at first so I can sleep with music because my AKG-702 doesn’t allow that. The shape of the SE215 got me interested because it seems like i can sleep on a side easily with it. Also the cable can be changed if there is a accident.

    But the Yamaha EPH-100 seems really nice too for my tastes and maybe it’s sturdy and comfortable enough to sleep with. ( also a lot cheaper )

    Could you please help me choosing between the two?

    • Moys on

      I’m actually getting a Fiio x3 II instead and I’m rather thinking of getting a RHA MA750. I overlooked it because I thought that it would stick out of my ears, but the thing is actually pretty small and fits right into it.

      So now I’m even more confused in what I should pick. Comfort-wise, which is the best ? For sleeping?

      • ljokerl on

        I think you’ve summed it up pretty well already – the SE215 has a nice form factor and detachable cable, so if that’s what’s most important it’s the one to buy. However, its sound is easily outclassed by the EPH-100 or MA750, which are a tier higher in performance.

        I also think the SE215 is not ideal for sleeping because its housing creates pressure points. The tiny EPH-100 is better. The Klipsch X10/X11/X12 are even better for this because they are even smaller. If you look around you can often find one of them under $100. They sound better than SE215 but worse than EPH-100/MA750 and just can’t be beat for compact size/comfort.

        • Moys on

          Thanks for the reply!

          Well my purchase was at first about getting a nice setup to sleep with nice music, for not too much ( fiio x1 + around 100$ iems ) and now i’m about to get a second “audiophile” setup that actually outclasses the one I have right now. So the sleeping part doesn’t matter as much anymore, I just want it to be sturdy and comfortable.

          SInce i’m going for the Fiio x3 II I thought about getting something even better, and I came across a new product from rha which seems to me like an upgrade of the MA750 for not too much: https://www.rha-audio.com/us/products/cl750

          Have you heard about it? The x3 should be able to power them properly and it seems even more durable than before. I don’t really understand what the upgrade is about and maybe it’s not worth the price, but I can see that it’s newer of a few years and there is the higher impedence thing, does that add a lot to what these iems do?

          • ljokerl on

            No, I haven’t heard this new model. Higher impedance doesn’t really tell you much about the sound, though, other than that it will be quieter (all other things equal) than the MA750 at the same output volume level.

            • Moys on

              Well I’ll watch out for the reviews that should come up soon, I’ll most likely either take the ma750 or the cl750, thanks for helping me.

  3. Alex on

    Hey Joker. What are your thoughts on the Shure SE215s vs the ATH0E40s?

    • Alex on

      ATH-E40s*

      • ljokerl on

        The E40 is pretty new, I haven’t tried it yet. Just posted an InnerFidelity review of one of Audio-Technica’s previous-gen IEM releases, so i guess I’m a bit behind the times.

  4. JW on

    Hey Joker, I was wondering if you could do a comparison between the Shures SE215 and the JVC FXT90. I’m looking for an upgrade from the SE215s with higher sound quality while having some noise cancellation. I listen to mainly EDM, house, and some indie and pop, so a variety of genres. My budget’s around $200. Thank you very much.

    • JW on

      Isolation*

      • ljokerl on

        The biggest difference is going to be in the midrange and treble – the SE215 has fairly prominent mids and gradually rolls off its treble. The FXT90 has less prominent mids relative to its highs and lows, and its treble is a lot more prominent and energetic. Compared to the SE215, it sounds pretty bright – closer to the opposite end of the treble spectrum. The I tend to think the FXT90 sound signature is better for EDM, house, etc, but the takeaway should be that it’s a very different sound tuning. FXT90 also doesn’t quite measure up to Shure in noise isolation.

        If you want a ~$100 IEM that has more in common with the Shures in terms of sound signature but with on a higher performance tier, works very well with EDM, and has excellent isolation, I don’t think it gets any better than the Yamaha EPH-100.

  5. armavet on

    Hi Joker,

    I’m looking for IEM for live concert playing as a musician. So I need a quite good isolation at least in your scale 3-3,5. And they should be comfortable and stay in ear all the time. I have Xiaomi Pistons 3 but they are not isolating enough and also Sony MH1 – they have superb sound but not so comfortable, they are falling easily from ear.

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Can’t really beat a proper musician’s IEM for that kind of use – earphones like this SE215 are designed to isolate well and stay in place securely in a live setting. It also has sound more similar to the MH1 (though not quite as good) than the Pistons, so it seems to be a decent fit in terms of tuning for you.

      You don’t have a lot of other options for this sort of thing under $150 – there’s the MEE M6 PRO but I don’t know what it sounds like and it most likely isolates less than these Shures since it’s based on their old M6 sport model, which I do have. There’s also the Westone 10 which is supremely comfortable but which I don’t recommend otherwise due to its cost and the sound being no better than the SE215, just different in tuning.

  6. niel on

    Hi Joker,

    I am currently thinking to buy a new earphone and my choices are Shure SE215 or RHA T10i ? Which one is the better one ? Thanks

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t really like the T10 and only recommend it for listeners who are concerned primarily with bass quantity (i.e. getting as much bass as possible out of their earphones). The SE215 is no slouch when it comes to bass, but compared to the T10 it’s pretty well-balanced.

      • niel on

        Thanks Joker, i am gonna give it a go

  7. Maxine on

    Hi joker, thanks for the great review.

    I am currently using Ety Hf5 and Bose QC20 for daily use. As you can tell, isolation is quite important to me – I am on the subway and train quite often and external noise is major concern for me. I am using it mostly on my smartphone for movies.

    – I love the isolation on the HF5 but the tips can be uncomfortable after extended usage and the cords have actually started to fall apart. Mic location is perfect.
    – The QC20 is super comfortable but SQ is average at best (sometimes I have trouble hearing dialogue on movies). And the little battery unit makes it a little troublesome to carry. Mic is placed too low, and I have to pull it up when speaking.

    With isolation and movies (dialogue) being key criteria, would the SE215 be good enough? I am willing to spend up to $500 if there are better options. I would also like the option of having a mic for calls.

    • ljokerl on

      The SE215 will have a little less isolation and a slightly less suitable sound for what you want than the HF5. Normally I’d say get an HF3 with either foam or custom eartips for this (you may even be able to trade in your current unit with Etymotic).

      However, if you are trying to stay away from Etys for your new set you can check out the HiFiMan RE-400i (similar isolation to the SE215, not as durable, but more balanced sound) or go for the SE215 (not as good as the HF5/HF3 in sound but may still sound better than the QC20) or a higher-end Shure. The Shure models tend to get more balanced and clear as you go up in the model range. SE535 might be overkill but the SE425 should be okay value. I’d still go for HF3 personally, but there’s no bad options here.

      • Maxine on

        Thanks joker. I do want to try something different to the Etys, so maybe I will give the SE215 a go.

  8. Gerard on

    Hi!

    I am looking for a new set of IEM. I am a happy owner of the Monster Turbine (basic version) but the cable is half broken in the Y junction and as I also use them for commuting I am afraid they will break sooner than later. I like the way they sound. They are fun to listen at.

    I use them with either an iPhone 4 (hoping to upgrade) or an iPod Nano 7th Gen or a laptop (PC&Mac) and I listen to mp3 (192 – 320) and Spotify at work.

    I am looking for a good isolation (I work on an open plan office and sometimes the chatter is quite loud) and good fit so I can wear it long periods of time.

    Do you think that the SE215 is a good option for me? If not, could you give me some advice?

    My budget is limited to 125€ (about 140$).

    Thank you for your great web!

    Gerard.

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, the SE215 is very good due to its combination of high isolation and a sound that won’t seem overly bass-light coming from the Turbine. Most other highly-isolating earphones have more balanced sound (i.e. less bass). The other notable exception is the Yamaha EPH-100, but it might be a bit hard to find in that price range. Still worth a look to see if you can find one. It’s also very fun-sounding, more so than the SE215.

      • Gerard on

        Hi!

        Thank you very much for your advice. I have found the EPH-100 at 66€ in an online store so I have already ordered them!

        I will let you know my experience with them as soon as possible. By the way, with the Monsters, I use Comply foams. Do you recommend me to use them also with the Yamahas or the stock tips are fine?

        Thank you very much!

        Gerard

        • ljokerl on

          That’s a good price!

          I can’t remember if any Complys fit on the EPH-100 but you can certainly check the T-400s from your Turbines. The stock eartips of the Yamahas may take a bit of getting used to but they are good tips, I was fine with them.

          • Gerard on

            Hi!

            Sorry for not getting back sooner. I must say this iems are awesome! Thank you very much for your advice.

            Regarding the tips, the Complys I had (TX-400) did not work but I found ones on eBay that fit perfectly. I have to admit that I could not get use to the stock tips.

            Thank you for everything!

            Gerard.

  9. Andries on

    Currently I have the Shure SE215, in general I am pleased with the sound but I dislike the concept of replacable cables. Each time I move my head or if the cables get moved I lose the connection between earpiece and cable, when i readjust the cable or earpiece the music returns.

    Only since I got myself a Beyerdynamic DT-990 as well, the Shure’s sound feels a bit boring and dark. I really like the clarity, detail and space in the sound of the Beyers and I am wondering if you could recommend a set of in-ears which have (in general) the same soundstage of the Beyers. My budget is around 100 – 150 euros.

    • ljokerl on

      To be fair that first issue sounds like a defect with the unit – if I remember correctly that problem was relatively common when the SE215 first came out but was solved in later batches. Newer units don’t seem to be susceptible.

      SE215s sound dull and a bit dark compared to most full-size Beyers, though – not much you can do about that. Full-size can soundstage is going to be tough with in-ears as well but with that budget you can get something that’s at the very least a lot more energetic and balanced than an SE215, especially if you’re willing to give up some bass impact and some of that laid-back smoothness of the Shures. The best compromise, I think, would be a GR07 Bass Edition (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/vsonic-gr07-bass-edition/) or a Philips Fidelio S2 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/philips-fidelio-s2-in-ear-earphone-review-2/). Both are more balanced than the SE215, sound very clear, and are quite spacious for in-ears.

      On the budget end of things (but still better than SE215 in my opinion) would be the $60 Ostry KC06: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . They’re not perfect but they are very fun earphones with a bright, crisp sound and surprisingly wide soundstage.

      • Andries on

        Thank you for your suggestions!

        I noticed that the Philips Fidelio’s have inline controls and use a 3 pole connector instead of the usual 2 pole stereo connector. I assume this will affect the sound when used on a regular mp3 player like the Sansa Clip+ (because the Sansa expects a stereo connector only)?

        Although the GR07 is hard to come by in the Netherlands I see it as a valid option to buy, but if I increased my budget would I be able to get a significant upgrade in performance compared to the Fidelio and the GR07?

        • ljokerl on

          This is the case with some devices (a minority) but the Clip+ happily accepts headset connectors – the mic/remote lead just ends up connecting to ground and the earphone functions as it should.

          See here for my thoughts on upgrading from the GR07: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone-list/#comment-118358 . Short answer, it’s not easy at all. I ended up recommending the FLC Technologies FLC 8, which runs about $350.

          • Andries on

            Although the FLC 8 looks very tempting, it stretches the budget too much for my liking. I shall go for the GR07 🙂

            Thanks for the advice and above all thanks for going through all the work of reviewing hundreds of IEM’s and creating this website. I am sure I will use in the future when I go onwards in my path to the much to expensive custom in-ears!

          • ljokerl on

            Good choice – GR07s are solid and have been one of my go-to sets since 2011. Enjoy!

  10. jokerthebest on

    Hi joker,

    I’ve tried the Etymotic MC5 headphones, becouse I wanted to buy them. But for me they lack bass. Then I these Shure 215 with foam earplugs and I think sound of these was good. Not so much bassy as Klipsch, but also not as much flat as Ety. Would you recommend me some other IEMs with sound similar to SE215 in this price range? Thanks a lot

    • jokerthebest on

      Sennheiser Momentum In-ear? Maybe?

      • ljokerl on

        The Momentum is good in terms of the bass quantity but coming from the SE215 it’ll have less mids and more treble than you’re used to. A somewhat similar-sounding option but with a better compromise in terms of sound tuning is the newer Alpha & Delta AD01: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/ . That’s the one I’d go for but there’s some other good options: Sony MH1C (if you can deal with the flat j-cable), RHA MA750 if you go up a little in price and don’t mind a more relaxed and smooth sound, and JVC HA-FXT90 if you’d prefer things more bright and energetic.

        • Headphone Jedi on

          I didn’t like the Momentum iem, the bass was very good, but the overall presentation didn’t sound natural, the midrange was sucked in, vocals were hazy, just a bad purchase. I had a Shure SE 210 (thin sounding), and an SE530 (it broke), and I swore off Shures for a while.

          Bought the SE 215 for $79 last week, and they are right in my wheelhouse, I love the rich sound. I give it a little treble boost when listening to classical, but otherwise I liked it right out-of-the-box

  11. jack on

    Hey Joker,

    I am using ATHM50’s and I wanted to get a good pair of IEM’s for travelling and everyday usage.
    Music Preference: Rock/Jazz/Edm/Instrumental/Metal
    After researching for a week in the audiophile communities and forums, I’ve narrowed it down to Shure 215’s(Limited Edition) and RHA MA750. I love the negative profiling of the Shure’s for sleeping on with them. On the other hand RHA’s offer better SQ and all around experience(from what I’ve read) and few people who own both recommended MA 750’s over 215’s.
    I am from India and the 215LTD (125$) MA750(140$). Brands like westone/vsonics/Hifiman are not available in India. So my choice is either the 750 or 215LTD. I am leaning towards the 215Ltd because of the design but in the end SQ matters the most.

    P.S I totally love my M50’s SQ.

    • ljokerl on

      This is a tough one as there’s pros and cons to each and neither is an amazing match for the M50 sound.

      As you said ultimately SQ matters most, and coming from the M50 I guess I would be most worried about the treble of the SE215. It’s a little dull/rolled-off to begin with, and if you’re used to the M50 that will all be accentuated and likely very noticeable.

      While the MA750 is not a paragon of accuracy or clarity by any means and not something I usually recommend as an M50 alternative, it does have a little more energy in the upper mids and treble so at least that part won’t leave you wanting. Would say it’s the safer choice as a result.

      • jack on

        Well! I am going with M750.

        Thanks Joker.

  12. DJ Everest on

    Dear Joker,
    I am looking for an upgrade to the shure se215’s. I’m not looking for a “direct” upgrade since I want a somewhat near balanced to balanced sound signature. Enhanced bass is what I am most flexible towards when it comes to an imbalance in signature. Based on your explanations of how extra bass tends to take away from low-mids/clarity (compared to complete balance), my price range probly requires IEMS with less bass than the se215’s.
    After tons of research I’ve narrowed it to Thinksound MS01, ATH IM70, GR07BE, ATH CK90 Pro, Rock it R-50M, Brainwavz S5, & ATH-IMO1
    Thats a lot! But please suggest which one/ones will overall have the best sound quality for me. I can probably order 3 to try out.
    Priorities of use: 1. Producing & enjoying electronic music. 2. Gym (though I’d rather not take +$100 IEM’s to the gym due to durability concerns :P).
    Thanks so much for the help. -Everett

    • DJ Everest on

      My price range is $100-160/200-full value. I’ve also read the reviews for the headphones you’ve done one on.

      • ljokerl on

        Going through your list real quick:

        MS01 – not balanced to the level of a reference earphone, and not really a step up from the SE215
        ATH-CK90 PRO – discontinued
        Rock-It R-50 – a little bright without modification, IMO too much of a change from the somewhat laid-back highs of the SE215
        ATH-IM70/IM01 – no idea, haven’t tried these
        Brainwavz S5 – not balanced at all. Probably worse than SE215 in this regard.

        That just leaves the GR07BE (or the less bassy GR07 Classic), which are always a good choice in my book. They sound good with electronic music, for balanced earphones.

        My usual recommendations for balanced sound in this price range in addition to the VSonics:

        Etymotic HF5
        TDK BA200 (discontinued, but there’s still some floating around)
        Philips Fidelio S2
        HiFiMan RE-400
        Brainwavz R3
        Sony MDR-EX600

        I consider all of these to be an upgrade from the SE215 heading in a more neutral direction. The Fidelio S2, RE-400, R3, and BA200 are a little warmer than neutral (the S2 has slightly enhanced bass a-la GR07 Bass Edition, the rest just have a slight warm tilt due to their smooth/relaxed treble). The HF5 and EX600 are a little more neutral, but perhaps too much so coming from the SE215.

        If you want to maintain a bit of enhanced bass, Fidelio S2 or GR07 BE will both do fine.

        P.S. I would get an inexpensive/disposable set to use at the gym, or at least something designed to be sweat-resistant. The meelec M6 is a good option for this: http://amzn.to/1Fn7Iso

  13. Adam on

    I’m currently looking to replace my se420s, and would like to spend under $100. I listen to almost exclusively jazz, and all of my files are FLAC/320kbps. I am really aiming for some earbuds that are durable to carry around for on the go use, since I’d rather not bring my dt770s everywhere I go. These seem to fit the bill perfectly (even though they’re a slight step down in sound quality from something like the RE-400s), and I love Shure’s reliability and costumer service. Is there anything else that compares?

    • ljokerl on

      In this price range it doesn’t get much more durable than these if you also want to maintain decent sound quality, especially if you want the customer service of a “western” brand. The closest alternative is probably the Etymotic Research MC5, but that has a much more flat/neutral sound than the SE215 and the cables are not detachable. I wouldn’t recommend it unless it is closer to your preferred sound tuning than the SE215.

  14. Daniel on

    Hey,

    I’m looking for new IEMs because the cable of my HiSound Audio Crystals, which I quite like (thank you!), is beginning to fail, price range up to 125$/€ I guess.

    Seeing how cable failure has happened to most of my previous IEMs, I entertained the idea of buying a pair of IEMs with replaceable cables and was pretty set on the SE215. I’m not very keen on wearing IEMs over the ear, but other than that, having high isolation and a sound profile that’s not too transparent, they seem to suit me well, at least on paper.

    But, I just saw that the replacement cables cost around 55$/€, so slightly more than half of the cost of the SE215 themselves.

    For the higher end Shure IEMs this seems better than nothing, but, is it really worth buying the SE215 because you can replace the cable?

    I assume there are no similarly priced good IEMs with replaceable cables?

    Should I just buy another pair of the Crystals?

    Last question: in the photo of the Crystals you reviewed, they’re gray; on the linked store pages, it says »NEW Crystal« and the mid part is coppery instead. Do you know if there are any major changes?

    • ljokerl on

      The whole detachable vs non-detachable thing has been subject to much debate. It’s hard to say at what point detachable cables are “worth it” – they also lock you into using the same IEM for a while, and eventually something else will fail so it’s not like you can use them forever even if you wanted to. But, there’s definitely some pros to this as well – namely the ability to have a replacement cable on-hand.

      Because the Shures use standard MMCX connectors for their cables you can actually go aftermarket and get replacements cheaper, for example on ebay: http://ebay.to/1FtF3Ub .

      There are other detachable-cable earphones in this price range, but the trick is finding ones that have replacement cables readily available so as not to defeat the purpose. This rules out VSonic’s detachable-cable models, for instance.

      The Onkyo IE-HF300 might be a good option. It has standard MMCX cables, and as bonus is also worn cable-down. These never got very popular, and they certainly aren’t amazing for $130 (with sound quality about on-par with these Shures). However, I feel that they’ve actually gotten worse reviews than they deserve partly because much of Onkyo’s core customer base that bought them early on consisted of first-time IEM users and/or just wasn’t a great fit for IEMs in general.

      As with the Shures, you’ll want to go to ebay for replacement cables. Onkyo ones were pricy last I checked.

      Regarding the Crystals – I’ve actually had two pairs and I believe they were different colors as you’re describing (a brownish color vs a gray/gunmetal one). The only other difference was the plug (L-shaped vs I-shaped). Nothing else, far as I could tell.

      • Daniel on

        Thank you for your answers.

        Maybe it’s just psychological. It just feels a bit …wrong to throw away a pair of headphones that is still working perfectly fine aside from the cable, which should be the cheapest part of any pair of headphones.

        (Maybe I’m not keeping them as carefully as possible, but the only IEMs I remember having where one of the drivers (?) broke instead of the cables were my Westone UM1, so at this point I’m seeing replaceable cables as a measure prolonging the life of IEMs.)

        Where I live the Onkyo cost about the same as the Shure (though I’m tending towards the Shure). How is their tip compatibility? I like my triple flanges.

        • ljokerl on

          The Shures have a thinner nozzle more commonly associated with BA earphones, so it will take tips from brands like Etymotic, Westone, and so on. The Onkyo has a more conventional larger nozzle.

          If you want to use those typical small triples like on your UM1, the Shures are a better choice.

          • Daniel on

            Thank you again for your answers 🙂

  15. Josh on

    Hey joker,
    I recently purchased the se215 but I find that I still prefer my Apple EarPods sounds to the shures! Is that normal? And I am currently looking at the GR07 is it worth it to drop that little extra for it? If you recommend it I am going to return the se215

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a very complicated question to answer, especially without knowing exactly why the EarPods appeal to you more than the SE215. The EarPods are good earphones and the overall quality difference between them and the SE215 isn’t that big except in the bass region, where the EarPods lose sub-bass response quite severely. Many of factors go into just how much of a difference you will hear with your headphone upgrade. I’ll quote a list from a previous post of mine:

      “-your ears – while everyone can be trained to be a discerning listener, it really varies by individual how hard (if at all) you have to work at it
      -starting point – if you’re “upgrading” from a set of very bad headphones you will obviously be more impressed with a higher-end set than someone coming from an Apple EarPod, which is pretty good, or from a Sony Xperia MH1C, which is excellent
      -getting the right sound signature match – this is something not everyone gets right with their first upgrade, but with more experience you can figure out the best sonic fit for you. Upgrading from a bad headphone that is a good match for your preferences to a higher-end one with a sound signature that you just don’t like is not the way to be impressed
      -expectations – a lot of time audiophile publications set the expectations higher than they perhaps should be. This is not intentional, but rather a result of more experienced audiophiles being used to minute differences/improvements in audio performance (see also “diminishing returns”)”

      I will add that in this particular case you’re also going from an earbud to an IEM, which introduces some complexities with fit/seal and also provides a slightly different sound experience just by virtue of form factor (sealed canal, occlusion effect, etc). I also responded to a somewhat similar question here: http://theheadphonelist.com/holiday-buyers-guide-best-earphones-under-50/#comment-20003 so you’re definitely not alone.

      Anyway, it’s your call on whether you want to go off the deep end and spend $100 on a GR07 Classic, which is both technically better and tuned differently to the SE215. An alternative if you want to persevere with in-ears is to try a good $50-60 with a different sound signature from the SE215 – something like an Ostry KC06 or VSonic VSD3S. That should be enough to tell you whether your issue with the SE215 was sound signature-related or not.

  16. Dan on

    Hello ljokerl, I have Sony MH1C right now, sound is alright but I can’t stand the cable anymore. It’s very uncomfortable and drives me nuts. Soo.. Im searching for better ones right know. I’m electronic music lover, especially deep-house and sometimes Ambient/Chillout e.g. “Aphex Twin – Xtal”, so I guess sub-bass is really important thing to me. Would Shure SE215 be a great update from Sony? On comfortableness side Im sure it is, but what about sound? Would it be a huge improvement? Or maybe you have to offer something else ?

    Thanks for help! *Waiting for reply and refreshing the page every minute* 🙂
    Sorry for bad English.

    • ljokerl on

      SE215 is more of a sidegrade – what you’re getting with the Shures is better fit/durability/convenience, but not so much better sound. It does solve your cable issue, though. That’s the thing with the MH1C – it sounds good enough that it’s really, really difficult to upgrade from without spending tons more or moving to a different sound sig. For example I consider the VSonic VSD3S an upgrade, but it has a brighter, less warm sound with less bass overall and more treble. The SE215 is only a little bassier than the VSD3S, and still not quite a match for the MH1C.

      Staying on the theme of strong bass for electronic music, I would consider the RHA MA750 or Yamaha EPH-100 if you can find them in your price range. In a lower price bracket, maybe the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus on the bass-heavy setting: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rock-jaw-alfa-genus/. That also gives you the option of playing with different sound tunings.

      P.S. There is also a more convenient wireless version of the MH1C, the SBH80, which I’ve reviewed. Again, not an upgrade in sound but a very nice everyday use wireless IEM.

  17. hector ocana on

    Your reviews are dead on. I bought some se215 ltd’s. Too bassy with all tips, got some westone silicone 5 stars and they reduce the bass and bring out the mids and highs. Still wish that i could get more detail. Willing to trade, but i really dont know for what. Like a little bass impact. Hifimans may not have enough impact.

    • ljokerl on

      Not a perfect solution but the SteelSeries Flux may be an option if you don’t mind less sensitivity/efficiency and marginally more recessed mids: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear/ . That would be the safe choice – if you want to take a bit of a risk, the VSonic VSD3S and Ostry KC06 are both great options for detailed sound with pretty good bass impact. The Ostry is more focused on the mids/upper mids and mid-bass whereas the VSonic has more of a deep bass emphasis and harsher treble. Review here: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/

      • hector ocana on

        I looked at all of the links, thank you. I just got fed up and de-cored one of the foamies and put a cheap large bore eartip over the core. BEST SOUND EVER FROM THESE. I am not sure why the silicone tips that are supplied are soo bass heavy. Maybe you could try it out and recomend to others? Want to try the sony hybrid tips but low on cash after buying the headphones.

        • ljokerl on

          Unfortunately I don’t have the SE215 in my possession anymore – it went back to the owner. There’s lots of wide bore tips out there but not sure which ones will actually stay on the nozzle.

  18. Austin on

    Hi,
    Would you recommend these IEM’s to fit a variety of music genres and to last a long time through moderate use? I usually take my earphones everywhere I go, and I also sleep and workout with my headphones on everyday so I want something sturdy with good sound quality. I’m also not planning on having to buy new pairs every few months.
    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, these are one of the better sets in this price range for longevity and the sound signature is quite versatile. Plus they are semi-immune to common cable issues because the cable can be replaced separately.

      I don’t know about sweat-resistance, though – I don’t think they are marketed for it. If I were you’d I’d get a spare “beater” set just for sweat and maybe sleeping (just because you’re likely to damage the cord while doing so) – the MEElec M6 is a good one at $20: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/meelectronics-m6-m6p/

      • Austin on

        Ended up with the HiFiMan RE-400s. I still need a beater set though and the MEElec looks perfect. I’m using the Monoprice 9927s as a beater set right now but the cable isn’t holding up to well so I’m planning on getting the M6s. Thanks for the help!

        • ljokerl on

          Yeah, don’t use the RE-400s for anything strenuous. A beater set is the way to go.

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  20. abhishekSPS on

    Hi!
    I have been reading reviews of Shure SE215s a lot lately and looks like it would be perfect companion for on-the-go music listening in public transits and the likes.
    How would you compare them with RHA MA750 and HiFiMan RE-400 Waterline solely in terms of sound quality.
    How much of the details will I be missing if compared to Dunu DN-1000 (irrespective of price) if I mostly listen to modern day recordings @192-320 kbps bitrate.
    Genre I listen to are acoustic, ambient, new age, Indian classicals, orchestrals with wide dynamic range, neoclassical and darkwave (A. R. Rahman, Lisa Gerrard, Vangelis and movie soundtracks by Hans Jimmer, Brain Tyler, Tyler Bates, etc).

    • ljokerl on

      The RE-400 and MA750 aren’t massively better, just more refined. The RE-400 especially has better treble and bass quality (though lower bass quantity) compared to the SE215. The MA750 has more bass and in that context works pretty well but I wouldn’t recommend it as a straight upgrade over the SE215 – not much improvement in clarity or overall balance.

      The DN-1000 is on a different level, but still not a different playing field. You won’t have the detail, especially up top, of the DN-1000 with the SE215 but out on the go it won’t make much of a difference.

      • abhishekSPS on

        i understand that ergonomics is se215s strong suite but just going by sound quality would u recommend any thing else in similar price range?

        • ljokerl on

          Right, you can get something with comparable sound quality for cheaper, for example the Sony MH1C, but you’ll be giving up at least some of the fit, isolation, and even build quality of the Shures. I don’t know of anything that’s more inexpensive that can compete on all counts.

          • abhishekSPS on

            thanks!!
            i will go for se215 then because fit & on-the-go is paramount for me.

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