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Shure SE215

Shure SE215 Review

Shure SE215
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.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (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

ljokerl

ljokerl

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.

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69 Responses

  1. Hi Joker – thanks for this wonderful resource. Do you think the SE215’s will benefit much when listening to Tidal hifi on an iPhone X if I also use a portable DAC, e.g. an FiiO i1 or a Dragonfly Red (with lightening adapter)?

    Thanks!!
    Dan

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

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