Pros: Isolation, smooth & non-fatiguing sound, comfort
Cons: Minor cable issues
With a trip to Vancouver coming up, I didn't have any decent traveling earphones. The best thing I had was a pair of closed-back Shure SRH440s, but they don't isolate well enough to really cut down on airplane noise. Meanwhile, the Shure SE215s were on sale, so I decided to try my first IEM.
Before I pulled the trigger, I wondered if I should just step up to the flagship SE535s. I have some nice headphones already, and budget headphones can be disappointing. But then I thought, what if I find Shure IEMs uncomfortable? My local Shure dealer does not allow returns on IEMs for "sanitary" reasons, so I'd be stuck with an expensive purchase.
Sanitary reasons...that seems a little stupid to me. How am I supposed to try them out and see which ones I like best? And can't they just charge me a restocking fee for a new set of eartips? Or have cheap eartips just for testing? It's not like you're getting bodily gunk over any other part. (Ewww...sorry.)
Here's what I expected from these IEMs after reading many reviews: bass emphasis, smooth sound, treble roll-off, possibly a V-shaped sound signature, good isolation, best-of-breed comfort.
For the most part, the SE215s lived up to the hype. There is a slight bass emphasis, although not as big as I expected. The treble is definitely rolled off, although the detail's still there for the most part. The sound is very smooth, very listenable. I can't see any recording sounding too bright and sibilant and drilling into my brain. That's something the Shure SRH440s do to me after a while.
A while ago I bought the SRH840s, looking for a better budget closed headphone to replace my SRH440s, and they had a wild, boomy mid-bass emphasis and muffled, overly rolled-off treble. So I wondered if the SE215s would do much the same thing. Thankfully, the bass emphasis of the SE215s is not distracting or too mid-bass heavy, and the treble roll-off isn't overdone.
My lack of enthusiasm for the SRH440s and SRH840s makes you think, why does this guy keep buying Shure products? I've used their microphones for years and love 'em. And I guess I'm an optimist. :)
So the SE215 sound good overall, especially for $90 Canadian. On the negative side, the dynamics aren't amazing, so instruments don't really pop. They sound less live, less 3D, more like they're coming from a recording. Not a big deal, but noticeable.
Fit-wise, they seal as well as any earplugs I've used, and they're comfortable for an hour or so. The cord is a little bit weird. You run it up and over your ears, either to the back of your head or below your chin. There you have to tighten it, otherwise the wires around your ears pop up, things get unruly, the IEMs start to droop out of your ears, etc.
I find when I tighten them below my chin, the cord itches my skin for some reason. When I tighten it behind my head instead, it's much more comfortable but awkward to get in place. I guess I'll get used to it.
Overall, a great value from the perspective of someone who's used many full-sized headphones, but no other IEMs.