Pros: Basshead sound that's actually articulate!, Well built, Secure fit, Awesome colour, Removable cable, Great isolation, Accessories
Cons: Tips are annoying to fit and remove, Fit is finicky until you get used to it
As an upgrade to my portable setup, I decided that I would buy my first pair of proper IEMs. My only prior experience with IEMs were with freebies that came with phones and the like, which were needless to say, awful. I honestly wasn't quite shure (Sorry about that, had to get the obligatory Shure pun out the way) what to expect in terms of performance level, but I was very pleased indeed!
The SE215 Special Editions come well accessorised. Included is a small zip-up carry pouch with room for the IEMS and spare ear tips to fit nice and snug. 6 pairs of tips are included, 3 foam (the famous shure 'olive' tips) and 3 silicone in S, M and L sizes, as well as a wax removal tool. I found myself liking the M size foam tips the best, they were the most comfortable for me and provided a great seal. I also think they look much better than the grey silicone.
The build is quite solid. The IEMs are made of plastic but it's very sturdy and doesn't seem to have any give to them. The cable is the perfect length and girth (the more juvenile readers should be sniggering at this point) for portable use (at least for me), and is terminated in a right angle jack. From my understanding, the cable on the normal version is 50cm longer. The cables are removable, which is great for replacement or aftermarket upgrades. The special edition is in blue, as opposed to the transparent or black options of the regular. This colour looks really amazing in the sunlight, a great aesthetic choice for sure.
As for sound, I'm damn impressed, for two major reasons. Firstly, I didn't realise IEMs sounded this good. I now totally understand why they're taken very seriously in the audio community. They sound so much better than you would think given their size. The other major reason I'm impressed is that these IEMs have BASS. Tight, punchy, BIG bass that kicks ass and takes names, but at the same time, sounds surprisingly articulate and even handed. I have absolutely no reservations about using these for genres outside of Hip Hop and EDM, despite their well endowed bottom end. Now, to keep things subjective, it's worth mentioning that I'm probably what I'd describe as a lite-Basshead, but a "Warm-head" is probably the best term for it. What I mean by that is my ideal sound signature is non-rolled off bass in moderately generous proportions (2-3+ db over the midrange is pretty nice) with a strong, un-recessed midrange and an unfatiguing, maybe slightly dark treble. Now, these do have more bass than what I'd consider perfect, but it's within my tolerance levels, which is not something I expected given the way they look in graphs.
As I said, the bass goes low, stays tight, hits hard (when it's supposed to) and has good authority. I wouldn't say these are particularly fast or slow, they sound fairly natural actually, surprisingly so given the level of bass they have. These really suit basshead needs, and do so with flying colours. The midrange is very present, with a little bit of grain maybe, but nothing disastrous. It doesn't sound thin to me either, though I wouldn't say it qualified to be called lush or thick. It's seldomly meddled with by the bass response, which given how strong that is and the price of these IEMs, is not a common feat. The treble response is definitely dark, but again, no where near as much as the graphs appear to indicate. Remains totally fatigue free, which earns a big thumbs up from me. My tastes certainly have refined quite a bit from my Grado owning days when I was convinced that I was a treble-head. Despite being dark, things like cymbals are clearly audible and are separated very nicely. On top of all this, the SE215 SE image surprisingly well, possessing way more depth and width than I expected. Now, don't let your imagination go crazy. They're not going to image like an open circumaural, but it's like having a mini version of that in your head, it's really quite pleasant.
Really, the only flaws of this IEM are minor. The tips are pretty annoying to remove and fit onto the actual stem (please excuse my terminology), and the over ear design of the memory cable feels strange at first until you learn how to fit it properly. After that, it's a very secure fit (comfort will really depend entirely on the tip and your ears).
With everything taken into consideration, I highly recommend these IEMs. They're simply fantastic. Now that I know that IEMs don't suck, I'm going to be trading these off towards some Denon AH-D2000s (which I'm giddy with excitement to get). I'm going to save up for something more high end in the IEM world for my portable use, something more neutral to suit my tastes better. Given my excellent experience with these, the SE535 (and if I'm lucky enough to get the special edition) is probably what I'll end up with.
But, probably the most interesting thing I've learnt from these IEMs is that graphs really don't always give a good indication of how things sound. I considered these IEMs a few times but kept writing them off because the graphs made them look like they'd have bloated bass, beats by dre style, but I was wrong. If you've stopped yourself from getting the SE215s for the same reason, you should give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!