Pros: The sound, the build quality, the bass, the soundstage
Cons: cable wire,
Brace yourself... Pardon any grammatical errors please as this is one of my longer reviews.
I’m currently 18 years old which as little as that matters to me seems to be interesting to many people in this community. I’ve always liked music and sound equipment but I never really got into the head-fi hobby until I discovered the Live Sound field from my schools drama club. From there I began to appreciate sound quality as it was just satisfying for me both from listening but also the engineering and everlasting ability to tweak and work on such.
I have worked with home audio, car audio, theater/show systems, portable/personal audio, digital audio (IP-LAN(uhg…) and DSP) and lots and lots of DIY projects. I’ve gone as far to make some of my own speaker cabinets and sound systems from various components too – most notably a very large 2 driver, 4 voice coil, 16ohm, band-pass subwoofer box that I’m quite fond of for its bass quantity and quality.
I’ve owned many headphones/IEM and related gear. Ill list some here but this certainly isn’t all; Shure SE846, Shure SE315, Shure SE215, Westone UM3x, Westone UM3x RC, Westone UM1, Earsonic SM3, Sansa Clip Plus, Sansa Clip Zip, Bravo Tube AMP v3, Sennheiser IE80s (the fake ones) and Sennheiser HD420s
So while I don’t like to be arrogant I do feel qualified to judge products effectively and share my opinion and I hope you find my opinions and ideas entertaining and helpful.
I’ve owned these headphones for a few months and figured it would be a good idea to write a review for them considering they are the more expensive headphones I’ve owned. I’ve compared them to many of the previous headphones I’ve owned (notable the Um3x and the SM3) but also several at various meets and shows.
Some quick crazy facts:
- They are crazy low impedance. 9ohms. so they can be powered very easily but sometimes you might encounter hiss. Also they can handle a decent amount of power. I’m not willing to find the limits though.
- They are expensive.
- They are built like tanks – but still sexy.
- Shure is known for excellent support but I have yet to experience that as I have not had a problem
- They come with 3 interchangeable filters that go in the nozzle. Black, Blue, White (warm, balanced, and high/clear)
Purchase and Experience:
After having a lovely time with my UM3x I decided I wanted more. More textured and detailed bass and more sound stage. I started looking at some midrange IEMs. Custom and Universal at around the $500 price point. While these were super cool I didn’t have the means to try them. I decided to settle with something lower in price as I did like my UM3x but wanted just a hair more. I did some researched and purchased the crazy looking Earsonic SM3s which look a lot like the Um3x. Sounds good right?
It was – and while I did notice an improvement in the Earsonics’ I still wanted more. Also I always had a problem with the Earsonics’ falling apart on me – I would remember back to a time when I used my Shure SE315s that I could drive a truck over. I missed that.
I was aware of the 846 at the time but I couldn’t dream of spending that much money… But I did dream of it. Id tease myself by going to Head-Fi classified and looking at used pairs for around $800. I figured if I sold many of my current Headphones I could afford to get them. And I decided to try. After many failed negotiations and fear of getting scammed $800 out I decided that I would buy them new. I called many online stores and worked them all on price before eventually I scored a brand new pair for $800 from headroom (headphone.com). I bought these – I was expecting my parents to jump me but they were like ‘cool dude sounds nice’. I scored free 2 day shipping and a 30 day return policy if I didn’t like them. My dad even had the privilege of trying them in an airport store a day before mine arrived – live blogging to me via text message about how amazing they are. I nearly lost it.
Today was the day. They had arrived and my first test was to play music while talking to my friend on Skype because I was so excited. That was a stupid choice. I should have just listened to music but whatever. Ill skip the drama
They came with the balanced (blue) filters in them first. While the sound was very impressive it was too harsh for me at first. (But wait!) I almost found them overwhelming with treble and just noise in general. I was nervous. I decided to switch to the black filters. After listening to some daft punk (our lord and savior) I was hooked.
The bass was so smooth and deep. And the mids were perfect, which is surprising as usually I’m VERY picky about these. The treble was unheard of. The extension was notably better than that of any IEM I’ve ever heard. Keep in mind this is with the warm sounding filters.
It took me several weeks and several people also trying them to realize that the sound is an acquired taste. It’s not that it’s bad or repulsive but it’s more so that your brain becomes use to it. I like to pretend that our brains have a little inline EQ between our ears and mind. Often it seems that your brain cleans up the sound and hears what it wants to hear as to make music more pleasing but also enhance you sound perception. Whether this is true or not I don’t know but it’s what I think. I also think this has something to do with the “burn in” controversy. But I digress.
Point is that after a few weeks I think my brain had returned to the flat balanced out state of EQ as I was now hearing things more clearly as the music should be. Also I felt as if now would be a good time to try the other filters. I decided to use the Whites. I was turned off by the openness and highs of them again so I went to blue. This was incredible.
I noticed more instrument separation and defined bass. The bass had more texture – everyone says that but what does that mean? I think it means (as I also felt) that as the bass vibrated it was more clear in that you could hear the clarity in it. Each and every bass note and sound wave hitting your ear drum was more noticeable and less clouded together than that of lesser headphones and that of a lame car subwoofer that you might find in some kids truck. I think this has to do with the subwoofer tunneling thing sure claims in their demo video. I think the sound tube and series of tunnels the drivers are behind create some sort of back pressure or something to add that richness but also quantity.
As with the evolution of my ears EQ and my desire for more soundstage and clarity I decided to try the whites. This time I was very impressed and found them the most desirable.
I noticed clarity obviously, but also more detailed bass again. I didn’t think this was possible given I already liked what I had from the Blue filters. But most importantly... SOUNDSTAGE. This is what I wanted – as I listened to albums like Random Access Memories (thanks daftpunk again) I could notice placement of acoustic instruments but also bass and the vocalist. Songs that move fast and have a lot going on tend to be more vivid and you get to hear everything at once rather than fill it in yourself.
The binaural effect of sound echoing in the room or stage was something I was never able to experience with most music as these ques for your brain are very hard to reproduce unless it’s intentional. (Search for binaural haircut). But with such sensitivity and a good source and recorded audio it’s very noticeable with the Shure’s. You are getting the full experience whether the artist intended it or not and it’s something very impressive.
Aesthetics and Accessories:
Some of my friends think that they are ugly. I think it’s more so because they are strange and different looking. I personally always have liked the way these look – even before I owned them when I was in my “way too expensive to consider” phase. The engineering on these is incredible. They are like pieces of jewelry as the insides are so intricate and precise. It’s fascinating to look at.
The cable is that of most Shure IEMs. While it’s very strong, feels, and looks nice I am often frustrated with the memory wire that wraps over your ears. It moves and sticks out creating a lever effect sometimes. I removed the memory wire from my shorter cable that the 846 comes with and while this was awesome it soon wore at the base of the connectors going into the headphone and was on the way out. There is no sounds of cable moving against your clothes or anything. Cable is overall solid.
You can see all the other accessories online so I won’t waste your time. The little containers and cases that they come with are super cool and nice. I do wish Shure included a cleaning stick like westone as sometimes wax gets in the ear tips.
Fit and Comfort:
For me? Perfect. I’m used to IEMs and I could wear these for days. I use the tips that came on them from the factory which is the medium sized Shure foam olives. I did noticed they were slightly different in composition than that of the olives my 315s came with. They seal very well and are comfortable. Most people are confused at how to put them into their ears the first few times but after you get good it becomes second nature to you.
Source and power:
I often used my Sansa Clip Plus and it was awesome. There was some hiss sometimes from the clips processor but it was fine once music was playing… only sometimes id notice it.
I liked using these with my Bravo V3 tube amp – It added some cool effects and openness from the tube but with super sensitive IEMs like this it’s easy to notice interference that the tube picks up in the air. Like if my cellphone is too close to it. Other than that the Bravo is solid with the 846.
I started avidly using spotify which meant a lot of time on my phone. I have the LG3 and I hate its sound card. There’s so much noise and the sound just feels artificial half the time. I’ve done numerous sound mods and tweaks to it but it’s almost proving useless. I just ordered a Fiio e18 for it so we will see.
I’ve also used the 846 with a Fiio e6. It’s cool but there’s no point.
My favorite source as of right now has to be my Surface Pro 3. For some reason the sound is perfectly balanced with no EQ or anything and clear as day. Also zero noise or hiss at any time at all – it’s amazing.
Would I recommend?
Yes – to an audio enthusiast. To the average consumer – no. The price is too daring for something like these. For the average person I would recommend something like the UM3X as they are very easy to enjoy and affordable now. I do believe that everyone should have nice audio equipment because it adds extra value to your media just as a HD television might but there is a point of diminishing returns for the average user.
For audiophiles I would definitely recommend the 846 as they are a solid investment and will deliver incredible sound and performance for a long time to come. They get everything right. Sound quality. Customization. Build Quality. Support. Accessories. Even style.
Some people may disagree but I feel satisfied with these. I have actually taken the time to try many other IEMs including the JH Audio Roxxanes which many people consider a step up from the 846 and I didn't see it. But I will say that I didnt have enough time to demo the Roxxanes to definitely say that I would prefer the 846 over them as I simply don't feel as if I have fully experienced other IEMs like that to noticed the small differences.
All in all I hope you liked reading the review and I really hope it gives you a sense of how you feel about the 846. Reviews can be very important and I feel like that people reviewing should take the time to be very specific as it can really effect the buyer’s emotions and feelings. Another forum member that goes by Mounty Burns helped me decided to get these. He helped me hunt prices and shared his opinions with me via email several times and overall was very encouraging. So I’d like to thank him as well as the academy.
And with that… Happy listening.