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REVIEW : Shure SE315 vs SE425 (+ differences with old SE420) // Shure's mid-tier IEM's

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

 

So far on Head-fi I haven't seen anyone do a direct A/B comparison with these two IEM's, and as I have both (at the moment - but not for long), I thought I'd take the opportunity.
 
Disclaimer - I have no affiliation with Shure - but I am a fan of their house sound.  I started a couple of years ago with their SE102, and moved up to the SE420.  The 420 recently had cable issues (just within the 2 year warranty - phew) - so I bought the SE315's (while I sent the 420's for warranty), and the Now Sound NZ (Shure Reps in NZ) replaced my 420's with SE425's.  I'd just like to give Now Sound a plug - impeccable service.  Oh - and I currently own the SRH840's (closed cans).
 
Unfortunately I can't give you a reference point for another IEM - as the only other ones I owned were Senn CX300's and Sony MDR40s (both extremely low end).  So this is simply a comparison of the two Shures.  I have also never heard the SE215 or SE535.
 
For this comparison I'm using an iPod Touch 4th Gen > Lod to Fiio E7.  No EQ (flat) and no bass boost.  All the music is sourced from CD - originally ripped to FLAC, then transcoded to ALAC.  So it's all lossless.
 
THE SPECIFICATIONS
Shure SE315 (mine is the clear version)
 
* Single balanced armature - with tuned bass port (apparently optimises low-end performance using a vented driver)
* Sensitivity (1kHz) = 116dB SPL/mW
* Impedance (1kHz) = 27ohms
* Noise attenuation = up to 37dB
* Frequency Range = 22Hz - 18.5kHz
* Gold plated right angled 3.5mm H/P jack
* 64 inch detachable (with wireform) cable
* Comes in clear or black
* 2 year limited warrranty
 
315-425b.jpg
 
Shure SE425 (mine is the metallic silver version)
 
* Dual balanced armature - tweeter and woofer
* Sensitivity (1kHz) = 109dB SPL/mW
* Impedance (1kHz) = 22ohms
* Noise attenuation = up to 37dB
* Frequency Range = 20Hz - 19kHz
* Gold plated right angled 3.5mm H/P jack
* 64 inch detachable (with wireform) cable
* Comes in clear or metallic silver
* 2 year limited warrranty
 
315-425e.jpg
 
ACCESSORIES
Both the 315 and 425 come with a comprehensive 'fit kit' including:
* S, M and L pairs of flex sleeves
* S, M and L pairs of Shure 'olives' (foam sleeves)
* 1 x triple flange silicone sleeves
* 1 x yellow foam sleeves
* 1 x wax removal tool
* The SE425 has 1 x 1/4" stero adaptor
* Zipped carrying case - the SE315 case is 'soft', the 425 case is harder (more robust and IMO better)
 
315-425a.jpg
 
315-425d.jpg
 
 
BUILD
Compared to the older 310/420 designs, these are built to last!  The two most obvious improvements are the detachable cable and the hard plastic housing.  My old 420's had a rubber sleeve over the housing - and contained within this was the strain relief for the cable.  This is what eventually split - so that I had to RMA them. The housing for the 315/425 is very sturdy - with only a small question mark over the sleeve arms (they're plastic as well, so you'd have to take care changing sleeves).  The plastic body is easy to grip, and fitting and removal from your ear is a breeze.  The only difference in the body between the 315 and 425 is that the 315 body is very slightly longer (~2mm).
 
315-425f.jpg
 
CABLES
The cables are a wonderful improvement on the older models.  According to Shure, they're reinforced with kevlar, and of course ... they're now detachable.  The other nice thing is that the attachment to the driver body swivels.  This makes wearing and fitting extremely easy.  The new cables seem (IMO) to have more flexibility, but at the same time are slighly thicker than the old ones. In my time with both the 315 and 425, they appear to have less cable microphonics than my old 420's.  The plug to the driver housing is gold plated and quite sturdy - it takes some force to remove.  It clips on again with a satisfying snap.  The swiveling is smooth.  The cable also has memory wire built in (about 3 inches) just below the driver housing - so that you can customize the over-ear to 'your fit'.  I found it annoying at first, but it's quite natural now. The cable also has a "slider" above the Y join - for adjustment.  It is a long cable (perhaps too long at 64 inches) - but easy enough to wind the excess carefully around your portable.  It terminates with a gold 90 degree plug which is ideal for use witha  portable DAP/amp.  All joins of the cable have very sturdy strain relief.
 
315-425c.jpg
 
FIT AND ISOLATION
My old 420's had quite a 'bulbous' design, and because of this quite a bit of the housing would protrude outside the ear.  The 420 also was designed to go deeper in the ear (or at least I had to do this with the olives to ensure a good fit).  With both the 315 and 425, the housing is designed to fit flush with your ear - meaning you can easily sleep on these with no discomfort.  A lot of reviews I've read have said that the new design is difficult to fit.  For me this is ridiculous.  The change form the 420 means that they the sleeves are not as deep in my ear canal.  So I switched from the medium olives to the large.  To fit, I simply swivel the cable to the side, grasp the body, insert and twist slightly, then swing the cable back over the ear.  It takes about 4-5 seconds.  The fit is perfect every time.  And it stays there even during running. To remove - just reverse the procedure.  The isolation with these new models is phenomenal. I recently returned from a round the world business trip - including 4 flights of over 8 hours duration - and these are brilliant for the flight.  it doesn't block out all the engine noise (no IEM will) - but it takes it to such a low level that by the time you add your music to the mix, I couldn't hear the engine at all.
 
SOUND / SQ
Here's where the real comparison is.  So far from all of the above you'll note that the SE315 and 425 have been very similar.  Their SQ - while easy to see from the same family - is quite different.
 
LOWS
I'm definitely no bass head - but I do like a nice backbeat as long as it's controlled and doesn't over power the vocals / guitars etc.  To compare the bass I first used Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" - mainly because it has a steady deep bass background - with nice use of snares for contrast.  Both the 315 and the 425 deliver the deep bass very clearly and cleanly.  It's not boomy or muddy, and doesn't encroach the lower mids at all.  When the snares kick in, the sound is clean and clear.  The impact for both the 315 and the 425 seems quite realistic - it's not overemphasized, nor underdone.  The main point of difference is that the 425's seem more 'realistic' and 'true' - with the 315's seeming slightly "brighter" on the snares.  On Adele's "Rumour Has It" - there is also a very nice deep bass backbeat.  Both IEM's render it well with plenty of impact and extension.  Again the difference in sound is the realism.  The 425's sound truer - with the 315's sounding ever so slightly forced (maybe a small hint metallic - if that makes sense).  The thing is that both render bass nicely - and I would still appreciate the sound of the 315's, but comparing, the 425's have the more neutral/natural tone.
 
MIDS
This is the Shure forte.  I listen to a lot of vocals and also acoustic guitar - so this is why the Shure signature sound really suits my music tastes.  I'll start with Nils Lofgren's "Keith Don't Go" from his Acoustic Live album.  The first thing you notice is how the guitar is extremely detailed and crisp - and exceptionally clear (you hear all the sounds of fingers on the fret board).  With the 315, the mids are very clear and quite forward.  When Nil's voice kicks in, it fit nicely with the guitar, and definitely doesn't over power.  Switching the 425's gives the same clarity - but once again the change in tonality appears - and I wouldn't have known it - unless ABing the two.  The 425's again are immediately more 'natural' sounding - more true to life.  If anything the mids are not quite as strident or as agressively forward as the 315's - and that's what makes them more enjoyable.  It's really hard to explain as both sound fantastic - yet the tonality of the 425's is simply better.  I next played Clapton's "Layla" from his Unplugged album.  Once again the first thing to strike me was the clarity of both IEM's - but once again the 315's were slightly edgy and more forward, while the 425's were more true to life, relaxed, and tonally balanced.  Finally I played Toni Child's "House Of Hope" - and this once again confirmed my earlier findings - 315's more forward and edgy - the 425's more relaxed and neutral.  The other immediate difference was that the 315's were definitely brighter in this track - with more treble evident.
 
HIGHS
First up - the one thing I've noticed with the 425's compared to my old 420's is that the 425 definitely has a better upper end.  They're not bright IEM's - but the extra sparkle helps.  We'll stick with Toni Child's "House of Hope" as it does show an interesting mix of mids (Toni's amazing vocals), and some quite nice brass instruments for the higher end in the background.  I think this is one area where the 315 sometimes has the edge on the 425's.  The brass is definitely more forward with the 315 than the 425 - so they appear brighter.  Again though the 425 probably seem more "true" and believable.  Finally I listened to Dire Strait's "Sultans of Swing" mostly because there is such a nice mix of mids and trebles.  The 425 is clean and clear with great separation and neutrality.  The 315's once again have the same clarity - but both upper mids and highs are noticeably brighter.
 
CLARITY & SOUNDSTAGE
Both the 315 and 425 are amazingly clear and detailed.  I've never noticed too much soundstage with an IEM - they just don't have the same dynamics as a full sized can.  I would say that they 315's are more forward though and maybe more aggressive with their sound.  While the 425 are definitely slightly more relaxed and neutral.  This IMO gives the 425's a slightly better soundstage - mainly because nothing is too much in your face.
 
SUMMARY
I went into this thinking there would be a lot of differences between these two IEMs - and in reality they are definitely dynamically and tonally different - but both are enjoyable.  If I had to keep one (and in reality I'm in the process of selling the 315's) it would be the 425's - simply because I love their more realistic sound.  Some may call it boring - but I find it quite enjoyable for the genres I listen to.  Both IEM's excel with anything midcentric, and their strong points are clarity, good clean bass, and smooth mids.  If you enjoy a more dynamic IEM - then the 315's will fit the bill.  But for smoothness and absolute realism - the 425's are keepers for me.
 
Thanks for reading - and apologies if any of this confusing.  My first review/comparison as such - hopefully I'll improve with time and experience!

Edited by Brooko - 4/22/11 at 9:35am
post #2 of 13

Nice review!!! Thanks!

 

I've been thinking about getting the SE425 and your review certainly makes my decision easier cool.gif

post #3 of 13

Very good review, i would love to see you do a review of the SE420 vs the SE535

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cifani090 View Post

Very good review, i would love to see you do a review of the SE420 vs the SE535

Thanks


I'd love to as well cifani - but it would need to be the 425 vs the 525 - as I no longer have the 420's anymore.  Biggest issue at the moment is finances (it will have to wait a while).  Next purchases will be better amp & better open can.  After that the 535's are definitely on my horizon.

 

Once my B2's eventually arrive, I'll see if I can give an impression of those vs the 425's.  The B2's are a lot cheaper - but both are dual drivers.

post #5 of 13

Credit to you, brooko, for deciding to compare these lower shure earphones.

Many jump straight for the 535's, without giving these a thought- including me.

 

But I became interested in all this headfi stuff via the shure 310's and well, thought I might aswell get the 315's for someone else.

A bigger but though, with the 535's and 315's in front of me I gave into temptation. And I was very surprised. To say the least. 

 

They were close, but I preferred the 315's. I a/b'd them for a day through my sources, used equalisers and whatever else, as I do with all gear I've had (from the soundmagics pl50 upto the ed8's). The 315's are a ###### bloody beast and a killer deal.

 

They are different to the 310's in too many ways to begin listing here.  

 

#My a/b (a few weeks ago) wasn't as extensive as I would have liked. Normally I spend a week or two, but it was because I had way too much gear at this point. Like when you give a baby too many toys; they might get confused!!#

 

#Of course, I don't see anything wrong with preferring the highest model in a manufacturers line up of phones! Anyone who says the ie6 is better than the ie8 in any way soundwise, can't hear properly or is a liar!!#

 

 

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the comments.  I would dearly love to compare the 535 with the 425 - but alas the size of the wallet keeps me on a conservative path for now.  I'm enjoying what I have anyway.

 

I'm really looking forward the the Brainwavez B3 arriving - from what I've been reading, they should really suit my sonic tastes.  My one criticism of the Se425's would be a lack of top end sparkle.  They're much better than the 420's - but still just missing that small final touch.  Nice thing is that I can get what I need with EQ.  But - hey - we're always looking for that elusive nirvana right ;)

 

For now - my IEM search goes on hold - next buy will likely be another open can - either a low end grado, or a step up into the Sennheiser 598/600/650 arena.  I demo'd the 598's and 650's last time I was in New York on business - and really liked what I heard.

 

Nice to hear you appreciated the 315's.  I thought they were really good IEMs - and would have been quite happy with them if not for A/Bing the 425's side by side.  For my preference - the 425's were just velvety (the Shure mids).

 

I like your comment on spending time with gear before you compare/review - I wish a few more people would also take the time.  I've seen so many new to head-fi immediately review their gear without really knowing it's ins and outs - and not have points for comparison.  It's nice to see the enthusiasm - but it seems to muddy the water sometimes when you have nothing to compare with.  It's the main reason I haven't reviewed any more gear yet.  But I'm looking forward to slowly gaining more experience and then contributing more once I really know what I'm talking about.

 

Anyway - thanks again for the post.  If you ever get the chance to hear the 425, I'd be interested to hear what you think of the 425 vs 535.

post #7 of 13

Thanks for the excellent review! I just had a question regarding the cables. It looks like the clear cables are a little different from the black ones. Is there any difference in them comfort or durability wise?

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

The black actually feels a little more pliable - but the clear felt a little more 'durable' - it's hard to describe.  The one issue with the clear for me - was that the over-ear wire-form was more difficult to get sitting right.  Once it was bent into shape it was fine.  To be honest, I'm not really sure which one I preferred.  Probably if I had a chance to swap the 425's, I think I'd get the clear.  If you're interested in getting them - get to a shop that sells any of the newer Shures (215, 315, 425, 535) and ask to have a look at clear vs black.

post #9 of 13

Interesting. It actually looks like the black cables are the same from the previous generation (210, 310, 420, 530) with a memory wire at the end, while the clear cables are completely different.

post #10 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

Thanks for the comments.  I would dearly love to compare the 535 with the 425 - but alas the size of the wallet keeps me on a conservative path for now.  I'm enjoying what I have anyway.

 

I'm really looking forward the the Brainwavez B3 arriving - from what I've been reading, they should really suit my sonic tastes.  My one criticism of the Se425's would be a lack of top end sparkle.  They're much better than the 420's - but still just missing that small final touch.  Nice thing is that I can get what I need with EQ.  But - hey - we're always looking for that elusive nirvana right ;)

Yea, I boosted the highs on both the 315's and 535's, although moreso on the former. For example, on the fuzev2 rockboxed, a simple 5-7 db boost in the highs, with 180% stero width was a great setting as It's got plenty of bass already.

 

For now - my IEM search goes on hold - next buy will likely be another open can - either a low end grado, or a step up into the Sennheiser 598/600/650 arena.  I demo'd the 598's and 650's last time I was in New York on business - and really liked what I heard.

If others around me could cope with the noise leakage, then I would definately be in this market, so hope whatever you get satisfies you. Closed phones are my thing.

 

Nice to hear you appreciated the 315's.  I thought they were really good IEMs - and would have been quite happy with them if not for A/Bing the 425's side by side.  For my preference - the 425's were just velvety (the Shure mids).

True, I think that's the main difference between the two I tried. Both were the clear versions with clear cables btw. In fact, I heard the 535's to be quite close to your description of the 425's. They are less agressive and less dynamic than the 315's- which you found aswell. I would say the soundstage is around the same.

I reckon shure must have found a lot of their customers for the 310/420/530 lineup were headfiers. They made big changes to the 310, even in the mids department. It wasn't as if they were going to loose any fans, as the 310 didn't have any (very weak bass). For the 535's (although I haven't hears the 530's) I don't think they could have taked the same 'risk' as it were- and it seems them smooth mids are going nowhere.

 

I like your comment on spending time with gear before you compare/review - I wish a few more people would also take the time.  I've seen so many new to head-fi immediately review their gear without really knowing it's ins and outs - and not have points for comparison.  It's nice to see the enthusiasm - but it seems to muddy the water sometimes when you have nothing to compare with.  It's the main reason I haven't reviewed any more gear yet.  But I'm looking forward to slowly gaining more experience and then contributing more once I really know what I'm talking about.

You have said it all. 'points for comparison.' Weak bass, recessed mids, amazing imaging,.... all are empty statements if not compared to what else is out there. You have loads, as you've come across more than a few of older shure phones. And taking time to adjust to gear. By the way I'm not a big believer of burn in, but taking the time to adjust is most important in the iem world than any here on headfi.

Why?

THE FIT. I mean, even though i've come across more iem's than what I can remember, for all it at least took me 30-40 hours to achieve a great fit, (trying the 100's of spare tips I have). Then I stick to it. Only during these hours does the sound changes- obvious why. Anyway, with these two, once I had the fit- I kind of got sidetracked by deliveries of big closed phones, but it was with medium sized klipsch gels that I used on both.   

 

Anyway - thanks again for the post.  If you ever get the chance to hear the 425, I'd be interested to hear what you think of the 425 vs 535.

I should be thanking you! Yea, I was waiting for the earsonics sm3 v2 to come out here. Or was going to get a custom IEM, like the mage. Maybe I'll come across the 425's, anything's possible if your addicted! 



 

 

post #11 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CantScareMe View Post

Credit to you, brooko, for deciding to compare these lower shure earphones.

Many jump straight for the 535's, without giving these a thought- including me.

 

But I became interested in all this headfi stuff via the shure 310's and well, thought I might aswell get the 315's for someone else.

A bigger but though, with the 535's and 315's in front of me I gave into temptation. And I was very surprised. To say the least. 

 

They were close, but I preferred the 315's. I a/b'd them for a day through my sources, used equalisers and whatever else, as I do with all gear I've had (from the soundmagics pl50 upto the ed8's). The 315's are a ###### bloody beast and a killer deal.

 

They are different to the 310's in too many ways to begin listing here.  

 

#My a/b (a few weeks ago) wasn't as extensive as I would have liked. Normally I spend a week or two, but it was because I had way too much gear at this point. Like when you give a baby too many toys; they might get confused!!#

 

#Of course, I don't see anything wrong with preferring the highest model in a manufacturers line up of phones! Anyone who says the ie6 is better than the ie8 in any way soundwise, can't hear properly or is a liar!!#

 

 


x2 on the 315's quality. I bought these because my 2-XS are in repair and I wanted something quickly as I fly frequently and commute by train. The 315 remind me of my previous custom SA-6, the midrange is forward but very smooth and natural sounding. They don't extend very low nor very high but have a very coherent response, I don't hear any sibilance yet (I just got them today though so probably the defaults will become more apparent as I listen more to it). I guess this is a trademark of single high-quality balanced armatures .

 

The interesting thing for me was that I could actually listen to the whole range in the store (215, 315, 425, 535 - hope I got the numbers right ;) ) and ultimately preferred the 315s to all the others. It may be personal preference (driven by iphone 4) but:

> 215 is way too bassy and the bass is loose like maybe a big hump in the mid-bass region.

> 425 and 535 don't sound very different. Maybe the 535 extended higher but essentially I felt both sounded muffled / not so transparent compared to the 315s.

> The bass is certainly going deeper with the 425 / 535 but the 315 has this very fast / tight / punchy bass which I really liked

 

Considering the prices 9,800 / 19,800 / 29,800 / 49,800 yen respectively, to my ears the 315 is the sweet spot in the line and by far best price / performance ratio of the lot.

 

So, I went back home with 315's and comfy foam pads in hand and am delighted with the sound! I listened to chesky's audiophile series recording with voices and it just sounded awesome straight from the iphone. I probably wouldn't even miss my 2-xs if it wasn't for the comfort! Finally, I was surprised with the amount of isolation, it feels same or better than my custom 2-xs when using comply foam tips, which I didn't expect for universal iems.

 

That's all for today! 

post #12 of 13

Bang on target, the above review. Although I only tried the 535's out of the range, so much of what you say is what I experience.

 

I listen to chesky recordings aswell- and yep, they are impressive on this little beast. The 315's have a large enough soundstage, so I never feel as if I need more.

 

post #13 of 13

I had the Shure SE315 but i decided to sell them, not because of the sound quality but with the durability. The connection between the earphone and cable breaks easily so i basically had to have the right earbud replaced twice. It's because they clip on and off. Sold them after about 3 months of use but i thought the soundstage was pretty big for an iem, they lack a bit of bass but the quality of it is good. The mids are really good but lack warmth; the highs are slightly sparkly and extend well.

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