Well i just got my SE215's and all i have to say is wow. I don't have much details on the sound yet because i only had time for a quick listen but already i'm impressed. I LOVE the fit on these. Currently they are in 30 hour burn in time, but my only concern at the moment is i sense a weak high end.. Maybe its because they aren't burned in yet or maybe its because i have been listening to lots of treble lately.. Nevertheless Shure has wow-ed me once again. Packaging is great, warranty is a sigh of relief, and first impressions are over the top. However, i don't exactly LOVE the replaceable cables.. Yes they feel nice and sturdy, but i don't like how the plug spins freely while attached. Once the burn in time is complete, i promise a review as soon as possible. Now many of you maybe thinking, "why is he posting a review when hes not ready to yet?". Its because i love the SE215's already. I love the way they look, feel, sound (very brief listen and no burn in), everything! I am going to do this review on my own time and leisure. I have not yet done a full review on Head-Fi yet so try to keep the criticism at a moderate level please and thank you! The Review will be based 10 Main Categories: First Impression, Lows, Mids, Highs, Soundstage, Fit, Build Quality, Isolation, Value and Conclusion. The SE215 will be powered by a Cowon O2 with a Fiio E5 portable Amplifier and i will be comparing it with the Sleek Audio SA-6, Etymotic HF5 and MC5, Meelectronics M6, and my very own Unique Melody SCL3X 3 Driver customs. Hope to see lots of support on my first review coming up in about 3 days or earlier!
Shure SE215 Transparent IEM REVIEW
Speaker Type: Single Dynamic MicroDriver
Sensitivity: 107 dB/mW
Impendence: 20 Ohms
Frequency Range: 22Hz~17.5 kHz
Cable Length: 64" Detachable Cable
Source: Cowon O2+DMB 32G, Flat EQ, Fiio E5 Portable Amp with bass boost OFF, Lossless FLAC files only.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: My goodness these feel amazing... Comparing the Shure SE215's to the Etymotic HF5 and MC5, Meelectronics M6, and the Sleek Audio SA-6, the SE215's surpass all of them in comfort and fit with the Olive foamies. I like the idea of a replaceable cable, but I do not love it... The memory wire portion can be a hassle to put on at times. During the first 10 minutes of my first listen, the SE215's gave me quite the scare. I noticed some sound loss when the Detachable Cable spins freely while still attached, so I attempted to fix the problem by detaching it and cleaning it. Luckily, there was some dust and the problem was solved. After hours of critical listening, I don't understand why I bought the SE215's for $100... Why does the SA-6 cost $140 more? Sound wise, they are not very far off, but why is there such a huge gap between the prices?? The SE215's come along with a fair amount of Accessories available such as 3 sizes of the Round tips, 3 sizes of the Olive Foamies, and a Cleaning Tool. Also the Carrying case is very nice.
Second Impression: After looking at the SE215's for a very long time, I don't understand why it has a transparent shell... Many people like the idea of being able to see the Drivers and wiring inside, but for me I don't think its necessary to have a transparent shell on a LOW-END Shure product. Yes, I like the idea of it, but I just don't understand why. There's not much to show off in the inside. On the SE535 and SE425, YES it's a great idea putting a Clear or Transparent shell like the SE215's because there is stuff worth showing off. In the SE215's, there's not much to show off. Just some wiring and a Single Dynamic driver... It’s not unique enough in my opinion. I would have preferred a solid colored black or white shell compared to the Transparent or Clear shell. It’s like with the Westone UM1's also; I don't see the point in a clear shell on a lower end product. In the Unique Melody SCL3X triple Balanced Armature Custom IEM, yes it's glorious to see the uniquely shaped Drivers and the super geeky spaghetti of wires inside. Other than my lack of love towards the Transparent Shell, there's so much to love about the SE215.
Packaging and Accessories: I like the compact design of the outer packaging. It’s very simple and uses a good blend of soft and hard cardboard. There is lots of Plastics under the cardboard for stability and protection of the IEMs. Familiar with other Shure products, the SE215's come with the stack of paperwork including the Owners Manual, Warranty, Custom Fit Upgrade Papers, Safety and Precautions, And lastly an instructional paper showing how to properly put in the SE215's. Really gives you the sense that Shure cares for their Customers. The SE215's comes with a Fair amount of accessories along with the stacks of paperwork. There's the cleaning tool, 3 sizes of the silicone tips, 3 sizes of the Olive Foamies, and a Carrying case. I personally expected more because I remembered getting more assortments of tips with my last Shure Purchase, the SCL3 (E3C). I would have to give Packaging and Accessories (8.5/10)
Bass: Punchy, powerful... I love the lower-mid range on the bass. Very powerful, with no signs of fatigue. However, I do not love the higher range bass, especially the borderline between the Mids and Lows. The Low-Mid range bass is very powerful and supporting, but the Higher range backs off to an uncomfortable level. I noticed the problem while listening to the song "Lotus Flower" by Radiohead. With some bass heavy songs like "Shot Yourself in the Foot Again" By Example and Skream, there's nothing to complain about. Very tight and punchy. Compared to the Etymotics, the SE215's obviously destroys them in bass, but what about the SA-6? In order to find out, I changed the bass port in the SA-6's to "+". The SA-6 has a more defined sound, but the SE215's explode with more power and energy. The SA-6 manages to hit hard and delivers continuous bass until it backs off. However, the SE215's manages to hit EVEN harder and MUCH more aggressively than the SA-6. With the SA-6's there is a fair amount of air movement with every bass line, but with the SE215 there is even more. Once the punch has been delivered, I noticed that the SE215's backs off rather quickly once the shock-wave has been delivered. Great sound produced by both the SA-6 and SE215. On some songs with VERY heavy bass, I can hear faint distortion coming from the SE215's. The SE215's focuses more on the impact while the SA-6 focuses more on the balance of the bass. This makes the SE215's more fun and energetic compared to a more serious and balanced SA-6. I came to the realization of the SE215's being more fun and enjoyable while listening to "Broken String" by Tek-One. The song offers very heavy bass lines and there's a lot of repetition. With the SA-6, I began to get bored from the repetition. The delivery of the bass just doesn't compare to the SE215's so I found myself switching to the SE215's quite a lot. Lastly, I don't like how the SE215's has a weak Low-High range bass... Compared to the Low-Low and Low-Mid, the Low-High fails to deliver the same impact as the others... When I had my first Shure product, the SCL3, I wasn't blown away by the bass. Now on a lower-end Shure model with a Dynamic Driver, I am blown away by the amount of bass available. Shure is definitely a very unique company with many different sound signatures available. I would have to choose the SE215's over the SA-6 for the bass. Great stuff honestly. I would have to give it the Bass (8.5/10)
Mids: For comparison sakes, I compared the SE215's to the Etymotic HF5's. Two VERY different IEMs. On one side, we have a warm, powerful, forgiving sound, the SE215. On the other, we have cold precision on the mids and extreme attention to detail on the high end, the HF5's. SE215's are warm, HF5's are cold. Let’s see how they compare. The mids on the SE215s are very warm and crisp. "Stupid" by Sarah McLachlan demonstrates this very well. The reason why I chose this song is because I heard complaints about the SE215's inability to capture a female voice. I like the Mids a lot, I really do. I have always been a fan of a warm tone from many different Shure products. The SE215's Mids aren't shouty at all, but they have the tendency to hide under the boomy bass. This makes the SE215's delivery more laid back. There's never a rush, just smooth soothing delivery of the warm and crisp Mids. With the HF5's, a completely different story. The Etys gives off a cold sound, almost kind of a monotone kind of sound. The HF5's show no added detail, there's no lying. The detail achieved by the HF5's is just mesmerizing to listen to. So accurate and precise. Etymotic's Motto really comes alive here, "True to the Ear". For my second song, I chose "Last Flowers to the Hospital" by Radiohead. I'm looking for emotion this time. Let’s start with the Etymotic's first. Remarkable precision demonstrated by the HF5. It's just so accurate that it surprises me every time I listen to them. The HF5's really brings out sadness expressed by a very emotional and dramatic Vocalist, Thom Yorke. I can just picture every vibration produced in the vocal chords of Thom. Extreme example of attention to detail portrayed by the HF5. Also the balance between the Mids and Highs are flawless. There's no sense of the Mids backing off to the sharp piercing cries of the Highs whatsoever. Now let’s see how the SE215’s do. I like how the SE215's bring out a warmer tone. This has the effect of bringing out full, detailed emotions. Instead of hearing Thom's Sad voice, I was being explained why he was sad. The HF5 delivers emotion as accurately as possible, but the SE215's open up and explains the emotion in greater detail. My pick between the two has to be the HF5's. I just cannot get enough of the clarity and precision produced by the Etymotic HF5. Now comparing the SE215's with my Unique Melody SCL3X triple driver customs, I expected similar mids. I was somewhat correct, but the level of warmth was very different. My UM SCL3X has a Shure SCL3 (E3) Driver as its mid driver, so I thought it would be a good idea to compare the SE215s with the SCL3X's. I can definitely sense a "Shure" sound from the two. The SCL3 managed to be very warm and precise at the same time while the SE215's sacrifices some precision for more warmth, which makes a more lovely sound in my opinion. For Mids, I would have to give it the Mids (8/10)
Highs: I've been hearing quite a fair amount of complaints about the lack of highs on the SE215's, and I can't argue there. Yes, the High's are weak when compared to the Bass and Mids, but you get only SO much from a Single Driver under $100... When the Bass and Mids back off, the Highs are able to shine as well. This is demonstrated by "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder. The piano sounds very accurate and precise when the Harmonica solo comes in. The bass steps down so the Mids and Highs can work together to create a lovely Harmonica solo with support from piano and faint acoustic guitar in the background. Also while listening to "Last Flowers to the Hospital" by Radiohead; the piano sounds really epic with an even more epic Thom Yorke singing the melody. For this comparison, I’m putting the SA-6 with the "+" treble tip against the SE215's once again. They both produces a warm, comforting sound so lets try splitting the two apart. For this test I chose Tchaikovsky- Violin Concerto in D Major Op.35 for the rich sonorous tone produced by the violins and also Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major K622 Adagio for the amount of detail achieved by the Woodwinds. The delivery is very soft and melodic, with no signs of excess or limiting factors with the SA-6. What I noticed with the SA-6's is that it has more relaxed and comforting Highs. This is shown at the end of the Clarinet Concerto when the flute holds a long and consistent note before ending the song. The tone and consistency produced from the SA-6 is just mind-blowing. Never have I expected the SA-6 to warm-up to the Highs and deliver such spectacular sound. Now in the SE215's, the SE215 produces a colder sound as it gets into the higher frequencies. This can be good in some occasions, but not with the SE215's. It produces cold highs without the same amount of precision you get in the HF5's for example. The HF5 manages to be cold AND precise at the same time. The SE215 manages to be cold only. It’s a rather boring sound. During the crescendos in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, I’m having to lean forwards in the SE215's in order to make every crescendo come alive. It just doesn't sing out like it did with the Mids. There's no enthusiasm in the Highs... The SA-6 executes this much better. Every crescendo, every accent and every key change is noticeable. Also when listening to Stevie Wonders "For Once in My Life", I noticed a very FAINT whistle like sound in the background in the SE215. I switched to the SA-6 and that "FAINT" sound was no longer faint. It became very clear to me that the SE215's definitely lack detail in the Highs compared to the SA-6. Overall, it’s not a terrible sound produced by the SE215, but I can't think of many compliments for the SE215's... It's too bland for my liking. I would have to give the Highs a reasonable (7/10)
Soundstage: Captures a wider soundstage than the HF5s, MC5s, and a tad bit more than the SA-6. I believe this is due to its Dynamic driver. Personally, I dislike listening to classical music with the SE215s because of Greig/Holbergs suite for strings op.40. There's too much cello and double bass up close for my liking. The violins can't express themselves enough. Bass seems closest, then Mids, then highs the furthest away. It's fairly easy to distinguish the location of the Bass, Guitar, Vocals, and Drums. However, the sound of the Hi-Hats and Ride is very faint and hard to distinguish its location. I would give the soundstage a (8/10).
Fit: Once you work around the annoying Memory cable and get a good seal, one of the most comfortable universal IEMs I have had in my ears so far. Definitely a HUGE improvement over the previous se210s and the shape fits perfectly in any ear. Shure has really focused on the fit. A very comfortable, flush fit produced by the SE215. I would have like it if the Tips went in a tad bit deeper, and Tri-Flanges are a no no for me on the SE215's. Capable of long listening due its lightweight and supportive design. I would have to give the fit a perfect (10/10).
Build Quality: Thick cables feel VERY sturdy, especially around the Memory Wire area. Housing feels solid and everything else is of top-notch quality, except for the connection between the housing and the Detachable cables... Like I mentioned above, I dislike how it spins freely while still attached. And 2 Year Warranty says it all. Even if something goes wrong, Shures excellent Customer Service has you covered. The only reason stopping me from giving the SE215's a (9/10) is due to its replaceable cables. The Spinning motion created by the Replaceable cables gives it an uneasy feeling. I want a more secure feel when the Cables are attached. With that saying, I would have to give the Build Quality (8.5/10).
Isolation: Once I get a good seal with the Olive Foamies, it’s just me and the music. Compared to my old Shure e3c (scl3), this is a huge improvement in sound isolation. I still think the HF5's has the best isolation, but the SE215's are right on their tail. In a normal environment, the isolation between the two is insignificant, but in a louder environment, the HF5's isolate sound a bit more than the SE215s. The Isolation definitely deserves (9.5/10).
Value: Ooooh boy... Best bang for the buck under $100? $120?? $150??? Under 100, YES! Under 120, well yeah it depends but it definitely is a strong contender. Under 150, that might be pushing it a little, but for the way it performs, it’s not the BEST overall sounding less than 150, but still up there. After doing this review, I really don't understand the price on the SA-6... $240?? It’s such a joy to see how the value for money SE215 is still able to compete with the more expensive SA-6 and HF5. Shure has definitely blown me away with this new product. I am completely sold. Performance to price ratio is just off the charts! That’s why I chose to give value (9.5/10)
Conclusion: It's been a pleasure to write this review on the SE215. The SE215 has changed my views on many of the IEM's I own and have tried in the past 5 years. I still don't understand why Shure priced the SE215's at such a low price. So far, I’m completely sold by the SE215. I just don't care about the transparent shell and I don't care about the lacking Highs, all I care about is the sound it makes. Putting price aside, the SE215's really put up a show. The bass has gotten me to listen to more Hip-Hop and Techno. It’s just so FUN listening to the Bass drops and the different harmonic Baselines while listening to Dubstep for instance. The Mids went well above my expectations as well. Such a warm and forgiving sound produced by the SE215's. Even though the Highs were slightly disappointing, who cares? Its still there and its still making a relatively good sound. I might have been a little hard on the Highs but that’s because I enjoy Highs the most. After hearing the energetic bass and the warm mids, I expected the highs to blow me away as well. Shure has their technological and scientific reasons why they didn't juice up the highs, got to respect that. I know that Shure is capable of producing amazing highs like the SE530, SE535, SE425, and the SE315, but they chose not to with the SE215's. They knew they had limitations with the SE215's Single Dynamic Driver so they went with the initial instinct of a warm, bassy sound. I like that. That’s the reason why I would recommend the SE215's to virtually anyone for the value to performance ratio. Even as an added bonus, Shure made the bold decision of having replaceable cables and offering flawless comfort at the same time. Amazing job Shure! I know for a fact that the SE215's will be in my ears for many years to come. Best entry product IEM I have ever listened to so far. Even if you’re an Audiophile, the SE215's are capable of surprising you and even performing well above your standards. It’s been such fun and an unforgettable experience doing this review. Hopefully this review will help you with the purchase of the SE215's. Trust me on this one guys, the SE215's will make you smile. I know for a fact that the SE215's are going to be one of my favorites for many years to come. Hopefully I have helped you with this review and if you are planning to purchase the SE215s, you made the right choice. Cheers!
Edited by planx - 5/14/11 at 9:45pm