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Headphones item created by jazzfan, May 30, 2013
Pros - Sounds Great, Isolation, Build
Cons - Cable
Thought that I would post this here as well because peple who search for this should be able to find this easier. Has been reposted from the SE846 thread.
Today I got the chance to listen to some of my friend's gear and compare them to the SE846/DX90. I was particularly curious about the Roxanne, but the IM03 turned out to be a very interesting listen indeed. Here is my comparison of the SE846 and the Roxanne since there hasn't really been an in depth comparison yet. Obviously, YMMV.
JH Audio Roxanne vs Shure SE846 (White Filter)
The Roxanne was very good, and having loaned that pair for a day a while ago, I knew what to expect. When I had them, I absolutely loved the bass and treble, but found the midrange somewhat lacking in clarity and detail. When I heard the SE846 with white filters, I immediately thought that the SE846 was a bit similar to the Roxanne, but the midrange was absolutely the best I have heard on an IEM.
Let's start with the bass, it is hard to compare these two IEMs especially, because both are adjustable. The Roxanne was on a configuration where the impact was around the same as the SE846. I found that although the Roxanne bass was incredible, the SE846 is just better to me. It is faster and more punchy, which I like and has the perfect amount of sub-bass. The Roxanne was great too, but I thought that the SE846's bass was just more realistic.
The midrange was no competition for me, the SE846 takes this hands down. The SE846's midrange is lush, but very detailed at the same time. It has no sibilance and vocal clarity is above everything I have heard. The Roxanne's midrange just felt like it was a bit veiled and overly warm.
The treble was interesting, on the blue filters I would have taken the Roxanne treble over these any day, but with the white filter it is much closer. The SE846's treble is probably a little more pronounced, but both are very detailed and not sibilant at all. I really don;t prefer either, so this is a draw.
The area that the Roxanne is heads and shoulders above the Shure is soundstage and imaging. The Roxanne along with the 1plus2 are the two most headphone like IEMs I have heard in this regard and although the Shure is very competent in this area, the Roxanne is better. The Roxanne's soundstage is more three dimensional and the SE846's soundstage feels a bit flat in comparison. Imaging is also better on the Roxanne, but the SE846 is not far off at all.
The SE846 seems to be a little bit more detailed because it is tuned brighter and is faster, but in reality they are both great, but I do feel like the SE846 pulls ahead a little. Clarity is much better on the SE846 due to the tuning once again. The Roxanne's warm mids does it more harm than good IMO and it sounds too warm for me. The Shure sounds quite neutral and vocals especially are incredibly realistic and accurate. Instrument separation is a bit better on the Roxanne, but the SE846 comes quite close. Vocal separation is a little better on the SE846 for me.
Overall, I do feel like I made the correct decision by going for the SE846 over the Roxanne because personally I like them more, but many people will also disagree with this. One thing is indisputable, however; both of these are extremely good IEMs and are two of the best universal IEMs out there right now.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. The AK100 was shocking, and not in a good way. They were warm, had no focus and sounded downright bad. The sound was blurry almost and everything just sounded warm and lifeless. I genuinely do not like this DAP, for the price, the AK100 is simply unacceptable IMO.
Back to more positive impressions, the HM-901 is great! sounds very detailed, the most detailed DAP I have heard without any doubt. The SE846 paired very well. Soundstage and imaging was exceptional and so was clarity and detail. It made the AK100 sound like a cheap toy. However, almost everything has negatives and the HM-901 is certainly no different. The build quality is horrendous, with cheap feeling and looking plastic everywhere. The deal breaker for me was the UI. The HM-901 is slow, unresponsive and hard to navigate through. If HiFiMAN made the HM-901 more usable, then this would be an awesome DAP.
The DX90 is what I am using right now and I love it. It ticks most boxes for me - it is small, light, has decent battery life, sounds good and has multiple outputs. It sounds great for the price too. It is essentially a slightly scaled down HM-901. It isn't quite as good, but is more than makes up for it by being a but better overall package. It pairs just as well with the SE846 as the HM-901 does.
As always, I hoped that this helped and I would love to hear what other people think.
Pros - Bass, Sound quality, Comfort
Cons - None
I tried many different IEMs before deciding on these and could not be happier. One of the things of this earphone that immediately stood out along with the full bodied bass was the beautiful cymbal decay. The ability to distinguish and set the soundstage of each instrument is stunning. I am not an audiophile by any means but do play guitar and drums. As described by so many others, the bass is true subwoofer quality with a depth, tightness and a perfect presence the way it was intended by the artist. I am comparing this to the sound that I have experienced at many concerts. Spend some time with the different tips that are supplied to make sure you get the right fit which is so important. I run this straight out of iTouch at the gym, Andoid Phone with PowerAmp and BitHead Amp for travel and the AudioEngine D3 off the laptop. I moved up from the venerable SE530 which gave me many years of great service and that I still listen to from time to time.The SE846 is at a whole different level and are worth the money. If you can afford these, I highly recommend them! These are my third pair of headphones from Earphonesolutions and Flavio and team are top notch! They know their headphones and customer service is second to none! -Henk
Pros - Clarity, Vocals, Bass
Cons - Price
I have listened to many earphones, over the ear "cans", including Bose Noise Cancelling, and nothing, I mean nothing compares to this experience in good listening. I was happy with them when I first received them, but then I started to look up the interchangeable sleeves, and was curious as to what were the differences. The ones that come with the earphones are a neutral, yet tremendous sounding sleeve, but then I curiously looked at the black sleeves, which were labelled "warm". I took about 20 minutes to figure out the way to change them (took my time, since small parts involved and didn't want to break them, or lose anything). I just put them on with the warm "black sleeves", and these bad boys came to life so well, that I had to write my review and not miss the opportunity to describe them to others. I am hearing things on live recordings that I never heard before, including a live "Croz" show that I bought when I went to the NYC Winery on 1/31/13, and I hear him talking to the crowd, the crowd responses, and the clicking of the silverware on a plate, it is that crisp and clear! The base came to life, and the highs are high, mids just right, and I am only at half volume on my player.
I am actually playing these on an Astell and Kern AK100, modified by Vinnie of Red Wine Audio when I first bought it. I am amazed at the clarity and again this is on a high bit mp3 album, and when I put this on the original flac file studio album, I got shivers down my spine. Sheer enjoyment, and the old ear canals can't stop thanking me enough! Shane Fontanes leads are crisper than ever.....and Marcus Eatons accoustic riffs sweet as candy, Crosby vocals like he was in the room with me, and the base/Drum bottom of the band incredible. WOW!
I am happy that I bought them, and recognize that they are a small fortune, but if you love good music, good sound, and clarity, with a comfort that I have not experienced before in my ears, then these are the earphones for you. I would do this in a heartbeat now, after hearing them, and looking back is 20/20 vision always. But I read review after review, after review, and none said anything bad about these. Nothing bad....excepting for a once off this (comfort) and a once off that (one side fitting different than the other, and the solution was to put the different size tips on). Again once off, kept me digging and every time I did, I was overjoyed to hear more and more great things about them. Nobody on the downside was right about these phones, nobody.
I don't work for Shure, and actually don't like the earlier earphones from them. I have had two pair, and still keep an older pair as a spare. I have owned Ultimate Ears, Bose (still have the noise cancelling for trips), Koss Portaphones (several pair and like these for the beach over the ear), and many many others. Never did I find anything that I liked that was "totally satisfactory"! Now I did, and Shure outdid itself with the SE846-CL.
Pros - Subwoofer effect in a compact housing, Excellent bass, Transparency, Clarity, Mids
Cons - Slightly large, Expensive
At the beginning of my journey, I couldn't fathom myself spending so much on an IEM. I was and still am an enthusiast. The title of "audiophile" is something that still eludes me. I don't know all the linguo, nor do can I discern the most minute differences between IEMs. What I do know is that I had a moment when I put on these headphones for the first time. The bass on these are nothing short of extraordinary. I frankly did not expect this type of performance from something so compact. Shure set out to mimic the performance of a subwoofer in a housing that's the size of the tip of your finger, a tough task, yet they succeeded, and then some. The bass is powerful and convincing, but not at the expense of the higher frequencies. You will get those great vocals, and you will be able to pick out almost every detail. Shure's mid-centric signature is still here, but the SE846's greatest strength is in that groundbreaking bass. I've never been a bass-head. Heck, I was never one for much bass in my music. While I did indulge in it from time to time, I usually preferred to have it accentuate the mids and highs. That is until I heard the SE846, which taught me that one doesn't always have to listen to what they're comfortable with. There are times when you'll think you've felt everything you want to feel, and you'll be happy with never feeling something new again. But your tastes will evolve and change, and you will learn to appreciate new things, even when you thought you already knew what you wanted.
Pros - Amazing sound ( Mids and Lows are amazing ), Olive tips works wonders on isolation, nice packaging, superb build quality, customizing frequency respon
Cons - Price ( but the performance kinda makes up for it ) , design ( doesn’t give out that $999.00 feel, can’t really show off in public, just saying ) * Th
Before I begin with my review of the Shure SE846, all of the below are solely what I’ve managed to get out of the IEM, I suggest to give it a try or read some other people’s review to get a clearer picture of the IEM, as my opinions are not absolute and other ears might have listened differently
Build: Durable build, you can actually feel that this IEM can take quite a beating but then who doesn’t take care of its flagship IEM like a baby right? Its comfortable wearing these IEMs, the shape of the SE846 sits perfectly on my ears. Although, the olive tips, after wearing a long period of time, kinda hurts my ears, due to the constant expanding of the foams. Metal nozzles are great, least if your Olives breaks, your nozzle still stays. The cables are durable ( least from the looks of it ) but if the stock cable somehow malfunctions, there’s a second cable that comes together with the SE846 ( 64” and 46” ) also it comes with a variety of ear tips ( olives, triple flanged, standard silicone and yellow foam ) , airline and 1/4" adapter and a volume control, packaged into an amazing, prestigious looking box.
Sound quality: Amazing sound, the SE846 nails the mids and lows, jazz songs sound great, with the True Subwoofer that the low-pass filter gives, you can actually hear the strings of the bass being plucked than just the usual splashy bass sound. Highs however, is quite there, but it’s not as good as what Final Audio’s IEMs can produce. Well nothing is perfect, so I can look pass that, not a big issue. Also the audio fidelity that this earphone produces when I connect it on my Centrance DACport is just amazing, listeing to Celine Dion 's Power of Love on DSD format is just mesmerising.
Soundstage:The SE846's soundstage is more or less a "V" shaped soundstage, not exactly wide and not narrow either.
True Subwoofer: Remember me saying that this IEM is quite EQ dependent? Yes, it is, if you fully utilize the low-pass filter, on no EQ done, the IEM’s mids and highs are there like it supposed to, but the lows, you can feel that the True Subwoofer is there but it can’t really pump out that punchy low bass/sub bass, ( Jayz’s Tom Ford is the best way to test this IEM’s Highs,Mids and Lows ) listening to Jayz’s Tomford on my Sony ZX1 without any equalization, the bass sounds “weak” and in metaphor, like a caged beast, you know that the True Subwoofer is some crazy **** on the SE846 but it’s not revealing itself. Therefore I tweaked the EQ “ Clear Bass for the Sony ZX1 “ Listened to Jayz’s Tomford again, the bass is so so much more defined, solid and going strong ( EDMs sounds amazing on the SE846 with the EQ ), tight, defined bass, even listening to Jazz is different with the EQ on. The sub bass is amazing, but on super low bass, you might be able to hear subtle crackle sounds ( Happened when I listened to Jayz’s ****withmeyouknowIgotit ) I guess the True Subwoofer have its limits, but other than that, it’s amazing.
Interchangeable Filters: It comes with a bright ( white ) neutral ( blue ) and warm ( black ) filters for you to change the frequency response to your liking. The neutral filter, as said is neutral and how the SE846 suppose to sound like, the bright filter, once installed, the mids and highs are very defined, vocals are clearer and the warm filter makes the mids and highs sounds a little dimmer, just slight not too much. So far I'm using the neutral filter as it suits my listening.
Verdict : The SE846 is indeed an amazing IEM, well done Shure, on developing this amazing IEM.
PS : I would like to compliment Jaben Malaysia for their amazing customer service, by far the best audio hardware store that I've visited in Malaysia so far, good store mood, great customer service and people are just as enthusiastic as I am on audio products.
SE846 Link :
Pros - Bass, sub bass, mids, customizable highs, build quality, company strength, accessories, aesthetics
Cons - No mobile version cable for phone control
Will keep this short.....
They cost a grand because......, well -THAT'S WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You get what you pay for, and when you pay 1000.00 for a pair of IEMS, this is what you get.
Bass that you feel deep down and low. True subwoofer performance. Amazing bass/sub bass. Mids are fantastic and Highs, for me, are spot on.
These things make my massive music collection new again. Hearing things in songs I never heard before. The detail, the clarity and realism are second to none. They far out perform my W40s.
This is a game ender for me. The search is over. All I have to do now is sit back and enjoy my music.
Think the price is high? Compared to what? Golf clubs? Go to one of the online audio shops that offer 24 month interest free financing. For 41.00 a month, it will be the best money you ever spent.
Pros - Sound like SE535 which means excellent for me
Cons - 250% price penalty not offering a substantially better sound
Got the SE846 last week and did some hours of comparison with my current SE535. My bias was towards keeping them - I like flagship products as a "there is nothing better" products, i.e. do not bother about upgrades anymore. My setup is a Cowon Z2 attached to an ALO audio Rx Mark3-B, and both headphones equipped with new triple-flanges, which perfectly isolate my ears for a good bass response. I think I am experienced enough with top quality headphones to judge on subtle headphone characteristics and the overall performance, though I am by no means a geek with an unlimited dollar setup.
My overall impression is simple: Even after repeatedly listening into different songs, I simply could not determine *any* difference with my current SE535. I definitely would fall through in a blind-folded hearing test. The same level of details in the high/mid-range, no massive bass improvement which I was seeking for, no difference in the spatial sound stage. After putting back in again my 535s, trying to identify any weakness I simply could not hear it.
Another thing that stroke me: The 846s initially fit better in my ears than the 535s (they are a bit blown up). However, after half an hour, the left one started hurting. Ears are so sensitive towards even the smallest discomfort.
As a result, I decided to send them back - unfortunately.
Pros - Bass of a neutral full sized headphone, clean and with the extremely low distortion you only find in a $1,500 flagship
Cons - Doesn't isolate as well as the SE425 (unless you mod it); it's still just an IEM, meaning it will never sound as good as a full sized headphone
The only other IEM I've ever tried is the Shure SE425. The SE846 has not only better bass (obviously) but I confirmed that it has better treble and mids. The SE425 sounds downright muddy relative to these. The treble is very slightly rolled off on the SE846, I think, but that's subjective so it might be just right for you. The bass on these is like everyone says, tight, deep, natural and undistorted. But it's not at all like beats or other boomy headphones. Play a bass heavy track and you'll hear it with quality, but it doesn't inject bass where it doesn't belong and it is not excessive. It also sounds nothing like a proper subwoofer; it's no where near that impactful and strong (you can feel a subwoofer in your body) so let's dispense with that bit of marketing right now. However, it delivers bass similar to what you would expect from a quality neutral full sized headphone, with very little distortion and very cleanly. It was unusual to hear that sound from a tiny IEM; at first I found it kind of disturbing, sort of like how you would feel if you saw an ant carrying a rock on its back, lol.
The above was with the blue filter, which leads us the reason why this is one of the greatest headphones ever made: its filter system. When I moved to the white filter, the bass seemed much lower. I say seemed, because the manual says that all the white filter does is raise the volume between 1khz and 8khz by 2.5db, so it shouldn't affect the bass. Any way, that extra treble sort of drowns out the bass I guess. After about 3 hours on each, I think I'd like something between the white and the blue (can we get a light blue filter Shure?) But since that's not available I'll spend most of my time with the white. Regardless of what you like, the three filter thing is a very cool innovation by Shure which deserves praise. The only problem with it, is that you might find yourself constantly wanting to switch, to hear how the other filter sounds with a particular song, and I'm guessing I'll be losing/breaking these filters at some point from all the changes, lol. Not sure what the replacement cost is. But this feature, which will probably be copied by others, deserves a 1 star boost. It's like getting three headphones in one.
One last comment on the bass -- it's very DAC (and amp, if your amp adulterates the signal) dependent. I say this because the bass output is much much higher when I plug this into my LG G Flex phone, than it is when I plug it into my Note 2 phone. The Note 2's DAC is much brighter but that causes the bass to almost disappear. If you're not hearing bass, switch DACs by trying it on another phone, or your laptop.
As far as fit, if you buy a professional tip from Comply, I don't think it's possible to get an improvement by purchasing a custom molded sleeve. Shure IEMs + comply tips go deep into your ears, they are comfortable and they fit every nook and cranny of your ear canal. Just get the right size. I have never tried a custom made IEM but I would not be surprised if they didn't fit as well as Comply tips. The tips supplied by Shure are not as good for comfort or isolation, and I will never use them, but you can buy Comply tips for $20 which isn't much relative to the price of these things.
Moving on to the isolation. First of all, Shure is misleading customers when they claim that the SE425 and SE846 provide the same isolation (its website states that both "provide up to 37 dB of isolation" without distinguishing between the two). The SE425 with professional Comply tips is like wearing hearos ear plugs. A car can go by you at 35mph and it'll sound like a very light whispery vroosh. You can't make out what people are saying, even if they're right in front of you. With the SE846, the car is louder and you can hear people's voices a little better. If you look at the innerfidelity charts, they confirm that the SE425 isolate better than the SE846. At first I was annoyed by this slight downgrade in isolation, but then again the isolation of the SE425 might be dangerous. It's kind of odd walking next to a busy street and barely hearing anything. Very risky if you're bicycling or something. Plus, once I find where the noise is leaking into the SE846 I can put tape over it or do another mod (I think the noise might be coming in from that mechanism they use to let you change tips, perhaps it needs a gasket that I can easily craft). I was going to take off 1/2 star for the downgrade in isolation, but now I'm not sure. I think the Etymotics isolate sound excessively and are unsafe, but I'm not sure whether the SE425 or SE846 have it right. Edit: I created a gasket out of about a 2mm thick slice of a hearos earplug (when compressed it's about as thick as a hair), and inserted it between the base and the screw you use to attach the filter to the base. After doing so, I can no longer hear people talk in front of me; I think the SE425 might still have a tiny bit better isolation but I would have to do careful listening tests to be sure.
Getting back to the sound quality, the SE846 still generally doesn't sound better than a solid $300-$500 over the ear headphone. It is NOT EVEN CLOSE to the sound of a flagship over the ear. If I were to start comparing this to the HD800 I would trash this a hundred ways, relatively unresolved and sloppy bass, relatively unresolved treble, treble roll off, lack of spatial imaging, I could go on and on. The first company that makes an IEM that is objectively indistinguishable from an HD800 in blind tests will make a fortune. These are only worth it if you listen to music with a ton of ambient sound that you need to block out or if you don't like the looks of a big headphone; otherwise always buy a full sized headphone. At the same time, it's in another universe relative to the SE425. Those sound awful once you wear the SE846. I really need to try the IE800 (which I didn't buy because it doesn't accept Comply tips, and it has much worse isolation than the SE846 according to the innerfidelity charts) to compare the two [Edit: I purchased and reviewed the IE800 which you can find in my reviews]. But since the reviewers who compare this to the IE800, JH13/16 etc. and other $1,000 IEMs aren't sure which is best, I think this is about as good as it is going to get with IEMs -- which is disappointing.
One other observation is that these are louder than the SE425. With one volume bar, this is like having two volume bars with the SE425 (I checked with a decibel meter, measuring dbA slow). Similarly, with two volume bars, this is like having three volume bars with the SE425. I hear Shure didn't do this on purpose to fool customers with the "louder = better" trick. But please keep this in mind. These have virtually no resistance and they put you at greater risk of hearing loss if you're not careful with the volume. But also keep in mind that the increased bass response of these might be affecting dbA measurements; I would have to dig into the dbA formula to confirm.
Due to the high expectations from a $1,000 price, this isn't quite a 5 star product, but I'm keeping them because when a song with bass comes on, I want to hear it, rather than hear that lame tapping sound the SE425 calls bass, and overall I think they deserve 4 1/2 stars. Add the 1 star boost due to the filter innovation and it's 5 1/2 stars (capped at 5 stars).
Pros - low/mid bass, mids
Cons - Treble extension, cost
I'll keep this short.
Build quality: 5/5. Looks very solid and durable. The cable seems like it will last a while, and if it doesn't - you get a second one for free anyway. The Y split is very beefy. The jack is also beefy and looks like it will last a long time. The earpieces look durable as well. They have weight to them. They look and feel expensive - and they are. They even have removable metal nozzles. No worries about breaking those tight fitting olives! Well, you might break the olives. Not the nozzles though!
Sound: These things sound great. For this portion I will mostly be referring to their sound with the blue (default) filters. I've owned many top tier universals and these are easily the best in my mind. Their main strengths are the sub bass, mid bass, and mids. The bass is the best I have ever heard from a BA IEM. They reach deep. The sub bass is very very good. It sounds like an excellent dynamic driver down low. The mid bass has great impact and reminds me of the Westone 3 without any negative impact on the mids. The mids are typical Shure. If you love vocals I don't see how you could dislike the SE846. They are pretty much the star of the show, even with the amazing bass response Shure has achieved with this quad BA. Vocals are smooth, sweet, and a bit more up front than neutral. I love their treble but I tend to prefer a laid back sound overall, especially up high. For those who love a bright top end then you probably won't like these much. The treble is there, detailed and non fatiguing but it's not well extended which can cause a lack of airy feeling up top. The white filters remedy this to some extent but they don't help the overall extension much. The white filters add some air and shimmer but overall the extension is about the same. Bass feels a little lessened compared to the blue filters. I never tried the blacks so I can't comment on them.
So, why buy them? If you're looking for a universal with great build quality, looks, amazing bass and dreamy mids - you should absolutely look into the SE846. I think they are a great step up from the SE535 LTD's. Worth $500 more? As always, depends if you can afford it.
Why not buy them? Do you love your treble? Are you a detail lover? Do you find Shure's mids to be too forward? Are you poor? If you fit any of these categories you might want to take a pass and consider the IE800, 1+2, k3003 or customs. If you're poor, you might want to consider 1. A ramen diet or 2. a job. Both will allow you to experience the wonders of top tier IEMS.