Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System

General Information

The premium KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System is an electrostatic earphone and amplifier system with digital-to-analog-conversion (DAC) for use in-line with portable media players. Featuring single-driver electrostatic Sound Isolating earphones matched to a USB digital-to-analog-converter (DAC) that converts analog or digital audio from portable digital or analog audio sources. The KSE1500 system features a 24 bit/ 96 kHz conversion rate, customizable 4-band parametric EQ with five standard and 4 user-defined settings, recharge ability and input level meters. Able to process both digital audio directly via micro-USB, analog via a direct line in, or bypass entirely for a pure analog signal without conversion. The KSE1500 system defines a new standard of portable listening that brings high-fidelity audio into the mobile demands of today’s active lifestyles. Included: KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System, USB wall charger, Micro-B-to-Lightning cable, Micro-B OTG Cable, (2) 1/8" (3.5mm) cables [6" (15.2 cm) and 36" (92 cm)], ¼" (6.3mm) adapter, leather carrying case, airline adapter, attenuator, cable clip, (2) security bands, microfiber cleaning cloth.

Latest reviews

DallaPo

New Head-Fier
Pros: outstanding transparency, separation and resolution
excellent voice reproduction
neutral signature with light warmth
almost perfect mids
Cons: the trebles are not unpleasant, but sometimes a bit intrusive
the diversity of information can overstretch
the bass tends to overdrive when boosted.
Rating: 8.9
Sound: 9

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Intro
2999 €, welcome to my personal utopia. First of all: The KSE1500 offers an impressive listening experience. I can say without a guilty conscience that I have never heard an IEM that delivers such a performance in terms of transparency, resolution and above all the 3D sound image.

Nevertheless the KSE1500 is an IEM with which I don't get 100% warm. Objectively and at the same time subjectively seen the KSE1500 will surely be an end game for some people, at least concerning the wallet, but I guess I'm still on the never ending search.

With the KSE1500, SHURE is a kind of pioneer when it comes to an electrostatic driver in in-ear format and has certainly caused a sensation in 2016.
Meanwhile 4 years have passed and the technology has continued to develop. But is the KSE1500 still the benchmark to climb? Yes and no.

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Handling
So, what do you get for such a used middle class car:

1 x charger with USB cable
1 x Micro-USB-B on Lightning cable, 20 cm
1 x Micro-USB-B OTG cable, 20 cm
1 x 3.5 mm jack cable, approx. 15 cm
1 x 3.5 mm jack cable, approx. 90 cm
1 x 6.3 mm jack adapter
1 x leather storage bag
1 x Comfort Transport Case
1 x aircraft adapter
1 x volume control (what for, the DAC/amplifier already has a control?)
1 x cable clip
2 x rubber safety straps
1 x microfibre polishing cloth

In addition, there are also different variants of silicone and foam tips. So it should not fail because of the accessories. All this is delivered in a big black box, which also has a drawer to store everything. So you have a small cupboard in miniature format at home.

What surprised and disappointed me the most is the IEM and its design. Plastic in plastic with a firmly connected, thick cable, which makes a valuable impression, but unfortunately has memory wire reinforcements.
The actual housing of the electrostatic driver was packed into a plastic cover, which gives the KSE1500 a somewhat unusual appearance. It is also a bit rounder and larger than its SE cousins, but without any restrictions it wears just as fantastically. The workmanship, or rather the choice of materials, doesn't make me suspect, however, that I'm holding just that much money in my hands here.

Since I can operate the KSE1500 by its individual cable connection (LEMO) exclusively with the provided amplifier (large point of criticism), I must lose also briefly one or two words to this. This has a somewhat longer rounded cigarette box format and makes a very robust impression in contrast to the KSE1500. When fully charged, it lasts up to 12 hours and the integrated DAC can be easily connected to a mobile phone via OTG or the line-in. Of course also with other mobile players or the laptop, where it is also directly recognized. It has a simple menu navigation, a volume control and above all a graphic level indicator on the small display, where the current volume, equalizer setting, connection type (line, or USB) and the charge level are also shown.

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Sound
For the review I control the DAC/amplifier via USB with my mobile phone, with the USB Audio Player PRO and MQA - That means I consume the music Bit-Perfect and let the integrated DAC (24-bit/96 kHz) do its job. The equalizer setting is set to FLAT and I have not made any other modifications. The DAC offers the possibility to create your own equalizer setting and has also predefined settings, such as Low-Boost, De-Ess, or Loudness, but this falsifies the sound too much and does not reflect the KSE1500 anymore.

The bass is what is probably called "slightly north of neutral" in the "technical language". It is slightly emphasised in the mid bass and drops off towards the sub bass. For my taste, I miss the impact and it serves more as a necessary element to keep the signature from drifting into sterility, instead of putting its stamp on the music and making you bounce along. He does his work sovereignly, is very clean, but does not develop the desired pressure. I'm aware that this is a criticism that is not very objective and the KSE1500 certainly doesn't want to inspire with bass, but with an authentic and neutral music reproduction, but I'm concerned about the weighting in the signature and there the trebles dominate a bit too much compared to the bass. Apart from that, the bass has a good texture and is to the point, but not particularly punchy. If you're looking for an authentic, unobtrusive bass reproduction, you'll find what you're looking for here. But be careful, if you want to give the bass a little fire under its butt (DAC equalizer), it tends to overdrive and becomes unclean. But you can't blame the bass for its quality and it's available in enough quantity to survive in any genre, just not in focus.

The mids are fantastic. Very natural, incredibly high-resolution and transparent, and absolutely uncoloured. But they are neither boring nor undynamic, they are mostly musical and filled with life. Voices have a very authentic timbre, guitars are sometimes soft, sometimes crisp and you can't get enough of them. The separation is extraordinary, clean and sharply separated without it appearing artificial. You have your hands full to follow all the information in the music, which can sometimes even be a bit overwhelming. So why don't you get the full score? Well, the KSE1500 is not the absolute all-rounder for me and this is also reflected in the mids. Every now and then they are a bit too thin for me and I would like a bit more body. They fluctuate a bit between the analytical and the musical, but that is grumbling at the highest level. Some of you will find your End-Game here.

The trebles are more or less the counterpart of the SE846. If they drift a bit into the dark on the SE846, and don't have the absolute detail diversity, the KSE1500 mercilessly reveals all the musical information in a track. That can sometimes even be a bit exhausting. Not because there would be unpleasant peaks, or the sibilants are strongly emphasized (they do, but they don't become very annoying), but because the trebles are a bit too much in focus for my taste and are tuned slightly too bright. While trebleheads won't want to take the KSE150 out of their ears, everyone else will enjoy the overwhelming amount of detail that's buzzing around everywhere in their heads. A really amazing listening experience, but which can also become overstraining with time, as you might not always want to have everything presented razor-sharp with this precision, but also want to relax with your music. With the KSE1500 I can hear nuances that I hadn't noticed before and that's what makes it so special.

What happens in the panoramic picture of the KSE1500 is as outstanding as it is unusual for an in-ear. It's a real out-of-ear experience, which continues in the horizontal axis. Several levels can be identified without any problems and localisation is child's play.

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Outro
The KSE1500 does not make the final evaluation so easy for me. What is certain is that this is an IEM that uncompromisingly transports music into the ear and also wants to be fed with high quality stuff. I repeat myself, but the listening experience is one that I would like to recommend to every audiophile. But here also lies the problem. The KSE1500 is exciting, but at some point this experience wears off and you wish for a bit more everyday life and comfort. Car lovers will surely also like to heat up a Lamborghini with 300 km/h over the Nürburgring, but then they will also look forward to their VW Passat, which is more comfortable and where you know every flaw and imperfection, but still don't want to miss it.

Apart from the fact that I can only use the KSE1500 in combination with the SHURE amplifier, I enjoy the musical time with it, but in the long run it is too correct and a little bit know-it-all for me. Yes, I know that some of my favourite bands don't always have the perfect recordings, but do you have to point that out to me all the time?

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What I don't understand, though, at this price, is the product as such. Plastic, no detachable cables and of course the plug, which is not compatible with any other DAC or amplifier. So I have to use the SHURE-DAC/amplifier whether I want to or not. Apple says hello. The DAC is not bad, but is it really still up to date? No MQA, limited to 24-bit/96 kHz (okay, I admit that at some point I won't hear a difference anymore) and what it can do with DSD I can't judge.
If I understood it correctly, the KSE1200 is for over 1000 € less, the same IEM, only without the integrated DAC in the amplifier. Now spending over 1000 € for a DAC may not be unusual for some people, but then you have a digital headphone amplifier that is also compatible with other IEMs. At least please include an adapter or whatever. For the hobbyists among you, you might want to solder a LEMO female connector to a 2.5mm, or 3.5mm phone jack to get around this.

Yes, the KSE1500 is mobile high-end through and through, but for me it's enough to spend half a day with it and then I'm longing for something more solid and compatible, as well as less excited. For me nothing for everyday life, but if, I would like to spend time with him specifically.


Purchase possibility:
https://amzn.to/31GG10K

The DEMO-In-Ears were kindly provided directly by Shure Distribution Switzerland GmbH.
https://www.shure.ch/de-CH/produkte/ohrhoerer/kse1500

SHURE KSE1500.jpg
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bosiemoncrieff

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Detail retrieval, neutrality, isolation, portability, transient response
Cons: Genre constrained, unbalanced, imaging, soundstage, UI, KSE1200
"Shoot This Sound Up My Veins"


I got into headphones because I wanted the most faithful, accurate rendering of my classical music collection. I listen 99%+ to classical music and opera. If these genres do not interest you, my review has little to offer.


KSE1500, electrostatic IEMs with a dedicated amp/dac included, is my most expensive headphone purchase to date, though I bought it used (as I have done with HD800, K1000, HE-6, and I presume K3003i, as the AKG IEM came jankily sans case, sans filters—except the neutral—and sans tips—except the large. I got HD600 for about $230 as an Amazon warehouse deal. Without disclosing the exact terms of the sale, I will say that KSE1500 was a stretch even at the deep discount I was graciously afforded. To everyone else in my life, the cost was prima facie absurd. Although I cannot recommend KSE1500 at MSRP, neither can I recommend HD800, HE-6, or k3003i at their MSRP. Within an extremely luxurious hobby, I perhaps revert to my ethnic heritage and always seek out the best deal readily available.


My review structure discloses my own preferences in others’ reviews: namely, that adjectives help less than comparisons and contrasts. I use HD800 because of its comparative ubiquity, as well as its similar desire to be uncolored and neutral. Both cans have been criticized for being harsh or sibilant under certain circumstances. HD800 is driven by Schiit Audio’s Mjolnir 2 with my Amperax 1968 Orange Globes. All of my headphones are driven by my Bifrost Multibit, and KSE1500 uses line in with -10db on the input pad. I’ve also experimented with -20db, but found the slightly blacker background usually not worth the tradeoff in dynamic range.


As always, opinions are strictly my own, YMMV, and I may be biased because of the weather, how hungry I am, how many scotch mods I’ve had, etc.


Pros:


DETAIL RETRIEVAL: At first, I found KSE1500 overwhelming. I had the sensation of the headphones forcing details of the audio into my ear canals. It was almost paralyzing. I’m not prepared to say that it exceeds HD800 with an adequately driven chain. However, it seems clearly to equal it. Further, the details are pushed at you. HD800 presents the details, but they are not made as aggressively apparent as KSE1500. Shure has managed the incredible feat of making every instrument and voice clearly apparent. You can focus on any part of the whole with ease. In the Kleiber Tristan, the violins, celli, and basses were clearly distinct, each inhabiting their own space. At the climax (coitus interruptus) of the Liebesnacht, KSE1500 is a bustling flea market with eager merchants holding their wares outstretched. The limiting factor here is the source: how well was it recorded, what bit rate is it stored in, and how good is your dac?


ISOLATION: As Jude made clear in his video review, the “up to -37db” is not loose advertising copy. I live on a loud, busy street. With music playing at a low to moderate volume, traffic noise is inaudible. Even during pauses, plainly visible cars fifteen or twenty feet from me pass by as through in a silent film. For urban dwellers who demand summit-fi sound, KSE1500 is, to my mind, the best option available, easily beating out the AKG N90Q (which I’ve auditioned at length several times) on sound quality and isolation.


Other cans have a much higher ambient noise floor, simply because of my location, and unless I relocate to a quieter residence (and put a greater distance between the refrigerator and my audio), this will be a stubborn advantage that HD800 &co will be unable to share.

NEUTRALITY: KSE1500 is an neutral headphone; no part of the frequency spectrum stands out. This is another way of saying the headphone is “boring” and “lacking excitement.” One man’s neutrality is another man’s boredom.

TRANSPARENCY: Until I lived with KSE1500, I didn't really appreciate how clean the sound of an electrostatic driver was. Yes, HD800 is a very moving, musical headphone. But it (and especially K1000) can distort—the K1000's rattle is infamous—and convey grain. Though KSE1500 will distort at extremely high volumes, at normal volumes, the sound is clean, polished, and immaculate. Electrostatic drivers have a reputation for being more transparent than their dynamic counterparts, and KSE1500 lives up to this reputation. It presents pure music; it does not editorialize. There is, in most dynamics (like k3003i), a degree of grain that you only notice when you hear a headphone that does away with it. The level of resolve is shocking; I find KSE1500 the most transparent headphone I own. Furthermore, the transparency is such that it requires at least a week of extended listening to appreciate. I realized instantly that it was very good, but I could not appreciate the degree to which it was startlingly transparent until I had racked up 20-30 hours of listening time. Again, KSE scales with your source. In a masterful record like the Solti Ring, KSE1500's sonics blow one away and leave this essayist without adequate verbiage to describe the intense, relentless, "shoot this sound up my veins" immediacy.

MUSICALITY: One owner describe the sound to me as “unmusical,” an assessment with which I strongly disagree. Without going into a long discussion of Toscanini and Furtwängler, I will say that technical excellence is not an indictment of one’s musicianship. I find KSE1500 highly satisfying musically. Still, its “special sauce” falls short of HD800 and especially K1000 in terms of musical involvement.

ULTIMATE MOBILE RIG: Although it has a somewhat chunky iPod-sized amp, the mobility of electrostatic sound has shattered a barrier. It is quite easy to have both iPhone and ksa in one pocket, with the lightning cable connecting them, though deep pockets do improve the experience. While it’s less convenient than AirPods, I have used kse on the go both in my regular muni metro commute and traveling, and find the quality of music playback well worth the difficulty of taking photos and phone calls. I will take it and my AirPods to Europe; I no longer feel the need to bring my trusty Bose QC25 on the flight (and may sell them). The combination of isolation, SQ, and convenience is such that I have no qualms naming it the ultimate mobile rig, even if a mojo would improve it further.

The case for the earphones has no space for the amp. The amp comes with a brown (brown!? ) leather carrying case, which is serviceable enough, but the two must travel separately.


TREBLE: Sparkly, effortless, fully extended, and without a hint of sibilance or grain. Christina Deutekom’s O Zittre Nicht from Solti’s Zauberflöte is lovingly shaped and handed graciously to the listener by the superb electrostatic drivers. Her coloratura has a supremely quick transient response—faster, I gather, than you would ever hear it in an opera house or concert hall. The Sempre libera from Callas’s 1953 studio Traviata is exactly as harsh as the original sound, but no more. This is not, so to speak, the sepia sound of LCD-2 or HD650. HD800 has perhaps just the barest hint more sibilance, as in Anina’s confrontation with Otello just after he has murdered his wife in Karajan’s Berlin Otello (“Aprite! Aprite!”). At the very end of the track, I heard a touch more squeakiness from the soprano through HD800 than KSE1500, though I think it’s primarily the recording engineer’s fault. The floaty quality of some moments in Act 2, Scene 1, of the Kleiber studio Tristan is ably conveyed. The strings and women in particular.


BASS: There exists no electrostatic headphone that will satisfy someone who demands a sound signature with deafening, bloated bass. The Orpheus and its successor are the most transparent sound I have ever heard, and the SR-007 is warmer than average, but TH900 has skills that are simply not reproducible with an e-stat diaphragm. That said, KSE extends down to a purported 10hz, and contains a warmth that I do not perceive with HD800, a slightly more clinical-sounding headphone. Though the bass is not excessive, nor is it, to my ears, inadequate to the least degree. It is tight, clear, and fast. In orchestral recordings, like the 1977 Karajan recording of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony, the bassi and celli undergird the sound with muscular clarity. The strength of their presence is palpably greater than HD800, and occasionally makes me turn my head, as it has been with HD800 that I’ve gotten to know much of my library.


TRANSIENT RESPONSE: One of the hallmarks of electrostatic headphones is their speed. KSE1500 does not disappoint; its transient response is extremely fast. Although HD800 may have a slightly slower, more natural transient response, KSE comes within spitting distance of technical perfection; comparison with SR-009 is entirely appropriate. In particular…


PIANO: Solo piano is a difficult sound to reproduce. All too often, the treble is sibilant and the bass is muddied. My godmother hates listening to piano for this reason, referring to it with contempt as the “bangity bang and tinkly tinkly.” In my experience, KSE1500 reproduces the sound more transparently than HD800, HD600, or HE-6. The lower register of the piano is clearer than in most concert halls, though hearing some of the internal piano mechanisms interacting is an almost shocking intimacy to be able to hear (for instance, in the first movement of Gilels’s “Cuckoo” sonata). HD800 sounds a little too big by comparison, and the treble is harsher.


KSA 1500: The included DAC/amp gets some grief for being chunkier than a simple 3.5mm headphone jack. That it is, however, the battery lasts 7-10 hours depending on DAC use. I’m glad they didn’t make it any thinner—battery life would have been compromised. Speaking of which, you get a DAC for free no you don’t have to pay! And it’s a pretty solid DAC! It includes several EQ settings. Note that these are digital EQ. If you use them with the analog line in, you will convert the signal to digital, EQ, and then convert to analog, defeating the purpose of your external DAC. However, occasionally when the unit is plugged in and charging, there is a loud buzzing. This is not usually the case. Shure include a nice complement of cables for connecting to all your devices.


Cons:


OMNOMNOM: Chewing noise is unpleasantly apparent with these in—put your fingers in your ears and hum to get an idea what I mean. All IEMs that block the ear canal do this—one reason I prefer AirPods for watching HBO Now and eating dinner. Also, the lightest touch to the cable with one’s fingers or anything else (turning your head so it brushes against your shirt collar) is audible in the ear canals. Even swallowing is rather loud. This is the price you pay for non-ANC isolation: the disturbances from outside are attenuated and those from your person are accentuated. (Even, sigh, breathing.)


GENRE CONSTRAINED: The perennial pro of e-stats is that they are super revealing, and their perennial con is that they don’t slam like a red-blooded dynamic headphone. You can turn the volume up to the point of danger, but though they reach way down and way up, they withhold a certain satisfaction that dynamic headphones provide for most of the popular genres. Thankfully, for classical music, this loss is insignificant; the Si pel ciel from Karajan’s Vienna Otello is thrilling, if slightly less thrilling than on the boomier HD800. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” is clearer than I’ve ever heard it, but too sterile to enjoy. Katy Perry’s “Roar” is somewhat better, however.


UNBALANCED: There is no option for balanced line input—only 3.5mm.


SOUNDSTAGE: All IEMs suffer in terms of soundstage vis-a-vis full-size, open-back headphones. As with isolation, it is somewhat built into the form factor. This is not the widest soundstage one could desire, or perhaps the deepest, but each instrument’s location is defined and the sum total coherent. The Dies Irae from Hickox’s recording of Verdi’s Requiem with the London Symphony had a degree of punch but the large choral opening was not as well-laid-out as with HD800.


IMAGING: KSE1500 has an average imaging ability; this is another feature of being an IEM (and indeed being an electrostat) where full-size dynamic drivers tend to pull ahead. HD800 and K1000 both feature far more razor-sharp imaging.


KSA’s UI: "Is that a flip phone?" a student of mine asked when I put it beneath the document camera for viewing on a projector screen. "When was that made? Is that from 2001?" No, it's not as sexy as AirPods, but it sounds worlds better. Though easy enough to learn to navigate, the low-resolution LCD display, scroll wheel, and buttons are very “1990s Sony.” It’s not immediately intuitive and somewhat ugly, though I imagine it uses as little power as possible. It is, at the very least, utilitarian, though a little odd on a $3,000 unit.


BORING: As honest and transparent as KSE1500 is, there are moments when I crave an emotive, mid-centric coloration of the sound. For moments like that, HD600 is just what the doctor ordered. That said, the mids of KSE are not sucked out in the least. They are simply not emphasized.


FEELS CHEAP: The plastic housing for the earphones, while excellent functionally, lacks the premium feel of the stainless steel k3003i. Seekers of audiophile jewelry should look elsewhere.

CABLE FINICKY DAC: I’ve used the dac on the go with Shure’s own lightning to micro usb cable. Although it stutters occasionally with my iPhone 6+ and iPad Air 2, especially under load, it’s pretty solid, and sounds quite good. I’ve attempted to use usb A to micro usb cables with my personal MacBook Pro and work MacBook Air, and each and every attempt has been an abject failure. The dac stutters about once per second. I have three or four, from monoprice, and they all have this problem.

On the Fence:



NATURAL?: Although the sound is neutral, transparent, and conveys enormous detail, I find it does not replicate the sound in the chamber and “kleine zaal” as readily as HD600, or in the concert hall as readily as HD800 or especially K1000. We did not evolve to listen while having our ear canals blocked to the exterior world. At some point, you can’t beat physics, though you can come extremely close.

TIPS: The unit comes with a wide variety of tips—silicone (schiit), yellow foam (schiit), triple flange (dangerously long for my ear canals, though extremely isolating), and black foam (fantastic). Though they feel somewhat cheap, they work very well with the unit. However, you have to compress them with your fingers like an earplug, insert them, and hold them in place as they expand to fill your ear. This makes rapid a/bing difficult. For long listening sessions, however, it’s not an issue (though keep reading for what is).


COMFORT: IEMs are much more personal than full-size cans. I had to trim the ‘corner’ of the black foam tip for my right ear, so it was less of a right angle and more of a curve; it had been irritating it. They feel better now, though after about an hour, the right side is still uncomfortable. I would be interested in getting custom molds for them.


CABLE: The kevlar cable from the KSA1500 to the Y-split is fantastic. The more traditionally sheathed cable above the Y-split is only average (and a little cheap-feeling for the price), but requires the user to curl it up and behind the ear (like most of Shure’s headphones). This was unusual for me, and requires an extra moment upon insertion and removal, but is a secure hold.


PRICE?: $3,000 is a lot to ask for a headphone. Some would say especially so for an IEM. I’m not sure I buy that: miniaturization is hard, and Apple charges more volumetrically for their iPhones than their iPads by a good margin. Getting a dime-sized diaphragm to produce summit-fi sound is not an easy achievement, and I view the isolation as a further significant benefit. It is only half the price of Susvara, a can which for classical music is not, to my ears, appreciably superior. Also, Shure include a superb amplifier and a DAC that I a/b’d with my Bifrost Multibit and was unable to distinguish blindly. (I will let that testimony stand without editorial.) So while I absolutely encourage the reader to search out the used market aggressively, for cans, amp, and DAC (and a bunch of cables and tips), this price is not unreasonable.

For the Money: B+

KSE1200 UPDATE (with some thoughts on form factor): Shure has just announced a $2,000 version of the KSE1500 without the digital section (that is, the ADC, DAC, and digital EQ). It's slightly smaller and boasts better battery life (12 hours). It is sonically identical to the current line-in (with the very small caveat that the input pad now only has 0 and -10db options, no -20db). I am delighted that they have been able to bring to market the same great sound quality at 2/3 the price. Yes, it is extremely expensive compared to AirPods. However, it is now $500 *less* than Audeze's LCDi4, Jude's other favorite flagship IEM. It is the same price as LCD-3, which (to my ears) it outclasses significantly in detail retrieval, transparency, neutrality, and overall musicality. It is $1000 less than HE-1000. It is $2,000 less than LCD-4. It is $4,000 less than Susvara. It is $53,000 less than HE-1.

And it includes the amp!

Their decision to cut the digital section makes sense, as the impression of the community has been negative to lukewarm. I like it well enough, but would certainly not pay $1,000 for it, as Shure apparently thinks it is worth. My preference would be to load some Chord code onto a chip, give it a better industrial design (Chord is *not* my reference point there), and charge a cool $2,500. I'm on the fence about DAP functionality. If it has a top-flight mobile DAC included (chord or Schiit), a USB-C input and cables to connect to phones and laptops, I don't see the need for DAP inclusion, as it would only add weight and people already carry their music library with them. However, that's another device charge to worry about, so perhaps having an internal 256GB SSD or whatever to load up with music (or a micro SD card slot) would help.

As it is, I can't recommend buying KSE1500 new unless you absolutely need mobile electrostatic sound and cannot accommodate a chord mojo. I have some difficulty thinking about use case here—the word "mobile" is too vague to nail down a specific use case. I have yet to listen to it on the go (partly because of its price, partly because I don't have a lightning to microUSB cable). It seems, in the vein of the Woo WA8, to want to be "coffee shop ready" but not quite "walking around town ready." Update: I bought the lightning cable, and they’re great for walking around.

If you see it for under $2,400 used, however, I think it remains a better value than KSE1200. I'm also interested to see how far used KSE1200 prices will fall in a year's time. My bet is $1200. (My own use case has the line-in plugged into an 18' extension cable for my Bifrost Multibit and the amp in my pocket. In my studio, I keep the amp in my pocket as I walk around making food and so on.)

The interesting thing here is that KSE1200 makes no effort at all to become more mobile than its older brother. It is clearly less mobile. DAC technology is hard, and Shure seems to be telling us that their best move is making a more aggressive play into the desktop and "coffee shop" summit-fi market, and deemphasizing truly on-the-go use cases until they have a DAC (or a DAC partnership) that they can be proud of.

KSE1200, for the money: A
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eio
eio
Just upgraded from SE846 to KSE1500 after reading your review. You nailed it. Love the KSE1500. Thanks.
bosiemoncrieff
bosiemoncrieff
Now that I’ve lived with a lightning to microUSB cable I need to update this. I just spent an hour listening to Schumann and wandering the Amsterdam canals. It’s super portable.
bosiemoncrieff
bosiemoncrieff
Updated portability section, now calling it the ultimate mobile rig. Also added some dac cable woes.

BasilFawlty

Head-Fier
Pros: You do not get tired listening to them, Long battery time, excellent support, fantastic neutral sound,
Cons: Does not work well with iPhone 7 (popping sound), Instruction for setting the EQ nonexistensting. Better Manual would be appreciated
Listened to the at Axpona in Chicago and decided to buy them. Must say that the first impression is not fantastic. Came from "bass heavy" SE846 and these KSE1500 is less bass heavy but much more neutral and really reflects the music 100%.

I get tired after listening to the SE846 longer than 2 hrs but the 1500 I can listen to for 3-4 hours and I just realize how much more detailed they are.

Specially listen to Jahres Köln concert - new things that I have never heard before shows up.

Pitty that many iPhone 7´s have problem with external DAC and especially KSE1500. But to get away from it I use Cebntrance fantastic HiFi-M8.

So at first you think they are a bit too neutral but after 30 minutes you will just love them!

They are also smaller and easier to fit in your ear than the SE846.

Comments

Mbarbieri

New Head-Fier
Hi, this is a question I’ve seen a few times In forums that backs up what I have been listening in my tests: Why pairing kse 1200 with Hugo 2 doesn’t yield a better sound than mojo? The difference between them is huge when testing with coils speakers (and I would expect the same with conventional headphones), but nothing noticeable happens when comparing them with the KSE 1200. Is it something to do with the KSE 1200 amplifier? Maybe Mojo benefits from it to leverage a better sound than when it uses its own amplifier to power non-electrostatic headphones? I’m just guessing here but I would be very interested in your opinion about it. Thanks very much.
Marcelo.
 
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