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Replacing Shure E2Cs with wireless - Shure SE215-BT1, or something else?

  1. taylor

    Long time head-fier here, but sometime around 2006 I got my hands on Shure E2C IEMs for portable use and AKG K340s for home use, and never looked back.

    Fast forward 12 years, and now I'm looking back a teensy bit. Mostly, it's because my phone no longer has a headphone jack, and the little dongle they gave me has not been reliable. I've taken to using a little Bluetooth dongle with the E2Cs, but it's kind of a clunky solution - I have to find somewhere to clip it, and uncoil/recoil the E2C cable. I'd rather move to real Bluetooth headphones.

    I love the sound quality and the isolation of the E2Cs. I tend to use them a lot on airplanes or trains, or riding my indoor cycling trainer with two fans blowing in my face. I do find that they come lose when my ears are a little sweaty, so I'm not opposed to something that is a bit more secure.

    My preference would be something that has similar sound quality to E2Cs and has similar isolation. I suppose my preference would be to get the type that has two earbuds connected by a flexible cable. I don't want one of those chunky horseshoe shaped things that sits around your neck. True wireless would be fine, but it's not a requirement. I like the idea of being able to take them out and leave them hanging around my neck, and I like only having one thing to charge. Otherwise, I'd like to have the ability to pair them to both my phone and to my TV without having to go through the pairing process again each time I switch sources (Multipoint pairing?). Price range is probably $100-150.

    So, the new Shure SE215-BT1 is obviously at the top of my list. However, I've been noticing that a lot of the competitors are advertising Active Noise Cancelling and I'm debating if it's worth it. I never really tried it - back in my day of Head-Fi meets, the only headphones with ANC were Bose, and no self-respecting Head-Fier would be caught dead wearing Bose cans. But after a bit of research it sounds like it could be worth a look, especially since the places I use them are fairly steady noises such as fans (which I know is easier for ANC to deal with). If I go on the search for something with ANC, it's a whole different set of IEMs.

    I've spent a couple hours so far drinking from the fire hose reading reviews, but all the reviews seem to be in one or two camps. They're either reviews from audiophiles who talk mostly about sound quality (Head-Fi), or they are reviews from techies who talk mostly about specs and features and battery life and comfort (other tech sites). I read these articles and it's like "best Bluetooth earbuds under $99" and it tells me which the best one is, but it doesn't tell me if the best one is as good as my Shure E2Cs, or better, or worse. Or I read reviews focused on sound quality, but I'm not really looking for the best sounding IEM for $150, I'm looking for the best overall package.

    I hope that makes sense. Basically I'm asking for an apples-to-oranges sanity check - does a top ranked ~$100-150 wireless ANC earbud (like Jaybird X3, Jabra Elite Active 65) sounds as good as a 12 year old ~$100 Shure IEM? If it does, I'll happily trawl through all the articles comparing apples to apples and figure out what to buy (although recommendations are appreciated). But I'm worried that those fancy wireless ANC earbuds are basically just $30 cheapo earbuds with a lot of technology bells and whistles strapped to them. I'm also unsure about how the ANC earbuds compare with isolation - the E2Cs have something like 30 dB of isolation from the physical seal around my ear canal. I still get some fan noise through them. But if a fancy ANC earbud only has a couple decibels of isolation due to the physical seal, and makes up for it with ANC to get the same result, I won't bother. I'm only interested in ANC if it does better than the E2Cs.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  2. taylor
    I've spent the morning doing some more research. As far as I can tell, ANC in lower end earbuds is a bit of a gimmick and I'm better off with proper IEMs that have foam tips. So now the Shure E215s are back to the top of the list. Curious if there are any recommended alternatives.

    Here's my current short list

    Shure SE215-BT1, $149 Pros: Sound quality is better than E2C, Shure is great brand, good isolation, no neckband, has semi-rigid wire for wrapping above ears, replaceable cord. Cons: Only Bluetooth 4.1,, some reviews say connectivity isn't great, some reviews say that bulky battery at nape of neck is annoying unless you use shirt clip

    Jabra Elite Active 65t, $189 Pros: Has latest Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX, has active noise cancellation. Cons: Expensive, no secondary retention feature, couldn't find good comparison of sound quality and passive isolation compared to SE215

    Nuforce BE Live5, $99 Pros: Good price, has AptX, great isolation, has ear wings. Cons: Only BT 4.1.

    KNZ Soundflux, $79 Pros: Good price, has ANC, has Bluetooth 5, has ear hooks. Cons: Kickstarter, reliability unknown, sound quality/isolation unknown

    Anker Soundcore Spirit X, $39 Pros: Has latest Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX, is really cheap, has ear hooks. Cons: Can't find reliable information about isolation, and I assume sound quality would be quite a bit worse based just on the price
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  3. yong_shun
    I have an audition on SE215 and Jabra Elite Active 65t.

    I would say the fit of SE215 is more "friendly" as compared to Jabra because the earbuds are smaller and it comes with ear hooks.

    Both of them sound good. SE215 is neutral and rich while I find Jabra is more airy and spacious. The bass of Jabra is too polite and you might need equalizer to tune it.

    If you are using it for sports, I would still recommend Jabra because it comes with sweat-proof function. The bluetooth cable might be vulnerable to sweat to be honest.
  4. taylor

    I think the Jabra is probably the better choice for me. Most of the time I am using them, it's on the trainer and I'm sweaty. The carrying/charging case for the Jabras seems really nice as well as the pass-through feature that amplifies external sound. Seems like it would be useful on a flight when I may have to talk to someone and don't necessarily have to bother with removing and re-inserting them.

    Have you tried any third-party tips? I see there are some Comply foam tips for them that seem fairly well regarded.

    Also, do you know if there is a way to use the Jabras in noise-cancelling mode without any music playing?
  5. yong_shun
    I tried with spinfit CP100Z which is specially designed for true wireless and the fit is better as compared to the original tips. I think this model only come with wind noise cancellation. The anc mic only cancel wind noise. I am afraid that I can't answer your last question.
  6. taylor
    Thanks. I was mistaken about that last point - they do not have active noise cancellation, it's just whatever passive isolation is offered by the tip. Unfortunately there don't seem to be any wireless IEMs that do. I saw the mics on the outside and assumed that's what they are for, but it's to allow you to use it as a Bluetooth device

    Any noticeable latency with videos? That's why I wanted BT 5.0. from what I read, BT 4.2 true wireless headphones will rebroadcast from one earbud to the other, and delay the first earbud a few milliseconds so they synx, but this can be noticeable when watching videos. Supposedly the Bluetooth 5.0 that the Jabras have should fix this
  7. yong_shun
    You are right. Bluetooth 5.0 actually has a good improvement in audio synchronization but based on feedbacks seem like it does work well with AAC codec of iPhone. It will be glad if you are not an iPhone user
  8. yong_shun
    I will still encourage you to get one with low latency certified like aptx LL. A safer choice :)

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