[Review] Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?
Aug 20, 2014 at 4:13 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


New Head-Fier
Jan 27, 2014
This is a review of the Shure SE315 in-ear monitor (IEM). IMO the SE315 is a sleeper. Let me explain.
But first, the obligatory photo.
Shure has been quietly refining its IEM design over the last decade, and gaining increasing recognition for ots products. You could argue that the SE215 is one of the best bass-prominent IEMs at its price point. Its dynamic driver gives you rich powerful bass, the design is excellent with a high-quality finish, a detachable cord, great fit within the ear with a variety of tip designs, superb isolation, and it is very comfortable (once you get used to the over-ear style of wearing them). If you are a basshead, it is hard to find a better value for the price you pay for the 215s.
The SE315 is a different animal. It is a single balanced armature (BA) IEM. The problem with single BA implementations is that even though BAs offer some benefits in comparison to a dynamic driver (specifically improved clarity and some advantages with respect to detail), they don't have the depth or range of a dynamic driver. 
So a single BA IEM sacrifices both low end impact, and also suffers from some degree of high end rolloff, but in exchange for its shortcomings offers improved quality of presence and separation. Usually designers overcome the limitations intrinsic to single BA designs by adding additional BAs and designating the frequencies each BA can handle, or by adding a dynamic driver predominantly to handle the bass and round off the BA's FR characteristics (the so-called "hybrid" IEM).
The physical design of the SE315 is essentially very similar as that of the 215. Shure followed the same styling cues, but tried to solve the anemic bass of the SE315's single BA architecture by engineering a bass vent within the design, which does add some depth to the low end. 
With the 315, what you get is a relatively neutral sound, with bass that has great detail but lacks the "punch" of the 215, and a more cool tone (although with some high-treble rolloff) than the warmth of the 215.
I don't think comparing IEMs to full size headphones makes much sense, but if the 215 is something like the HD650 in its sound (and I compare the two very loosely) then then the 315 is something like the HD600.
So why did I buy the SE315? Well, I wanted an IEM for critical listening, mostly for classical / acoustic / folk / jazz music, and I found that while the 215 was awesome for genres like EDM, it was too bass-rich for my taste for these genres. But at the same time I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a multi-BA setup, because frankly I would rather spend the money on full size headphones, amps or DACs since I spend very little time actually listening on IEMs unless I am traveling (and even then not exclusively).
So I listened to as many single BA IEMs that I could get my hands on, and read reviews by folks I trusted and came to the conclusion that the 315 offered the most neutral profile for critically listening to the genres I wanted to match them with, had the best fit (for my ears), and made the most sense from a price-performance perspective.
Plus it looks good. My 215s are black, with that cool smoky translucent dark plastic, but unfortunately the black SE315s are entirely opaque, so I went with the clear shell, which is a decision that I definitely do not regret. IMO they are gorgeous in their see-through clothes.

What the SE315 is: a single BA over-ear cord style IEM with a relatively neutral profile, a little shy on the bass, but with great clarity and presence. From a price/performance perspective IMO this is the best single BA IEM for what it offers. If you want a neutral sound to critically listen to classical / acoustic/ jazz you will probably enjoy the 315s.
What the SE315 isn't: it does not have the FR range or depth of multi-BA IEMs or hybrids. If you don't like the Shure over-ear way of wearing IEMs you will hate the 315s because you can't just stick it in your ear with the wires hanging down. If you mostly listen to EDM or hip hop you will probably be disappointed by the 315's low end. And if you want range or impact, you may be better off with a dynamic or a multi BA or a hybrid IEM.
The bottom line: if you are planning to go up the IEM ladder and upgrade to CIEMs or high-end UIEMs, then you might as well skip the SE315s and save your money for the good stuff. If you are in the market for a single BA IEM and you know what you are getting into, then this is a good choice.

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