SHURE SE215 IN-EAR HEAD­PHONES + RMCE-BT2 COM­MU­NI­CA­TION CABLE

SHURE PRO­VIDES AN EL­E­GANT AND HIGH-PER­FOR­MANCE SO­LU­TION FOR A CROWDED IN-EAR HEADPHONE MAR­KET.

Australian Guitar - - Reviews - WORDS BY ALEX WIL­SON.

Find­ing the right pair of ear­phones for the job can be a tricky propo­si­tion, and we’re in­creas­ingly need­ing them in all walks of life. Whether it’s en­joy­ing your favourite tracks, ap­pre­ci­at­ing hi-fi sound or rock­ing them on­stage, we need our buds to jack all trades.

Shure’s SE215 In-Ear Head­phones of­fer high-per­for­mance sound at a midrange price. And while they were de­signed for the stage, with the BT2 Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cable they can now pull dou­ble du­ties as ex­cel­lent leisure ear­buds when you go about your day. Pod­casts in the streets, mon­i­tor mixes in the sheets!

TINY BUT MIGHTY

Let’s start with the SE215s, which have been around for a bit and are still go­ing strong. They’ll be a good step up from your stock ear­buds with­out burn­ing a hole in your pocket. For a start, they are ac­tu­ally in-ear head­phones rather than ear­buds. In-ear head­phones travel deeper into the ear canal, pro­vid­ing bet­ter iso­la­tion and sound qual­ity.

The driv­ers are housed out­side the ear, and each side is con­nected to the au­dio source us­ing a de­tach­able Shure cable. The stock one that ships with the SE215s ends in a stan­dard 3.5-mil­lime­tre headphone jack. It doesn’t have any inline con­trols, but this is ap­pro­pri­ate for a cable in­tended for live sound ap­pli­ca­tions.

The SE215s sound above av­er­age, though they aren’t ex­actly mind­blow­ing. The fre­quency re­sponse is clear and neu­tral, with­out a strong pref­er­ence to­wards bass or tre­ble. They also avoid the two ma­jor pit­falls of small head­phones: the top-end is de­tailed with­out be­ing harsh, and there’s per­cep­ti­ble and pleas­ing dy­nam­ics in the lows.

The ear­pieces feel smaller than they look, and are clev­erly sus­pended from above the ear to re­sist grav­ity’s pull. Ear­piece fit is a highly sub­jec­tive topic. This (very finnicky) re­viewer found the SE215s to land in the ball­park of com­fort as his cus­tom-molded in-ears, which cost about eight times as much.

The firm fit, fine sound qual­ity and small por­ta­ble pro­file of the SE215 make it an ex­cel­lent choice for a mu­si­cian that needs ear­buds for live mu­sic ap­pli­ca­tions. They are a re­li­able, af­ford­able set of buds if you are work­ing a gig on­stage of side-of-stage. If you have no need for or bud­get to af­ford ex­pen­sive cus­tom molds, these guys will be de­cent re­place­ments and will serve you well.

ON THE RUN

With the ad­di­tion of the BT2 Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cable, you can be far more mo­bile. The pur­pose of the BT2 seems to be to trans­form these live per­for­mance-style in-ears into a con­sumer-grade au­dio prod­uct. The BT2 would be un­likely to per­form in a live sound sit­u­a­tion – the in­her­ent la­tency in Blue­tooth makes it un­suit­able for ap­pli­ca­tions where fast re­sponse is para­mount.

How­ever, Blue­tooth 5.0 ex­cels in daily life. Rather than be phys­i­cally teth­ered to a phone in your pocket or a body­pack on your belt, you can now op­er­ate your mu­sic hands-free. There’s inline con­trols, with a built-in mic for voice con­trol­ling your de­vice or talk­ing on the phone.

The cable is weighted by a small, yet hefty plas­tic bat­tery with a clip. It at­taches com­fort­ably to cloth­ing, and de­spite look­ing a bit un­wieldy, it

ac­tu­ally con­trib­utes er­gonom­i­cally, pro­vid­ing an ex­tra an­chor point for the ear­pieces dur­ing mo­tion. I tri­alled the BT2s on trains, buses, foot­paths, the gym and my liv­ing room couch and in all sit­u­a­tions, they felt dis­creet and comfy.

The BT2 can pro­vide be­tween eight and ten hours of play­back on a full charge, which is very re­spectable for a Blue­tooth 5.0 de­vice. The Blue­tooth re­cep­tion it­self was re­li­able and un­in­ter­rupted – a no­tice­able im­prove­ment from the ear­lier BT1 cable. I would have pre­ferred a more up-to-date charg­ing mech­a­nism than mi­cro-USB, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the BT2 pro­vides sup­port for mul­ti­ple au­dio codecs, in­clud­ing Qual­comm aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low La­tency, AAC, and SBC for su­pe­rior dig­i­tal au­dio re­pro­duc­tion. The unit’s Blue­tooth 5.0 ar­chi­tec­ture is also back­ward com­pat­i­ble and will in­te­grate with all Blue­tooth sources.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the BT2 is com­pat­i­ble with all Shure de­tach­able ear­phones with MMCX cable con­nec­tiv­ity. This might also be a good point to stip­u­late one fi­nal bonus of the mod­u­lar de­sign of Shure units. Ca­bles are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to wear and dam­age. By mak­ing them re­place­able, Shure are not only of­fer­ing ver­sa­til­ity, but also a cheap re­pair so­lu­tion should your cable die.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

To buy both the SE215s and the BT2 will set you back just un­der $400. This seems like a big spend for such an unas­sum­ing prod­uct, and is a de­cent whack of money by any stan­dard.

The key con­sid­er­a­tion here is ver­sa­til­ity. With the SE215s, their stock cable and the BT2’s ex­tra func­tion­al­ity, you have all your bases cov­ered for in-ear sound as a mu­si­cian and a lis­tener. In that sense, they are pro­vid­ing qual­ity sound in a range of ap­pli­ca­tions at a mod­er­ate price. For a punter with a mild bud­get, they could be the per­fect fit.

RMCE-BT2: $279 • SE215: $175

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