Shure SE215 Review

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We were looking for a new set of inner ear monitors (IEM) and after much research, we decided on the Shure SE215 ($99.00 CAD).

Tldr; they’re pretty amazing and difficult to beat at this price point.

We’d like to point out that Shure SE215’s are not earbuds. They are in-ear-canalphones or IEM.  We consider earbuds less desirable since they fit in the opening of the ear — usually just outside the opening of the ear canal. Therefore, earbuds are often less comfortable, they tend to fall out of your ear and they are usually cheaply made. If you’ve ever used Apple earbuds or earbuds that came with your phone, you know what we’re referring to. IEMs on the other hand sit inside the ear canal and typically create a seal to block out external sound and form a sealed acoustic chamber to achieve a fuller sound (head-fi.org). We believe that once you start using IEMs, it would be hard to go back to standard earbuds.

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Deciding which IEM to buy is not an easy task as there are many different makes and models in the market. To illustrate this, take a look at the following review of 227 IEMs. Therefore, we needed to narrow down our search.

In our experience, most earbuds or IEMs tend to break at the cable level (not the driver itself). Have you ever have a set of perfectly good earbuds where the sound would cut off in one ear once in a while? It’s pretty aggravating and most people usually end up tossing the earphones. It seems like a waste since it’s usually only the cable that is broken. If you’re crafty enough, you can probably fix it yourself by attaching a new cable to the driver… but we’re not that handy. As a result, we limited our search to IEMs with replaceable cables at around $100. This requirement drastically reduced the number of candidates to one. There are a number of IEMs that have removable cables, but they are usually high-end models that are quite expensive or too difficult to find in Canada. If you’re looking for an IEM with replaceable cables at around $100 in Canada, to the best of our knowledge, there is really only one choice, Shure SE215. Luckily for us, these are excellent IEMs.

How do you wear them?

When you first receive them, it may not be obvious how to wear them properly. You are supposed to wear them with the wire around your ear. It may seem strange at first, but it’s very comfortable this way. The wires never get in your way (i.e. your face) and they never fall out of your ear.

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What does it come with?

It comes with a little carry pouch and bag full of different ear tips. We must have strangely small ears because we had to use the smallest set of ear tips in order to get a seal. It’s important to use the right set of ear tips, otherwise it’s going to be very uncomfortable. Therefore, try a few of them out before you decide.

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Where to buy?

We ordered ours from www.electronicsforless.ca for $99 CAD + free shipping, but you can get yours from amazon.ca for $99 CAD (the order gets fulfilled by electronicsforless anyways), but you get the Amazon customer support and additional peace of mind. We’ve never had any issues with electronicsforless, so we opted to order directly from electronicsforless. We recommend against buying these IEMs on eBay, as these sorts of products get counterfeited a lot. It’s also interesting to note that the Shure SE215 sells for a similar price on Amazon.com – a rarity for Canadians not to pay a premium for a specialized product!

What’s the difference between Shure SE215, Shure SE215-K and Shure SE215-CL?

They’re the same, except for the color.

Where can I buy a replacement cable?

Amazon.com sells the replacement cable for $32.52 with free shipping, but unfortunately they are not available on Amazon.ca. However, you can buy a replacement cable on eBay for approximately $30-$40. As long as the replacement cable fits properly, we’re not too concerned whether or not the cable is OEM as we don’t believe that expensive cables (i.e. IEM cables, speaker cables, HDMI cables, etc.) make a difference in regard to sound quality or fidelity.

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Is there a model with a microphone for my phone?

As the cable is detachable, you just need to buy a new cable and attach it to the drivers. The cable costs $50 on Amazon.com and $60 on eBay. It’ll be cheaper if you buy the SE215 with the microphone from Amazon.ca for $149. Please note that Amazon reviews for this cable are not stellar. The cable appears to break easily and they’re not made to sit around your ears like the standard cable. Some users are on their 4th set. We do not recommend these unless you really need them. They’re made for Apple devices, but they should work with Android devices as well.

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How are the reviews?

The Shure SE215’s are generally very well received. For example, out of 339 reviews on Amazon, the average rating is 4 out of 5 stars.

Here is a summary of various reviews of the Shure SE-215 around the web.

“Value (8.5/10) – Perhaps Shure’s most competent mid-range model to date, the SE215 is a thoroughly modern earphone in every sense. Highly isolating for a dynamic-driver set and boasting a smooth and detailed sound signature with an emphasis on bass and mids, the SE215 is poised to be a high-value in the consumer market. However, there are a few issues aside from the dullness of the signature that may make potential buyers wary. One is the unusually high defect rate with early-batch units – Shure doesn’t seem to have all of the bugs of the cable connectors worked out quite yet although complaints about the higher-end SE535, which uses the same connectors, seem far less common. The other caveat has to do with the ergonomics – the stiff memory wire and bulky connectors can get in the way of achieving the perfect fit. Anyone willing to look past these potential issues will be rewarded by a surprisingly competent brand-name earphone at a price that’s almost too reasonable.” (Head-fi.org)

“I am fairly impressed by SE215 for its price / performance ratio, and that is not something I thought could easily happen with any of the three IEM power houses. When it comes to big brands, I would expect a higher price just for the brand name alone. But for $99, I couldn’t have asked for a better Shure than the SE215. In fact, I would have wholeheartedly given it a Sonic Diamond recommendation for anyone who is looking for a good sounding Shure at a killer price, if not for the hidden concern over some tiny cable sockets. Whether it will worth the trouble of possible return / exchange is a question I will leave for you to answer for your own.” (Head-fi.org)

“If you’re looking for bass and good sound isolation, and don’t really care about the way they look or the over-the-ear cord thing, the SE215s will do you well. If you’re looking for accuracy, clarity and a more understated look, we’ll have to stand by our long-time favorites from Etymotic, the ER-6i’s, also $99. If you want accuracy and clarity and bass, don’t wear things that are designed to go in your ear! Simple as that. Go with an over-the-ear model or just get a real subwoofer and tell your parents / roommates / spouse to take a hike while you get the Led out…or whatever it is you prefer to do when you’re alone with your bass.” (engadget.com)

“Basically, the Shure SE215 is a steal, but you’ll likely have to mess with them a bit in order to properly nail down the fit. Again, the cable eventually seems to break in and the earphones become secure, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the first few times you wear them. This issue is annoying, but not nearly enough to prevent the Shure SE215 from receiving our Editors’ Choice award for affordable earphones.” (PCMag.com)

“The Shure SE215 are the lowest-end models in Shure’s prestigious new removable-cable earphone line-up. Aside from using dynamic drivers rather than balanced armatures, they offer the same quality construction as their more expensive series siblings, with the highest-quality cable system available at the price. That famous Shure sound is present and correct here too, with rich bass and warm, full mids. The high-end is not quite so impressive, but the same can be said of higher-end models in the series. Shure’s SE425 and SE535 soundly beat these on sound quality, but there’s no denying this is a value-packed option.” (trustedreviews.com)

“Although they’re the cheapest model in the Shure range, the SE215s borrow surprisingly heavily from the ultra high-end SE535s. […] Combining detail and warmth is tricky to do, but Shure has managed it. Unfortunately, it has had to sacrifice a bit of punch and excitement. Treble’s a little rounded off and lacking in impact, and you often find yourself willing the SE215s to properly attack a track. Still, those after a bassy flavour or a pair of affordable but hard-wearing onstage monitors will find much to love here.” (whathifi.com)

“Which brings us back to the Shure SE215s. Basically, Shure’s entry-level, sound isolating earphones will give you among the best sound quality you’ll find in sub-$100 buds. Their solid design, including detachable cables, means they can take a bit of a beating, and six pairs of tips–small, medium and large in foam and silicone–ensure a nice snug fit no matter what your ear canal’s shape or size. Jude Mansilla, from internet headphone mecca Head-Fi.org, recommended the SE215s as his budget pick in Lifehacker’s recent headphone buying guide, and the Head-Fi community, a discerning bunch of listeners if there ever was one, have logged several lengthy, five-star interviews in their favor as well.“(thewirecutter.com)

Conclusion

If you’re tired of earbuds and you’re looking for an upgrade in the $100 price range and would like to give IEM’s a try, you won’t be disappointed by the Shure SE215. You’ll probably be using these IEM’s for many years as should there ever be a cable short, you can simply replace the cable for a third of the price of the IEM. That may sound like a lot, but it beats buying a brand new set.

We like the Shure SE215 for many reasons. We like that the drivers don’t protrude out of your ear (it sits flush against your ear), therefore you can sleep on your side or wear winter hats while listening to music without any discomfort. We also like that there’s a rather long 2 year warranty. Hopefully, we won’t need to use it. You can also use it running or working out (we do), but if you sweat a lot, we recommend against using them as your sweat may corrode the drivers. We’re not audiophiles, so we won’t attempt to describe its acoustic qualities, but suffice to say that we find them quite bassy and they generally sound great. Our music tastes ranges from classical music to gangster rap and it does both very well.

Finally, in our opinion, it’s hard to find a better set of earphones for roughly $100. Many readers may consider this expensive, but this is actually Shure’s low end model. Is the sound quality twice as good as a $50 set of earbuds? Probably not. As such, it is a pseudo luxury item. However, if you do spend any significant amount of time listening to music at work or while commuting  or like running to your favourite beats, we consider the Shure SE215 a worthwhile purchase. It is a pretty good value for the money. Your ears will thank you.

  • Fredders

    ~Unfortunately, these great sounding buds are flawed in that the junction between the driver and the cable is a real achilles heel – corrosion, crackling, and unusable after 6 months. Avoid them.

    • Hippowise

      It looks like if you’re right. The sound goes in and out on my right driver. I’ve even tried changing cables, but the problem remains. I’ve sent them back to Shures for repairs/replacement and it’s only been 2 months since I bought them. It’s a bit disappointing.