To write this review of the Shure SE846-CL Professional Sound Isolating Earphones, I could not be more thrilled. I enjoy Shure earphones a lot, as those of you who have followed the site’s progress over the past few years will know.
My first genuine step toward a love of superior in-ear headphones was the company’s E2C model. Then, many years later, I utilized the Shure SRH440 as my main workhorse for monitoring in the clubs when I was Vjing in Japan. My go-to earbuds for the gym are still the Shure SE215 (and earlier the 210) to this day.
The higher-end 5xx series, though, was where I wasn’t entirely smitten with the Shure headphone brand. I eventually chose Phonak’s amazing PFE232 and Earsonics SM2 because, by the time I dug deep enough into this murky headphone world, it appeared that the competitors provided more and had caught up at the top end.
Although there wasn’t much to dislike about the 5xx series, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me and didn’t stand out. The majority of my listening these days is done through custom monitors like my Minerva Mi. Artist or UM Miracles due to my lifestyle, job, and other factors, but I recently tried out the Shure SE846 for an extended loan, and holy (expletive), this is one of the best-sounding in-ear headphones you can buy.
Since authoring the Shure SE846 review many years ago, many individuals have questioned their continued relevance in light of the several companies vying for your business at this price point. The short answer is that they still rank among the best in-ear headphones available today, which is evidence of how superior to the competition the 846 were at the time of its release. I believe that says a lot that I still use them on a weekly basis and have access to some of the greatest headphones available.
I have to mention that the earpieces are pretty much pristine considering how well they have held up over the course of my ownership of more than 7 years. After getting the cable jammed in a car door and due to normal wear and tear on another, I had to replace it three times (a straightforward and affordable procedure). Aside from that and occasionally purchasing new tips, they have been absolutely hassle-free and enjoyable to use.
REVIEW OF THE SHURE SE846 Earphones
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The Shure SE846 box has a ton of accessories, and in my opinion, only DUNU’s flagship DN2000 offers more in terms of sheer number. All of the accessories are of exceptional quality; they weren’t included haphazardly and are useful and will increase the lifespan of your headphones. What’s in the box, then? listing them is better:
- 1 substitute cable
- 1 compact semi-soft case and 1 hard case in the Pelican fashion.
- 1 branded cleaning towel from Shure
- 1 airplane, 2 jacks, and a 1 1/4-inch converter
- 1. A shirt clip
- A large selection of ear tips in every form and material imaginable
- One inline volume controller
- 1 cleaning tool for removing nozzles
That is essentially everything you will ever need for a new pair of headphones, and I appreciate Shure’s decision to include everything in the bundle rather than charging exorbitant prices for everything later.
Since I first wrote this review, I’ve had a number of earbuds to compare against, and only Dunu comes close to matching Shure in terms of providing such a comprehensive package.
THESE TECHNOLOGIES ARE AMAZING, AS PER THE SHURE SE846 REVIEW
Shure has one of the largest R&D budgets on the market, which contributed to the technologies included inside the SE846. Shure truly develops its headphones and prefers to let their products speak for themselves, unlike firms like Beats that spend their money on marketing.
It comes as no surprise that the brand is one of the most frequently utilized for microphones and monitors by live performers and studio musicians who are picky about their audio equipment. Having said that, Shure has created the SE846 by applying everything they know to create the greatest in-ear monitor they are capable of. Here is a very basic explanation of how they tried to accomplish such impressive accomplishments.
In a nutshell, Bass. The low end and how it impacts the presentation of other frequencies appears to have been the main focus in the development of the Shure SE846. Due to size constraints and conventional speaker designs, this is a typical issue that affects the majority of in-ear headphones. When it comes to delivering the sound reproduction engine, the majority of corporations will often choose between a dynamic driver and a balanced armature, but each has flaws of its own.
A dynamic can typically be set to the high end, the low end, or even in the middle, but it rarely has the ability to effectively span the entire spectrum; it’s almost like it’s trying to accomplish too much at once. Although balanced armature earphones are highly sensitive and generate incredibly accurate mids and highs, the punch of the bass is frequently perceived to be missing. In the SE846 model, Shure does something unique by utilizing 4 of their own internally manufactured balanced armature drivers.
The team, led by product manager Sean Sullivan, was able to send each frequency via its own driver by using independent drivers to produce a crisp and clear sound. Other businesses also employ it (particularly in the multi-driver bespoke sector), but I haven’t heard of a universal earphone that does it this well yet.
As previously stated, this is due to the above crossover design functioning in conjunction with the adjustable low pass filters included with the earphones, which enable users to fine-tune the sound to their preferences. One of the features that made Phonak’s earphones such a versatile piece of equipment was its adjustable filters, which are quite important. However, Shure employs it to convey the bass in a way that I haven’t quite heard previously in an in-ear, and there have been occasions when I’ve wondered if I was using my full-size Final Audio Pandora Hope VI.
Everything is incredibly astounding from a technological sense, but it’s even more so when you consider it physically. Simply by looking inside, you can notice that the housings hardly have any empty space—not to mention that it gives them an awesome appearance.
Review of the SHURE SE846: DESIGN AND BUILD
Since they are Shure earbuds, I would wager that they will continue to function long after other pairs have sputtered, coughed, and eventually failed on me. Modern Shure earphones are the gold standard for durable construction in my opinion. They are to stage monitors what the Technics 1210 turntables were to record players because they just keep going and going, and when a cable breaks (which is usually the first component to fail on any headphone), you can simply pop it off and replace it with the spare.
As previously indicated, I use the Shure SE215 for the gym and have done so for the past two years or more without experiencing any problems. The SE846 seems to be an upgraded version of that design from Shure. Nowhere on the earphone does anything squeak or feel flimsy.
The cable is simply great; it has well-made strain reliefs and bespoke jack points, and it feels sturdy. The color is perfect and goes great with the transparent earpieces. It should be mentioned that the company received criticism for having cable breaking problems about a decade or more ago (my own se310 perished as a result of this problem), but boy did they redeem themselves with this one. People will be happy to know that because the wire travels over the ear, there is no microphonics when listening on the go, and because of the tiny spring, it is virtually difficult to tie them up into a spaghetti junction of crisscrossed cables.
Regarding the earpieces themselves, these earbuds have a pretty fantastic appearance. However, the SE846 feels much more sophisticated and substantial than its predecessors. It is obvious that the designers stuck with comparable concepts from the se215, se315, se420, etc.
The same reason I carry all of my homemade monitors in clear or transparent housings is what makes these headphones so attractive—you can see the device’s inner workings. Shure has numbered each balanced armature 1-4 and etched the frequency response that each driver covers, which gives you a lot to look at.
It is an excellent example of a design that prioritizes functionality over aesthetics because, at the end of the day, the SE846 is all about sound, and that engine was built specifically to produce that sound. Consider the casing as the equivalent of the high-end hypercars’ engines, which are both visible from the outside and play a significant role in the design’s aesthetic. Maybe there’s a little bit of sex in engineering.
SOUND QUALITY REVIEW OF THE SHURE SE846
The sound is, of obviously, the most crucial component of any audio equipment, and ever since I first inserted the SE846 into my ears, I have scarcely been able to contain my idiotic grin. These are without a doubt the Rolls Royce of in-ear universal headphones—so good that I’ve seen full-size acoustic-dynamic models compete with them.
It’s one of the first pairs of headphones I’ve used that didn’t make me feel like I was simply listening to, well, headphones. The massive soundstage and expansive distances between the various instruments, which produce an immersive out-of-head audio experience, are most notable. When the vocals rose up in the front and cymbals, snares, and kick drums crashed in the rear, it was just jaw-dropping on certain binaural recordings. It’s just such a fun sight to see with the strings to the left and the trumpets to the right.
There is no sign of overlap or bleed between any of the frequencies, and each one continues to be almost flawless in isolation. Mids were provided with a level of personal detail and optimum warmth that captivates you and makes you want to listen to your music more. Simply said, the male and female vocals were the greatest I have ever heard from a universal earphone.
My favorite singer, Diana Krall, could be both forceful and personal depending on the song, and there was never even a trace of upper-mid sibilance. Male voices, particularly those in country and acoustic music, sounded even better when you felt as though the performer was standing right in front of you. The song by Ludovico Einaudi called High Heels was the best one I heard. When it started playing, I became disoriented and ended up listening to it repeatedly for around 30 minutes. The Shure SE846’s black backdrop presentation allows notes to glide through the sound field unimpeded while the detail recovery enables you to pick up the action of damping pedals. The intimacy of the performance astounds you.
On my second day of testing the Shures, I had more in store, and that day I increased the tempo a little to check out the bass. Rap, Psytrance, EBM (electro body music), and chillstep were all on the menu to further entice me to buy these pricy earphones.
Vicious Delicious by Infected Mushroom, an album I like for testing since it contains aspects of rock, rap, trance, and a wide range of other genres, was scheduled to offer the SE846’s first full album experience. It took the track Artillery only 30 seconds to realize that the SE846 could now handle any situation. High-pitched vocals in the song’s complicated range are followed by crushing electric guitars and deep bass drops that will make your eardrum tremble as if you managed to jam a 12-inch sub in there. The song never trips itself up by being muffled or obstructed.
However, it’s the punch and depth of extension that will leave you with a grin as big as The Joker. The detail in the low end was fantastic at showcasing diverse textures for double bass to crisp electronic generated slams.
WHAT IS THESE 846 NOT TO LIKE?
By now, it should be clear that there isn’t much that I don’t like. The Shure SE846 are among the best in-ear headphones I have ever used out of the countless universal earphones I have used. They have undergone extensive testing and are quite well built.
I’ve always found Shure’s after-care support to be among the best. There is nothing that even remotely compares to the sound, and by that I mean that maybe Final Audio’s FI-BA-SS is the only other option. But, and there is a major but. the cost. Even if the RRP has decreased over the previous year, these earphones are still somewhat pricey.
Although this will undoubtedly prevent some people from purchasing it, the SE846 is actually not that expensive when compared to other luxury items and certain high-end custom in-ear monitors. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend $1,000 on a camera, television, or bike to get the performance I want, and because I listen to music far more often than I do any of those other toys, why not go all out on the audio? Simply put, if you have the money, get a pair as soon as you can. You know that after much consideration and postponement, you will ultimately be able to afford to acquire them.
Review of the Shure SE846: The Last Word
Unfortunately, my time with the SE846 earbuds has come to an end. As I finish writing this review, they are sitting next to me in their pelican bag waiting to be picked up by their owner, who has probably been missing them.
Do I want to make my own investments in them at this point? The response? I’m not really certain. I do want them, but the question is when I would use them enough to make the purchase worthwhile. I currently use my Kingsound or Stax Electrostatic Headphones at home, the FAD Pandora at work, and a custom excels at isolation while I’m traveling or working out (though I take the Shure over my UM miracles for sound).
If I lacked any of the aforementioned, I would reach them right away. Then that brings me to another reason for wanting them, which is to use them as my reference set to compare all other Universals to in future reviews as well as a set that I can bring along to meetups and industry events (like High End in Munich next week) and show other enthusiasts my setup. In any case, the Shure SE846 are the current pinnacle set if you’re searching for a pair of universal earphones that are, in my opinion, the best on the market right now.
1st Update – July 4, 2016 Well, surprise, surprise, it’s been about five months since I wrote the evaluation of the SE846 and I now have a pair. I was able to choose a set a few months ago, and I can now explain why they’re among the greatest in-ear headphones available right now.
They sound so good that most of my other earbuds seem rather insufficient in comparison. I like them, especially for listening to rock and other fast-paced, detailed music, but I’ve also noticed that, with a little mental effort, they are almost perfect for listening to contemporary electronic music.
Build-wise, they still appear to be brand-new; in fact, you could put them back in the box and I’d never guess they’ve been used almost daily. Do they still rank among the top in-ear headphones? No and yes. They are undoubtedly among the greatest earphones, but I would also rank the Campfire Audio Lyra on a level with them (despite the fact that they are completely different – Campfire Audio Lyra Review), and I still adore customs. One thing is for certain: the SE846 is still a viable TOTL endgame IEM.