Marketing, public relations pros, and, yes, even journalists, tend to neglect the middle-priced products in most manufacturers’ lines. It’s easy to understand why. Budget-priced products can be praised for their value, and top-of-the-line items can be lauded for performance, but what do you say about the products right in the middle?
Enthusiast retailers, on the other hand, love mid-priced products, because that’s what sells. One Internet retailer, Flavio Teixera, CEO and founder of Earphone Solutions (http://www.earphonesolutions.com/), thinks so much of Shure’s SE215 ($119) that he sent me a pair so I could hear them for myself. Flavio sure knows his cans. The Shure SE215 sound-isolating earphones deliver a combination of comfort, performance and long-term value that far exceeds their street price. In sonic terms, Shure describes the SE 215 as offering a “detailed sound with enhanced bass.”
Shure SE215, Technical Highlights:
• Features single, dynamic (moving coil-type) MicroDrivers.
• Offers an easy-to-drive, low impedance (20 Ohm) load.
• “Up to 37 dB” of noise attenuation, says Shure.
• The SE215 is one of the lowest-price, if not the lowest-priced, earphone to provide a detachable, user-replaceable signal cable.
• The SE215 signal cable is Kevlar-reinforced, features a gold-plated 3.5mm (mini-jack) plug on one end, and gold-plated MMCX connectors for the earpieces (just as found on Shure’s more expensive SE-series earphones.
• Importantly, the MMCX connectors have “a lock-snap mechanism allowing 360-degree rotation for a comfortable fit.” Thus, the connectors allow the SE215 earpieces to swivel freely for optimal alignment with your ear canals.
• The standard cable is 64 inches long, and provides wire-reinforced sections at the earpieces, which can easily be bent by hand to form comfortable “ear hooks.”
• The SE215s are available in two colors: Clear or Translucent Black.
• Comes with three sizes each of two types of ear tips (or “sound isolating sleeves,” as Shure calls them); flex or foam tips are provided.
• Comes with a compact, “soft-zip” carrying case.
Ease of Use: For more than three years, the then-flagship Shure SE530 was my regular earphone ride. So, it should come as no surprise that when I heard the SE215 earphones they immediately reminded me of the 530s (the surprising part, though, is that the SE530s originally sold for $450, where the SE215 sell for around $100). And I might still be using the Shure SE530 earphones as my main go-to phones except that their signal cables became so brittle and cracked near the earpieces that no amount of hip-wader sealant would keep them usable.
Given my history with the Shure SE530s, the first thing I noticed about the SE215 was their removable and replaceable cord (a feature Shure’s new flagship SE535 earphones also provide. --Ed.). With a street price of slightly under $100, the SE215s are the least expensive earphones that have a user-replaceable cable. The cable is also long enough so that even if you like to wear your MP3 player low and outside, the SE215 will still reach your ears. The cable is also both soft and very flexible except for the last three inches, which are intentionally stiffer so they will hold their curve around your ear.
In the past I’ve used the Shure triple-flange in-ear-canal ear tips with most Shure earphones, and while Shure includes six different ear tips/pads with the SE215, a flanged tip isn’t among them. I tried the tips that came with the SE215 and much to my surprise I obtained the best fit with the largest of the soft foam tips. Instead of going into your ear canals, the soft tips seal the outer chamber of the ear instead. The results were far more comfortable, especially for long-term listening, than an in-ear-canal fit solution. Isolation, while not quite as complete as with the Shure SE530 fitted with triple-flange tips, was still more than adequate for good bass extension and isolation from outside sounds.
The Sound: While the SE215s do have some sonic similarities with the Shure SE530 phones, especially in the lower midrange and bass, their upper midrange and treble is not as prominent as through the SE530s. In comparison the SE215 earphones have a somewhat dark and hooded top end response. This darkish harmonic balance not only reduces the overall sense of spatial size, but also obscures some inner detail when music is played at higher volumes.