Redefining standards within the audio industry is a hard task to achieve and so when a company delves into unprecedented territory, it signifies progression; a venture into the next big thing, so to speak. Time and time again, Shure have managed to become an embodiment of this progression and have held an influential role in the world of audio equipment since the decade of the “roaring twenties”. Their huge glass-panelled headquarters in Illinois, which in itself a remarkable feat of architectural design, constitutes the birthplace of Shure’s visions and commitment to achieving total quality. It is no surprise then that this quality-orientated line of thinking has enabled Shure to bask in multiple awards for a variety of their well-established product range.

The Shure SE846, the latest in Shure’s in-ear line up has garnered the attention of many and has faced more public scrutiny than any of its competitors. Released in 2013, Shure have incorporated cutting-edge technology to puncture holes 40 microns wide in the earphone’s stack of steel plates. The result being a low pass filter said to mimic a true subwoofer experience while still leaving other frequency ranges virtually unperturbed. The high level of technicality needed to build the SE846 has therefore contributed to its princely $999 price tag.

With that said, Shure have managed to evade the arms race between companies such as Heir, Noble and JH Audio to try and incorporate as many drivers as possible within each earpiece. Instead, the emphasis is placed more on the tuning and to that extent Shure delivers a quad balanced-armature IEM with a 3 way system configuration for low-, mid- and high-frequency distribution.

The Box & Accessories

The packaging of the Shure SE846 is rather grand and is without a doubt the heaviest I have come across for any IEM. Inside, the box is elegant, minimalistic and professional which all aid in justifying the SE846’s flagship status. The volume of accessories even give DUNU a run for their money and include various soft, flexible silicone and foam tips. Also included is a nozzle removal key to change the filters, a ¼ inch adapter, an airline adapter, a polishing cloth, a spare cable, a cable clip and a crush resistant road case.

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The Design & Build

The housings of the Shure SE846 are an object of beauty with a domed plastic shell and brilliantly implemented metal innards. With a flair in micro-engineering, Shure have simply not stopped there and have incorporated laser engraving, their own brand logo and beautifully assembled driver components. The whole design effort is reminiscent of certain luxurious timepieces as well as the attention to detail and expertise required to craft them. Competitors should take a note from Shure’s page and focus their efforts in creating an equally timeless masterpiece.

Looks, however, are futile in the presence of fragility. Luckily, Shure have not neglected this front and the housings, nozzle and MMCX connectors are all robust and well-built. The cable is ensheathed in a firm and secure plastic material which features strong connections to the Y-split, L-shaped jack and MMCX connector. The translucent nature of the cable allows you to see the coiled copper wirings of the SE846 which further enhance the design front of the IEM.

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The Fit

Due to the larger housings of the Shure SE846, some have complained about issues in regards to fit. What I have found, however, is that whilst the housings do appear to be on the larger side, they do remain secure against the outer portion of the ear. The MMCX connector allows for a 360 degree rotation of the memory cable which ensures a quicker fit without having to readjust every time you secure the monitors inside the ears. A note for improvement would be the memory cables themselves, which although secure, are a bit on the stiff side and could have been made even more flexible to increase comfort.

Isolation levels here are well above average and can of course be enhanced with double and triple flange tips.

The Filter System

Now the Shure SE846 comes with three filters which can be used in the nozzles of each earpiece. Naturally, this is a great tool for customising the earpiece to suit your own sound signature and you undoubtedly get more room for experimentation. The three filters differ in sound signature and offer a warm, neutral and bright sound respectively. To achieve each of the different sound signatures requires a cumbersome process of unscrewing each nozzle with the removal key and replacing the filters for the one of your choice. This is quite different to the Earsonics Velvet’s method of sound tuning which in my opinion offers a more practical approach with a simple screwdriver to adjust the sound. If Shure were to incorporate this style of tuning, it would not only save time but allow for quick and easier comparisons between the different sound subsets. Nevertheless, Shure have opted for a classy piece of accessory kit which neatly stores away the unused filters in a slick metal capsule.

Page 2: Sound Impressions

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  • Lower Listening

    Hey. No discussion on how the tips affect the sound? I found using the Westone Star tips really improved the treble. Those pin holes on the Shure tips are really old fashioned and maybe before releasing another flagship Shure could look at bringing out a new line of iem tips? Thanks for the review!

    • S. Patel

      Hi,
      Thanks for your thoughts. The huge amount of tips with the different tunings really increased the number of options for the earphones which is why I omitted discussion of said topic. Personally, though, the Shure olives were beyond adequate with the blue filter. The foam options (black and yellow foams) were better for bass presence but had a slightly dampening effect on treble. The triple flange tips were the superior option for tighter and even more controlled bass as well as isolation levels. The downside of course is that these were terribly uncomfortable for me.
      The tips I think are good as they are but if they were to include a new line of iem tips to their already competent accessory collection, I wouldn’t be complaining!

      • Lower Listening

        hey! Yeah i am all for innovative tip design. I recently got some spinfits for my SD-2 and now they sit in my ear much flusher as I suspect my right canal has a bit of a kink.

  • Roscoe Trey Nicholson

    Folks should also be aware that custom silicon impressions can be made for these by Sensaphonics. Wow, what a great seal these give, an improvement in both isolation and sound quality (due mostly to the great fit or other reasons, I don’t know). A very worthwhile investment if you like these IEMs. They are even better once converted to CIEMs!

    And yes, your review captures the sound of these IEMs quite nicely!

    • S. Patel

      Thanks for your contribution. I’d can only imagine that a custom sleeve would do nothing but good for SE846s!

  • Roscoe Trey Nicholson

    I will also second the recommendation of Westone star tips. Near consensus on these on headphone forums. Much discussion there of these tips and the Silicon custom sleeves.

  • George Zacharia

    Am returning to headphones after many years now that I have an amp that can drive full-size headphones properly. Are SE846s a worthwhile investment compared with similar costing full size headphones ?

    • S. Patel

      Hi George,
      Thanks for the comment. I would say they are a very worthy investment in their own right. It depends what you are looking for when comparing them to full size headphones.

      If you are looking for a very expansive soundstage, I still stick to my beliefs that top of the line headphones are very hard to beat in this area even with the advancing sound imaging of IEMs. Whilst the SE846 has a relatively large soundstage and good depth projection, it would not compare with the very best headphones for soundstage (Sennheiser HD800 for example).

      Portability however, is an invaluable factor to take into account and these are very easy to drive and are not fussy when it comes to amps or DAPS choice selections.

      For a more expansive sound, I would advise to buy headphones in the similar price range. However, if portability is an issue for you go with the SE846.

      On their own, the SE846 are outstanding and deserve the hype they get.

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