Last week, Shure invited me to audition 2 of their premium earphones, the SE846 and the KSE1200, at the Stereo The Headphone Concept Store Westgate outlet. While this was a special invite, anyone can walk into the Stereo Store, sit down and test any audio products on display.
Located at the ground floor next to Tim Ho Wan, it is a very conducive place to try out audio products, except that it can get noisy with the crowd and the in-store music. But it is also a good test to determine if the earphones or headphones can isolate noise.
The earphones retail at S$1399 and for a limited time comes with a free RMCE-BT2 Bluetooth MMCX cables (worth S$239). If you are Stereo member, there is further discount. Like the name suggests, these in-ear monitors isolate sound rather well and fits easily in my ears. The around-the-ear design keeps the cables from weighing the earbuds down.
The earphones are driven by four balanced armature drivers to cover the full frequency range from 15 Hz to 20 kHz. On the LG V30+, I only need to set volume to 50. The most obvious audio signature for the SE846 is its bass response, which fills my ears with fullness with too pushy. The midrange and treble remains audible and balanced, but the highs could never reach the same level of transparency I had hoped for. The sound staging is close, without any exceptional instrumental separation.
Playing through my Classical tracks, the strings are subdued, the cymbals lack the crispiness, and the brass does not exude the raw emotions. If you have low tolerance for high frequencies, then the SE846 might work well, delivering a protective veil of the harshness while allowing you to enjoy music at high volumes without fatigue. On modern genres like EDM and rock, the SE846 could derive some pleasure without ruining your hearing. The thick extended bass could only be matched with over-ear headphones with massive diaphragms.
The retail package is supposed to come with changeable nozzle inserts to alter the tuning from warm to bright, so maybe owners can try that out. The alternative is to apply EQ or to pair it with a bright DAC. I tested the SE846 with both LG V30+ and Chord Mojo and the latter is definitely offering a more satisfactory experience, extracting more treble nuances and details that will be more audible in a quiet environment.
There are audio qualities that a simple EQ cannot achieve. On the SE846, the low-pass filter is delivering the sub-bass magic that is enjoyable without sounding too exaggerated. I like listening to pop tracks at high volumes with the SE846, where I could feel the groove of the bass and still hear the vocals and bright instruments in their prowess without the harshness.