Review: Shure SE215

Search the headphone forums and read the gadget blogs. You’ll find many fans of the Shure SE215 earbuds. The praise is deserved — they do sound really good — but they aren’t for everyone.

The fit can be problematic. They come with a wide variety of tips, including both squishy foam and soft rubber, so finding the perfect size for your ear is easy. But the bodies of the buds themselves are oddly shaped and quite large. The cables are made to be worn behind the ear. It was difficult for me to find a comfortable seal as I experimented with different positions and tips, and once I found an angle that secured them in place with a good seal, my ears got fatigued during longer listening sessions, mostly due to the bulk of the driver housing. They also came loose more often than I liked whenever my eyeglasses bumped against the wires behind my ears, but this obviously won’t be a problem for everyone.

But where audio is concerned, they are some of the best-sounding buds under the $100 mark, right up there with the Etymotics mc5s. They are free of distortion, even when the source is cranked, and they have a crisp clarity through all the frequencies. The highs could be dialed back a bit — classic rock sounded great, but newer stuff with crystal-clear cymbal splashes and up-front drums (rock tracks from Destroyer and White Denim, electronic tracks from Andy Stott and Actress) were a little harsh in the high end. Thankfully, the Shures respond well to EQ tweaks.

So really, my only points against the Shures are in the comfort and feel. They’re beefy and the cable is excessively thick, which speaks to their durability, but a slimmed-down redesign of the same model would be more successful. Also, a remote would make them more phone-friendly.

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