The name Shure should be familiar to those in audio circles as it is one of the founding fathers of American audio with a history dating back nearly 100 years. Shure will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2025 and that is quite the accomplishment in an industry where companies are lucky to make it at all. Shure joins McIntosh and Klipsch on the rare list of companies that survived and prospered for over 75 years. Products like the Shure SE846 Sound Isolating Earphones demonstrate the qualitative edge the brand still has in some categories.
Shure did exit the phono cartridge category at a weird time but they have also steadily and quietly built a reputation for making great microphones for stage use, great conferencing systems for the office, and great headphones and earphones.
The brand focuses their marketing on professionals and considering their first headphones were made to support the Allied war effort in 1942 — you can’t get a much more professional use than that.
Prior to the war, Shure sold radios and then microphones, but headsets were a new product line. One of the biggest takeaways from Shure’s wartime experience was the decision to make their entire product to mil-spec quality standards, not just their military models.
Their microphones became the gold standard of reliability and were used in more radio stations and studios in the western hemisphere than all other brands combined in the 1950s and 1960s.
As early as 1951, Shure was experimenting with wireless microphones for stage use. By the 1970s, they were also designing wireless monitoring systems so they could offer stage performers a complete package of microphones and monitoring gear.
These stage monitoring systems gave birth to the Shure lineup of in-ear monitors dubbed the 215, 425, 535, and ultimately the 846 flagship model that arrived in 2013.
It is a testament to the quality of the Shure lineup that all are still available today and most have recently been given an update and now sell as “Pro” models.
The 215 and Shure SE846 are also offered as part of the Aonic line which adds wireless connectivity. The other models can be adapted with the wireless adapter for $189 so purchasing the 846 with the wireless options saves about $100 over purchasing the two separately.
It is that combination of the Shure SE846 and wireless earpieces that we are discussing today.
I’ve owned most of the lineup except for the 425, and have always found the SE846 to be a worthy flagship model.
Much like the designs offered by Beyerdynamic, Shure doesn’t spend a lot of time creating new shell designs for each model and instead relies on the number designation and shell colors to differentiate them. This parts commonality helps hold costs down and allows the SE846 to sell for $899 while performing more like some higher priced models from other brands.
The SE846 has some unique features, including interchangeable nozzles that allow the user to tune the sound and this separates it from the other three models that all share a shell with a single fixed nozzle.
Those who haven’t tried the Shure line will find the nozzles extremely long and extremely small and standard tips won’t come close to fitting so be prepared to buy tips made specifically for Shure products.
Fortunately, there is a big market for aftermarket tips and most major brands (Comply, Dekoni, etc.) all make tips for the Shure lineup. I have to carefully seat the Shure models to get a good seal, as inserting them too deeply results in gaps and a reduction in bass response.
The body is small with the nozzles sitting mostly in front of the body so isolation relies mostly on the use of foam tips.
The SE846 utilizes 4 drivers and is an all-balanced armature design in a smaller than average shell that was one of the first of its kind on the market. Those with smaller ears will appreciate the smaller than average shell and those looking for durability will like the all metal construction.
Soundwise, you would expect a model released in 2013 to sound somewhat dated but the SE846 remains quite relevant. It does buck the trend of boosted bass and a reduced treble; it starts with a mild sub-bass boost that tapers off quickly in the mid-bass and then flattens out nearly all the way up to the 10 kHz mark where it starts to roll-off a bit.
The mild bass boost helps keep the SE846 from sounding thin in the bass but is very characteristic of balanced armature bass with good speed and detail but less impact than other types of drivers.
To my ears, the bass doesn’t sound elevated and I think the boost levels the playing field more than anything as the armature simply cannot move as much air as a larger dynamic driver.
The midrange is well detailed with good texture and detail, and vocals are rendered quite well. The lack of a boost in the upper midrange means that female vocals stand in the same space but it can also mean that vocals do blend into the mix a bit at times and it is possible for other instruments to overshadow the vocalist.
Part of this is likely because most consumer oriented offerings in headphones and earphones have been tuned to be so bass and lower treble forward that engineers mixing for the mainstream market maybe downplaying those a bit in anticipation of what gear will be used to listen.
It started with car audio and the need for enough subwoofers in the trunk to realistically handle the job for Carnegie Hall and has now continued into most consumer oriented systems. It bothers me that overblown bass is now an accepted norm but off my soapbox and back to the SE846.
The soundstage is mid-sized with a bit more depth than width and some height and instrument separation is quite good as is stereo separation which helps make seating the orchestra straight forward. Imaging is also good and positions are fairly tight and movements easily tracked.
For an IEM to last more than a year on the market, it is doing something right. For it to last more than a decade, it is doing a lot of things really well. For it to be closing in on two decades, it is closing in on “legendary” status and the Shure SE 846 is well on its way there.
Aonic True Wireless Adapter
The reason Shure sent an older IEM in for review is the release of the new 2nd generation TWS adapter that works for all of their MMCX connected models. These adapters are similar to many others on the market with the battery and electronics behind the ear; and an earhook that holds everything firmly in place, and MMCX connectors to attach the in-ear of your choice.
Shure sells the 215, 846, and the new Aonic 3, 4 and 5 models bundled with the new TWS adapters at about $100 off the retail price if you purchased everything separately.
The TWS G2 (model RMCE-TW2) is built to Shure’s very high standards so they exude quality and there should be no durability concerns. The charging case is a round clamshell type roughly 10 cm in diameter and 4 cm tall. The earpieces lock in place for secure transit and guaranteed charging.
One really nice touch is that the earpieces can be put in with the battery compartment turned either way and still both lock in and charge. Indexing is quick and easy as long as the SE846 is to the outside and the adapters will snap in and charge regardless of left/right alignment.
This seems like a small detail but when you review a lot of wireless earphones, you get tired of fighting with cases.
The case has a USB-C port on the underside along with a set of charge indicator LEDs and a button for enabling the LEDs when not charging to check status. The case is capable of two full charges of the earpieces and a partial third charge in my testing.
The earpieces themselves are rated at 9 hours and I found this estimate realistic so with the earpieces and case charged the user is good for 3 days at the office before needing a plug.
When the earpieces are returned to the case, there is a charging indicator lamp in the center between the bays and a fiber optic channel through the case so the charging indicator is visible without opening the case.
This is another nice touch as I am really tired of cases that make you go through gymnastics to charge the earpieces and see the charge state. Little details that make a big difference.
How Does it Work?
Using the earpieces is aided by the Shure Play app which includes not only settings for the earpieces but a full suite of music player, EQ options (both presets and manual quasi parametric) and Environment mode.
The TWSG2 does not offer noise cancelling, but does have an environment mode to allow outside sounds in when desired and offers the user multiple levels so it can be adjusted to the level desired.
The app again is typical Shure; well designed, well implemented, and not a lot of fluff that isn’t needed, but with every needed feature quickly available.
The TWSG2 supports aptX and AAC, and should cover both Android and Apple products well. It will fall back to SBC if the source device doesn’t support AAC or aptX.
I’d love to see aptX HD and LDAC added but the implementation is one of the better ones I’ve tried and interior walls did little to defeat the signal until I put more than 10 meters and 2 walls between source and my ears. I tried to make the connection fail and it just doesn’t without drastic measures.
One of my other huge pet peeves is taking an IEM like the Shure SE846 and adding a Bluetooth adapter and having the sound quality go to crap as a result. The good news is although resolution is somewhat limited by the protocols supported, the sound signature isn’t veiled or muddied up by the addition of the Bluetooth adapters.
While Shure markets the TWSG2 as being compatible with Shure removable cable models, I tried the adapters with several non-Shure products and while you have to lie to the app about which model is attached, it works equally well with non-Shure MMCX models and is worth a look even if not pairing with an 846 or 215.
You do want to pick a model with a similar impedance and sensitivity as the app adjusts the starting volume based on model chosen. The only issue with using non-Shure IEMs with the new TWS is they may not fit in the case as easily because the Shure models are on the small side and a larger model may have trouble fitting in the space provided.
Those with Shure IEMs or those looking at purchasing Shure IEMs should certainly consider getting the TWSG2 along with their purchase as it adds a layer of flexibility that the wired models don’t.
Even without some of the newer protocols, I found the TWSG2 (model RMCE-TW2, available separately for $189 at Shure.com) to be one of the most solid Bluetooth add-ons I’ve tested and can say I would consider them for use with non-Shure IEMs as well as they easily best most of the other models I’ve tried for connectivity, battery life, convenience, and durability. It’s almost as if Shure made them or something.