In 2011, we reviewed the Shure SE215, $99 wired earphones that still sound ridiculously good for the price and come with a removable cable. Few earphones in this price range offer removable cables, which can add years to the life of the product (replacing a cable is a lot cheaper than buying an entirely new pair). Now Shure is bringing the swappable cable to the wireless realm with the SE215 Wireless, Bluetooth earphones with a removable neckband wire. At $149, they deliver superb audio performance, with full, round bass response and crystal clear highs, and easily earn our Editors' Choice thanks to the value of that replaceable cable.
The big secret here is that the earpieces are the exact same ones found on the wired SE215 model—they're simply sold with a different cable. This means if you already own and love the SE215, you merely need to purchase the wireless Bluetooth cable in order to also have a wireless pair. The bad news is that the cable costs $99 on its own—only $50 less than the all-in-one package reviewed here. Still, it's a nice way to breathe new life into your older earphones, especially if your phone doesn't have a 3.5mm jack.Design
Available in black, translucent blue, clear, or white, every SE215 Wireless model features a black neckband—these colors refer to the earpieces only. The included cable clicks into place at the connection point on each earpiece, and features a rigid-but-bendable section of cable designed to go up, over, and behind the ears.
An inline remote control and mic compartment is located near the right earpiece. It has three buttons—a central button for playback and call amangement, and plus/minus buttons that control both volume and track navigation. You'll also find a rubber cable cinch for managing slack, and a plastic compartment with no connections or controls that rests behind the neck. The included micro USB charging cable connects to a covered port on this compartment.
In addition to the charging cable, the SE215 Wireless ships with a shirt clip, an earwax cleaning tool for the eartips, and six total pairs of eartips in various sizes—three pairs are silicone, and three pairs are foam eartips that passively block out a significant swath of ambient noise. All of these accessories and the earphones themselves fit inside the included zip-up protective pouch.
It's notable that a second cable is not included. For $30 more, you can simply purchase the replacement cable from Shure's website, which allows you to use the earphones in wires or wireless mode. It's just a tad surprising the company doesn't offer this bundled, even for a slight bump in price. It is, after all, a common inclusion with Bluetooth headphones (over-ear and on-ear models).
The in-ear fit when using the foam eartips—aided by the extra security the moldable over-ear cable sections provide—is impressive. It's hard to get a more stable in-ear fit without going the custom-molded route.
The mic offers mediocre intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but audio was fuzzy like you get on a weak cell connection. Even for Bluetooth mics it's pretty weak, but each word was still clear enough to be understood, at least.
Shure estimates battery life to be roughly eight hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.Performance
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver a powerful low frequency response, and at top, unwise listening levels, they don't distort. At moderate levels, the lows are still quite strong, but they're not wildly boosted as they are on many competing models in this price range.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sound signature. The drums on this track can get insanely thunderous on some bass-forward earphones, but here they sound full and round—they receive the ideal amount of low frequency presence without going overboard. Much of this has to do with how well the lows are matched with excellent clarity and detail in the highs. Callahan's baritone vocals are rich in the low-mids, but also exceptionally crisp and clear. The guitar strums are bright and cutting, and the higher register percussive attacks also have some nice presence to them. This is a balanced sound signature that doesn't forsake the lows or tamp down the highs.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop has a strong high-mid presence, keeping its attack sharp and allowing it to slice through the layers of the mix as one of the more prominent elements. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with a little more restraint than we often hear through in-ears that really push the sub-bass frequencies forward. You still gets some serious depth from them, but just as powerful is the sustain of the drum loop, which is given some solid low frequency thump here. The vocals on this track are all delivered with ideal clarity in the high-mids and highs—they're crisp, clear, and never overly sibilant.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get an added push in the lows, bringing the lower register instrumentation forward in the mix a bit without things sounding unnatural. The higher register brass, strings, and vocals maintain their strong high-mid and high frequency presence, the most prominent force in the mix, and the added bass depth brings some fullness to the mix that it can sometimes sound deprived of, but still plays a supporting role.Conclusion
The Shure 215 Wireless earphones are essentially a modular system with both wired and wireless operation if you buy the $30 wired cable accessory. Even at that price—$180—it's a good deal, and no matter how you look at it, these are easily some of the best sounding wired or wireless earphones on the market for under $200, period. For $150 or less, we're also fans of the Jaybird Freedom 2, the V-Moda Forza, and the JBL Reflect Mini BT, all of which offer solid audio performance, and some of which have more exercise-focused designs. But Shure's SE215 Wireless earphones are one of our favorite Bluetooth options we've tested, and earn our Editors' Choice award, just as the original wired version did.Shure SE215 Wireless
Bottom Line: The Shure SE215 Wireless earphones offers some of the best in-ear Bluetooth audio performance available under $200.
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