- Review Price: £129.90
While I await the arrival of Shure’s latest high-end earphones with bated breath, there seems to be no harm in taking a look at the opposite end of the company’s audio spectrum. As you might guess the SE115m+ earphones share more than a little DNA with the SE115 ‘phones we’ve looked at previously – though not without a little evolution.
Ostensibly the change is obvious: the ‘m+’ segment of their name indicates the addition of an in-line remote and microphone, making them compatible not only with the iPhone but also with the latest, control-less, iPod shuffle; in addition to every other recent iPod, of course. Less obvious differences include the loss of the modular design we’ve loved on Shure earphones for so long now and a slightly different sound signature from that of the SE115s.
The remote isn’t as slim as that on Apple’s own earphones; both those bundled with the Shuffle and iPhone, and the Apple In-Ear Headphones. Some may prefer the more robust feel that these Shures have, but it does result in extra weight hanging from one ear and I’m not a fan of the asymmetry that introduces. Maybe I’m just weird.
Shure trumps Apple’s offerings considerably in the amount of periphery kit offered with its eaphones. With the SE115m+ ‘phones themselves, Shure also supplies six different tips, three sizes each of foam and silicone, a cleaning tool and a soft carrying case with a carabiner attached to it. The hardened cases of old may have offered more apparent protection, but they weren’t as comfortable in a pocket, which makes the softer variety more likely to be used so I’m in favour of the change.
Considering even the most ludicrously priced, polished stainless steel, iPod shuffle won’t set you back more than £80 (worth every penny, from an aesthetic viewpoint), paying a fair bit more than that for earphone replacements to what many will consider a free accessory might be off-putting. However, I’m prepared to warrant that most iPod shuffle users don’t use it as their primary MP3 player and, in fact, also have an iPod or even an iPhone making these ‘phones doubly useful. If you have a non-Apple media player, though, the in-line remote will prove less than useful.
Back to those using an iPhone, iPod touch or iPod shuffle, then. The former two groups will find the middle play/pause button useful in varying degrees depending on which generation of device they own. The latest versions of each now offer Voice Control, accessed by holding the play/pause button and speaking your orders when prompted. I’ve found it to be temperamental at best but your mileage may vary.
It should be common knowledge by now that with the iPod shuffle the play/pause button effectively replaces the screen other players still offer, with such quaint archaism. Hold it and you’ll have first the current artist and track name read out, then a list of available playlists with a further click selecting that last mentioned. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it does work.
On the undeniably positive side, the output on these ‘phones seems to have been improved over that of the SE115s. While still bass-heavy, the low end reproduction of the SE115m+ ‘phones doesn’t feel as forced and overpowered as the SE115s. As such, listening for long lengths of time proves less fatiguing.
If pushed, I’d probably have to concede that if it’s low-end presence and warmth you want, then overall the Klipsch Image S4 earphones are probably a better choice but the Shure’s have the edge in mid and high end clarity and precision.
Alas for Shure, Etymotic’s excellent hf2 headset has a successor too – the hf3 – launching imminently and adding iPod shuffle support. While we obviously can’t do more than speculate about their performance, it seems likely that they’ll be every bit as good as the hf2s. Having used a set of those (albeit with custom tips) with my iPhone for several months now, I still find myself impressed that any single-driver earphones can sound so good.
That said, I just know that if you asked the average hoodie-wearing, backwards baseball cap-rocking ‘yoof’ on the street which sounded better it would be the Shure’s they picked. Because “they ‘ave more bass, like, init.” And as much as such sentiments annoy me, I’m sure some of you might agree. Besides which, I can’t really go around calling personal opinions wrong. It’s the price, therefore, that is the SE115m+ earphones’ Achilles’ heel. Unless some UK resellers can knock a good £30 off what they’re currently asking, these ‘phones are simply too expensive.
It’s great that Shure has a decent sounding set of in-line remote-packing earphones available for those looking to upgrade the awful examples bundled with the iPod shuffle, iPod touch and iPhone. Unfortunately the asking price just isn’t realistic right now.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 7
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