Excellence for sound quality, in-ear fit/comfort, and cable quality
Excellent noise cancellation
Cord is a little bit too long
Plug is very large (1cm diameter)
I work in a fairly noisy environment, so I need a noise-isolating in-ear monitor. I have tried several models, and the Shure SE215-K is the best I have found in the under-$100 price range. There are three categories in which I evaluate in-ear monitors: sound quality, in-ear fit/comfort, ... Read full review
I work in a fairly noisy environment, so I need a noise-isolating in-ear monitor. I have tried several models, and the Shure SE215-K is the best I have found in the under-$100 price range. There are three categories in which I evaluate in-ear monitors: sound quality, in-ear fit/comfort, and cable quality. The SE215-K excels in all three areas.
The Shures are very good-sounding monitors. They deliver a well-balanced sound across all frequency spectrums. I have found that many in-ear monitors over-emphasize the bass frequencies, resulting in a somewhat "boomy" sound. The bass response of the SE-215Ks is very full, but without going over the top and sounding unnatural. Mids are clear and well-defined, and high frequencies are reproduced smoothly without sounding overly sibilant or tinny. This is quite an achievement for a single-driver system, but the Shures do very well.
Fit/comfort is an essential quality of any in-ear monitor. This is, of course, very subjective, as everyone's ears are shaped differently. I have personally had difficulty finding in-ears that fit me well, but the Shures do not have this problem. The Shures come with six sets of ear buds, three sizes each of rubber and memory foam units. Once I found the best-fitting set (the large rubber ones), I found that the sound isolation properties were excellent. One word of caution: these are intended to be used as stage monitors, which means they are designed so that the cable goes up and behind the ears. This is not an optional feature of this product; you won't get a good fit unless you do this. I found that this took a bit of getting used to, but with practice I learned to remove/replace the monitors quickly and easily.
The last category is cable quality. I learned about this category the hard way, as monitors that I have used in the past had terrible cables that would kink or--worse--produce significant microphonic feedback. For those not familiar with this phenomenon, microphonic feedback is when contact with the cables (touching with hands, rubbing against clothing) results in audible artifacts in the monitors themselves. The cable acts as a microphone and transfers the sound to the monitors. The Shure SE215K cable is free of both of these problems. I have had no issues with the cable kinking (if anything, it is a bit too stiff, but I have found this to be manageable), and its microphonic properties are negligible.
Having just described the cable, I want to note that I use the cable that includes the microphone (an actual microphone, not an accidental one)and the three-button controls for my iPhone, not the default cable that comes with the monitors. I have used the controls on this cable and found them to be high-quality. The buttons are easy to access and distinguish by touch, and they provide good tactile feeback. I have had no sound quality issues using the microphone. The only complaint that I have is that Apple does not provide side tone (i.e., the sound of one's own voice) when using monitors to make a phone call. This means the user cannot hear his own voice when talking--and this is made worse by the sound-isolating ear buds. This is disconcerting, and as a result I typically do not make calls in this way. However, it's there in a pinch.
I can recommend the SE215K monitors over the Klipsch S4 and the ME Electronics CC51P units. I have logged significant time with both of these monitors. The sound of the S4s is OK (the bass can be on the "boomy" side), but I was never able to achieve a comfortable fit in my ears. I had all sorts of problems with the CC51Ps, but the worst was the microphonic cable. The slightest movement is very audible, which made them all but unusable. My issues with the Klipsch have more to do with my ears than with the overall quality of the product (I happen to think highly of Klipsch products in general), though I cannot say the same for the ME Electronics monitors. All that notwithstanding, the SE 215K beats both of those monitors in all three categories. I would recommend this product to anyone.
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I hope it helps.