Chapter 1: Shure SE846
The one thing everyone has been asking me since I came back from the trip is this: SE846. People have big expectation of the newest quad-driver from Shure, and based from what I hear I believe it would live up to the expectations.
Shure booked a large room which has all their headphones and IEMs available for audition. The star of the day, however, is the SE846 which is the latest universal Balanced-Armature driver IEM from Shure. In order to audition the SE846, everyone had to pick a time slot, get a number and get in line. It was a very formal system that works wonderfully well when easily some few hundred people (maybe even up to a thousand) are all trying to get some listening time on only four available demo units. When your turn is up, you’re only given three short minutes to listen to it. They provided a portable source (I can’t remember what it is, I had used my Altmann Tera) as well as a Fostex HP-A8C as the desktop source playing a fixed playlist of songs. There was a nice english speaking lady helping me out with questions that I had, though I didn’t really have that many questions anyway. After your turn is up, the staff from Shure quickly cleaned up the soft tips of the IEM to prepare it for the guy behind you. Extremely nice and professional.
The sound of the SE846 is warm, full, well balanced, and relatively a forward presentation like the SE215-315-425-535 line up. I definitely like it better than the current quad driver available in the market that is the Sony XBA-4 and XBA-40 (which I really don’t appreciate much in terms of frequency balance and overall tonality) and the Westone 4 with its PRaT lacking sound.
I can even add that the SE846 is comparable to top of the line custom IEMs from JHAudio, UE, Unique Melody and the others. It was a full, well balanced sound with good mids and good bass. While I didn’t A-B it to the flagship 6-driver customs, I really felt that it can easily be a substitute for the customs. The only thing that is missing was perhaps the low sub-bass frequencies which the 846 failed to hit as deep as say a JH13/16 though Shure claimed the 846 to have a “true” subwoofer design which I would consider to be true if you’re talking a PC-speaker subwoofer.
Definitely a strong contender though a bit premium at reportedly ~$1,000 (I’m hoping that street price could be some $100-$200 lower, making it a very interesting choice at that price). As I’ve said the only thing that about the Shure that’s not quite 6-driver customs level is the low bass but everything else is extremely solid for the Shure and I would gladly opt for a universal far more than a custom fit these days.
For you SE215 fans, imagine your 215 is now transformed to have an even fuller midrange, grows some real bass, loses its plasticky timbre, and overall a more refined IEM. This is going to be a hot IEM and I can imagine seeing a lot of used UE900s being dumped in the market. Shure definitely has a winner. One thing about the units that we listened to is that Shure specifically mentioned that these are still prototype and that the final unit may be different in appearance, though the demos did look a lot like the official photos from Shure.
Next page: FitEar…