2013 Spring Tokyo Headphone Festival Impressions

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.

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Next page: FitEar…

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48 Comments

  • Reply May 24, 2013

    Dave Ulrich

    That looked like fun! How did the cMoys sound?

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      John123John

      give the continental a run for their money? haha

      • Reply May 25, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        I would guess not, but I would love to hear it regardless!

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      Well they were roughly Cmoy level in terms of technicalities. A little warmer and darker than the JDSLabs Cmoy but the mids were less clear.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    Lam Tran

    334 V-shape ??? is there anything wrong ??

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      What do you expect?

      I used to be the sole distributor for FitEars and even now we have a lot of used FitEars being traded in on the Headfonia Store.

      It’s extremely nice but it’s not the full mids tonality. The 335DW is the one to go for if you want a full mids.

      • Reply May 25, 2013

        Lam Tran

        No, I mean this it weird , i’m both 334 and fitear parterre owner but I don’t find the 334 is V-Shape …. i even feel the 334 is a bit polite in treble region , I find the parterre have a lot of point better than 334 especially in separating instrument, same as 334 have it own advantages ( smoother and fuller mid )

        • Reply May 25, 2013

          Andru

          I had listened to 081xxx batch and it’s definitely easy to noticed the v shape signature when compared to 082xxx batch.But i like the v shape 081xxx batch since it had more lively sound compared to 082xxx.

          • Reply May 25, 2013

            Mike

            So now we have different sound from different batches? I’ve across so many 334s but never really find a difference, maybe I’m not listening well enough.

            The other day they were saying that Translucent T1+2 all sounded different

            • Reply May 25, 2013

              Andru

              The differents are on the cables,since both batch are sounded just same when swapped with ALO sxc cable.Not really a serious issues i think…

              • Reply May 25, 2013

                Mike

                Alright thank you. That’s relieving to hear.

        • Reply May 25, 2013

          Mike

          Wow I thought the Parterre is not yet out.

          • Reply May 25, 2013

            Lam Tran

            yes, but I bought it through hp fes , there are 10 limited unit for sale on that day.

            • Reply May 27, 2013

              Mike

              Phew, I suppose the 10 units were already out when I asked.

        • Reply May 25, 2013

          Mike

          The 334ToGo to me has always sounded mildly v-shaped. I definitely won’t say it has a full mids.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    Burju

    That Tube Cmoy is a beaut….whoa

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    BigC

    “This is going to be a hot IEM and I can imagine seeing a lot of used UE900s being dumped in the market.”

    Interesting comment considering the new Shure IEM costs over twice the price of the UE900. Do you really think the demand will be that strong considering the massive price differential?

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      Okay maybe I’m not so good at speculation. Yes you have a good point regarding the price difference. The huge price difference. Gosh what a major thing to overlook.

      Thing is the trend that I’m seeing is that people more and more won’t settle for anything than the best, and with customs all these time the biggest obstacle is that people don’t seem to want to go through the hassle of the process (at least for international customers) and possible needs for further re-fits. With the Shure they won’t have to deal with that hassle and they can still have this excellent sound.

      • Reply May 25, 2013

        Andru

        Mike,how’s the build quality of SE846 plastic housings?

        • Reply May 25, 2013

          Mike

          Just like the other Shure models, but they specifically mentioned that it was only a prototype and that the final product may be different.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    l3A7VA7VA

    Any other further Hifi-m8 impressions?

    What headphones did you use for your testing at the show?( for the different products you demoed).

    -Your own?
    -Or the ones at the tables (I presume they had).

    thank you.

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      Headphones I think I used their T1 Beyerdynamic. Sorry for the limited impression on the M8. Ended up chatting to Michael for a little too long.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    Currawong (Amos)

    Mike, it’s a shame I didn’t know you were coming to the show as it would have been good to meet you. Next time I hope.

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      I tried to get in touch with you but I can’t find your email! And Sean happened to be sick that week so I didn’t meet him either.
      Maybe in fall…

  • Reply May 26, 2013

    John Seaber

    Awesome Cmoys!

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      You gotta make some John!

  • Reply May 26, 2013

    SwimSonny

    Just thinking with damping and the TERAs high OI it probably was not the best DAP to demo the 846 with and maybe that’s why the really deep subbass was not quite there. Over than that, awesome show report and males me wish I was there even more!

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      Yes, sorry probably not the best. It just happened to be my main DAP.

  • Reply May 27, 2013

    iamsocheap

    sound (and technical level) wise, how would you compare the hm901 with your tera player?

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      I think the HM-901, technically is not at the level of the 801 and the Tera. As I’ve said it’s a more mainstream oriented sound, full and punchier bass. Something that can’t be said about the 801 and the Tera.

  • Reply May 27, 2013

    Hekowee

    Sure do like the poster. The HD-800’s are my primary cans. Any ideas on how to get an image, or copy?

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      Well if you’re in Jakarta I can give you a copy (A4)

      • Reply May 27, 2013

        Hekowee

        Well, round trip airfare to Jakarta would cost about as much as the HD-800’s. Hmmmmm, I’m going to have to think about this one. Thanks for the offer, and even more, thanks for all the great reviews.

  • Reply May 27, 2013

    Darryn Harly Septalingga

    which do you prefer between AK120 and Teclast T51? since they share the same configuration of their DAC (Dual Wolfson WM8740)… and for DAP choice, between Fiio X3 and Teclast T51, which should i choose? mostly i listen to japanese song and also progressive metal or nu metal like Dream Theater, Slipknot, or System of a Down… btw nice report, and thx before 😀

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      The configuration is same but sound is very different. I think the ak120 should have enough speed for your music but I haven’t really tried it specifically with thqt

  • Reply June 11, 2013

    Fabio_Rocks

    The Shure Se846 is so nice! They also have implemented a system that allows to tune the treble +-2,5 db. Mike do you think it will be better than FitEars 335?

  • Reply June 21, 2013

    ohm image

    Mike, next time you are in Tokyo for a show, I’d love to meet up. We go to the same shows and I’m told by mates that you are there, but… finding anybody there is quite the chore.

    Great round up.

    • Reply June 21, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks I will send you an email. 🙂

  • Reply July 2, 2013

    Kenny Chew

    I did not read any bias, so Mike your initial impression of Shure SE846 was very truthful. I agreed to that 846 pricing indeed too high. Any price of $750 and below will be more appropriate. (under cut your mentioning price by another $50, haha..)

    • Reply July 2, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks, Kenny. I have a feeling market price is going to be around $1k maybe a bit lower

  • Reply July 19, 2013

    Eric Thompson

    Hmm so is the 846 still really really laid back and sort of lacking in the highs like the 215’s and 535’s? I didn’t mind it with the 215’s but in the $500 535’s I was sort of disappointed.

  • Reply February 11, 2016

    Coll. IEm

    I don’t know why you still think 801 better than 901
    but I have both 901 sound better in every way even with mp3 .

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