Disclaimer: Shure Japan kindly loaned me the SE846 for 46 days. I repaid them by driving over that limit by about half a week. Mike’s Headfonia Store in Jakarta does not currently sell the SE846.
Last year I sat down with a Matt and a Sean from Shure and the Headphone Book team to discuss the yet-unreleased SE846. I had a mere ten to twenty minutes to fasten the earphones into my ears, change filters, and snap some shots. Here is what I initially thought of the SE846.
Shure have been in the universal earphone game since the beginning. And like every industry leader, they’ve had their bouts with manufacturers defects. The butt end of the SE500 tended to break apart. Crazy Steve over at CNET had trouble with his E4c. But every new iteration brings new surety to this pioneer earphone maker. The SE846 is a thing of beauty. The transparent shell shows off impeccably clean guts and flashy logos and labels, laser engraving, and an attention to detail that boggles the mind. Inside are four balanced armature drivers, a multi-layer low-pass filter, a screw-drive filter mounting system, and loads more.
The full spec list can be found here.
Shure was the main actor behind standardising earphone connectors behind the modified MMCX connector. Their energies were well spent.
There is both lots to love and lots to hate about it. Let’s start with the good. It is strong, well-made, well-labelled. It features an excellent neck cinch and a reinforced y-split. The L-shaped plug has a narrow guide which will fit most phone cases. Finally, its sheathing is strong, flexible, and resistant to corrosion. Its MMCX mount can be rotated 360º and snaps into place. Breaking an MMCX cable is much harder to do than breaking the long-lived UE/Westone connection or even Jerry Harvey’s new fore-pole connector (seen in the Roxanne).
Comfort, however, goes pear-shaped for the glasses wearer, a cohort which I represent. But as bad as my eyes are, my audiophile intentions are strong as ever. I choose glasses based on designs that don’t fight big, heavy circumaural headphones. My specks are John Lennon style. They are headphone glasses. But neither they, nor any glasses I have tried, play nicely with the Shure SE846 cable. (Perhaps it is the other way around.)
The cable’s built-in ear-guides are the culprit. They rat-a-tat-tat against glasses arms, pry up the ear rests, and require one to refit glasses every time the earphones are worn. And, the cable is neither as pliable nor as noise-free as Westone’s or Earsonics’ cables are. Rat-a-tat-tat! Fortunately, microphonic noises aren’t awful; they merely are louder than some of the competition.
But here I am, a day after having returned the SE846, counting my yennies. I want this earphone. I love it. If I scrounge together enough dosh, I’ll nab it in a jiffy. It’s a phenomenal earphone, worth every one its 999$ bones. But the first thing I will do is replace the stock cable with something more comfortable, quiet, and easy to use. Fortunately, someone in town have just what I’m looking for.
Shure didn’t just install a female MMCX connector into a bit of plastic and call it a day. First they anchored it into a strong neck. Then they installed the body around it. I have not seen more thoroughly engineered implementations of the MMCX spec. Similarly, every subsequent step is as well thought-out.
The drivers are secured in strong plastic couches, which keep them from rattling against the earphone walls. Internal wiring is clean, minimal, and impeccably soldered. A metal sheath secures the filter mount and its screw-drive. Viewed from above, the driver array follows a delicate curve and is anchored aft and fore. The outer plastic shell never touches the drivers. As you can guess, light plays around the housing in delicate rises and falls. Again, this is a thing of beauty.
But beauty is nothing without the beast. And that beast is metal. The screw-drive mount for the filter system is robust. Metal mounting hardware is anchored in a moulded plastic chassis. Filters screw into well-matched helicoids. And to avoid slippage whilst wearing, they lock into place. All connections are metal. The plastic filters slip into metal sound tubes, which take the familiar Shure ear pieces, of which, the SE846 comes amply supplied. My favourite? The low-density yellow foam. Why? Because my ears are sensitive; the black olive pieces isolate better, but after a couple of days, cause irritation in my ears. Unfortunately, they last forever, while the yellow foams do not. It’s tit for tat. The final plus for the yellow foam is that it exerts less influence on sound. Through the black olives, sound is thicker, less detailed; through the yellow foams, it is more open, cleaner, and faster.
You can read about how it sounds on the next page