At B&H Photo, the SE846 goes for 999$ USD. That’s a lot of dosh. For spec prospectors, that equates to 250$ per driver, which is a lot, especially when earphones with ten or twelve drivers exist at prices not too far removed. There will always be companies that sell products based on spec, that exist because of white papers and how well they look to people who pinch their yennies.
Shure lose that game. What they totally redefine is quality. There is no earphone on the market with any number of drivers, that is as well laid out for both longevity and usability. The hardware low-pass filter that curves off bass response after reaching a specific frequency range is unparalleled. The SE846 is perfectly machined, perfectly installed, and its output is amazing. The lockable filter system defies the shoddiness with which such systems have heretofore been designed. The SE846 isn’t merely an earphone; it is a study in careful planning, in careful research, in patient engineering. Could Shure have brought this earphone out several years ago? Probably. Would it have been as perfect as it is? No. Would I have been as ecstatic? Hell no.
There’s nothing snobby in wanting something to be truly well-made, something that surpasses market standards. And the way I see it, Shure have redefined market standards with the SE846. Your 999$ buys an earphone that can’t be manufactured anywhere but at Shure. I’m surprised actually that this level of mechanical genius comes from an American company. (Sorry Shure.) This level of detail is only traditionally seen from German manufacturing houses. Leica, Voigtländer, Zeiss- the names that not only inspire confidence, but breed slavish Japanese copies. From them I expected something along the lines of the SE846. Instead, the Americans have brought it about. Rock on.
Crazy as import prices are in Japan, the Shure SE846 isn’t that bad off. Generally, american prices have been upheld. The bad news is that filters are expensive to replace, and depending on your location, may be hard to find. In the end, the filter system, as ingenious as it is, is probably something that most users won’t really utilise. But that doesn’t matter. The stock sound — assuming you find the right fit — is so good that my yennies are quivering in their skin of nylon and hand grease.
The SE846 is sensitive. It picks up a lot of hiss from both good and bad sources. A great amp to pair it with is the detailed, powerful, and smooth Portaphile Micro, which we have reviewed here. The two were made for each other. If you don’t have an amp, or can’t afford one, the news is both good and bad. The good news is that the SE846 isn’t as hard to drive as some earphones out there. Mediocre outputs will cause frequency fluctuation and a collapsing of some of the stereo image, but neither one to the extent that some earphones exert. Believe it or not, both the Sansa Clip and my favourite iPod shuffle 512, run this earphone perfectly, plus or minus a bit of undue background noise.
Apart from glasses trouble, the SE846 is pretty much A-okay. The smooth body lacks hard edges, and is angled for flat insertion. It fits perfectly agains the ear. I would appreciate a more acute insertion angle, but that may be just me. Overall, cable aside, fit is excellent.
Shure don’t yet have my 999$ USD. Chances that they will are very very high. The SE846 is an earphone engineered to standards to which the market is yet to conform. It sounds good, looks great, and is built to last. Its cable is a thing of frustration for glasses wearers, and its filters, while perfectly designed, are buggers to change, and expensive to replace. But if you can get on with the cable and appreciate the powerful, truly astonishing output, there is no better engineered earphone out there.