SE846: A Game Changer for Shure

Editor’s Note: Our newest contributor, Victor, has the scoop on the much heralded Shure flagship, the SE846!

The release of the SE535 in 2011 proved Shure was getting a bit outdated. Ever since they first came out with  E500 in 2006, Shure‘s flagship models have been one modified version of the E500 after another, just with minor changes, like newer housings or removable cables. They tried to pull a few fast ones on the consumer, such as releasing the red-colored SE535 LTD (equipped only with a slightly less dampening acoustic filter) to increase sales, but really didn’t make any substantial technical improvements to its product line-up. With intense competition cropping up in the IEM market, Shure had to do something. After all, it is Shure. The legendary Shure.

Just last year, Shure came up with their newest flagship, the SE846. The SE846 has been briefly covered by CYMBACAVUM in passing, but not intensively. Thankfully, I own a pair currently, and it stands out as one of my favorite IEMs.

So, let the review begin!

Equipment & References

  • Apple iPod Nano (7th generation)
  • Astell & Kern AK10
  • Styleaudio Carat Topaz
  • Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors
  • Sony MDR-7550
  • Audio Technica ATH-IM03

Accessories

  • (1×) Long Cable, (1×) Short Cable
  • Shure Travel Kit
  • Various Tips
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Transparent Hard Case, Hard Shell Carrying Case.

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Technology

Before starting to talk about my own opinion, I thought I might talk about the technology behind it. Just briefly (some of these has been mentioned).

First, it has a metal sound tube with a similar concentric structure to the venerable FitEar TO GO! 334’s sound tubes.

Second, it has replaceable sound filters (bass, reference, treble), similar to the similarly-priced AKG K3003.

And finally, it has the True-Subwoofer technology. This is truly a breakthrough technology, especially coming from outdated IEM like the SE535. It uses several precision-machined metal plates to craft a thin, labyrinthine acoustic pathway that cuts off all woofer frequencies above 100 Hz.

People interested in even more about the design and research that went into the SE846 can read this excellent interview with the chief product manager for the SE846, Mr. Sean Sullivan.

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Source & Amplification

The SE846 is quite sensitive and doesn’t require too much power. Even an iPod Nano cuts it in this case. Of course, as it is with any decent audio gear, a good DAC and amp will benefit the SE846. For example, the AK10 sounds better than the iPod.

Also, variations in output impedance don’t seem to affect the SE846 too much. As long as the OI is under 5 Ω, matching shouldn’t be hard.

Ergonomics

Shure maintained its familial look with the SE846. Fit and isolation are superb. In fact, the SE IEMs from Shure seem to isolate more than any other IEMs I’ve owned, including the UERM.

Build Quality

The build quality, as expected of Shure, is superb.

Previously, the SE535 had issues with the MMCX connection. Wax/dirt buildup always got stuck in the MMCX connection and caused clipping and eventually failure.

With the SE846 however, Shure addressed this issue and corrected it. I’m not sure how Shure fixed this issue, but the SE836 seems to fix the MMCX connection issue.

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Sound

This gets tricky as there are three different filters. But since the general characteristics of the IEM remain the same throughout, I’ll try to explain as best as I can about different filters.

Bass

Bass is superb. Top class sub-bass and mid-bass. It outclasses the bass response of any other IEM I’ve ever owned. It is up there with the JH16/13 in terms of bass. The sheer quantity of sub-bass is boosted, kind of like the JH13. Mid-bass is also tad boosted, giving the users a real woofer-like experience.

Midrange

Well, while I hated the SE535, I still admit that it has one of the smoothest mids amongst universal IEMs. The SE846 continues along the same vein. Still ultra rich and smooth mids, but this time with slightly better transparency and detail. Overall, it is excellent.

Sibilance isn’t an issue here either. Since the there are no major dips or peaks, the entire middle frequency remains rich and smooths.

Treble

So this is what the filter actually changes. With the bass filter, treble is reduced to a point where it is too dark. It just sounds muddy and nasty. With the reference filter, some treble is present, but I still consider it dark. The treble filters are my favorite. It lifts the treble, yet keeps the peak at a very low frequency, so it’s not harsh. The audible peak is very low, making it very pleasurable.

Overall frequency extension is short though. It probably only extends reliably to 12 kHz or so. For comparison, the UERM covers about a 17k range. This means that there is not much upper treble.

*I highly recommend the treble (white) filters. The next part of this review is based on the treble filters.

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Transparency

It improves with white filters. While the transparency isn’t quite up there with UERM, there is an audible improvement over SE535, which is not bad. Not too bad, but I won’t praise it. Having more upper treble extension would have greatly improved its clarity, but its still not bad.

Detail

Detail is superb. Raw detail seems to be at the level of UERM, which is very good. However, small micro details are not so present, partly due to lack of upper treble.

Soundstage/Imaging

Soundstage is wide. While the stage itself isn’t as 3D as UERM, the wideness of the stage itself is enough to call SE846 a wide sounding IEM.

The imaging ability is also superb. SE535 had very good imaging, but the SE846 takes it even further. The upper frequency cutoff does affect the soundstage negatively, however, while the soundstage more or less remains wide and enjoyable.

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Verdict

Job well done, Shure. I still lament the lacking treble, but everything else is simply superb.

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4 thoughts on “SE846: A Game Changer for Shure

  1. Hi Kimvictor. I own the ATH-IM03 and love its neutrality and smoothness. Thinking about upgrading to the SE846. How would you compare the two? Is the 846 a big step up? Thanks.

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    1. IMO, IM03 is a tiny bit recessed in its mids. SE846 has more fun tuning, with a forward signature. I believe that SE846 is smoother as well. But if you are looking for something similar the IM03 as an upgrade, SE846 wouldn’t be my recommendation. Purely in terms of performance, SE846 is a big step up, especially in the bass and the mids.

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    1. As for singled ended amp for IEMs, I rate the Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII end game(UHA760 sounds pretty much identical). That’s just in terms of sound, not features. If you want fancy things like ultra power or balanced, there are other options, but I honestly think Leckertons are more than good for SE846. It was more than good for the UERM too. Personally, I don’t see too much merit in portable amps, so I tend to stick with just using a DAP, but if I was to have an amp, Leckertons would be it.

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