Shure SE115m+ iPhone Headphones Review

As a long time lover of good audio, the first thing I do whenever I receive a new Apple product is to trash the white earbuds that come with it.

These prolific white earbuds that are so ubiquitous nowadays, despite their widespread use, are unfortunately tinny, distorted and, to be frank, just crap.

They don’t give the relatively decent DACs (digital audio converters) in iPhones/iPods justice and most people don’t know what they’re missing out on. Thus, the first thing I recommend as an upgrade to any new smartphone or mp3 player owner is a pair of decent headphones.

Since discovering the magic of in-ear headphones back in 2006, I’ve gone through a wide selection of these little things. There has always been one very unfortunate theme, though: the durability is absolute shit. I started with a pair of V-Moda Vibes (not in production any more) and, after having broken three times in a year, I bought a pair of Nuforce NE-7Ms (now upgraded to the NE-700Ms which I just got a pair of and will post a review of in the near future) which also broke within a few months.

I then got a pair of Ultimate Ears’ Super.Fi 5 (now upgraded to the 600Vi), which as can be predicted, also died on me within a few months (and recently received, on warranty, a pair of UE 700s as a replacement). Now, I realize that I am the common denominator here, however, I can assure you that I always take very good care of my gadgets.

So, what went wrong?

The problem is that it’s very difficult to wire headphones that can last the trials of being attached to a mobile device day in and day out. Every day, I will plug my headphones in, shove my phone into my pocket, tangle the wires, pull on the cord when I go to take them out, etc. During this time, the internal wire will twist and crack and, eventually, break down with use.

And so, I decided to look for a pair of headphones which could offer good sound, good durability, had a mic (because having a mic + buttons are extremely useful) and cost less than $100. The mission ended in the headphones I hold in my hand now – Shure’s SE115m+ headphones.

Sound

I measure sound quality by a few criteria – clarity, strength, isolation, comfort. In clarity, these headphones rank up there with the top I’ve tested (including Shure’s own triple driver SE530‘s). From listening to bassy minimal, strong vocally jazz or hard hitting house, these headphones have held their own against products two or three times the price of these.

In terms of strength, at 75% volume on the iPhone, my ears couldn’t take much more. Isolation is definitely a selling point on these – because of their around the ear, over-the-top insertion, these earphones sit deeply and snugly next to your ear drum letting in a relatively small amount of outside sound. I have had people sitting next to me think I’m ignoring them due to me not being able to hear them.

And finally, this brings us to comfort. I use these headphones when studying and, during my more productive 3-4 hour sessions, I can barely feel them, however, any longer and they start to get a bit uncomfortable (I noticed this the last time I flew from Canada to Australia – 13 hrs straight and my ears were sore).

Durability

I’ll keep this short – as far as in ear headphones go, these are the best constructed headphones I’ve seen or used. There is double or triple layers of rubber around all the pivot points (headphone jack insertion point, right/left fork point).

They feel solid and well constructed. Hopefully this outward feeling of a well thought-out design will result in a long and happy relationship between it and my iPhone.

Mic & Sound Control Buttons

One of the selling points of these headphones is their sound control buttons and mic. In particular, on first glance, you can see that the buttons are oversized and straddled by plenty of high-quality rubber.

Not only does this give the buttons and mic a solid feel, but it makes them easy to press. This is particularly handy considering the newer iPhones have Siri – a very useful tool with a mic for, say, in-car use.

Conclusion

So do these headphones deserve a yay or a nay? In my opinion, if you can find them for less than $100 (which is pretty easy through a bit of googling), they are definitely worth it and, backed by Shure’s 2 year warranty, should last you a fair while. Buy these and be happy knowing you are starting to take advantage of the audio capabilities of your device. Recommended.

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