With the Shure SE846, the premier model from the US manufacturer enters the ring to showcase its Bluetooth credentials. It brings back all the favourite flavours of the wired original, including the user-friendly controls and interface. However, the newly included Bluetooth transmitter cable almost derails things. It’s a little puzzling that the one key feature that distinguishes this model from its wired predecessor quite obviously operates wirelessly with a significant compromise in sound quality. Such a shortfall isn’t uncommon with Bluetooth operation to be honest, but those who’ve grown accustomed to top turnouts with Shure’s products in the past will be disappointed that this wireless upgrade of the SE846 fails to deliver its signature sound.
The Shure SE846 has already been reviewed by us upon its original release, but we now bring you our breakdown of the Bluetooth enabled upgrade of this classic pair of headphones. What’s more, there’s the added benefit of sound isolation functionality.
It would probably be easier to make a list of what’s not included along with the new Shure SE846 than itemise what in fact is. Unlike the previous accessory line-up, the once included external volume control accessory is no longer included with the main product itself. This, however, isn’t anything to fret about. Having said that, it’s certainly a pity that the cleaning sticks that were once packaged with new products from Shure are no longer included. On the complete flip-side of these very minor gripes, there’s much to get excited about. The scope of what’s included with these headphones is dizzying in length, with an accessory kit that reads like a wish-list any audiophile would love to get their hands on. A cable with Bluetooth receiver is included, along with a remote control for use with smart devices now added in as standard. The usual Kevlar reinforced original cable makes a welcome return after becoming a stalwart of Shure sets, while the rest of the accessory regulars are all present and accounted for, bar those two little absences we mentioned earlier. There’s a classic cable with remote control for wired operation, a storage box, a transport case, a plug adapter with 6.35mm jack, an aircraft adapter, a charging cable, a cable clip, nine pairs of earmolds, a waterproof metal pill box with sound-varying sound tubes, plus a cleaning cloth. Give yourself a second to take that all in and consider where you’ll be storing all those new audio accessories.
Design & Workmanship
Nothing has been changed about the aesthetics of the headphones themselves. This means that even with the incorporation of Bluetooth to the model, the in-ear follower will still find four high-resolution drivers and low-pass filters, gold-plated plug contacts, bend protectors, space-saving MMCX plugs and much more besides. With a length of 1.45 metres, the audio cable remains the perfect length for use on stage, in the studio, or when you’re simply listening to music as you go about everyday life and need plenty of freedom of movement as you do.
The sound isolation features on offer here give the user a wealth of choice. Those who get their hands on a SE846 can choose a 37dB external noise dampener to enrich their listening and leave distractions locked out. Another great feature here is the inclusion of interchangeable sound tubes that can be swapped out with existing ones within the housing of the in-ears themselves. Doing so can change the sound output significantly by altering the frequency response. As such, the Shure SE846 can be very finely tailored to benefit the bespoke requirements of the individual listener and specific applications.
The highlight of the Bluetooth output is of course the wireless functionality of the headphones and the freedom that brings. This wireless capability isn’t down to anything found within the receivers themselves, but rather a special cable that links to either earpiece. More specifically, it’s the Bluetooth receiver found in the middle of this cable. The cable passes sound transmission received wirelessly forward to the drivers via wire for that last little stretch, which might see some try and argue against these being a genuine pair of wireless listeners. Even if we agree to save ourselves the hassle of a long and drawn out pros and cons case, the convenience and freedom this new design brings to the user is massive in scale.
The SE846 sits very well when worn in the ear. They don’t fit to the main body of the in-ears as quickly as other types which are simply plugged in over a base. Instead, there is rigid (yet flexible) cable that bends to accommodate the earpieces being sheathed over it. This not only enhances all round listening experience, it ensures an absolutely firm fit.
The remote control built into the Bluetooth cable (answering to the name “RMCE-BT1” if you’re interested) is essentially the same as the well-known remote from the Shure S3846 original release. Unlike that wired remote, this one has a selector switch that lets you choose between ‘i” mode for iOS devices and “a” mode for Android ones. Simple, right? The maximum operating time of the internal lithium polymer battery is announced as spoken English as soon as the device is switched on. It’s a small detail, but an incredibly useful one that ensures you don’t get settled in for a long session of sound, only to find your battery kicking the bucket as you’re just getting into your space.
More differences arise with the operation of the Bluetooth remote. It broadly reflects use of the wired version, but the middle button here boasts a slew of new uses. You’ll have to get used to two sets of commands and functions if you’re keen to utilise both wired and wireless connectivity in the future, with multiple clicks and pressing combinations the flavour of things to expect.
Technically speaking, this new wireless upgrade works with Bluetooth 4.1, making it possible for you to connect two devices to the transmitter. The signal coding itself however, is carried out in a more disappointing manner. Here, you won’t find high-quality aptX codecs as the standard, but rather the humdrum SBC. First thoughts after realising this are whether or not the SE846 can truly deliver on quality audio with a second-rate codec. It’s certainly a puzzler to mull over when you consider all the fine work that’s gone into tailoring a terrific sound with all those adjustments to personalise and accessories to itemise. In the end, things turn out spectacularly in the sound stakes. Depending on the sound tubes you opt for, expect a brilliant, well-balanced output that’s not lacking in warmth. There’s a real sense of spatial depth, along with a detailed bass range ans super-fine trebles.
The casual assumption that impressive sound quality might have a compromise somewhere does prove out in the end. With Bluetooth transmission, the bass range is less powerful, with a much blunter mid-range. The finely drawn trebles of wired playback also suffer at the hands of Bluetooth operation, stealing attention from a sound that would otherwise drop jaws. However, this may or may not be an issue for stage use. When it comes to enjoying audio at home, however, this wireless woe might upset the apple cart.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)18 - 19.000 Hz
- Impedance24,15 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)125,46 dB
- Weight with cable31 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- Cable with remote control for Smart Devices
- Cable with Bluetooth receiver and remote control for smart devices
- Storage box
- Transport case
- Adapter to 6.35 mm stereo jack
- Airplane adapter
- USB charging cable
- Cable clip
- Cleaning cloth
- 9 pairs of ear tips
- Box with sound tubes
- the SE846 Bluetooth is currently available from an RRP of 999,- € at Shure Online Shop (Link)