Shure SE846 Second Generation Review

Shure SE846 Second Generation Review

Shure SE846 Second Generation Review

Today I’m taking a look at a Lego kit of an earbud: the second-generation Shure SE846. Upon opening the box, I’m presented with a slew of customizable parts that go beyond just an extensive ear tip selection. I’m going to go play with my new toys for a little while, then we’ll get into what that’s like and, most importantly, what the new SE846 sounds like.

Shure SE846, second generation, earphones, soft flex sleeves, foam sleeves, yellow foam sleeves, triple flange, eartips, adapter, cable, nozzles

What’s In The Box?

-Second Generation Shure SE846 Earbuds

– 1 pin XLR to 3.5mm output jack

– 3.5mm to 6.35mm jack adapter

– 3 Pairs of Comply Tips (S/M/L)

– 3 Pairs of Soft Flex Tips (S/M/L)

– 4 Pairs Foam Tips

– 1 Pair Triple Flange Tip

– 1 Pair Yellow Foam tip

– 4 Pairs of Sound Signature Nozzles (Extended, Balanced, Warm, Bright)

– Nozzle Tool

– Semi Firm Carrying Case

Look and Feel

Both clear and colored options are available for the SE846. On the colored units that I had, green was on the exterior side of the bud while the interior side that faces the ear was transparent and left the electronics visible. Though many earbuds have this exposed aesthetic, I think it’s particularly cool with these as you can easily spot and recognize the two drivers present in each bud. They leave a visual impression of being simultaneously sporty and techy.

The housing is ergonomically and comfortably curved to fit the shape of an ear, and gives the SE846 an iconic, tear-drop-like shape. The wire is pretty stiff and it wasn’t immediately apparent what to do with the cable length that was closest to my ears. It turns out it just needed a little breaking in, at which point it could either wrap around my ear like a standard IEM cable or hang straight from the buds as-is. A rather simple feature that I’m nonetheless appreciative of was the extra support present at the split Y part of the cable, which is frequently an Achilles heel of headphone wires.

The carrying case is semi firm and textured with some sort of synthetic leather. While it’s not small enough to comfortably fit in a regular sized pocket, it’s the perfect size to easily fit in the front pocket of a backpack.


The second generation Shure SE846 has two balanced armature drivers in each bud. The drivers’ low pass filter design is supposed to mimic the performance of a subwoofer (without sacrificing other frequencies, as “low pass filter” might suggest). The unique shape and design of the buds that I previously mentioned gives them considerable passive isolation, providing up to -37dB in outside noise attenuation.

The fairly unique draw to the Shure SE846 is its interchangeable nozzle system. A special tool comes included that enables a user to physically remove the sound nozzle in the earphone and replace it with one of the four included pairs. You can check out the picture below to get a better idea of what this looks like. These provide boosts at varying specified points throughout the balance, that Shure categorizes as extended, balanced, warm, and bright. This is a fun concept that gives a little more satisfying customization beyond ear tip type.

A fun concept, but in practice there are some serious design flaws in the tip and nozzle system that I must mention. In the lowest circle of hell, occupied by the most evil sinners, Satan commands “Change the tips and nozzles on my Shure SE846 Gen 2’s five times, I’m in the mood for a warm timbre today,” and that’s all he needs to say to keep them occupied with an eternity of torture. The Shure SE846 comes with foam ear tips already on the nozzle, that are more likely to tear off than come off. All in all, it took me approximately a half hour to remove the ear tips and change the nozzle, and that was me following the provided directions to a T. I’m a little annoyed that a technical feature that is heavily advertised for this model is such an arduous, hair splitting task the moment you take it out of the box. This is a major oversight by Shure that needs to be addressed. I’m honestly shocked it passed product testing while presenting this glaring problem.

Frequency Response: 15Hz – 20kHz

Impedance: 9 ohms

Sensitivty: 114dB SPL / mW

Shure SE846, second generation, nozzles, interchangeable

Note: I used the balanced nozzle filters for the purposes of this review as I believe they will give me the most accurate sense of the SE846’s general sound characteristics.


Now that I’ve calmed down a little from the nozzle and ear tips situation, I can talk about something I loved about the Shure SE846. The imaging and sound stage were likely my favorite part about these earbuds. Though by and large left-right linear and not particularly three dimensional, the stage made up in width what it lacked in depth. Besides being wide, I found it to be spot on accurate. I listened to the Melody’s Echo Chamber track “Norfolk Hotel,” a particularly wonky and elaborately panned mix, and found the SE846 could reproduce the stereo-mic’ed sound with a sensitive dynamic control that maximized the track’s acoustic realism. These precise spatial capabilities went along way in providing breathing room and unique layers for various tracks in a mix.


While bass is plenty present on the SE846, it seems rather reserved in its subs. Using “Crush” by Jai Paul as one of my tests, I was a little surprised to find that the seriously deep decay of the kick drum didn’t engulf the mix like it does on most earphones. Rather than focusing on the subs’ rumble, the SE846 picks up the upper end of the bass range, upward of 80Hz. This low end profile gave me the impression that these earbuds growl a bit more than they boom. Though bass heads might be disappointed, the shape of the low EQ played a large part is producing an overall balanced timbre that avoided any woozy masking.


This is likely where the SE846 does most of its EQ sculpting, though not with a particularly heavy hand. Low mids present with a touch of boost that adds warmth to the mostly balanced sound, emphasizing the meatier tones in guitars and adding some impactful puh to snare drum transients. The middle mids, what I would estimate to be between 800Hz-1kHz, had a scoop that was a bit surprising. This dip, at worst, could leave guitars and vocals sounding a bit thin, but at best cleared room for twangy highs and high mids. The high mids recover from the center mid attenuation just in time, coming through boldly and adding a pleasant harmonic quality to pianos as well as upper alto-range lead melodies while generally preserving a sense of realism. Transients on kick drums also found extra punch in the high mids, complimenting the low mid expression on snare transients.


Maybe some of you who have read my other reviews will roll your eyes when I mention that I put the SE846 through my ultimate highs test, “Cranked” by Panda Bear (“Boo! Get a new test track!”), but I’m pleased to say that it handled the exceedingly high frequency drone that plays throughout the song with the hand of a surgeon. While there is a drop in the highs, it’s closer to being a shelved EQ than exponential (like it is on most headphones), and it didn’t seem to start dropping until pretty far into the high end. This sonic character allowed the SE846 to avoid shrillness without eliminating the air in reverbs and vocals, and kept a sharp, wispy character present in hi-hats and other clicky percussion parts.


I respect the Shure SE846’s effort to be a more balanced earbud, combining a fairly analytical sound with a casual and portable build. For all the resentment I have for the fresh-out-of-the-box fuss in removing the foam ear tips and changing the nozzles, I have to admit that I really like the potential in this aspect of the earphone. In some ways, it seems like the SE846 is an indicator that there is more technical curiosity with headphones emerging on a consumer level (I hope it’s an indicator, at least). With some wide and precise imaging, a generally warm but accurate sound, great passive isolation and a cool-yet-casual presentation, the second generation of the Shure SE846 pulls off a pretty tasteful balancing act between several desirable qualities.


The Second Gen Shure SE846 is available for purchase at Audio46.

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