Shure has been making audio equipment for the better part of a hundred years now, they have been making microphones, receivers, phono cartridges, mixers, etc., for the longest time and definitely what they’re doing. In 1997 they started making Personal Monitoring systems, which allowed stage performers and public speakers to hear themselves and/or the band or better on stage. So considering their In-Ear Monitors were made keeping professional use in mind, it’s no wonder that their products are great and widely appreciated. For the longest time, their flagship series of IEMs was the 500 series, with the very popular 535 being the current model. A few years ago, they decided to introduce a brand new flagship model, sitting above the 500 series, the SE846. This newer model continues the trend of using Multi-Balanced Armature drivers, which allows for better tuning of specific frequency ranges and they also have a really fast response.
The SE846 comes in a rather substantial box. You slide out the outer cover to reveal a matt black box with an embossed Shure logo on the top and on the side it says SE846 in bold black letters, in a slightly different texture than that of the box. Opening it up, reveals some literature under the lid and the rest of the contents contained in a transparent plastic case very similar to the tactical cases made by Pelican. It’s highly durable and even waterproof to some extent. Inside the Case you will find the IEMs set in a rubber casing, a Shure hard case next to it and a branded microfiber cloth on top. Inside the hard case you will find more accessories like an additional cable of a varying length(you get a 64” and 46” cable included), a plethora of tips, an adapter with volume control, a ¼” adapter and a tool for changing Filters which allows you to adjust the sound signature of the IEM.
The Earpieces themselves are shaped like Kidney Beans, akin to the SE535 and other Shure IEMs, with the shell being transparent, revealing the inner workings of the earphones, which I really like. I like this particular style of earphones as they sit secure and ensure a good fit. The cables are attached using MMCX connectors and loop from over the ear and then down, in order to ensure stability.
I really like the variety of tips that Shure provides, you have the options of silicone tips, memory foam tips and regular foam tips to make sure you get the best fit and seal. I personally like Shure’s functional design and build, however I’m not a huge fan of the MMCX connector. But it seems like this time Shure has made Sure (that wasn’t intentional) of reinforcing the connectors and making sure users do not have connection issues or reliability issues.
THE ANDROMEDA MAY NOT BE COMFORTABLE FOR EVERYONE, BUT IS PROBABLY THE BEST BUILT EARPHONE OUT THERE.
The Andromeda, released in 2016, was at the time the flagship at Campfire Audio, now it’s more of a Co-Flagship with the Vega. Vega being a Dynamic Driver IEM and the Andromeda being a 5-way Balanced Armature IEM.
The Andromeda comes in a rather compact box as opposed to the SE846, like about 1/4th the size of the latter. The Andromeda comes in a dark blue box with an illustration of the stars and a label with a groovy pattern of different shades of green. You open the box to find a hard Leather case that fills up the box. Under the case you will find the User Manual and beneath that you will find the included tips, of which you get a good variety, including Silicone, Memory Foam and Spinfit tips, a Lapel Pin and a cleaning tool as well.
The leather case feels rather nice, it is indeed genuine leather. Inside the case is where you find the earphones themselves, nestled comfortably in the wool-like inner lining of the leather case. I don’t think I would mind living in that case if I could fit in it. Being the bright green colour that they are, they can’t be missed and attached is a nice a Silver Plated Copper Litz cable, using MMCX connectors on the earphone’s end. The shells are machined from blocks of aluminium, blasted with zirconium and then green anodization, giving them their unique look with the fantastic finish. The Andromeda has a unique shape with a lot of edges, thankfully they’re finished a lot more smoother than the Jupiter, as people found the rough edges of the Jupiter to be quite uncomfortable.
Despite the unconventional shape, the Andromeda is still comfortable to wear, however the super wide nozzle can be a problem for some. The variety of tips included helps in getting a good fit and seal. The finish of the earpieces and materials used, scream of quality. In my experience, Campfire has some of the best built earphones available in the world.
The Shure SE846 has a really neat feature where the nozzles have Sound Filters, which have their own sonic characteristics. Along with the Balanced filters, pre installed, you also have Sharp and Warm filters. You get a tool with which you unscrew the filters and interchange them. This feature allows you to customize the sound of the earphones to your personal preference. However, in order to keep this post brief, I will base most of what I write on impressions from the Balanced Filter, though I will include some brief impressions with the other filters at the end.
The SE846 was designed and tuned with the goal of giving you the listener the best bass response in an IEM, a true “Subwoofer” like experience. So in addition to the Crossover(a circuit that decides what frequency goes to which driver) they also use an added Low Pass Filter, which allows the Driver dedicated to the Bass frequencies, really shine. The other three drivers act in harmony to produce the midrange and treble frequencies. So does this design actually work? Yes! The bass on these IEMs is excellent and it isn't just the mid-bass thump that a lot of IEMs do well, but it's also the overall body of the sub bass and the mid bass that really makes it an amazing experience. The Low End on these IEMs is easily one of the best and one would have a hard time finding anything else that beats these.
The Mids, though not as pronounced as the Low End, are sweet and energetic. The male vocals have that gravitas which you expect when seeing a Master Tenor live at the Opera. Also I must mention how airy the mids are, which makes the instruments sound so much more natural, as with other IEMs, the mids often sound a bit too intimate making instruments sound unnatural. Now if you're a fan of the Classic Shure “Olive” tips, which are extremely reliable with amazing isolation, you will notice the bass is enhanced a little more, however you will lose some detail in the midrange. I only used these with the memory foam and the silicone “Olive” tips, didn't try the regular foamies, as I'm not a fan of that texture. With the memory foam tips, the mids are more open with better separation, which allows for the micro detail to come through. Now this makes me wonder how these IEMs would sound with wider bore silicone tips. Why do I say that? Well, as impressive this IEM has been, and it's been IMPRESSIVE, the treble is at times a little too recessed and with certain music you really feel like you’re missing something. Now the brighter filter does help, but very little. However, I do believe it is the perfect set of IEM’s for those who are really sensitive to the treble frequencies. For anyone else, looking for that bit of magic in the higher frequencies, unfortunately, this one you skip.
Something I forgot to mention is that, the SE846 uses some very efficient Balanced Armatures, which means that you don’t need a lot of power to drive these, however varying output impedance on some devices can adversely or positively influence the sound.
THE SE846 IS BETTER WITH A SELECT GENRES OF MUSIC, BUT FALLS SHORT OF THE ANDRO EVERYWHERE ELSE.
The Andromeda has taken the personal audio world by storm and has firmly announced that “Campfire Audio is here and it’s here to stay!”. Before the Andromeda came out, Campfire Audio was just seen as Ken Ball’s side project. Ken Ball being the Founder of ALO and Campfire Audio. Campfire did make some really good products that grabbed the attention of Forum members, but none were able to get recognition across the community and not just in some small circles.
The Andromeda succeeds the Jupiter in the line of the Balanced Armature IEMs, with a configuration of 5 Balanced Armature Drivers per side, thus Ten in total. The drivers are configured as Two Drivers for the Low End frequencies, One for the Midrange and Two for the Treble frequencies. With the higher frequency drivers they also use a new technology called the Tuned Acoustic Expansion Chamber (T.A.E.C.), which is a 3D Printed chamber that provides acoustic tuning without compression (at least that’s what their website says). This is supposed to do away with a lot of complaints that people have about the quality of the treble frequencies from Balanced Armature drivers. It is supposed to sound more natural and airy as opposed to the compressed and sometimes nasal sounding treble from other BA drivers. So does it work? YES!
When I first heard the Andromeda, I was blown away by how Open they sounded without compromising on any detail. The expansive soundstage and the holographic imaging blew me away, it isn’t just impressive for an IEM, it’s impressive for headphones in general. Also, did I mention how delicious and sparkly the treble sounds, all this without being any fatiguing. As a matter of fact, I understood what my friend meant when he describes the sound from certain products as “Hoshi Hoshi”, which means a nice amount of sparkle, with a good sense of height and depth with precise detail. The mids transition beautifully between the bass and the highs and at no point does anything feel abrupt or accentuated. The mids are lush and feels like the music is giving you a warm hug. They are very even keeled and at no point does it feel that any part of the midrange is compromised. One quirk about it is however, due to the Andromeda being so efficient, the output impedance of a given a source device influences the tonality a bit more than it would on most other IEMs With some DAPs it sounds overly warm and rolled over and with some it sounds a bit too neutral and cold. This characteristic also carries into the bass end of the frequency range, it never sounds thin, no, the bass can go from being articulate and impactful to being a bit thick and wooly. Though the kind of sources that would make the bass sound bad aren’t recommended for use with efficient IEMs anyway, so there’s that. Mostly, the Bass has great separation and impact, combined with the detailed and lush mids, if you listen to a track of drums, you somewhat get an idea of the amount of air, the drum head is displacing each time the drummer strikes it.
In short, the Andromeda is easily my favourite IEM as of now and I’m yet to be blown away by anything else the way the Andromeda has. It is very hard for me to stop singing its praises. However, I do think there is something I can criticise it on and that is the mids can sometimes feel a bit unnecessarily airy, which may make some kinds of music sound odd as they aren’t meant to sound so open. Such is the case with a lot of electronic music which lack the dynamics that most other types of music possess. Other than that, the Andromeda is possibly the only IEM a lot of people will ever need.
After reading all of that, you must be thinking what a one sided comparison it has been and I would agree with you. The Shure SE846 does have some great qualities, but it isn’t at the top of the pile anymore, there are other, better newer products on the market. It still does some things better than many other earphones, but at all other things, the Andromeda simply takes the cake. The Andromeda is simply one of the most enjoyable products released in recent times that sounds pleasing without compromising on raw technical performance. It manages to sound visceral yet composed, open yet precise. It is truly one of the best In Ear Monitors available today.