Shure has a long history of making great audio products, but it’s never been the go-to brand for most consumers. Unless you have an audiophile friend (or you are that audiophile friend), you probably haven’t come across too many Shure products. Shure in-ears are used by professionals across the globe but the true wireless trend isn’t just for average users anymore. The Shure AONIC 215 true wireless earbuds are the company’s take on what a good sounding pair of true wireless earbuds should be, but what is that, exactly?
Editor’s note: this review of the Shure AONIC 215 was updated on November 23, 2020, to include links to relevant articles.
Who should get the Shure AONIC 215?
- Anyone who already has Shure in-ears. The true wireless adapters are compatible with any Shure earbuds, because the adapters and earbuds share the same MMCX connectors.
- Fans of the Shure SE215 will deeply appreciate not having to change much about their experience, minus the lack of a huge wireless dongle or physical plug.
- People who want the best-sounding true wireless buds. While these earphones have their drawbacks, sound quality is not one of them.
- Anyone willing to pay for sound, and not much else. These are missing a lot of features that make them inconvenient relative to other options, but if all you care about is sound quality, then that won’t bother you too much.
What’s it like to use the Shure AONIC 215 true wireless in-ears?
The Shure AONIC 215 are unlike your average true wireless earbuds: most true wireless earbuds are a single unit, which means that all the hardware is built into each earbud, but that isn’t the case with the AONIC 215. These earbuds are basically the Shure SE215 earbuds attached to adapters—which may sound a little lazy, but if you hve a stellar product to begin with, this is the exact right approach to take.
If you already have a pair of Shure earphones with the MMCX connectors on the buds, you can just get the adapters separately and attach your buds of choice. Similar to the SE215, the AONIC 215 are worn over the ear because of the a hooked design. These are very similar to the Powerbeats Pro, with the added bulk of the tech packed into the bulbous part hidden behind your ear. Don’t use these during your next workout though, because they lack an IP rating.
While they do sound great they miss the mark in terms of convenience.
The interchangeable design is clever, but the Shure AONIC 215 aren’t quite as convenient as other, more affordable earbuds. Much about this headset is a little cumbersome. For example: the charging case. Part of the AirPods‘ allure is the compact, nature of the case. It’s pocketable, and the lid snaps shut securely with magnets, both of which cannot be said about the Shure AONIC 215 case. Instead, Shure went with a huge case.
Instead of magnets or springs holding the lid closed, you get a zipper that requires two hands to operate. It’s difficult to snap the earbuds properly into the odd-shaped nooks. Good luck putting them back in the case with the lights off. Considering these cost $229 USD at the time of this review, I expected a more streamlined approach to the user experience.
On the bright side, the earbuds are a joy to wear. They fit my ears extremely well, and are accompanied by different ear tips so that anyone can achieve a comfortable fit. Unlike the charging case, every aspect of the earbuds and their adapters are designed very thoughtfully. They fit snugly and don’t cause ear fatigue, even after hours of wear. Unless you have exceptionally small ears, they’ll obscure the adapters from view.
The onboard controls aren’t great
My biggest complaint about the AONIC 215 adapters is the multifunction button: it’s too squishy for my liking. I wish it had more of a tactile click, but that’s an issue of personal preference and not something that many people will care about. Still, controlling playback from the adapter behind my ear instead of directly on top of my ear canal is a huge improvement over competing models. It solves the suction issue, which is when you press a button and it creates an uncomfortable suction feeling from the pressure change in your ear canal.
Operating the multifunction button is great, but its functionality is very limited and can’t yet be remapped in the ShurePlus PLAY app. A single tap on the button lets you pause or play your music, but there aren’t any other playback controls here. Instead of skipping to the next track, a double-tap instead enables transparency mode. This is great for safety purposes—it lets you hear your surroundings—but I would have preferred the ability to skip tracks. Transparency mode isn’t even that effective; I could barely hear my environment with it was enabled.
How do you pair the Shure AONIC 215?
Connecting to the Shure AONIC 215 is simple. You need to:
- Remove the earbuds from the case.
- Press the right adapter button to power the right earbud on.
- Wait for the Shure AONIC 215 to appear in the Bluetooth section of your source device. Select them to initiate pairing.
- When you the voice prompt say, “connected,” power on the left earbud.
- The left bud automatically connects to the right earbud. You’re then ready for playback.
One major downside to these is that they don’t automatically power on when you remove them from the case. You need to manually power them on every time. This gets really annoying, very quickly. Similarly, simultaneous connections aren’t possible, because these don’t support Bluetooth multipoint. You can’t even switch quickly between devices; instead, you have to jump through all the hoops of each source device’s Bluetooth settings.
The earbuds are very comfortable for all-day listening.
It’s not all bad news though, because the Shure AONIC 215 are stacked with high-quality Bluetooth codecs. These support AAC and aptX (SBC, too, of course), so you can appreciate high-quality wireless playback whether you’re rocking an iOS device or an Android phone. There’s no audio lag when watching videos, so if you’re someone who likes to kill time on YouTube: you shouldn’t have any issues.
The earphones sport Bluetooth 5.0, which yields a stable connection and greater power efficiency than Bluetooth 4.0 products. I read user reports regarding issues where the left earbud disconnects or doesn’t connect at all, but I never experienced dramatic connection issues. There were, however, a few instances when music hiccups came from both earbuds.
How long do the batteries last?
In our testing we got exactly 7 hours, 5 minutes of constant playback. We achieved this number by playing music at a constant output of 75dB until the battery died. Although this measurement falls short of the official eight-hour playtime, you’re likely to reach that mark if you listen at lower volumes.
The case charges via USB-C, and gives you three extra charge cycles before it requires a top up. You can check how much juice is left by pressing the indicator button on the back of the case. There is no mention of fast charging on the product page, or in the AONIC 215 paperwork.
How’s the microphone of the Shure AONIC 215?
The microphone is good enough to get your voice across if you’re on a call but it still doesn’t sound great—which isn’t surprising, given that true wireless earphones aren’t really built for that.
For those of you who spend your days on Skype calls, these aren’t your best option. The microphone is embedded into the adapters, which lies behind the ears, and the quality is inconsistent. These are fine for quick casual calls, but if you’re looking to spend any extended amount of time using the microphone, you’re going to be disappointed. This could very well be fixed with a firmware update, as we experienced similar issues with the Shure AONIC 50 over-ear headphones, and an update greatly improved mic quality.
How do the Shure AONIC 215 sound?
I haven’t exactly painted the picture that these are “must-haves” so far, but that really changes when it comes to sound quality. If there’s one thing that Shure knows how to do, it’s make reliable microphones. If there’s two things Shure is good at, it’s make reliable microphones, and wildly-underrated in-ears and headphones.. As someone who has tried many, many true wireless earbuds, these have the best sound quality of any pair I’ve tried to date—and it’s not close.
As far as the frequency response goes, these will be more well-received by musicians, audiophiles, and podcast listeners because they make a concerted attempt to color the audio as little as possible. Bass heads probably won’t love these but that demographic is unlikely to be buying Shure in-ears to begin with. Upper-bass and low-midrange notes are reproduced with great accuracy, and the slight amplification of upper-midrange and treble notes is a good thing for most consumers: it makes it easier to hear detail like your favorite vocalist’s vibrato, or vocal sounds.
Isolation performance is underwhelming, but that can change with the type of tip you use, so don’t worry too much if this seems a little lackluster at first. While they fit nicely and passively block out a lot of high-frequency sound, noises like A/C units and car engines easily cut through the earphones. This is pretty typical of low-density foam, so you may want to grab some third-party tips compatible with the Shure SE215 if you’d like better isolation performance.
If you’re looking for quality active noise cancelling, the Shure AONIC 50 are a pair of wireless over-ear headphones that have the absolute best ANC on the market. If your heart is set on true wireless in-ears, check out our list of the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds.
Lows, mids, and highs
While the low end is definitely present, it’s far more accurate than other true wireless earbuds. The bass response is nearly perfect as it follows the line of platonic ideal at 0dB.
You can hear this in the song Generator ^ Second floor by Freelance Whales, when the bass at 0:45 doesn’t mask any of the stringed instruments that carry the melody. That same accurate reproduction follows through to the mids, with just a little bit of extra emphasis on notes higher than 1kHz. Again, this makes it easier to hear detail.
The benefits of a gently amplified upper-midrange response come across in the song Hard to Explain by The Strokes, when Julian Casablancas’ are audible and never hard to hear above the band’s instruments. Even when the full band comes in about a minute into the song, there’s never a point where one instrument makes it hard to hear another.
The only weird thing I found with the frequency response has to do with treble notes, which you can see in the graph as the line dips just before 20kHz. This is fine since most people lose the ability to hear notes that high, but I can tell that high notes aren’t as clear as they should sound. Even still, the highs sound really good and cymbals and hi-hats have just the right amount of reverb, but a critical listener will perceive this as “missing” detail.
Should you buy the Shure AONIC 215?
Those who want to enjoy their music on-the-go without sacrificing sound quality, should buy the Shure AONIC 215. Shure nailed the sound quality aspect of the SE215 wired earbuds, and adding a true wireless adapter with AAC and aptX support shows that it can nail wireless audio quality too.
However, if you want a pair of true wireless earbuds for your morning commute, these aren’t for you. The charging case is frustrating, and is far from portable. Premium features like transparency mode are a pain to use too. For daily use earphones, consider the Jabra Elite 75t or the Apple AirPods Pro. Both Jabra and Apple’s earbuds afford a more enjoyable user experience, and greater convenience than the AONIC 215.