(Pocket-lint) - There's no shortage of true wireless earphone options available right now. The market is maturing, and virtually every audio manufacturer - whether big-name or small - has a version of earbuds without any wires or cabling getting in the way.
For Shure - a legendary company in the world of microphones - the year 2020 was the time to announce the Aonic 215, representing true wireless in a very different way to everyone else. Does different mean better?
Design: Versatility is key
- Mouldable over-ear hooks
- MMCX connector - detachable earbuds
- Transparent E215 earbud casing
- Foam and silicone tips included
The Shure Aonic true wireless is all about versatility. Shure wanted to design a system that gives you great sound out of the box, but also lets you keep using your existing Shure earbuds (providing you own some with a detachable MMCX connector).
If, for instance, you already have these 215 earbuds that come with the kit, you could just opt to spend less money and buy the detachable ear hook without the earphone/earbud part for less money. It's called the True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter, which turns your existing Shure earbuds into true wireless ones (assuming you have a pair with MMCX connectors).
In theory, this could mean that if you already have a pair of MMCX-equipped earbuds from another company that you love, the Aonic system could turn those into true wireless earbuds, providing your existing earbuds lend themselves to being mounted to some over-ear hooks.
In that way, the design of the Aonic is very focused on reducing waste for those who want to get up to date and have that true wireless freedom without necessarily totally replacing their existing earbuds.
In terms of design, however, the Aonic is one of the most unusual systems we've seen to date. While the look is weird, the actual feel of wearing these in-ears, and the balance offered, is fantastic.
When worn, these in-ears offer that snug, moulded feel that you'd get from a pair of professional in-ear monitors (the kind you might actually wear on stage during a live performance). They stick to your ears like glue. For some that'll mean it's too snug, but we enjoy the security of such a fit.
The Aonic true wireless system features over-ear hooks that connect to the earbuds. It's a thin, bendable hook that you can semi-mould to the shape of the tops of your ears, which then tapers out into the round disc-shaped elements at the end. This is where the batteries and internal components live.
This round element is also where you'll find the single control button, on both of the earphones. It's the only button, and it has the same function on both: you press-and-hold it for a couple of seconds to switch the 215 on; press once to play and pause music once working; double press to switch on 'environment' (to hear what's going on around you); and triple press for your voice assistant.
That means there's no direct volume control on the earphones themselves, which is controlled only from the device you're using to output music.
While the Aonic 215 looks unconventional, the ear hooks fit nicely behind the ears. They hold their position well and don't ever feel like they might fall off. Turn your head quite far left or right and you do feel them pressing against the backs of the ear, but that kind of motion rarely happens.
We rather like the design of the charging case the earphones come with too. Rather than be a flimsy, fashionable little case that cares more about style and portability, Shure's case is all about durability and practicality.
First off, the earphones need to be clipped into place to ensure they're held in properly and charged. Not as convenient and easy as a magnetic cradle, but at least there's a reassurance that your earphones are held in place properly.
The case is held shut by a zipper that runs all the way around the edges, while the plastic feels sturdy enough to take a knock or two. In short, if you drop this thing, it's very unlikely that your earphones will get damaged or fall out.
There's even a neat little touch in form of the red charging light within the case. Once the earphones are docked, it lights up, but when the case is shut, a small transparent plastic cylinder then shines this red LED light out to the exterior of the case.
Setup & Performance
- 8 hour battery life outside case
- Three extra charges in case
- 32 hours total battery life
- Bluetooth aptX compatible
Setting up these earphones isn't the most consumer friendly experience we've had. It just feels a bit clunky compared to a lot of others.
To first use these earphones, you have to manually switch on the right earphone. You pair to that, then switch on the left earphone, which then connects automatically to the right one. Essentially, the left is the 'slave' to the right. It's a far cry from Apple's AirPods or Beats' Powerbeats, where you just have to open the case and those product examples will power up ready to pair.
It's a similar story when you want to use the Aonic. The buds don't automatically switch on and connect to your phone as soon as you remove them from the case. Instead, you have to switch each earphone on individually before you can start listening. So there's a little more friction to using this system than typical from other true wireless earphones.
Shure has equipped the Aonic 215 with Bluetooth 5.0, which for the most part delivers good connectivity between earbuds and phone. We did experience the odd glitch here and there, however, when the left earbud would cut out momentarily. For the most part this seemed to happen at the beginning of a song and only for a split second. By the time we'd noticed it, the music was back playing again, and we moved on through the rest of the song without an issue.
In the age of modern noise-cancelling-capable earphones, you could easily point to that as the big feature missing from Shure's first true wireless system. In our experience, however, we didn't feel that ANC was all that necessary. Using the included foam tips that expand to fill the ear canal, we found the seal was so good that external noise was cancelled out really effectively.
Sound itself is enjoyable too. Shure may be seen as a company for audiophiles, so you might expect a clean, flat and sterile sound from a company that prides itself on quality studio and performance equipment - but we found the opposite. The sound is warm, punchy, detailed and there's plenty of bass in there too. And to think, in this basic set up, the sound is being delivered by the same 215 earbuds you'd find in Shure's most affordable wireless earphones.
The earphones seemed best suited to rock music containing lots of prominent bass riffs, distorted lead and rhythm guitar. We lost count of the number of times we listened to You're So Real by Matchbox Twenty. There's something about how that opening bass and vocal intro and first verse sounds, before it switches quickly into the guitar driven second verse.
It's a similar enjoyment we got from listening to Glass by Incubus, with its funky bass driven sound and intricate drumming in the verses, before it gets all grungy and loud in the chorus. You get a great sense of the warmth from the bass, without it losing its detail, while those hits on the snare drum cut through perfectly.
You could enjoy all kinds of music on the Shure earphones, but these wireless in-ears instantly put us in the mood for rock, or anything punchy and lively. It's no exaggeration to say this is possibly the best sounding pair of earphones in its price range.
Compare the Shure to the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, for example, and the former just seem to elevate the listen a lot more. It's just a more dynamic sound overall.
The Shure Aonic 215 is something of an unconventional pair of earphones: we love these in-ears for their fit and presence; others will find the overly snug design and the less-than-friendly method of switching these buds on to be off-putting.
It's the listening experience that really sells the Shure Aonic 215. For pure music enjoyment - being locked into your favourite tunes away from the chaos around - we'd pick this Shure solution every time over any other true wireless options.
The fact that the experience could be even better if fitted with higher-end earbuds using the MMCX connector makes the system even more versatile. Those who want to free their existing Shure in-ear monitors from their cabled world will be mighty impressed with this feature.
So what are the issues? The slow manual switch-on process and some rare connectivity glitches are two points that count against Shure's first true wireless offering. But that's about all.
That's not enough to disuade us though. Once we started listening, we just didn't want to take the Shure Aonic 215 true wireless out of our ears. The audio quality is simply sublime.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus
The MW07 Plus is another great sounding pair of in-ears with no wires, and offers subtle ANC capabilities to post its noise cancelling. The design is a little less contraversial, but the pair offer dynamic exciting sound with a bit more hard-hitting treble than the Shure pair.