Shure Aonic 215 (Gen 2) Wireless Earbud REVIEW
Audiophile wireless earbuds? Surely not. Shure thing, writes PAT PILCHER, who takes the famous brand’s buds for a workout.
Shure’s got a huge reputation when it comes to audio gear. In fact, that name is the first thought bubble when you think of turntable cartridges. But what about digital-age ear gear? Their Aonic 215 (Gen 2) Bluetooth earbuds are finally here, and I got to spend some quality in-ear time with them. Audiophile-grade wireless ear gear isn’t common at all, so we were curious to see just what the Aonic 215’s offered.
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From a design and comfort perspective, the look, fit, and feel of the Aonics is compelling. I’ve lost count of the number of wireless buds I’ve reviewed. Most are either a firm and uncomfortable fit or a comfy but easy to lose design. Many also come with an annoying stem that houses a mic. None of this was lost on Shure’s engineers. The Aonic 215’s are not only compact (and stem free) but feature detachable hooks that house the wireless gubbins. Because the hooks can be detached, those with phones with a 3.5mm audio socket can hook up audio cables (sold separately), converting the Aonics into wired in-ear gear. How cool is that?
In terms of their fit, the hooks and earpiece rotate. This made inserting them into my ears an absolute doddle. When fitted, they were that oh so rare combination of being both supremely comfy AND secure. All told, the Aonics are easily the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever worn.
The hooks house buttons for on-ear controls. The controls are intuitive and easy to remember. Holding the button for two seconds powers them up. A longer press powers them down. A single press plays and pauses audio. Two presses activate or disable ambient mode. I stuck with the default out of box control settings as they were easy to remember. Still, the beauty of these is that you can customise their controls using the ShurePlus Play app (iOS/Android).
The Aonic is IPX4 rated. This means they can withstand light rain and/or sweat, making them great jogging and gym companions. That said, their case isn’t water-resistant. Speaking of that case, it isn’t petite: a round-shaped 4-inch zip-up jobbie. Its XXL form-factor is because it accommodates the earpieces and the ear hook adaptors too. While the case isn’t likely to go into a jeans pocket without creating an unsightly and erotic looking bulge, it is well appointed. It comes with a USB-C port on its underside and has a status LED on its top. Underneath, there are LED charge indicators for an at-a-glance view of how much charge the case holds.
Shure’s blurb says the Aonic’s battery life is up to eight hours. The charging case might be a whopper, but it also carries a stonking 32 hours of charge. That said, your battery mileage is likely to vary, depending on listening levels, distance from Bluetooth hardware and so on.
The ShurePlus Play app deserves special mention. Not only is it intuitive to drive, but it also gives you oodles of control over Shure’s in-ear goodness. For a start, the ambient mode can be switched on or off. Controls are customisable, and there’s an excellent EQ. It comes with pre-sets and a manual mode that allows you to save custom EQ pre-sets. Pre-sets are saved onto the bud’s internal memory. This handily means that any EQ applied becomes the Aonic’s default setting and will work even when the buds are used without the app.
Sonically, the Aonic was stunning. Even with the EQ disabled, there was plenty of low-frequency sound on tap. There was also a definite low and high-mid presence which made Diana Krall’s sultry vocals sound, well, sultry. Add to this a good dollop of high-frequency audio, and everything sounded poised, balanced, and super crisp.
Playing Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’ highlighted just what the Aonic can deliver. It’s a piece that most ear gear struggles with, the thundering choir usually turning into a mush of distorted and shapeless noise. With the Aonic, I was in front of the orchestra. Double bass, brass and strings were all delivered with excellent clarity. The soundstage materialised around me with laser-like accuracy.
In short, nothing sounded waffly, shrill or dead. Shure has hit the nail right on the head with the Aonic. It wasn’t just classical that sounded superb. Velvet Underground also delivered the goods. With the rather splendid EQ in the ShurePlus Play app, I was able to boost bass and add a tad more high frequency to get Lou Reed really sparkling.
Taking the Aonics out for a stroll in the Wellington CBD’s noisy and congested RF environment put their sound isolation, call capabilities and Bluetooth chops to the test. When it came to phone calls, the mic on the Aonic delivered excellent call clarity. While the call is unmistakably over a mobile using Bluetooth, callers had no issues understanding me when talked to them while standing next to a noisy construction site. Sound isolation is good but not in the same league as Sony’s ANC equipped WF1000XM4’s. That said, when music is playing, little external noise is apparent. While I didn’t experience any Bluetooth drop-outs, audio flipped from the left to right earpiece on two occasions. Considering this happened where Bluetooth audio often conks out completely with other wireless headphones I’d tested, I wasn’t too worried.
While there is no ANC, the audio performance of the Aonic 215’s is about as good as it gets with Bluetooth buds. Add to this the comfiest and most secure fit I’ve had to date with a pair of buds plus the excellent ShurePlus app, and it isn’t hard to see why these little wonders earn a 10 out of 10.