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What's the Difference Between Shure's KSE1500 & SE846 Earphones?

Depending on your requirements the KSE1500 may or may not be the right earphone for you. In this post we'll highlight some differences between our current top of line earphones with balanced armature drivers (the SE846), and the KSE1500.
November, 20 2015 |

The world's first sound isolating electrostatic earphones are now upon us in the form of the KSE1500's.

But, depending on your requirements the KSE1500 may or may not be the right earphone for you. In this post we'll highlight some differences between our current top of line earphones with balanced armature drivers (the SE846), and the KSE1500.


If you are not familiar with the KSE1500's, or electrostatic designs, there is an excellent video review from the good people at Head-Fi at the bottom of this post.

Differences in Fit

SE846 and KSE1500 both have great ergonomic fit and the provided sound isolating sleeves provide very high levels of isolation from unwanted sounds from the surrounding environment. SE846, with 4 drivers and the additional components that make up the low pass filter is a little larger and heavier than the KSE1500 which only requires a single driver.

Both models are designed to wear the cable up over the ear.


The SE846 does not require any special amplification circuitry to drive the earphone.  Because this earphone operates electrically like the rest of our SE earphones, the cable is detachable.  KSE1500, as any electrostatic speaker – requires an amplifier to drive the earphone.  The earphone features a fixed cable that is not removable.



The patented SE846 design features a one-of-a-kind Low pass filter, allowing its 2 low frequency drivers to perform as a true subwoofer.  This means the output of the SE846 low frequency drivers is visceral and full, and because it is frequency band limited, the energy from those low frequency drivers does not interfere with the output of the mid or high frequency drivers.  No other earphone has this technology.  The low frequency performance of the SE846 is second to none.  Coupled with the dedicated mid and high frequency drivers, the SE846 is arguably the top performing balanced armature driver earphone on the market.  The SE846 also features a removable nozzle, which contains a filter that shapes the high mid frequencies (between 1 kHz and 8 kHz).  The earphone ships with 3 different filters that allow the user to customize the shaping in that frequency range.



The KSE1500 system is the world's first Electrostatic Sound Isolating earphone.  Electrostatic technology has been around for a very long time, and is regarded by many as the best option for musical reproduction.  Until now electrostatic products have largely only been available as floor standing speakers, or full size headphones – These speakers are traditionally open back (not isolating), and usually require AC power for the amplifiers.  These characteristics render them not portable.  The engineers at Shure developed a system that brings this amazing sound reproduction into the portable market.  The single electrostatic diaphragm employed by the KSE1500 is nearly massless, and therefore can move faster than traditional BA or Dynamic drivers.  This means the KSE1500 has an excellent transient response, and with a single driver can reproduce the entire audible frequency range with incredible efficiency.  The sound created is the most accurate and detailed reproduction available.

In addition to this amazing reproduction capability, the KSE1500 earphones are matched with a portable, rechargeable electrostatic amplifier featuring a 4 band parametric Equalizer, and high resolution 24/96 on board digital converter (DAC/ADC).  This means you can send the digital files right out of your source device (iOS, Android, PC, MAC) into the amp.  The amp also allows an analogue input – that can be routed through the DSP (For EQ) – or can completely bypass the DSP for a purely analogue experience.   While the SE846 allows the user to change between the 3 filters to adjust the sound to their preference, the KSE1500's 4 band parametric EQ allows for complete sound customization.  There are 5 commonly used preset settings – and 4 user customizable settings that can be saved and recalled.  The customizability of the EQ, combined with the sheer capability of the KSE1500 system allows you to make your music sound exactly the way you want it.


In Summary

In short, both SE846 and KSE1500 earphones each have ground breaking qualities that set them apart from their peers, but they are 2 different creatures.  One (SE846) represents the best possible performance for balanced armature earphone technology, and the other (KSE1500) brings the highly desired performance qualities of Electrostatic technology to a previously unreached portable sound isolating earphone with modern digital compatibility and customizability.

The SE846 provides a beautiful balanced sound with unmatched low frequency performance, and customizable high mid frequencies.

The KSE1500 provides the most transparent, detailed acoustic performance available and couples it with Digital and Analogue conversion, and complete tonal customization capabilities.

We're quite sure you would be extremely happy with either purchase.

Paul Crognale
Paul works in Global Marketing for Musician & Consumer Audio from the Shure London office. In his spare time, he is an avid collector of vinyl and runs a couple of record labels. He also has a 'peach' or potentially 'pink' colored bike – a source of much amusement to his colleagues.

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