Shure has been on a mission recently to expand its footprint into the digital audio realm (with a bit of a focus on iOS), throwing the company’s reputation for pro audio and consumer headphones into new designs, such as the Motiv line of iOS-friendly microphones and the RMCE-LTG cable (reviewed here), designed to let you use your SE series in-ear headphones with the now headphone-jack-less iPhone.
In a not shocking, but welcome step, Shure has introduced the RMCE-BT1, a Bluetooth adapter cable that allows you to use your SE series in-ears (or any third party in-ears that use MMCX connectors) wirelessly. I got my hands on the cable, bundled with the SE215 in-ears, and started putting it through its paces.
Bluetooth setup is as easy as you’d expect, and pairing it with a new iPhone 8 Plus is fast and painless via Bluetooth 4, and can pair with two devices at the same time, allowing me to listen to content from my phone and iPad, here at the B&H compound, without digging through settings to re-pair.
A somewhat robotic voice announces how much battery life the micro-USB rechargeable battery has left in hours (much more useful than simply giving a percentage, which my Jaybird X3s do, leaving me to estimate how long 60% battery life will last me). Shure claims 15 minutes of charging can give you up to two hours of playback, and my own experiences with it (as someone who is always forgetting to charge his headphones) validate these numbers; 15 minutes on the charger at least got me through a commute and workout before heading to the office to recharge completely.
Performance, Part I
Walking down crowded Manhattan streets (crowded that is, both with people and potential wireless interference), the RMCE-BT1 performed well, and only suffered the occasional Bluetooth hiccup or skip that is well known to most Bluetooth users in an area such as New York City. In the gym and at the office, however, these problems disappeared, and Bluetooth connectivity performance was rock-solid. The only noticeable performance flaw would be a brief (less than a few seconds) drop-off in playback from my phone when I’d return to my desk and they’d re-pair with the second device, in my case, an iPad.
Bluetooth audio, at least to those who take audio quality very seriously, is a game of compromise. Usually, you are sacrificing something at the altar of convenience, whether it’s the often lower-quality digital audio that gets transmitted from your device, or mediocre drivers in the delivery system. Granted, more recent versions of Bluetooth have helped mitigate this, but I openly admit I have had more mediocre listening experiences with Bluetooth in comparison to wired cans.
Shure had a simple enough mission with the RMCE-BT1, which was basically to assure that the Bluetooth wouldn’t ruin the sound of its already popular SE series in-ears, which range from “great deal” to “professional” pricing. Upon first listen with the RMCE-BT1 with the SE215 in-ears connected, sitting comfortably at my desk, it seemed like mission accomplished. The present mids, but relatively balanced performance of the 215s was there and, after listening to a few of my go-to reference tracks while successfully ignoring my staff for a solid half hour, I was impressed.
The RMCE-BT1 was stacking up to be less of a compromise that I could just live with, and an actual solution for casual listening. I compared it back-to-back with the company’s Lightning cable and DAC RMCE-LTG wire for a straight-up comparison of Bluetooth versus wired. The RMCE-BT1 gets darn close, and while the RMCE-LTG provided a slightly more rounded low end with better stereo imagining and presence in the high end, it was far from a night-and-day difference.
The Fit and the Feel
Like its wired counterparts, the RMCE-BT1 is built sturdily, and the cable feels robust in your hand. The cable clip is permanently attached to one side of the cable, giving you the option to attach the other side to help cut down the slack of the cable length.
As can almost be expected from Shure, the cable ends with moldable wire-form, so you can loop the cables over your ears to help get a snug fit. If this isn’t your style, you can always let the cable hang from your ears for a more typical in-ear headphone fit. All in all, sitting at my desk, walking, and commuting were comfortable experiences, and I didn’t experience that physical ear fatigue or soreness that is all too common with some in-ear headphone designs.
Performance, Part II: On the Go
So, even though the Bluetooth works admirably and the sonic performance is top notch, as wireless goes, the form factor of the RMCE-BT1 isn’t without its challenges. Once of the first things that comes to mind with wireless freedom is using the headphones during some sort of physical activity. I tested them at the gym, and had some mixed results.
The strength of any in-ear headphone is how tightly it seals in your ear, which reduces the amount of bass that escapes (making your music sound fuller rather than thin and lifeless). While the moldable wireform helps assure a tight fit for less strenuous activities (commuting, walking down the street, and so on), I found them needing frequent adjustment during my workout to assure the SE215s were sitting in my ears properly.
In all fairness, in-ears such as the SE215s would not be my first recommendation for working out or running, and the strength of their performance is based upon a tight fit that shuts out most outside noise, the opposite of what a runner who values situational awareness needs.
What You Need to Know
The RMCE-BT1 does its job as advertised, and does it quite well; it allows you to go wireless with your Shure SE-series in-ears (or third-party manufacturers who use MMCX connectors). While vigorous workouts seem to compromise the secure fit you would seek with these kind of in-ear headphones, these aren’t the first headphones that come to mind when I think “gym headphones.”
- Sound quality that doesn’t interfere with your in-ear headphones
- Compatible with any headphone with an MMCX connector (not just Shure’s SE series)
- Moldable wireform allows for comfortable fit
- Connectivity to two devices simultaneously
Keep in Mind
- Intense workouts can interfere with good fit, which compromises sound quality