Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review


The AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 are Shure’s newest true wireless earbuds. It’s a combination of two products, the Shure True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter Gen 2 (god these names are awful) and the entry-level SE215 earbuds. It is the cheapest of Shure’s TWS range, where the adapters remain the same but the connected earbuds get more advanced as you go up the price ladder.

Because of their modular design, the adapters can be connected to any other wired earbuds that use an MMCX connector. Similarly, the provided SE215 earbuds can also be removed and attached to a cable with an MMCX connector and used in wired mode. While the latter scenario does defeat the purpose of getting this product, you could ostensibly get it now and then upgrade just the earbuds in the future.

But for now, I will be reviewing the AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 — or AONIC 215 TW2, as I’ll be referring to them going forward — as a single product. It is quite unconventional compared to most of the other stuff that comes through here but that’s what makes it so interesting.

Packaging

The AONIC 215 TW2 come in a typical over-the-top Shure packaging that is four times larger than it needs to be. I noticed this with the AONIC 50 as well but at least in that case the headphones were pretty large and necessitated a large box. In the case of the AONIC 215, Gen 2, most of the box is just empty space.


Packaging
Packaging
Packaging

Packaging

Inside, you get earbuds attached to the adapters, the charging case, three pairs each of silicone and foam ear tips, and a tool for removing ear wax. A short USB-C cable is also provided for charging.

Design

Being a two-part design, let me first start with the design of the wireless adapters. The True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter have been improved over their predecessor launched just a year ago but from the outside, you can’t really tell the difference.

The adapters have rubbery stalks that sit over your ear and a bulbous unit that hangs at the back. It’s an awkward design from an aesthetics point of view and simply hasn’t grown on me, even though I never have to see it while wearing them. It is, however, less visually bulky than something like the Fiio UTWS3 and looks a hell of a lot less like a hearing aid than the Fiio model.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

The round bit at the end of the adapter features a single large button that is stupidly easy to operate and is probably my favorite thing about this design as I’m so tired of using annoying tiny buttons or even more annoying gestures on TWS earbuds. The button is so large that even though the unit sits behind your ears, not once did I have any issue hitting it on the first try.

The adapters feature a standard MMCX connector on the other end, which is one of the two connectors used by wired earbuds (the other being 2-pin). All of Shure’s earbuds use MMCX so it makes sense they went with that on their adapter but there are plenty of earbuds on the market that use MMCX connectors.

Of course, that’s not a concern here, as the adapter does come with the SE215 pre-attached in this case. The SE215 earbuds have a small body and a cable-up design common for professional earbuds. Because of the MMCX connector, the earbuds can spin freely while attached.

The AONIC 215 TW2 are also IPX4 rated, which means they are tested for water resistance.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

Lastly, there is the carry case, which also charges the adapters. It’s pretty big, which is to be expected considering the size of the adapters. The case also has to be big to accommodate any earbuds that you may have attached to the adapter. While the AONIC 215 TW2 aren’t large, Shure gives this same case even if you just get the adapters separately.

Placing the adapters inside the case isn’t as easy as plopping your AirPods inside their case, as you need to plug in each adapter carefully and make sure it has attached to the charging pins. You can attach either adapter on either side as they are symmetrical. This also gives some room in case your attached earbuds are too large and won’t fit face down so you can just swap them around and have them be face up.

The case closes with a zipper instead of a magnetic latch. The lid has an over-engineered optical tube to transfer the light from the LED inside the case to the outside when closed.

On the bottom of the case is the charging port, which sits facing forward for some reason. There’s also a button to see the charge status of the case. Unfortunately, despite its size, the case doesn’t support wireless charging.

Comfort

The AONIC 215 TW2 are a fairly comfortable pair of earbuds. The actual earbuds themselves are quite small and fit comfortably even inside my small ears. Coupled with the foam tips, which come pre-installed, I was able to wear them for hours at stretch without feeling any discomfort.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

The adapters, however, tend to get in the way a bit. They occupy space above and behind your ears and this proved to be a bit of a hassle while wearing masks. Also, while I don’t wear spectacles, I wasn’t too fond of how my sunglasses had to sit on top of the adapter. Add a mask on top and suddenly there are far too many things vying for space in limited real estate.

By and large, I’d still classify the AONIC 215 TW2 as comfortable. The issue is with the form-factor in general and although Shure has tried to mitigate it to some extent by making the stalks thin and placing all the electronics inside the rounded portion, it will never be as small and comfortable as something like the AirPods or Galaxy Buds.

Software and features

The AONIC 215 TW2 feature Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. They support SBC, AAC, and Qualcomm aptX codecs. There is no multi-device pairing functionality.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

The earbuds interface with the Shure Play app, available on iOS and Android. Through the app, you can do things like adjusting how the controls on the side work, updating the firmware and adjusting the EQ. The app is also a music player and any local audio files you have can be played through it.

The app does the annoying thing that some Bluetooth companion apps do where they lose connection with the device when you suspend them for too long. This doesn’t really affect the functionality with the headset as any changes you make on the app get saved on the earbuds but it does cause you to wait for the app to initiate the discovery for the earbuds the next time you open it.


Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app

Shure Play app

The app also includes a transparency mode even though the earbuds do not feature active noise cancelation. Even without ANC, the transparency mode on the AONIC 215 TW2 works the same as on any other device. Shure also lets you adjust the strength of the feature.

One neat option lets the earbuds automatically engage the transparency mode when you hit the pause button and turns it off when you play. However, for this to work, you have to pause and play from the buttons on the adapters and not from your paired device. Also, on one occasion, the transparency mode just turned on after a playlist ended, which seems like a bug as it only happened once.


Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app
Shure Play app

Shure Play app

It’s probably worth mentioning that due to their design, the earbuds don’t have any sort of in-ear detection feature to automatically pause when you remove them. You will have to manually play and pause every time, like an animal.

Performance

Audio quality

The Shure AONIC 215 TW2 are a great-sounding pair of earbuds. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since the core component of them, the SE215 earbuds, are sold as wired earbuds. With wired audio, there is nowhere to hide. You can’t just pick bargain-basement drivers, slap a DSP on them, and get away with it as you can on wireless audio. The 215 have been out for over a decade now and continue to be on sale, so they must be doing something right.

The sound profile of the SE215 is pretty familiar, which is slightly warm and a bit dark. The 215 put more emphasis on the upper bass and less on the treble region.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

The bass response is more biased towards the mid and upper bass region. There is a slight bump here, which adds a hint of boominess to the bass but never gets overbearing. The lower bass, however, is a bit toothless and doesn’t quite have the slam and impact that you’d want. The overall bass response is warm and punchy but lacking some of that extreme low-end rumble.

The mid-range performance is very good. The lower mids do have more energy than expected due to the residual bump from the upper bass carrying over. This results in a slight nasal quality to the notes in this region but it’s not too distracting. The rest of the mid-range performance is quite good and even.

The treble performance is less impressive. The lower treble coming out of the mid-range is decent but it loses volume in the mid and upper treble ranges. This dulls the overall presentation and takes some of the vibrance and energy out of the audio, leading to a darker tonality.

Depending upon the music you listen to, this may or may not appeal to you. Listening to really bright genres was surprisingly enjoyable, as the tuning of the drivers takes some of the edge out of the sibilance and harshness. On the other hand, well-recorded tracks sounded murkier than intended.

In terms of technicalities, the 215 are impressive at detail retrieval. Even with wireless audio, there is a good amount of detail and resolution present in the sound. The softer high-end dulls some of the detail but there’s no denying that the 215 drivers here are still doing a vastly better job than practically any other wireless earbud.

The 215 also have really good imaging although the soundstage is unexceptional. Both are once again affected by the softer high-end as it restricts some of the airiness and spaciousness of the sound.

I was not able to test the adapters with a different pair of earbuds as all the other wired earbuds I have use the 2-pin connector rather than MMCX. However, there are plenty of MMCX earbuds out there from various brands, which makes these adapters attractive if you want to upgrade in the future or just swap around for different use cases.

Microphone

The microphone performance is mediocre. They are fine for the occasional voice call but I would not recommend these if you make a lot of voice calls or if call quality is important to you.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

Latency

The AONIC 215 TW2 have good latency performance for watching content. While playing back videos on YouTube or Netflix, the audio latency was low enough to not be noticeable.

For gaming, the latency was quite noticeable, even in casual games. I would not recommend these for gaming.

Noise cancellation and transparency

The AONIC 215 TW2 do not feature active noise cancellation. However, the passive noise isolation is terrific. It’s often difficult to hear someone talking to you even when they are standing next to you and ambient noises like the air conditioner or the TV in the next room are all but inaudible. The passive isolation is better than some of the active noise-canceling earbuds out there and the credit to this goes to the high quality silicone and foam tips that come bundled with the earbuds that create a fantastic seal.

Thankfully, the earbuds do offer a transparency mode. It’s not the most natural-sounding transparency mode I’ve heard but it gets the job done.

Connectivity

The AONIC 215 TW2 had reliable connectivity performance in my testing. Not once did connection break or even briefly falter. My testing was done using a OnePlus 9 Pro using aptX and an iPhone XR using AAC.

Battery Life

The AONIC 215 TW2 have a rated battery life of 8 continuous hours of audio playback. Shure does not mention what codec was used to achieve this figure but it’s usually SBC or AAC.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

I did my testing using the aptX codec and got 6.5 hours of continuous use. That’s not too shabby and it’s likely you’ll get the full 8 hours if you used SBC or AAC.

I also tested for how long the battery lasts after a quick 10-minute charge from flat. Shure does not make any claims for this but I did manage to get 3 hours of continuous use, which is pretty good.

Conclusion

The Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 (sigh) are certainly the most interesting TWS earbuds I’ve tested. The modular design means you could easily upgrade the earbuds in the future while keeping the adapters, something you cannot do with other earbuds.

But what really sets them apart is their pedigree. The adapters are designed to scale up from the SE215 to Shure’s more expensive and much more impressive models. Because the adapters remain the same across the range, they had to be technically impressive, which they are.

Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Gen 2 review

Moreover, the SE215 are no slouch. The 215 have been around for over a decade at this point and have a reputation for offering great sound despite being the entry-level model in Shure’s lineup.

When you combine these two products, you are bound to get something that automatically rises above the mediocrity that one normally sees in the Bluetooth audio space. The AONIC 215 TW2 perform like a great pair of earbuds that just happen to be wireless. And this is Shure’s entry-level model; all they had to do was pair their cheapest wired earbuds with their wireless adapter and they instantly sound better than 99% of the Bluetooth earbuds on the market.

Other aspects of the AONIC 215 TW2 are also pretty good. The large buttons on the adapters are extremely easy to use. The battery life is good, the passive noise isolation is fantastic, and the app offers good customizability. And while the design does get in the way of glasses and masks, the earbuds are still extremely comfortable to wear for hours.

At $229, the AONIC 215 TW2 are on the expensive side. You can certainly get more features for less money, not to mention a more conventional design that many would prefer over the somewhat clunkiness of the AONIC 215 TW2.

But if you ask yourself what you’re looking for in your wireless earbuds and if the answer is just audio quality, then the AONIC 215 TW2 is what you should be getting.

Pros

  • Great audio quality
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to use physical buttons
  • High quality ear tips provide fantastic passive isolation
  • Modular design provides easy upgrade and replacement options

Cons

  • Clunky design compared to other products
  • Mediocre microphone performance
  • Poor latency for gaming
  • No wireless charging

Review unit provided by HeadphoneZone.



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