In the audiophile rabbit hole, electrostatic headphones sit in their own revered altar. Simply put, they bring a special sound that justifies whatever exorbitant price tag and ugly form factor they come with. Shure changed the game for electrostats three years ago when they packed the technology inside a pair of compact in-ears. This year, they’re building on that innovation with the Shure KSE1200, a more affordable pair of in-ear headphones using audiophile-grade electrostatic technology.
Like the KSE1500 that came before it, the headphones come in an impressively compact form factor that’s mobile enough to keep in a pants pocket for taking with you on the road. That’s a huge contrast to the bulky cans hooked up to similarly bulky amplifiers that defined the category before, allowing you to enjoy an audiophile-grade pair of earphones while traveling, commuting, or just chilling in a park bench tuning out the world.
As with its predecessor, the Shure KSE1200’s in-ear units use a driver made up of a membrane that’s suspended in a magnetic field between two plates powered by static electricity. That should give it a more precise sound than traditional drivers, allowing you to clearly hear each musical component with increased separation. From what we can tell, it uses, pretty much, the exact technology as their first electrostatic in-ears, so the actual earphones sit at around the same compact size, all while coming with sound isolating tech to ensure you get to enjoy your music without being hampered by the bustle around you.
Unlike the KSE1500, which came with its own digital to analog converter (DAC), the new device ditches the component, shipping only with its own dedicated amplifier. According to the outfit, this is aimed at users who rock one of those fancy audiophile music players (such as Onkyo’s DP-X1, Sony’s Walkman NW-WM1Z, and their ilk), which already come with their own DAC units, making it unnecessary to have an integrated unit in the headphones. This simple change allowed them to cut a third of the price from the original earphones, while giving the listener more control over how their music is processed, since they can simply pass the music through whatever digital signal processor (DSP) comes with the music player they’re using.
The Shure KSE1200 is equipped with a rechargeable battery that can keep it running for up to 12 hours between charges, ensuring you can stay out for most of the day and never run out of power for your earphones. If you’re a fan of the comfortable fit of Shure’s SE Earphone line, then you’ll enjoy the way this wears on your ears, especially with the generous selection of earphone sleeves to help you find the perfect fit. Aside from bypassing the digital signal processing, the earphones also ditch some digital inputs already built into most portable music players to further avoid duplicating the functionality.
Slated for availability in May, the Shure KSE1200 is priced at $1,999.