Amid the stream of wireless audio devices recently released, the Shure AONIC 5 are wired in-ear headphones, part of Shure’s AONIC series of IEMs (in-ear monitors), with audiophile-grade accuracy. These are one of the few wired audio devices we tested in 2020, and they were certainly a breath of fresh air. However, they come with wired 3.5mm connectivity, and not many smartphones include the now archaic 3.5mm jack. The earphones use three high-definition balanced armature drivers. There are two dedicated woofers (which produce the low and mids) and a separate tweeter (which produces the enhanced highs). The earphones even come with detachable cables and interchangeable mouthpiece filters that can change the sound signature! The earphones can also be converted into true wireless earphones with the Shure True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter, which costs a whopping Rs 19,999 on its own. Priced at Rs 42,999, these earphones cost a pretty penny and if you opt for the Secure Fit Adapter to turn them into wireless IEMs, these earphones will cost you close to 63K! Let’s see if they manage to deliver the performance one expects for this relatively exorbitant price.
What’s in the box
The Shure AONIC 5 box is packed with accessories and equipment, such as a quarter-inch adapter for stereo and pro gear, a round protective hard case for the earphones, and a handy earwax cleaning tool for the earphones. You also get an assortment of ear tips, including three pairs of Comply foam tips, four pairs of foam tips, three pairs of silicone ear tips, a pair of yellow foam tips and finally a pair of triple flange ear tips, all in different sizes. So it’s pretty safe to say that most users will definitely find a pair of well-fitting earbuds, as long as they experiment enough with the variety of tips.
We used the medium Comply foam earplugs which gave the reviewer an extremely snug and comfortable fit, while also significantly improving the passive isolation. For reference, the passive isolation we achieved with these earbuds was comparable to the noise cancellation level of the active noise cancellation on the budget Realme Buds Air Pro earphones, which is seriously impressive. Finally, you also get three sets of interchangeable mouthpieces (two in the box and one attached to the earphones), each able to slightly adjust the sound profile of these earphones for balanced, warm or clear sound signatures, and a tool that is looser and tighter. becomes the sprinklers. The Balanced nozzles are attached to the earphones as standard.
Build, design and features
The Shure AONIC 5 is available in three color variants: black, red or clear (transparent). We’ve got the clear ones for review, and it’s nice to be able to see all the internal mechanisms of the relatively small ears. Plus, you’ll also see a ‘5’ in each earbud, which looks pretty cool. The earbuds can also be detached from the cables to make them wireless with the Shure True Wireless Secure Fit Adapter. Internally, the earbuds contain three balanced armature drivers with a frequency range of 18 Hz to 19 kHz.
The cables exiting the earbuds are semi-rigid and semi-flexible, allowing them to take on the shape required to fit snugly around your outer ear. The rest of the cable is pretty standard and unfortunately not tangle-resistant, which is somewhat disappointing. The AONIC 5’s cables tend to get tangled pretty easily in the included hard case unless you store them immaculately. The cable on the right contains an inline remote, which feels a bit tacky. However, the buttons on the remote are well placed and tactile. The central multi-function button can play music, calls, skip songs and call up your device’s voice assistant (with a double tap). The plus and minus buttons control the volume. There is also a switchable switch on the back of the remote which is for iPhones and Android devices. For testing we used an Android device and the switch to Android (A) ensures that all buttons can be used.
The range of memory foam tips and the relatively small form factor of earplugs provide a comfortable and secure fit, even for extended periods of time. However, the loop-over-the-ear wearing design can be cumbersome at first, especially if you’re used to regular in-ears that you can simply push into your ear canal. However, you get used to it over time. Overall, the AONIC 5 earphones are comfortable and extremely secure in the ear, making them solid to use even during travel or light exercise. They don’t have an official IP rating, though, so keep that in mind if you’re sweating a lot.
Being audiophile grade wired earphones, you don’t get much in the way of flashy features with the Shure AONIC 5, other than the interchangeable mouthpieces that adjust the sound signature. There’s no active noise cancellation, but the selection of foam earplugs and Shure’s noise-isolating design blocks up to 37dB of ambient noise, according to the company. As we mentioned above, the passive isolation is excellent on its own with these earphones, and we didn’t miss ANC at all when using the AONIC 5. However, these earphones don’t come with Ambient or Environmental Sound modes.
The unique feature of the Shure AONIC 5 earphones is the ability to change the sound signature by switching between the three filter mouthpieces provided by the company, using the handy tool they packed in the box. The three nozzles are available in a variety of colors for easy identification – Translucent Gray for a balanced sonic signature (installed as standard), Translucent Black for a warm sonic signature, and Translucent Clear for a bright sonic signature. The nozzles are surprisingly easy to install and offer a subtle adjustment in the sonic signature of the earphones. The Warm filter simply provides a 2.5 dB decrease in the frequency range from 1 kHz to 8 kHz, while the Bright filter provides a 2.5 dB increase in the same frequency range. The bass and mids are untouched across all filters, so don’t expect thumping bass response with the Warm filter, the Shure AONIC 5 just doesn’t do thumping bass.
Instead, you get well-defined, controlled and articulate lows and clear mids across all nozzles. In our opinion, the highs with the Bright filter are a bit too exaggerated, and listening for just over an hour with this filter can cause listening fatigue. On the other hand, the Warm filter, while pleasant to listen to, offers less prominent highs that slightly reduce the accuracy of the sound. The balanced filter was just right for us and we mainly tested the unit with this filter as we found it to be the most accurate, clean and natural sounding.
One of the most striking things about the AONIC 5 is its great soundstage and left/right stereo accuracy. The spatial imaging is top notch with tracks as tracks Shine On through Pink Floyd with great accuracy when it comes to positioning instruments and vocals in the relatively wide stage. This translates well to all interchangeable nozzles, which is quite commendable.
Bass response and bass are almost neutral and are full and controlled. There are no signs of distortion even at high volumes and no aural masking in the midrange. The timbre of the bass does not change with the Warm filter, but because the 1 kHz to 8 kHz range is recessed, it seems more prominent. This kind of response is aimed at audiophiles who prefer the neutral timbre, so those who enjoy the presence of subwoofer-like bass may not be impressed.
Regardless of the mouthpiece you use, the mids remain clean, balanced and insightful. The vocal clarity is excellent and vocally focused songs such as: love on the brain through Rihanna float wonderfully in all the right places. Lead instruments in tracks are also impeccably well reproduced with decent drive and plenty of detail. The highs, on the other hand, change quite a bit with different nozzles. We prefer the clarity of the treble on the Balanced mouthpiece, as the Bright mouthpiece emphasizes them a bit too much, which can cause listening fatigue and also put some people off. With the Bright mouthpiece, the synth beats that return in the right ear come in Hunter through Bjork sounds a bit loud.
Overall, these earphones will delight audiophiles with their accurate, clinical sound signature. The transparency and clarity make these earphones ideal for checking sound mixes and for critical listening.
It’s refreshing to see launches in the wired earphones market amid the rapid influx of wireless options flooding the market. The Shure AONIC 5 earphones are a great option for those who still prefer wired connectivity with a lossless signal. Priced at Rs 42,999, these earphones offer a balanced and accurate sound signature suitable for audiophiles and sound engineers. Equipped with interchangeable filter mouthpieces for different sound signatures and a range of ear tips, the Shure AONIC 5 offers quite a bit of personalization and shows versatility. If you’re looking for a pair of IEMs with a neutral response, these earphones are a good choice. For a more structured and dynamic sonic signature, you may need to look elsewhere, as the nozzles don’t change the sonic signature much.