2018 has been a great year for product refreshes. In the past few months, we’ve seen companies like Hifiman and Fiio update their existing products with new features and refinements, and today we’re looking at another interesting product refresh from Shure — the RMCE-BT2, a Bluetooth audio cable for IEMs. Though the BT2 sounds great and its updates to this device are welcome, we found that its relatively high price and form factor may limit users of an already niche product.
We first tried the BT2’s predecessor — the RMCE-BT1 — as an “optional” cable to the well-known Shure SE215 headphones. We found the BT1 somewhat difficult to recommend, as it was pricey ($99) and did not support Bluetooth audio codecs beyond the standard low-fidelity SBC. Like its older sibling, the BT2 is a simple device — a Bluetooth cable, terminated in MMCX connectors, with a three-button control pod. Shure warns that the plastic surrounding the BT2’s connectors may limit compatibility with IEMS other than the SE215, but we had no problem mating it to a few MMCX-connector IEMs we had in house. The BT2 seems well-built, with thick (but short) cables and sturdy strain reliefs. Its moldable over-ear guides appear to be the same as those of the BT1 — no complaints there. The BT2’s three-button control pod is also identical to the BT1’s, and works nicely with iOS.
The BT2 improves substantially on the BT1 by adding Bluetooth 5.0 and support for high-resolution audio codecs. Where the BT1 supported SBC only, the BT2 can stream in aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, and AAC. The difference in sound quality is audible — switching back and forth between the BT1 and BT2 and listening with the Shure’s SE215 and Fiio’s FH5 IEMs.
Music is clearer and punchier out of the BT2. The BT2 also appears to be more powerful, producing substantially more volume than the BT1 at the same volume setting. We would have liked to see USB-C charging, but the BT2’s Micro-USB connector is acceptable enough. Testing with AAC files (Apple Music) we got just about 10 hours of battery life, as Shure advertises. The BT2’s battery life displayed in the iOS widget screen, and we especially like how the BT2 reports its battery life in hours when turned on.
Despite the upgrades in this cable, our recommendation will still be limited. This has nothing to do with sound quality — the BT2 actually sounds great. Rather, the form factor of the RMCE-BT2 is what we think will most limit its appeal. Though the original RMCE-BT1 had a somewhat awkwardly large module in the middle of its headphone, it could at least be placed behind the head. The BT2’s cables emerge vertically from an electronics module even larger than that of the BT1, complete with a stiff metal clip. It’s intended to be worn in front of the neck, resting on the user’s chest or clipped to a shirt. We don’t speak for all users, but we find this configuration less comfortable and useful than cables that go behind the head. This certainly may not be a dealbreaker, but we think at least some users will be turned off. Shure makes high-quality audio equipment — the BT2 is no exception — but considering that this cable is also 50% more expensive than its predecessor, it may have a difficult time competing against the likes of the Fiio BTR1K we just reviewed.
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