Matching its $99 Lightning and Bluetooth cable options, Shure has announced at CES 2018 the launch of a new $99 USB-C replacement cable for its family of high-end in-ear headphones. Along with making microphones good enough for presidential addresses, Shure sells some of the best premium earphones on the market, which scale up to $999 in price with the flagship Shure SE846 (setting aside the exotic KSE1500 that cost $2,999). My personal favorite has been the SE535 in the middle of the Shure pack, though it too costs a few hundred dollars. So, for the people already invested in Shure earphones, a $99 accessory to make them compatible with the latest, headphone jack-deprived smartphone might not be an irrational purchase.
But isn’t the entire trend upsettingly anti-consumer?
This $99 dongle, which attaches to the earphones via an MMCX connector and includes a Cirrus Logic digital-to-analog converter, is ultimately just a dongle. Your Google Pixel 2 or Huawei Mate 10 Pro or HTC U11 lacks a headphone jack, and so you’re forced to spend more than the vast majority of people spend on a full pair of headphones to just maintain compatibility. I didn’t like this much when Apple enforced it with the iPhone dropping the analog headphone jack, and I don’t like now as Android smartphones keep nudging in the same direction.
For its part, Shure has done its utmost to justify the premium price by crafting a thick and extremely durable cable designed to withstand the rigours of professional use. My experience with Shure’s regular 3.5mm cables has been very positive so far, and having tried the new USB-C version in person for myself here at CES, I see very little difference. Shure also says it does MMCX connectors better than anyone else, ensuring a solid connection between the earbud and the cable — so even if your earphones are from a different brand, but connect via MMCX, you can still consider this USB-C accessory as a potential purchase. Being a Pixel 2 and MacBook Pro (2016) user, I find ample convenience in having USB-C headphones with good sound, but the price here is still a hard pill to swallow for that utility.