A year ago, I reviewed the Shure KSE1500 headphones for $ 2,999 and turned them into an outstanding technological feat with a sound that is basically impossible to get anywhere else. Well, now there is a more accessible version of it, with Shure announcing the $ 1,999 KSE1200, which bypasses the digital signal processor (DSP) and ships only with an accompanying amplifier. This allows the company to reduce one third of the original price of audiophile hearing aids while preserving the claim of having the best fame of its kind.
The truth is that Shure's electrostatic headphones win the best-of-class award by default: no other person is doing something as ambitious as this. The KSE1500 was a complete personal music listening system, one where you plugged in your phone or other digital device and the Shure hardware handled the conversion and amplification of the sound to ensure a constant level of quality. With the simplified KSE1200, you will need your own DSP, which you have probably already integrated into your preferred media player. This is a requirement and an opportunity to have a sound more suited to your tastes. Personally, I did not enjoy the great tonality of the original processing 1500, but with the 1200 edition I have more control over how the music is processed and so I can get a warmer sound.
Of course, for most people this is of merely theoretical interest, given the price tag that waters the eyes. But we should not dismiss the fact that the headphones out of this world of Shure are now a third cheaper. All manufacturers of super premium products like this seem to recognize the need to simplify and take them to a more consumer-oriented market. In recent times, Audeze has done so with its excellent LCD2 Classic headphones, a revised version of its previous flagship cans, and Haselblad has filtered its high-end technology with the medium format camera X1D.