Mobile / Hands-on Review

Lightning Strikes: Shure’s RMCE-LTG Lightning Cable

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Apple has a history of making bold moves in abandoning concepts that have long been considered standard for computing and home electronics. Be it FireWire, USB 3.0, or its own 30-pin connector, for better or worse (depending on who you ask), Apple has proven it will endure the grumbles of its loyal customer base in exchange for the company’s design vision. And with the announcement of the iPhone 7, grumble many of us did at the announcement that the phone no longer included an analog 3.5mm headphone jack.

While those who exclusively use Bluetooth headphones were able, for the most part, to just shrug off the change, those of us with favorite wired headphones or in-ear monitors were stuck with a dilemma. Indeed, Apple was including a digital-to-analog adapter, but it was a safe bet it was not the best quality, and something that had the potential to get lost quickly.

The folks at Shure knew they didn’t want to stop using their SE-series in-ear monitors with their iPhones, and if they’re anything like me, they knew they’d lose that adapter quickly. Unlike me, however, Shure has an R&D team, and in this hypothetical scenario, the team went right to work on a solution. Thus, the RMCE-LTG Lightning Cable (catchy name and all) was born.

Shure RMCE-LTG Remote & Microphone Lightning Cable

At its core, the RMCE-LTG is a problem solver for anyone who owns (or wants to buy) Shure’s SE215, 315, 425, 535, or 846 in-ear monitors (as well as any third-party buds that have an MMCX connection). It combines a high-quality DAC (digital to analog converter) that connects directly to your iOS device’s Lightning port for plug-and-play operation. It can handle audio playback in resolutions up to 24-bit/48kHz, and naturally has an in-line, 3-button remote and microphone (which, when paired with Shure’s MOTIV app, can be used to record voice memos and more). The cable terminates with a pair of MMCX connectors, allowing you simply to snap-on your compatible earbuds and start listening.

Shure SE425 Sound Isolating In-Ear Stereo Headphones

When talking just about any Shure product, you can safely wager it will be over-engineered (leading to the longstanding joke among recording engineers that the studio staple SM57 could double as a hammer), and the RMCE-LTG does not break that trend. The cable itself is Kevlar reinforced, which gives it a supported feel without losing malleability; when I moved my head, or pulled on the cable to change its position, it moved with me rather than pulling on the buds that were firmly in my ears.

Carrying over from the regular 3.5mm cable included with many SE series earphones, the RMCE-LTG has a wire-form fit, meaning you can loop the cables snugly over your ears to help keep the earphones comfortably in place while in your ears (a simple but important function for audio devices that will reside inside your ears). I prefer a tighter fit, but know that’s uncomfortable for many, so having the option to get the wire form to your liking is a nice touch, resulting in a very functional “one size fits all” that can fit all.

The in-line remote and mic does its job and, since a mic and remote in a phone cable hardly needs to be reinvented, Shure didn’t. The mic carried my voice clearly for calls, and the three-button remote gave me the functionality I needed to adjust volume, change tracks, and activate Siri.

Microphone
Remote

I took advantage of the fact I’m a model behind with my iPhone (sporting a 6S), so I had a headphone jack available that allowed me to A/B and compare what the DAC in the RMCE-LTG sounds like, compared to your average analog 3.5mm connection. Sonically, the RMCE-LTG brings much to the table, offering a noticeable (but not staggering) improvement over the 3.5mm analog output. The bass frequencies seemed more defined to my ears, and I noticed an improved stereo separation in my tracks. Ultimately, the improvement fit for a device where most of my music is consumed via streaming MP3s.

However, when compared with the alternative iPhone 7 users face, the RMCE-LTG again gives you the option of avoiding Bluetooth and its typically inferior audio quality when compared to a wired connection. Adding to the experience, the DAC itself it built seamlessly into the cable, and does not add much weird bulkiness to it; it just feels like a regular headphone cable (albeit a well-built one). Carrying it around with me, it did not feel like an extra accessory I had to lug around on my commute; it was simply my phone and my headphones, which is a nice touch and compares to some of the other available options, getting wired headphones connected to the iPhone 7.

The RMCE-LTG is basic audio problem-solving done right, and illustrates why Shure is a go-to brand for so many in the headphone and pro audio game. While the cable and DAC combo works great, it does cater exclusively to the SE line (or any other earbuds that use an MMCX connection). It should be noted that its price tag covers only the cable and DAC itself, so if you don’t already own a pair of compatible buds, you’re going to want to do some research to find which ones are right for you. However, if you’re already vested in Apple’s iPhone and own a pair of SE earbuds, this seems like an obvious choice to keep using them in iOS’s cable-less future.

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