Shure AONIC 3 review: superb-sounding wired earbuds that nix excess noise

Awesome audio meets impressive noise isolation

Shure AONIC 3 against turquoise background
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Shure AONIC 3 wired earbuds elegantly capture the essence of complex, layered audio, and unearth subtle sonic details to produce a fantastic listening experience. A balanced, full-range sound profile combined with solid comfort levels will tempt you to listen for hours, and you can do so without too many external distractions thanks to effective noise isolation. Price-wise, these buds come in a little hot, but if you’re willing to make the investment, you’ll almost certainly be delighted with the AONIC 3.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent, balanced sound

  • +

    Great noise isolation

  • +

    Very customizable

Cons

  • -

    Bass frequencies not hugely impactful

  • -

    Quite expensive

  • -

    May take a while to find the right fit

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Shure AONIC 3: Review

The Shure AONIC 3 earbuds claim they supply “striking full-range sound” – and spoiler alert, Shure isn't lying. When listening to various tracks, every individual sonic element feels like a uniquely scented flower, coming together to create an immersive garden of sound.

Tuning into St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins, I found that the percussion features dotted throughout the track sounded detailed and the record’s drum solo came through with sharpness. I was delighted by the wonderful separation on offer, too, with the rhythmic guitar loop in Young Blood by The Naked and Famous maintaining its distinct position in the track without becoming lumped in with the bass – and even at very loud volume levels, I could still appreciate each individual component of the song.

Not only do the AONIC 3 do well at delivering sound in a distinct manner, but audio is presented with wonderful clarity across all frequencies that sees them stack up well against even some of the best wired headphones. Rich mid-range tones are the real star of the show, with powerful vocals, blaring electric guitars, and percussion feeling particularly impactful. Highs aren’t totally flawless, but they certainly have an air of delicacy and sweetness that will please the majority of listeners.

I’d argue that, sonically, the only downside is with the transmission of deep bass and ultra-low frequency audio. When listening to I Want You by Moloko, the pumping bass sounded defined, but didn’t have the weight that I hoped to feel. It’s important to caveat this by saying that the deep bass still sounded very clear and wasn’t muddied with other elements of the song, which is a pretty layered piece – it just didn’t hit as hard as I’d like. Ultimately, there’s still great balance here, but those looking for an earth-shaking deep bass might be better served by a set of the best wireless earbuds with EQ controls instead.

An excellent wired listening experience wouldn’t be complete without a strong level of passive noise isolation. Thankfully, the AONIC 3 deliver on this front and then some. While in the office, I heard little to nothing other than the music playing from these buds (at 50% volume), and was massively impressed by their ability to keep unwanted distractions at bay. At one stage, someone was hammering away building a shelving unit, but the AONIC 3 severely dampened the coarse noise of clanging metal. 

If you’re listening to music at a slightly quieter volume, you may still hear some external sounds filter through. In light of this, if you want near-silence then you may be better off with Bluetooth buds capable of great active noise cancelling. As you can see from our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review, Bose's buds might be a better option as they perform very well in this department, and still sit among the best wireless earbuds.

Should you go on a longer walk, you may well be using the AONIC 3 for hours on end and, for that, you want comfort. These buds have a bendy cable that wraps around your ears rather than just hanging straight down. Since it’s adjustable, you can tailor the fit perfectly to your ear shape – although it’s worth mentioning that it took me a while to find the right fit. Sometimes if I took the buds out, I felt the wire took a few seconds to readjust, but it wasn’t too much of a bother.

On finding the right fit, the AONIC 3 were pleasant to keep in for multiple hours, and I only had to adjust them a couple of times through the multiple full days of use. The wrap-around design also helps to keep cable noise to a minimum, which is particularly important if you want to maintain a clean listening experience while on a run or doing other physical activities.

To boost enjoyment, you can also select between a range of different ear tips to find a feel that suits you best. There are small, medium and large foam and gel tips included, but there are also yellow foam and white triple-layered gel alternatives in the box. After rotating through the entire roster of ear tips, I felt that the default medium-sized Comply tips provided the best comfort and sound quality overall. If you hold the Comply tips in place for 15-30 seconds, they expand to fit your ear canal, providing an optimal seal. The AONIC 3 buds also come with a neat-looking circular carry case, in which you can store your comprehensive collection of ear tips.

That’s not all on the customizability front, though. The AONIC 3 can be inserted into an included adapter for use in 0.25 inch (6.3mm) jacks. Additionally, the buds themselves are detachable, and you can add them to an over-ear wireless adapter (sold separately) and listen to audio via a Bluetooth connection – although detaching them is a little tougher than I’d have liked.

The AONIC 3 are most certainly designed to deliver super sound, but do they look cool while doing it? Sort of. They’re not exactly stunning, mainly due to the model’s chunky Y-cable and controller. The angled earbuds are quite sleek, though, and the way they slip behind the ear makes for a discreet, clean look. You can choose to purchase the AONIC 3 in either Black or White, and both colorways lend themselves to the minimalistic vibe.

Although the controller may appear to be slightly oversized, it works great and has appropriately sized buttons. The play/pause button enables users to skip songs and take or hang up calls on the go. There’s also a switch on the controller that can be set to “A” or “i” mode, depending on whether you’re using an Android- or iOS-powered device. The built-in microphone works well, and I heard only a bit of static when recording and listening back to a voice note.

The Shure AONIC 3 bring fantastic sound, solid comfort, and very good noise isolation – a set of qualities that these buds share with some of the best wired headphones. However, this comes at a price – and not a particularly low one. Coming in at $199 / £209 (about AU$300), the AONIC 3 are a little steep; but if you can stomach the cost, I would certainly recommend them.

Shure AONIC 3 next to carry case

(Image credit: Future)

Shure AONIC 3 review: Price and release date

  • $199 / £209 (about AU$300)
  • Launched on October 1, 2020

 

The Shure AONIC 3 earbuds released on October 1, 2020, and are directly available via Shure’s digital store in the UK and the US, but not Australia.

Their list price at the time of writing is $199 / £209 (about AU$300), which certainly isn’t cheap, but nowhere near the dizzy heights you’ll see from premium models such as the Sennheiser IE 900s, or even Shure’s very own AONIC 5.

Shure AONIC 3 review: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DriversSingle balanced-armature unit (per earbud)
Weight0.73oz / 20.8g
Frequency range20Hz-18.5kHz
Waterproof ratingNot stated
Other featuresDetachable cable, 6.3mm connector option, carry case, controller with mic, additional ear tips

Shure AONIC 3's controller against turquoise background

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Shure AONIC 3?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
AttributesNotesRating
FeaturesStrong noise isolation, solid mic, plenty of customizability5/5
Sound qualityBrilliant separation, sharp and clear delivery, ultra-low tones could hit a tad harder4.5/5
DesignDiscreet look, easily adjustable for comfort, takes a while to find right fit4/5
ValueAll-round quality is a clear cut above budget options, justifying higher price4/5

Buy them if...

You’re an audiophile, but don’t want to pay top dollar
If you’re thirsting for sound that’s a cut above run-of-the-mill wired options, the Shure AONIC 3 deliver beautifully balanced audio without having to take out a second mortgage.

You want something customizable
The default Comply buds adjust in shape according to your ear canal; the bendy wire around your ear can be molded to your liking; and the cable is detachable – that’s decent customizability for a pair of wired buds.


Don't buy them if...

You want something ultra convenient
The AONIC 3 are comfortable once you find the right fit, but this can take a while and they might require readjustment if they haven’t been worn in a while. If you just want something quick and easy to use, these may not be the buds for you.

You’re thirsting for a bass-heavy bonanza
Bass is controlled and clear with the AONIC 3, but they don’t deliver the ultra-impactful boom that some prefer. Up your budget and the Sennheiser IE 300 do a great job at delivering delightful audio with a sound signature that has a slight preference towards bass.


Shure AONIC 3 review: Also consider

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Header Cell - Column 0 Shure AONIC 3Sennheiser IE 3001More Triple Driver
Price$199 / £209 (about AU$300)$299 / £259 / AU$479$100 / £70 / AU$150)
DriversSingle balanced-armature driver (per earbud)7mm dynamic2 balanced armatures; 1 dynamic driver
Weight0.73oz / 20.8g0.7oz / 19.8g0.63oz / 18g
Frequency range20Hz-18.5kHz6Hz-20kHz2Hz0-40kHz
Other featuresDetachable cable, 6.3mm connector option, carry case, controller with mic, additional ear tipsDetachable cable, carry case, additional ear tips, cleaning tool1.25m cable; 3.5 mm plug
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Sennheiser IE 300
The Sennheiser IE 300 are an excellent choice of wired buds if you’re craving spacious, immersive audio. Like the AONIC 3, these serve up balanced, detailed sound, and are masterfully constructed. You’ll have to pay a bit more, at $299 / £259 / AU$479, but for that they deliver more depth in the bass department. Read our full Sennheiser IE 300 review here. 

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1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones
They're a little older, having arrived in 2017, but the world of wired audio moves at a slightly slower pace than that of their Bluetooth chipset-toting, onboard battery-housing wireless earbuds counterparts. And the 1More sound excellent for the money – especially when you'll often find them on offer… Learn more in our in-depth 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones review.

Shure AONIC 3 review: How I tested

Shure AONIC 3 on top of amp

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested over the course of a week
  • Used in the office and while on walks
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal via the FiiO M11S

I used the Shure AONIC 3 buds over the course of a week, predominantly putting them to the test in an office environment and while out on walks near busy roads to trial their noise isolation capabilities. 

To test musical output, I used the Tidal app on the FiiO M11S hi-res music player. When listening to tunes I played tracks from the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a variety of genres. I also tried the AONIC 3 on my Windows laptop while watching videos on YouTube or tuning into the latest news on the BBC website. 

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Harry Padoan
Staff Writer

Harry is a Reviews Staff Writer for TechRadar. He reviews everything from party speakers to portable battery packs, but has a particular interest in the worlds of gaming and smartphones. Harry has a background in business tech journalism, particularly around the telecoms industry.