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Ongoing Comparison between Shure's SE530 PTH and Westone's UM2

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
maybe I should have made the polls public?

I've just recieved Shure's SE530 PTH and Westone's UM2.

Out of the Box Comparison:

They're both a bit over $300 so I'd say they're pretty much the same (~ten dollars) in price to anyone purchasing in that price range (earphonesolutions and headroom, which is authorized dealer).

The SE530 PTH comes with an additional
  • PTH (aka microphone)
  • 3 foot cable
  • 9 inch cable
  • 1/4 inch jack adapter (for those with certain amps or keyboards etc.)
  • level attenuator (control's hiss and noise for those with source such as computers)
  • airline jack adapter
Both earphones have a sturdy case and sets of extra tips.

Audio Comparison:
Side note- Personally, I think it's pretty hard to compare inner earphones because it takes so long to switch between earphones quickly while maintaining the sound image in your head as well as a good fit and correcting the volume differences due to impedance, sensitivity, etc... So here on out, it becomes more subjective.

I used a large variety of genres including full-scale orchestra, movie soundtracks, pop, RnB, techno, new age, rock...etc.

I don't know what most people use to listen to music at home, so I played the music back from a computer (gold coated connection) with EQ off and a attenuator to reduce noise.
  • The differences are really subtle, almost like an illusion. The UM2 do have a heavier bass (as you may have seen in other reviews). That is not to say the SE530 bass is weak; in fact, the SE530 bass is also strong, but isn't overpowering to slightly muffle other instruments, which I noticed occuring in some songs with powerful bass freq in the UM2. I think I'm better understanding the meaning of a "tighter bass." The SE530 bass feels more explosive and controlled (increase and decrease in volume). The UM2, while outputing excellent bass (rivaling some headphones), it doesn't "explode," rather it is less sharp than the SE530 (however, the SE530 bass isn't sharp as in high pitched or tinny).
  • In terms of trebles, the UM2 is louder. The SE530 instruments seem to play at a more "balanced" level (you can hear every single one distinctly, which partly defines a good soundstage). The UM2 is also very detailed, but it seems as if the volume levels are more merged aka "muddy." In songs with little or softer bass, the UM2 sounds beautiful because it brings out the melody line very well. However, in songs with very strong or alot/frequent bass, everything becomes slightly blurred. (If I wasn't comparing it with the SE530, I might not have even noticed?) The SE530 is brighter, meaning percussion sounds (piano, drums, harp, guitar) are more pronounced. Some like this, while others don't. The SE530 brightness isn't overexaggerated, but just enough to reveal the details in this range. With both earphones, I didn't find any piercing sounds coming through.

Personal Notes:
  • This is an ongoing comparison, meaning I'm continually adding on to this when I discover something new or worth posting. I'm continually being logged out, so I've been adding to this offline for a while. So far I've compared the earphones actively (meaning put in, listen, switch, listen, note, repeat) for about nineteen hours and increasing.
  • In the beginning, I was leaning towards the UM2 because the isolation and comfort provided by tips was superior to the SE530. However, after a few hours of switching back and forth and finding my fit as well as perfecting my switching technique (about eight seconds plug-in -> plug-out, not counting holding the earphones in place for seal), they both fit perfectly (I have a sinking feeling that my ear canals are now enlarged). The UM2 tips are more compressible, so they tend to go deeper in the ear than the SE530.
  • I think the complete package that came with the SE530 made it a very alluring product (psychology- justifying my purchase?). I did do some testing with the PTH device (aka microphone) and it was definitely useful; people don't have to right in front of it to talk. After all, communicating with 25 dB of isolation is quite difficult (my friend was left out in the cold ringing the doorbell for a long while...). The PTH plays the music in the background very softly while channeling surrounding sounds to the earphones albeit at a lower quality. While it's useful, it's sort of awkward to hook it to your clothing. Also, if someone is talking while you're listening to music, you probably won't hear them in the first place... Good for self-initiated periods of awareness.
  • After more hours of listening, vocals and violins on the UM2 are just really beautiful (not sure how to explain this technically). But so far, I'm willing to sacrifice some of that melodic beauty for the detail found in the SE530.

Personal Questions:
  1. Does the type/material of tips affect sound quality? Is it alright, as long as you have plenty of isolation and make sure the holes aren't blocked or squeezed shut? I was thinking of using UM2 tips with SE530, but taking off the tips was too risky for me. Do the tips need to be replace after a while to preserve audio quality? Why?
  2. How far does the earphone go into the ear? Should you be able to see the tips by simply looking at the mirror normally? Does it matter and how can you tell? Subjective?
  3. Do attenuators distort sound to the point where it is noticeable? Do iPhones/iPods hiss/buzz? What sources don't hiss/buzz? What do you guys do to solve this?

  • Above I mentioned that the UM2 bass isn't as explosive as the SE530. After listening to more songs, I think the reason is because the SE530 has a more pronounced smacking sound for drums or electric bass. Due to the SE530 detail in that range, the sound becomes much more noticeable. The UM2 bass sounds have one sound (i.e. boom) while for the same sound the SE530 has almost two sounds (i.e. kboom).
  • I also mentioned about the UM2 bass freq slightly muffling other instruments. In songs with strong vocals/melody, the UM2 doesn't feel too muffled.

About Me:
I'm a composer and a performer. I've been using headphones with digital output for a while, until they broke. I borrowed some iPod earbuds, but they caused my ears to bleed after many hours of composing. After returning them, I got some random earbuds that were broken in one ear. I used that until the remaining bud was failing 80% of the time. I wasn't really composing at that time and I didn't have time to research good earphones, so I didn't bother. (Yes...from trash to the UM2 and SE530, a very nice experience )

Once again, remember this is very subjective. Thanks for reading!
post #2 of 24
Was going to chew you out for making another one of these threads asking a question about these two IEMs, but instead I shall praise you for posting your honest opinions of them so hopefully those previously mentioned types of threads are stopped!
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
thank you sir
post #4 of 24
I thought the same too LOL. Not another "Which one is better?" thread.

Anyway, nice comparisons there.
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
I think these 2 IEMs are often in question, but I have yet to see a formal comparison...perhaps someone who knows what they're talking about should do a review? All the sound processing is done by the audio people when I perform, so I don't really know all the technical details.
post #6 of 24
i prefer se530, tighter bass, more forward mids and highs that match the sound perfectly.

and to cap that off the um2 are still very expensive, in some cases you can find the triple driver beast for cheaper.
post #7 of 24
Most greed with jinx20001.

The two things I prefer UM2 over SE530 are the fit and the cable.
post #8 of 24
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
Most greed with jinx20001.

The two things I prefer UM2 over SE530 are the fit and the cable.
yeh um2 cable is second to none, unbeatable. only thing that would make it better is being replaceable
post #9 of 24
Originally Posted by jinx20001 View Post
yeh um2 cable is second to none, unbeatable. only thing that would make it better is being replaceable
post #10 of 24
Might want to bear in mind that the UM2s are cheaper on the used market.

I own UM2s and have heard SE530s extensively. The Shures win for pure sound quality, but for real world use, the massively superior Westone design make it the IEM of choice for me.
post #11 of 24
I got my UM2s for 250CAD. I see the SE530s without PTH going for about 350CAD... so there definitely is a price difference.

Which made my decision for the UM2s much easier.
post #12 of 24
I find that i enjoy the sound of the shure's more but find that the fit,comfort and isolation of the westone makes it the IEH that i prefer.....for whatever reason the westone just fits better into my ear and isolation is dramatically better as a result..i think it has something to do with the westone being smaller and angled a bit differently...if both had the same comfort and isolation i would choose the shure's but in the real world i tend to prefer the westone
post #13 of 24
Thanks for the review. I had a chance to listen to the Shures SE530 over the weekend. I liked the Shures alot, but i was also interested in the the Westone UM2 because of their tight bass and comfort fit. I've been doing a price comparison on them both. I think the Shure can be gotten for less than the UM2 and they are triple drivers. Now i'm leaning more towards the Shure IEMs.
post #14 of 24
Originally Posted by Henweee View Post
I think the Shure can be gotten for less than the UM2 and they are triple drivers. Now i'm leaning more towards the Shure IEMs.
Don't think so. Maybe if you compare the lowest new price for the Shures with a rather high new price for the UM2s, but not in general. I paid $190 for my UM2s, and that was with Westone's fancy Pelican case and some other extras, from another Head-Fier.
post #15 of 24
Yes you are right. I am comparing the lowest price on the Shure and the highest price on the UM2. I've been looking everywhere on both IEMs for the lowest price and somehow the UM2 Black is still at the high price and Shure is a little lower than the new UM2 price.
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