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[Review] SE535 vs SE425

post #1 of 14
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Shure SE535 vs. Shure SE425

 

Disclaimer: Due to these IEMs having the exact same design (except sonically, of course), I won’t be talking about how well they isolate or how comfortable they are. I’ll be strictly talking about how their sound signatures compare to each other.

 

Introduction

 

Everyone knows Shure’s SE535, especially its freezer horror stories and the tips breaking off the main bodies. Most importantly however, the SE535 had an impressive spotlight on release and thus have a collaborate understanding of how it should sound like. Unfortunately, the SE425, which was announced at the same time as the SE535, received less attention as a result, which is a shame as the SE425 is revealed to be an absolutely capable IEM at its current price range.

 

When I first previewed the SE535 and SE425, deciding to eventually settle down on one of them, I ended up choosing the SE425 from my early impressions. In my opinion, the SE425 is a bit of an underdog – an IEM that missed the FOTM moment due to its bigger brother. In my first posts about the SE425, I actually said that the SE535 sounded more like a ‘side-grade’ than a proper upgrade to the SE425. The choice between the SE425 and SE535 seemed purely based on preferences – something that audio is really all about in the end.

 

However, is that really the case?

 

Now that I own both of them, this is something I hope to answer. My first impression of the SE535 is smooth mids with a decent amount of sparkle. But now I know that IEMs sound different when you are demoing in a store and when you are listening to them quietly at home.

 

The SE535 is undoubtedly the technically superior IEM among the two (and the whole line-up of XX5 products)… but should people looking for an upgrade from the SE425 be naturally looking at the SE535?

 

Hopefully, from my comparisons, along with exposures to the SE425, people that own the SE425 will be able to see what the SE535 could possibly offer them as well.

 

Both IEMs were subjected to a 100 hours burn-in through a playlist composed of pink, brown, and white noises and comparisons are made from a selection of music composing quality of 320 kbps and loseless. The SE425 is a little bit more ‘used’ due to longer ownership.

 

Shure SE425

 

MSRP: $349

Street Price: $279 (Bought at $230)

Driver: Double BA

Impedance: 22 ohms at 1 kHz

Frequency Range: 20hz - 19khz

Sensitivity:  109db/mW

 

Sound Signature

 

As first written, I thought that the SE425 can perhaps be called as mids focused. Mids, as expected of the Shure house signature, is very smooth – almost buttery smooth. While both bass and trebles are slightly rolled off on the top, the buttery smooth mids allow for any major details to pop out like a speck of ink on a piece of paper.

 

With the treble rolled off at the end, details will end up like a tease. You will know it is there, but handpicking and focusing on it will be utterly impossible. The ending result is similar to a strawberry cake – you’ll know that there are strawberries in the cake, but you can’t possibly focus on it without eating the cake (except for the strawberries that are used as a deco, of course!).

 

The same could be said with the bass. SE425 can be considered as bass light. While you’ll detect the beats and kicks, there won’t be enough sub-bass to make it a primary signature of the sound signature… but then if it is, it’ll probably not be a Shure IEM.

 

In the end, the current impression that the SE425 gives me is that it is one of the most laidback earphones that I have ever have the pleasure to own.

 

Due to its mids-focused signature, the SE425 lacks the crispiness to bring out certain timbres of the string instruments. Additionally, soundstage-wise, the mids are also more forward than any of the frequency range. The instruments – when listening to the SE425 – are almost considered as a bonus rather than an essential part of the music. Is that a bad thing? Not particularly if you are the type of person looking to just go with the flow of the music rather than being analytical; the SE425 does exactly that. The SE425 is an IEM that is best listened at low volume to just ride out the flow of the music.

 

Additionally, due to its sound signature, the SE425 is very forgiving. Excluding the muffled mids, poor quality tracks won’t crackle over the SE425. In fact, you might never notice the statics in the background with these earphones.

 

The SE425 also performs well without an amp. While it does gain a fuller sound signature through the Stepdance and an airy sound signature with the AlgoRhythm Solo, the SE425 is an entirely capable IEM by itself. It is extremely easy to drive the SE425 and an amp actually makes it difficult to precisely control the SE425’s volume output.

 

In short, the SE425 is an IEM with a very relaxing sound signature. While there are quite a few IEMs that share a mid-focused sound signature, the SE425 is, in my experience, the only one that has a laidback sound signature rather than an engaging sound signature. It has a forgiving and laidback nature that makes for an IEM that is generally easy to listen to in most occasions.

 

Shure SE535

 

­

MSRP: $549

Street Price: $389 (Bought at $370)

Driver: Triple BA

Impedance: 36 ohms at 1 kHz

Frequency Range: 18hz - 19khz

Sensitivity:  119db/mW

 

Sound Signature

 

As the flagship of the Shure’s IEM product line, it will of course share Shure’s mid-centric house signature; the SE535 exhibits the same smooth mids that the SE425 proudly possess. The SE535 also exhibits a far better extension on both ends of the frequency range than the SE425. Both bass and trebles are more forward comparatively to the SE425, which pronounced a mid-centric presentation. In the SE535, the sound presentation is more balanced over the range rather than SE425’s almost ‘single-minded’ focus on the mids.

 

As a result, in my experience, the SE535 has a better sub-bass that resulted into the lower sound spectrum having a more realistic timbre. On the other end of the spectrum, details are more fleshed out than the SE425 – the eloquence of a musician’s fingers tapping on his string instruments is present and the vocals is breathier due to its treble extension.

 

Additionally, the soundstage is also slightly wider with the SE535 – creating an ‘airier’ sound signature. As a result, the SE535 also boast a better instrumental separation than the SE425.

 

Due to its balanced nature, the SE535 is also far more compatible to a larger range of genre. In fact, so far I haven’t seen the SE535 performing inadequately. This of course spoken in terms of the SE535 being an IEM in an overall perspective. There are other technically top-tier IEMs that perform certain genres (like trance) better than the SE535... but that is another topic for another thread.

 

However, despite of the differences in technical performance, I’d say the SE535 and the SE425 actually share more similarity than differences as I had first suspected. The first sign of this is that, in my humble opinion, the SE535 and the SE425 both do their best in ballads due to their smooth sound signatures. Additionally, despite having a better extension on both bass and treble ends, the SE535’s sound signature can still be considered as ‘laidback’ in comparison to the other ‘top-tier’ mid-centric earphones I have heard. It just that in direct comparison, the SE535 is more engaging than the SE425 due to its more balanced nature.

 

Overall Summary

 

After two weeks of purely listening to the SE535 (after 100 hours of supposed burn-in) and a week on rotating between the two, I realized that I would have settled down on the SE535 if I wasn’t looking for a sound signature that is ‘drastically’ different from my DBA-02 and Etymotic’s ER4.

 

The SE535 is a very suitable upgrade from the SE425 if one found that the SE425 is far too laidback or too lacking of sparkle or booms. The technically superior SE535 does a fantastic job in extending on SE425’s weaknesses while maintaining Shure’s buttery smooth mids.

 

However, due to this extension, the SE535 is comparatively more engaging and livelier than the SE425. It is also noticeably less mid-centric than the SE425. So, those that are hoping to maintain a mid-centric sound signature might want to look elsewhere – however those that want to maintain the laidback mid-centric sound signature might have found an upgrade dead end with the SE425.

 

In my current experience, I have yet to find another IEM that delivers the same signature in the level of performance as the SE425 does. While the SE535 does an excellent job in maintaining a stance between being analytic and musical, the SE425 is solely musical. There is nothing to be analytic about in regards to the SE425. Looking at the SE425 as an analytical IEM is just setting it up to disappoint. However, if you look at it as an IEM that is to be listened musically, the SE425 is impressive.

 

In the end, it came to how I had originally described the two IEMs. In between the driver wars, the terminology of ‘flagship’ being flung around and all the comparison reviews, I think it is easy to forget that ‘flagship’ does not necessarily mean better for you sonically. It does mean superior technical performances, but ‘superior technical performance’ hardly means anything if you are not enjoying your music.

 

During the time when SE535 was burning in, I was listening to the SE425. I was thinking that I will put these up to the For Sale Forum if I ended up enjoying the SE535 far more than I do with the SE425. However, whenever I look back at the SE425 from the SE535, I am still impressed by it even though it isn’t technically superior. The SE425 just offers such a great change of pace to me – whenever I just want to listen to the music instead of ripping my musical tracks apart. These are the IEMs I use whenever I need my attention focused elsewhere – when I am going to the gym, writing a report for my work, etc – with no compromise to the musical quality.

 

Besides, one’s gotta listen to music while having a headache as well, right?


Edited by MaxwellDemon - 5/12/11 at 5:44am
post #2 of 14

Nice write-up! Thanks for sharing your impressions!

post #3 of 14

Are the Shure se535 musical? and Are they worth the cost?

post #4 of 14

Interesting read, and nice post layout biggrin.gif

I've had the 425s/530s/535s at one time not too long ago and it's interesting because many of my impressions diverge from yours.

I like your review a lot, but I'll have to respectfully disagree on some points.

 

Just some of my thoughts

1. The 425s do indeed have lighter bass than both the 530s and the 535s. But it's not so much the quantity of bass, but it's less pronounced in reproducing sub-kicks. Thus, it feels like there is hardly any impact in the 425s. When I switch up my music that has more hard-hitting bass, the Mach3bass helps a lot. I tested various EQ settings with BBE and found that the 425 can mimic V-shape sound if needed with ease. It was a matter of adjusting the EQ for the music I was going to listen to.

 

2. I don't find the 425s relaxing nor forgiving at all, in fact, I find them more revealing and punishing than both the 530s & 535s. The 425s aren't what I would call mellow phones (this would be warm for me), but more neutral and cold. The soundstage is definitely narrower and isn't as wide as the flagships and it shows no mercy on bad rips. The difference in soundstage isn't something that can be overlooked as the first time listening to the 535s will blow the 425s out of the water (in soundstage).

 

3. The 425 is actually included as a stage monitor for Shure's latest monitoring system, whereas the 535s are for "music enthusiasts/audiophiles". Even though it may just be a marketing ploy, after A/Bing them for a while I came to the conclusion the 530s/535s are much warmer and are forgiving and less fatiguing than the 425s.

 

4. For some reason to my ears, the music reproduced by the 425s sound faster, and I feel as if it has a shorter decay. Sounds very delicate and refined, whereas the 535s are just hard-hitting with the slightly forward mids.

 

5. The 535s are really great overall phones but I actually preferred the 530s over them. But the 530s build quality is just really bad. The difference in sound is pretty miniscule and minute but the 530s sounded more 'fun'. But then again if I wanted fun, I'd go back to my TF10s lol

 

6. The difference in cost shouldn't really be a factor if one is committing to purchase a top-tier model from a manufacturer. There was a pretty big difference in price upon release, but now that they have both dropped in price, I'm sure good deal-hunters can find the 535s for cheap.

 

7. All 3 IEMs do not need amps. Just wondering, what is your source?

 

8. In my humble opinion, the 535s do best in bossa nova and popera with it's great impact and good soundstage. The 425s do best in classical, piano, complex single instrument solos. The 535s do give you the sense of airy-ness and you feel like you are in a hall with popera, and the 425s feel like you are next to a piano/cello in a mid-size room.

These are just my thoughts lol I don't mean any disrespect or anything but I just wanted to share beerchug.gif


Edited by TheGomdoRi - 5/13/11 at 7:48am
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 0boz0 View Post

Are the Shure se535 musical? and Are they worth the cost?


In my opinion, they aren't as musical as the SE425. However, they are a lot more musical than most top-tiers that I have heard. From my perspective, I'd say they are worth their current cost -- especially if you can get them for $370.

 

@TheGomdoRi

 

No worries, audio is all very subjective after all. beerchug.gif

 

Now, regarding your points... it is very probable that we are hearing different things because my source is an iPod going through the Meier Stepdance (the actual setup is in my sig). The Stepdance, from my observation, has made the SE425 consist a fuller body. Additionally, I am trying my very best to not EQ my phones so I hear them as they are. There are already enough components to change an earphone's signature around -- I try to keep it stable for most part.

 

I guess we'll have to respectfully agree to disagree on how they sound. tongue.gif

post #6 of 14

Hey MaxwellDemon, I was just wondering . .
Do you prefer the rubber tips opposed to the olives? Or is it because they are easier to take off lol biggrin.gif ?

I had the rubber ones on for a while, the biflanges and now it's on the olives but now I'm tempted to go back to the rubber ones now because of you lol


Edited by TheGomdoRi - 5/13/11 at 8:04am
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

I actually DO prefer the rubber tips. They sit so nicely in my ears. The olives just feel weird with the Shure earphones... redface.gif

post #8 of 14

Great review. It is about time some reviewers give due credit to shure se425.

post #9 of 14

 

 

 

Excellent detailed write up. One thing I would say though, you mention that the SE425 is mid centric and those looking for a mid centric earphone should probably give the SE535 a miss. Just to quickly chime in to state that the SE535 is actually still mid centric compared to other IEM's such as the Westone 4's, UM3x's, Triple.Fi's etc. So those after an IEM focused on mids should not disregard the SE535 since it is also mid potent. Chances are that the SE425 is just very mid centric.

post #10 of 14

I really liked the review, and as I'm writing this, I am listening to some iPod music with the SE535.  I've had it for about 9 months and I've so far had no problems with the housing neither the wiring.  I've had horrid wire problems and one housing crack-up incident with the SE530, but I'm proud that Shure addressed those issues with the SE535.  The modularity is gone but I liked the self-serve wire-replacement premise, though my copy is clear (ala the E5C, I would prefer the colored SE535), but that aside, fair shout and keep up the good work.

post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxwellDemon View Post


it is very probable that we are hearing different things because my source is an iPod going through the Meier Stepdance (the actual setup is in my sig).


I suggest that you give this kind of info with the original review. It makes the whole review completely different: it doesn’t qualify the headphones; only the headphones when used with an iPod as a source. I heard the SE425 on a high end system, and my experience was very different from yours; actually, reading your post made me doubt that it was about the same model. Really, as a rule, one should not review a piece of gear on a chain with much lower quality components.

 

post #12 of 14

very nice write up, i am suprised you said that the se535 are not mid centric, ive owned the e3c,se310,se420,se535 bronze and se535 reds, and i by far feel the se535 are more mid forward that any other shure earphone i have tried or heard.

 

 

post #13 of 14

The SE425s have piqued my interest some time ago, but couldn't find a good review. Thanks for the write up. smile.gif

post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpcote View Post


I suggest that you give this kind of info with the original review. It makes the whole review completely different: it doesn’t qualify the headphones; only the headphones when used with an iPod as a source. I heard the SE425 on a high end system, and my experience was very different from yours; actually, reading your post made me doubt that it was about the same model. Really, as a rule, one should not review a piece of gear on a chain with much lower quality components.

 


"Really, as a rule," the type of setup the OP used is more typical of the rig most of us use with IEMs. So it's more useful to me than what you would require. Fwiw.
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