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Westone 4 vs Shure SE535 comparison - Will update as I go along - Page 3

post #31 of 98
Thread Starter 

Breakthrough update | Why EQ'ing is a great thing.

 

I must say, this has been a frustrating musical expedition comparing these two earphones. Namely because I love different aspects of them. As you can probably tell from the general tone of my posts so far, the SE535 has been more to my "tastes" than the W4. Namely because I felt the W4 lacked the dynamism and punch of the SE535 despite having better instrumental sound separation and a wider soundstage. It's high's were not as sparkly, it's mids more laid back and bass lacking as much impact. Well, since spending more hours than I'd like to calculate on EQ'ing, I think I've had a bit of a turn around in opinion.

 

Imo if you are not EQ'ing, the SE535 (to my ears) sounds better. It just has more punch and prominence in nearly all areas. Whilst the W4's soundstage and musical separation (possibly thanks to the 4 drivers too) is just stunning, what lets it down I've especially realised now, is a stupendously thick veil over the sound. It really clouds much of the dynamism to an already laid back headphone. This is one of the reasons the SE535 feels punchier than it is, because the lack of a veil (comparatively) really helps bring out the clarity. With the W4, at default settings, the veil slightly hampers the overall signature and lays waste to an otherwise superbly detailed and refined earphone.

 

So....the solution? You guessed it, EQ'ing (I'd imagine amps could have similar affects, though I've not tested the theory).

 

After several hours of tweaking, followed by more tweaking, topped up with even further tweaking, this is what I have.

I warn you, I am a bit of a bass junkie, so you may want to reduce the bass frequencies a bit. These were using the Shure Foam Onlives on both. Software used was EQu on the iPhone 4.

 

 

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Shure SE535

 

1a3f2df7.jpg

 

Not finalised, still feel there's room for improvement. I could possibly further reduce the potency of the mids whilst retaining the texture and lush overall appeal. Still a big improvement with a much less vibrant and more neutral overall balance. Vocals don't drown out details as much, and there's more realism to the overal audio signature. It's still a bit cluttered, with a fairly narrow soundstage, not sure if I can EQ this out, but I will do further testing. Had to drop it at 7k just a tad to reduce some sibilance on snares and other harsher instruments. Added to the highest frequencies to make up for this slightly, and the lower mids which used to carry or compliment a lot of the highs forward before. Dropping near the 128hz mark cleaned up the sound and spaced things out a bit. Test it out and try it yourself.

 

Post EQ thoughts: You lose some of the vibrancy it had before, but it sounds less aggressive and more balanced now. Still has all the bite from before, but now with vocals and other instruments being less glaring. Though overall due to the smaller sound sig, it can still feel a bit claustrophobic, and instrumental detailing/separation still ins't on the level of the W4. Main thing that shines is the stunningly impactful bass. You can really feel it. Pre EQ it has more punch in the upper/mid bass which drowned out the low bass, EQ'ing helps that without really losing any details. Bass is one of the SE535's best features. It's prominent, direct and detailed. High's also have a bit more sparkle than the W4, but it's not always as obvious due to the slightly less effective instrumental separation.

 

 

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Westone 4

 

c0639ab4.jpg

 

Not sure how much more I can really improve this one. I'm comfortable with it as my final. The results have really impressed me. You can see based on the EQ graph, to my ears the W4's were in some serious need of EQ'ing. Balance is sort of all over the place. The potential (and bags of it) is all there, it's just masked behind a slight veil and some overly laid back presentation. But EQ'ing those out and the results are sublime. Similar to the SE535, dropping certain frequencies removed the slightly annoying veil and completely lifted the sonic presentation. Brought the mids forward a bit to add texture to vocals, then some more to the highs and bass. Had to drop at near 7k to reduce sibilance as per discussed above. Sibilance wasn't as much of an issue with the W4 as the SE535, but with both I think I've struck a good balance between removing the harshness whilst preserving sharp details. W4 needed bigger bumps in most areas to bring it to life (for my tastes).

 

Post EQ Thoughts: Wow. What a game changer. Now the W4's can finally breath. A veil no longer clouds the presentation, and bringing out the mids (subtly), highs and bass just brightens it all up and allows you to really appreciate the fantastic soundstage and detailing. The bass, whilst more impactful than before, still isn't as dramatic as the SE535's. That said, there's plenty on offer now, and none of the control is lost. What you lose in punch you gain with more variety. There's ever so slightly more layer to the bass compared to the SE535. Slightly more texture and shape to it. Highs now have more sparkle, no longer conservative whilst still not having an ounce of sibilance (I was careful to remove it). Overall the presentation is still very balanced, neutral and analytical. Just not as laid back or lazy as before. It's more musical and detailed. That tremendous instrumental separation glows, whilst now being even more balanced and not instrument prominent as before. Now the vocals can line up against the instrumentals with more command as they should have all along. In any case, a big improvement all around.

 

 

 

 

End thoughts: I was sure I'd keep the SE535's and sell the W4's, but now I'm not so sure. In a weird turn of events I am now enjoying the W4's more. I complained that before the soundstage and instrumental separation was problematic for me before on the W4's as I ended up focusing more on the instruments than the vocals or bass. Now the emphasis is where it should be when it needs to be. I'm enjoying music on it more. The soundstage and detailing is paying in dividends, and instead the SE535 is sounding a little claustrophobic or overly controlled/focused. I'm missing the detailing and space the W4 offers, though saying that, the SE535 is still more punchy and fun. Just not as balanced or quite as detailed. I'll report back with a final conclusion, since I'm still not 100% sure which I prefer, and could change my mind again lol.

 

 

On a side note, I hate the cable ends attached to the housing on the W4's. They itch the top of my ears. Should have stuck with rounded or smooth cable housing!


Edited by Naim.F.C - 7/9/11 at 7:25am
post #32 of 98

I Must say, from your Comments, you may want to give the Westone 3 a toss around someday. Would you explain what you mean by "Veil" on the W4. When I see Veil, I think of a blanket covering a speaker) Thanks

post #33 of 98
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freefallr4545 View Post

I Must say, from your Comments, you may want to give the Westone 3 a toss around someday. Would you explain what you mean by "Veil" on the W4. When I see Veil, I think of a blanket covering a speaker) Thanks



I've tried them. Believe it or not they were a tad too bright for me. And I kept getting a fair bit of sibilance. So I stuck with my SE530's at the time.

 

And yes, that's sort of what I mean by veil. It's kind of a murkiness that muddies the sound a bit. It's not immediately noticeable, especially if you have nothing to compare to, but if you've heard enough phones you'll pick it up quick. Strangely the W4 has a fairly strong veil for such a high end IEM. 


Edited by Naim.F.C - 7/9/11 at 7:26am
post #34 of 98

I agree about the W4 having a bit of a veil, and it's the main reason why I sold mine. They were just a bit too laid back sounding for me, especially for rock.

post #35 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Naim.F.C View Post

I've tried them. Believe it or not they were a tad too bright for me. And I kept getting a fair bit of sibilance. So I stuck with my SE530's at the time.

 

And yes, that's sort of what I mean by veil. It's kind of a murkiness that muddies the sound a bit. It's not immediately noticeable, especially if you have nothing to compare to, but if you've heard enough phones you'll pick it up quick. Strangely the W4 has a fairly strong veil, especially for such a high end IEM. 

 

 

 

Naim.F.C,
 
There are quite a few things in your review/impressions regarding the W4 & SE535 I disagree with - too many, perhaps, to list here, and these include sound differences as well as build quality & design differences (including cables). I've posted my views on the SE535s several times already in the last 11 months. Yes, we often hear things differently, have different sound preferences and we most definitely have different definitions of what good sound & design is/should be. All I can say is I'd take the W4 (and UM3X) over the SE535 any day.
 
I had the SE535 and put them up for sale in less than 24 hrs, that's how unimpressed I was - they were actually sold and shipped after a week or so, so I had plenty of time to give them a 'second chance' several times. I didn't compare the W4 & SE535 directly, but at the time I directly compared the SE535, UM3X & SM3 and the UM3X, to me, was clearly the better IEM. I also prefer the UM3X over the W3. I later tried the W4 and found it even better sounding than the UM3X.

 

 

 


Edited by music_4321 - 7/9/11 at 12:51am
post #36 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Naim.F.C View Post

I've tried them. Believe it or not they were a tad too bright for me. And I kept getting a fair bit of sibilance. So I stuck with my SE530's at the time.

 

And yes, that's sort of what I mean by veil. It's kind of a murkiness that muddies the sound a bit. It's not immediately noticeable, especially if you have nothing to compare to, but if you've heard enough phones you'll pick it up quick. Strangely the W4 has a fairly strong veil, especially for such a high end IEM. 


I must say, I too respectfully disagree here. Of well over a dozen top tiers I've come to hear, the W4's never sounded at all veiled to my ears, not even the slightest. IMO, they carry a gentle, yet energetic vibe, versus mean and agressive, or in your face for that matter. In fact, all things considered, sonically, they're amongst the most competent universals I've heard, without a doubt; moreso than even my beloved SM3's, which I prefer based solely on the excitement I personally find in the latter. If anything, the W4, to my ears, reproduce the track in it's utmost purest form, and are hence, sonically speaking, amongst the top contenders in my book. To each his own of course! smile.gif

post #37 of 98

I too love my UM3X and am now ordering the W4 since several people here, plus the techs at Westone, tell me they're better than the UM3X for large symphonies.  But that said, would also like tohear from folks who are using amps.  Personally, I'm using an iMod with either Stepdance or Portaphile amp.  Don't eq with an amp so am lookng for others' impressions of these using amplification

post #38 of 98

Haven't heard the W4's as of Yet, but what you are saying about the 535's IS spot on. I get real close to trying the W4's but I get turned off by the excessive comments about them being extremely refined. But I must disagree with you about the Westone Cable (over the ear discomfort) man these things are so comfortable to me anyways. I also came close to buying the UM3X and the SM3, but I feel I would be turned off by the "In Head Presentation", (and I need to have really good energy in the highs), But Who Knows I may like that very much someday. Like I said before It;s all user preference, and for me the Westone 3's just hit that right spot. But when Comparing to the 535's I went through some of the torture you were going through between the W4's and the 535's. The 535 Mids  just are mind melting, and with the added kick and the near perfect highs (Cymbals) of the 535 vs the 530, it was a tough decision, so I kept both.

 

 

I also feel Abing with the Shures Mids might give you that veil feel with almost amyhting


Edited by Freefallr4545 - 7/9/11 at 4:50am
post #39 of 98

Seeing again the use of the term "veil" causes me to post about tips.  Out of all the small bore nozzled IEM's I've owned: Shure se420, Future Sonics Atrio M5, Westone UM2, W3 and W4 and Earsonics SM3, I can tell you they all can display a veil if you use certain tips.  I am a firm believer this is a tip dependent phenomenon, so much so that I have contacted Westone about it and the tips they offer with their phones.  

 

Any tip with a small sound hole is going to cause this.  Those gray soft flex sleeves offered by Shure and Westone are the worst offenders but their triflanges aren't any better; they have the same tiny sound hole.  This small sound hole naturally reduces treble and upper midrange.  Foam tips can cause this as well, although to a lesser extent, since they tend to have the larger sound holes; however foam does kill treble response and if any of the foam folds down over the nozzle during ear insertion, it can result in a veil.

 

No company seems to have responded to this as much as Earsonics.  They have come out with a new tip for their phones.  It is a large sound hole biflange.  The SM3 is famous for having a veil to a lot of its detractors.  Well I can tell you with these new ES biflanges, there was absolutely no veil whatsoever with the SM3v1 I owned.  Here is a good picture of the large sound hole in the new ES biflange: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/552337/earsonics-sm3-v2/540#post_7559734.

 

Will proper tips make you like a phone that you hated before?  Probably not but it could be the difference between really appreciating what the phone can do versus being disappointed enough to sell them.

 

NaimF.C., I too used to EQ my W4 in a somewhat similar curve but with these tips I no longer feel the need.  Treble response is greatly improved.  However I do love my sub bass and use a digiZoid zo with all my phones.  The dual bass drivers of the W4 really respond well to it but that's another story.


Edited by shotgunshane - 7/9/11 at 6:21am
post #40 of 98
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post

Seeing again the use of the term "veil" causes me to post about tips.  Out of all the small bore nozzled IEM's I've owned: Shure se420, Future Sonics Atrio M5, Westone UM2, W3 and W4 and Earsonics SM3, I can tell you they all can display a veil if you use certain tips.  I am a firm believer this is a tip dependent phenomenon, so much so that I have contacted Westone about it and the tips they offer with their phones.  

 

Any tip with a small sound hole is going to cause this.  Those gray soft flex sleeves offered by Shure and Westone are the worst offenders but their triflanges aren't any better; they have the same tiny sound hole.  This small sound hole naturally reduces treble and upper midrange.  Foam tips can cause this as well, although to a lesser extent, since they tend to have the larger sound holes; however foam does kill treble response and if any of the foam folds down over the nozzle during ear insertion, it can result in a veil.

 

No company seems to have responded to this as much as Earsonics.  They have come out with a new tip for their phones.  It is a large sound hole biflange.  The SM3 is famous for having a veil to a lot of its detractors.  Well I can tell you with these new ES biflanges, there was absolutely no veil whatsoever with the SM3v1 I owned.  Here is a good picture of the large sound hole in the new ES biflange: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/552337/earsonics-sm3-v2/540#post_7559734.

 

Will proper tips make you like a phone that you hated before?  Probably not but it could be the difference between really appreciating what the phone can do versus being disappointed enough to sell them.

 

NaimF.C., I too used to EQ my W4 in a somewhat similar curve but with these tips I no longer feel the need.  Treble response is greatly improved.  However I do love my sub bass and use a digiZoid zo with all my phones.  The dual bass drivers of the W4 really respond well to it but that's another story.



It is possible the Shure olives could be responsible for some of that 'veil'. In-fact, given the material and design properties it does somewhat make sense. However, I think for the improved bass quantity it's worth it especially if you're EQ'ing. I have not done much of a tip comparison but I  did find the Comply's to reduce treble slightly over the Olives, and offer me a slightly worse seal so I stuck with the olives. I did not do a comprehensive comparison like I have with these earphones so perhaps it is something I could look in to later.

 

With respect to those who do not hear a veil in the W4's, after some forum browsing, it is evident quite a few people have mentioned it, so I don't doubt that it is there. My guess is some people hear less of it due to their tips, amps or simply do not notice it. If you use my EQ settings above, you should immediately know what I'm talking about. The software does allow you to switch the EQ on and off for a back to front direct comparison, and only then do you really notice how much there is. Otherwise you'll notice I mentioned the W4 having a slight veil in my first page impressions, but did not know just how much until further EQ'ing.

 

I'm going to try out a range of amps hopefully over the coming weeks, but all I know is right now with the EQ settings I have above, the Westone 4's are sounding almost sonically ideal to me. Having not used customs, I can safely say they are the most revealing and true earphone I've used yet. Whilst pre-EQ I found the instrumental emphasis to be slightly too prominent over vocals and bass, now I feel the balance is more sumptuous and rewarding.  But the detailing as has always been, is simply sublime.

post #41 of 98

I haven't heard the w4 but if Eq fixes it, veil is too strong a word. It implies masking of info and in this case would be a matter of balance. From what I've read they are very informative. My biggest concern without a listen would be it's dynamic contrast as they are often described as smooth when most DAPs lean the other way and there are cases where something less dynamic yet informative will sound more revealing of low level material. Good compression also does this. Extremely open sounding IEMs also have me think that there may be other factors at work. Concerns only as without a listen these are pure speculation and could be totally erroneous. Simply brought up for discussion.


Edited by goodvibes - 7/9/11 at 8:06am
post #42 of 98

I love EQ'ing.  Could not see it any other way to tweak your preference.

 

My problems with W4:  Relatively speaking it is inefficient and I think needs an amp to bring out the best of it.  I agree about the veil and overly smooth laid back sound sig.  It just wasn't for me.

 

My problems with SE535:  A bit too constrained and controlled where it sounds a little compressed...not very open sounding.  Slightly grainy and ergonomics were not to my liking.

 

I think UM3X is a very nice compromise between the two.  VERY refined sounding and balanced (like W4) but gives the added "oomph" I find lacking in W4.  From an audiophile standpoint I think it leaves SE535 in the dust.

post #43 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by Naim.F.C View Post

I'm going to try out a range of amps hopefully over the coming weeks, but all I know is right now with the EQ settings I have above, the Westone 4's are sounding almost sonically ideal to me. Having not used customs, I can safely say they are the most revealing and true earphone I've used yet. Whilst pre-EQ I found the instrumental emphasis to be slightly too prominent over vocals and bass, now I feel the balance is more sumptuous and rewarding.  But the detailing as has always been, is simply sublime.



I'm certainly looking forward to this myself. phntmsmshr actually had posted a similar EQ as what you have posted there (in the thread Lunatique linked on page 2), and I agree it certainly changes the sound from the W4s in a good way. They are not nearly as laidback as they are without the eq. I've tweaked the curve a bit to my own liking as I found that the bass was a bit too prominent on tracks where it initially wasn't (if that makes sense). 31hz 4dB, 50hz 1.5dB, 400hz -1dB, 5khz 1dB, 7.5khz 1.5dB and 16khz is 4dB.

Granted I don't hear much at all above 6khz so the adjustments might not make that great a difference to myself or the sibilance that others have mentioned in the 7k range. However the curve on the lower frequency range I find to be a nice balance. If an amp can bring out the character of the W4 even more and prevent me having to EQ them, that would be fantastic!

post #44 of 98
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianMB View Post





I'm certainly looking forward to this myself. phntmsmshr actually had posted a similar EQ as what you have posted there (in the thread Lunatique linked on page 2), and I agree it certainly changes the sound from the W4s in a good way. They are not nearly as laidback as they are without the eq. I've tweaked the curve a bit to my own liking as I found that the bass was a bit too prominent on tracks where it initially wasn't (if that makes sense). 31hz 4dB, 50hz 1.5dB, 400hz -1dB, 5khz 1dB, 7.5khz 1.5dB and 16khz is 4dB.

Granted I don't hear much at all above 6khz so the adjustments might not make that great a difference to myself or the sibilance that others have mentioned in the 7k range. However the curve on the lower frequency range I find to be a nice balance. If an amp can bring out the character of the W4 even more and prevent me having to EQ them, that would be fantastic!



Agreed with your points, and Spyro's above (his opinions almost mimic mine except I have not tried the UM3x). Interesting also that the EQ curve posted above is also quite similar to mine. One thing to note is that EQ'ing depends greatly on listening volumes. If you listen to your phones at quieter volumes, sometimes you can get away with more high sparkle and still not face sibilance. Crank up the volume however, and sometimes sibilance can be painful. The curve I've done above is for iPhone 4 use at 60-80% volume (using EQu with safe mode turned off). If you listen to it at louder settings, you may need to drop the 7k range further. If instead you listen to it at quieter volumes, you can raise it from mine and get some extra shimmer without harshness.

 

On a side note, I'm starting to believe that the Westone 4's 4 driver system does help with bass refinement. The impact isn't huge, but the texture and bass control is very impressive. You can actually hear multiple layers to bass and it's nice to be able to make out tonal differences.

post #45 of 98
Quote:

Originally Posted by Naim.F.C View Post

If you listen to your phones at quieter volumes, sometimes you can get away with more high sparkle and still not face sibilance. Crank up the volume however, and sometimes sibilance can be painful. The curve I've done above is for iPhone 4 use at 60-80% volume (using EQu with safe mode turned off). If you listen to it at louder settings, you may need to drop the 7k range further. If instead you listen to it at quieter volumes, you can raise it from mine and get some extra shimmer without harshness.

 

I have to admit I definitely listen at a lower volume. I have my volume limit on my iPhone4 set to about 50-60% and then in EQu or Equalizer (use both) I have my volume 75%-100%. There are a few times I'd bump my volume limiter up a little bit, but I certainly don't like to have the volume cranked. When I listen at 30-60% overall volume output (considering full volume range without limit on the phone), I should be able to hear all the details of the music just the same as if it were cranked at 80% volume, just less painful ;)

 

edit: after thought: What I would really like to know and need to do some more research and find a local store where I can try it out, is with an Amp, can I maintain my listening volume, bring out more soundstage and fuller sound overall (such as with the eq'ing), but without the eq'ing. Like I said though, all more research and trying for myself :)


Edited by BrianMB - 7/9/11 at 6:47pm
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