An excellent review, unbiased and and very honest!
I have the SE535ltd so signature maybe slightly different from the stock SE535 which funnily, I have never liked on the few occasions that I had heard. I bought the W4 over the stock SE535.
My feelings towards the 535 is and using an analogy, was the great Tubes v SS debates in the 1990s. I like SS in the 1990s and still do now. I found the Shure to be very much in the Tube camp. What you described is very much a Tube sounding amp of the 90s.
Very realistic sounding
Not fast enough for certain music but faster than slow
Soundstage not enough height
And ofcourse the lush and rosy mids of the 535. I found the bass like you, my description was woody sounding, if that makes sense.
Since the Noughties the convergent of sound signatures in Tubes and SS amps has arrived. Much better for me as there were many qualities of Tube amps that I would have loved to have in my rig. Namely immediacy, nuances, better micro dynamics and textures in which Tubes have an abundant of, and I would say the SE 535 too.
Many cons of the 535 can be eliminated through the swapping out of cables with 3rd party efforts, I have a thread debating one such cable.
I do find that red 535, so probably the stock one too, to be coloured and imposes it's signature much more than say the W4 my only comparison, which is much more revealing and resolving. However, not necessarily better! I think I have attained what the 535 is fully capable of with a pure silver cable, whilst the W4 is still shining with a much more expensive silver/gold hybrid, which when fitted on the 535 shows no real signs of improvements.
Edited by spkrs01 - 2/29/12 at 6:35pm