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Multiple purposes: Shure SE535 vs. Sennheiser IE80

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 



I have been using rather cheap earphones for a long time ($20 - $50 range) and am getting rather tired of the "okay" sound. I enjoy good music (good being personal taste, but the point is I thoroughly enjoy music) and I listen to it in a variety of situations. I'm no fan of headphones, hence I am looking for in-ear earphones.


I have therefore decided to invest into a high-end in-ear set of earphones that I will use for the following purposes / situations:

  • Listening to music in a quiet environment
  • Listening to music at the library when studying, so very little audio leak so that I don't disturb those around me in a quiet environment
  • Listening to music while travelling (primary airplanes, but you get the idea), so noise isolating/cancelling
  • Watching movies on iPad and computer
  • Playing games on the computer (such as Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2 and Shogun 2, to name a few with very high-quality audio)


As you can see; a wide variety of situations. It's also important to note that while I enjoy high-quality music, I do not have FLAC files. For the most part I have 256kbps AAC low complexity 44,100 kHz songs purchased via the Apple store.


When it comes to sound preferences, I apologise in advance as I am rather much a neophyte when it comes to the science behind audio. In other words; no audiophile. But I do thoroughly enjoy good audio, and I mean really good audio.


I would not call myself a base (bass?) person, but I enjoy good base. I don't mean thumping club or house music, not really my style. The best way to describe my relationship with base is this: my car has 10 speakers and a sub-woofer (so a rather expensive and good sound system), and the base settings range from 0 - 20 where 10 is default, and I have it set to 13. I'm afraid that's the best I can do. I don't really like excessive base as it tends to muffle the music (to my unknowing ears), but I tend to increase the base just a tiny measure from the default.


Other than, the kind of music I listen to is stuff like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Gerry Rafferty, A Flock of Seagulls, Modern Talking as well as a lot of classical and epic music (i.e. game and movie soundtracks like the new Batman soundtracks, Star Wars etc.). I realise the settings can be set anywhere for these, but my point is music with a fair hint of variety, but no extremes like heavy metal or the treble-painfully-high-pitched 90's pop.

At the same time I also play action-packed games like Battlefield 3 where I really want to hear the thundering booms from tanks and artillery, and the contrasts to small arms fire and more delicate sounds.


In other words; great for music with some variety, movies and gaming.



After extensive research I have arrived at these alternatives:

  • Shure SE535
  • Sennheiser IE80


And I have no strong preference between the two. The only factors I have that differs them would be that the Shures look better (not a deal breaker or maker), versus the IE80s ability to customize the base level in case I'm not satisfied with the default (where the SE535s are at a disadvantage). I've found both for roughly the same price on Amazon, both new, so the price is a tie.


Edit: an additional thing to note here is that, as previously mentioned, my music is only 256kpbs AAC from the Apple store, so the question is if I'll notice a difference with that "source music" between the two. At the same time, my games have excellent high-quality audio, so that should be comparable to high-quality music files.



I realise this is a wall of text, and I appreciate it tremendously if you have taken the time to read this. I figured I should give as detailed an explanation as I possibly could when someone is taking the time to help me.


I appreciate all replies, opinions, suggestions and advice, and greatly appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to this huge wall of text.




Edited by Moliat - 12/1/12 at 11:09am
post #2 of 19

Hi, some things.

1. Welcome!

2. It's bass, not base.

3. Some weird choices you made, because:

- IE8

You say you want good isolation. These are not for you. They are vented. Maybe it's enough for you, but there are surely better isolating IEMs. Also, these are extremely heavy on the bass but you sad this is not what you're looking for.

- SE 535

These are very overrated from my experience. They are neither neutral nor natural sounding. They have thin, artificial bass, fatiguing upper mids and lacking highs. Many other multiple-BAs in their price range will tear them apart.

4. iTunes Plus, eg AAC 256 kbps is very good. You say you want high-end IEMs. You will not get that within this price range anyway. The two above are mid-fi. Sorry for your wallet.

5. About your sources, the iPads usually measure well. Which one are you using? Your computer will most probably suck as a source and deform the sound on almost any multiple driver IEM. Thus I'd recommend to stick to dynamic drivers.


So I ask again: How important is isolation? I'll say vented IEMs like IE8(0), HJE900 or FX700 do not isolate enough for use on an airplane.

Do you want a neutral or natural sound? Dynamics tend to sound more harmonic and cohesive and often have better timbre (natural sound), whereas BAs have better linearity across the frequency range (neutral). The latter are very picky about sources, especially if they have multiple drivers with different impedences. So you have to make sure you have a high quality source (iPhone 4, iPad 2, FiiO E17).


Hope I didn't scare you, but these are a few things to consider. If you made up your mind, I will drop you a few IEMs and you can do further research. Almost every IEM has its separate thread.

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for the comprehensive response.


The noise isolation is not really that picky. I travel on airplanes occasionally so it'd be great with rather decent noise isolation, but most of the time there is little or no background noise, hence "some measure of isolation" will suffice.


When it comes to the bass, I don't really want IEMs that boost the bass excessively (again a matter of opinion as to what's excessive), but I guess the best way to put it is I like bass above the default, but not boosted through the roof. I don't want to lose clarity in the music I'm listening to, but at the same time I want powerful sound effects for artillery and heavy fire in games and videos.


As for the price range, I'm willing to pay up to $800 (USD).


The sources are an iPad 3rd generation ("the new") and an iPhone 4S. I'm considering buying some other player (like an iPod touch or something) for use as a standalone music player. It's important to note my laptop will be a source for large part of the IEMs' tasks, i.e. for movies and games.


I have no knowledge of neutral versus natural sound more than what you have provided, but based on that, it seems like dynamics would be better if BAs (which is?) are picky about sources, as I will be using the laptop a fair bit.



In the end I do want a high-end IEM that's diverse enough for the purposes I need;

- Some measure of noise isolation (just so I don't have to turn up the volume until my ears bleed on an airplane)

- Extremely low audio leak so I don't disturb others at the library

- "Punch" (I don't know how else to put it) for movies and action games

- Overall high quality audio for the kind of music I listen to (I have no clue in regards to mids, lows, highs etc., sadly)



I hope this helps, and again; thanks a lot for your assistance!

post #4 of 19

Oh boy, this will not be easy. :)


Dynamic vs multi-BA is a huge topic for itself and both parties have their fans. I personally prefer dynamic transducers but I wouldn't want to miss out on a balanced armature.

The dynamics sound more life-like and have a more realistic decay. It's like you can feel the heart of the singer pumping. BAs are dryer but more precise. They will tear every recording apart and present details you never imagined.



Natural. With a natural sound I mean that you can easily recognize the instruments by the reproduction alone. No relative sound is needed. It just sounds realistic, like you would expect. This does not mean that all instruments on a recording have to have the same volume level, because that's...

Neutral. The frequency response is flat. Bass, mids and highs are flat. No instrument is over-pronounced. But it doesn't mean that the sound can't sound artificial. With multi-BAs, often the bass has too short decay, sounding lighter with no thump, for example.


I would suggest you invest into both types with your generous budget. You can get a most awesome neutral BA, like the Fischer Amps FA-3E (similar to the SE535 but much better), and in addition a dynamic for a little rumble if you want some explosions in your head. The IE8 will do. V-Sonic GR07 or Yamaha EPH-100 would be less warm with a more neutral bass while still sounding natural and representing the dynamics well at a lower price. (You should buy the IE80 at MSRP because there are many fakes out there).


You don't have to pick the IEMs I mentioned, but if you do some further research they will automatically introduce you to alternatives. However, as for the BA vs dynamic and balanced vs neutral preference, you will have to find that out for yourself.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thank you for another comprehensive response.


With that crash course in the science behind audio, it sounds like I'll go for the IE80, if they will indeed fit the description and expecations I have outlined above (will they?).


Buying two would be an option, but I'd rather invest into one multi-purpose pair of IEMs, like the IE80.


Do you think the IE80s will perform excellently for both music from my iPad/iPhone and movies and games from my laptop? Master both roles, so to speak?


Also, do you have any other suggestions for IEMs that will master both roles and work with both my listed sources?

Edited by Moliat - 12/1/12 at 12:53pm
post #6 of 19

I guess they could fit your liking but there is no guarantee. As you seem to have little sonical preferences, I'd say go for it!

Just make sure you don't buy a fake. Purchase from a big famous reseller, like Amazon directly.


Good luck!

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

After reading this over again and sleeping on it, I'll get the IE80s.


Thanks a lot or the help, Ultrazino. Truly appreciated!

post #8 of 19

I think under this budget ($800) you can buy very highend CIEMs like JH13Pro, Westone ES5 and then reshell them and you willbe amaze by there soundquality which can rival the fullsize highend desktop rigs. But also you can buy DAC/AMPs (like iBasso D7, D12, XM6) to ruse with Laptop and iPad for better soundquality experience out of universal IEMs and buy midrange two IEMs like Dynamic GR07 and RE0.

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

Edit: content now irrelevant.

Edited by Moliat - 12/2/12 at 2:15pm
post #10 of 19
I love my shure535 with a passion but the ie80 would probably be better for you like ultrazino said but if you are willing to get a a circumaural can that's extremely lightweight and comfortable and the best sound this side of a fully amped hd600/650, the semnheiser momentum is amazing. Best part is they sound amazing right out of portables without amping!
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for mentioning the Sennheiser Momentum. I've been reading a lot of reviews about that, and are starting to lean more towards that than the Sennheiser IE80s, to be honest.


Do you think the Momentum would work well with a laptop as audio source (and an iPhone / iPad) and without an amp?

post #12 of 19
Seriously I can't believe how great they sound even through portable like laptop. Through my onkyo tx nr3008 listening to Adele live at royal Albert hall on blu ray I can't believe how close they mimic my paradigm studio 10 speakers, which are very neutral sounding speakers. Listening to the same concert on my iPod at 256 its still quite enjoyable. I prefer item because my ears heat up easy but these are as good as any sealed headphone I tried at not overheating my ears unlike my m50 that I can't wear because of how much they make me sweat. I can't think of a more versatile headphone than the momentums.
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

What's the cup-size like? My ears are slightly larger than average, I'd say, and the gripe I've had with around-ear headphones in the past is the cups have been too small to accommodate my ears, and have instead ended up kind of squeezing the borders of my ears into my head. Naturally this was extremely uncomfortable when wearing the headphones more than an hour or two.


I'd say my ears are about 6,5 cm top to bottom. From experience, do you think the earcups will accommodate this?

post #14 of 19
Hmm it is on the smallish side but my ears are average so they may be closer to supra aural for you, not home right now to measure them but just saw inner fidelity put there review up. Check it out, but the cushions are so soft I couldn't see them bothering you . That might be the only negative for you.
post #15 of 19

If you want large earcups then buy Denon D600 and they sound amazing(better than Momentum) and they improve with AMPs help, bass and details are amazing for portable use.

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