I want to post an update to the shure 535 listening I've been doing. These are an odd beast. In some ways they completely surprise me with their quality. In other ways they are pretty much what I expected based on reviews. Let me explain.
The one downfall to the 535 for me is the lack of superb treble. The PFE just poops on the shure in that regard. Not literally, but they are noticeable crisper and more bright while not being fatiguing at all. The 535 are very smooth for the most part with a sort of drier sound in the treble. At times the mid-treble can sound a little too forward making a sort of "almost" sibilant-ness or a spike-like sound in certain instruments like pianos. However, this is usually pretty tame and at reasonable volumes the effect is greatly reduced. As I listen to music at a relatively low-medium volume it doesn't bother me, but it is there. However, on most content the sound is very smooth. My overall impression is that the 535 are actually more neutral sounding than the pfe232 other than the treble roll-off, which in itself is not neutral by definition. However, the bass goes into the mids which go into the treble very smoothly and fairly balanced before the treble rolls away into oblivion. ;)
The treble is actually pretty good, but at this price point and quality level I hoped for a bit more extension. But this is where they surprise me. Even though the treble is rolled off, and they definitely would benefit from better treble extension, the 535 still manages to pull out incredible details. I wouldn't call them macro or micro details that the pfe232 draws out, as those are details you can examine very finely and hear every nuance. Instead the 535 draws things out so you 'hear' them. The best way I can describe it would be that sometimes I feel like I hear more of the instruments or at least notice more of the instruments on the 535, but even though I hear them, they don't present super detailed clarity of details. Very good mind you, but not pfe232 levels.
The pfe232 on the other hand, while you definitely hear more than you have ever heard on lesser IEMs, the lack of midrange that the 535 has draw attention more to certain instruments or aspects of the music. Of those aspects you can inspect every detail and they sound incredible. However, in certain songs you may not notice certain things as much. You can listen for them and they sound great, but they don't blend in as neutrally and easily as the 535. In this regard I would call them different, but similar quality. For me personally, I likes me some high quality trebles! Ha.
But then again, I listen to some songs on the 535 and I am truly taken back by the absolute beauty of the music presented by the incredible mids and overall sound. The bass on the sure is probably the best I've ever heard. It "sounds" neutral in line with the mids for the most part. The mids almost sound a little forward, but not really raised above the bass much at the same time. It's almost like the mids are louder than the bass a small amount, but you hear "through" them to the bass, so nothing is lost in the low end audibility. The same goes the other way up to the treble until it rolls off.
The good thing about the treble is that it extends reasonably well if you disregard the roll off. What I mean by that is the treble isn't lacking in how high it can reproduce frequencies really, but rather the volume of the high frequencies is so low in comparison to the rest you just don't really hear them after a certain point and the upper end sounds soft and somewhat muffled or veiled. But at the same time, I wouldn't call it a veil 'exactly', as they still pull out incredible details.
The main issue I have with the 535, which isn't "horrible", but is definitely on the lowest rating of my headphone ranking would be the comfort. I don't really care for the memory cables. I thought people must be crazy, that sounds like a great idea! Well, in reality, I find that adjusting the memory portion of the ear guides causes me to lose my perfect fit. If I gain the fit back the guides don't sit right or even cause discomfort. They feel sharp in a way, sometimes jabbing you in the head, even though there's nothing pointy on them to jab with. The general shape and fit of the housing cause a little bit of pressure in my ear canal entry way which gets uncomfortable as well. If these were phenomenal in the treble region, I would honestly deal with the discomfort, as it isn't incredibly painful. With the IEM competition, thist is something to consider. The biggest fit issue I have though is that the housing is literally almost too big to fit in my ear lobe area. They feel pretty sore in one spot in my ear lobe area when I take them out after say more than 15 minutes listening.
I'm not sure if you can tell in the photos, but no matter how I angle them the housing back or the tip of the angle always presses against my ear. This can be uncomfortable. I wouldn't say it hurts, but I'd "rather" have it "not" do that. :-P I have them in the most comfortable position here. You can tell I gave up with the memory cable ear guide piece. It feels fine and they don't move at all, so it isn't a big deal.
Man are those clear models sexy though. mmmmmmmm.
Anyway, back to the sound. One great thing about these is that despite the treble roll off, I find that 'most' of the time when I get into the music I don't even think about it. I get so enveloped into the sound and it is like the mids are a bed and they want me to lay down on them and relax. haha. But there are other times with certain genres or songs where the details really make the song and the lack of treble balance sort of destroys the illusion of realism.
I think that a lot of people would probably be fine with the treble, because as was mentioned in another post I've been commenting on, most people can't even hear much past 17khz. The roll off takes place there, but the real dropout if at the top of the spectrum and most people might just consider the treble to sound slightly soft. In some ways this is nice. But for realism and neutrality it is not. If you have good high frequency hearing you may find them slightly lacking. But then again you may not. Their other properties and plusses are very good and might just outweigh any treble deficiencies. For instance, vocals sounds incredible on these things. They sound smooth, just forward enough, fairly realistic and very full bodied for an IEM.
Overall, these are right up there with the pfe232 but in a different way. If I had to call it, I'd say the pfe232 are better, but they lack the lush beautiful mids of the 535. Sometimes the mids can be a bit too much, but when they aren't they are simply incredible to enjoy. The pfe on the other hand just plasters you with details and clarity while still sounding fairly neutral for a V shaped headphone and still having good mids nonetheless. That's my take for now. I've got some more listening to do. :-)
Edited by luisdent - 1/11/13 at 7:07pm