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Universal Fit item created by underhysteria, Jan 22, 2012
Pros - an ethereal existence on gossamer wings
Cons - only two ears to use; how can I get to 7.1?
When we were over in Asia last year I had a couple chances to visit the Hong Kong tech meccas. I was very pleased to buy one sealed set of these, thinking I might pass the favor on to a fellow head-fiér. As it was, I put an ad up but the closest I got to a reasonable bid was still below my out-of-pocket. And YES, I did pay the customs duty when I brought them in!
Since no one was that eager to pay what I was asking, I decided to open the box in mid-December, awarding myself an early Xmas present. I'm so glad I did! These Shures have a very different sound from my bronze and clear Shure sets. (Incidentally, all my IEMs are now on Comply tips, the deep-foam ones if available for the IEM. Some IEMs don't have long Complys available though. It all has to do with the size of the shnozzle; length and diameter. SE535s take the same as tips as Westone 4/4Rs, FWIW. )
The sound ... well, along the way, my kit expanded to a Cowon Z2, 32GB internal and an extra 64GB microSD. It has been hard to start to write this review because the upgrade of the Cowon over my last-generation Zunes is sheer amazing... and the Cowon is also Android, meaning I can play (smartphone-like) anything, while also listening to my music.
Let's put the sound this way: You will abandon your previous rigs, perhaps in their entirety, when you buy these two pieces of kit.
Ranking, I'd put the red SE535s in the top two of my collection. I still prefer the discontinued Sony MDR EX1000 for its precise soundstage imaging. But I haven't seemed to have found time to put those IEMs on while this is such a fantastic pairing!
Now im in love with these <3
Pros - Deep Soundstage, Crisp Highs and Mids, Durable, Range of Tips
Cons - Price, Can't keep up with fast songs
Pros - Good Clarity, Deep Soundstage, Balanced Sound, Beautiful!
Cons - May not be the best for universal flagship IEM, price, short cable.
After struggling to find an ideal universal flagship IEM, I finally chose Shure SE535SE.
Cheaper deal I got over here, compared to W4R which will be around USD$100 more.
A strange affinity towards Shure brand.
Beautifully painted body and beautiful packaging.
Honestly, I'm not really particular in auditioning the IEM before purchase. Reason is because it takes time to appreciate or get used to the new sound signature. And I wanted a flagship IEM so that I can stop (temporarily) searching for a better IEM while learning what BA drivers can do. Probably later I'll go for W4R or EX1000, where the latter would be more intriguing.
I'm a dynamic guy. So BA is kinda fresh to me. What this IEM lacks compared to dynamic ones is the bass punch. It's decent, but not as airy and powerful compared to dynamics. But the thing that impressed me right out of the box is the sense of depth in soundstage. Boy I was really enjoying the chanting and whistling behind the back of the songs in Hell Freezes Over.
Frankly speaking, this thing is not 50% much better than any IEM 50% cheaper than it. Value wise, it's better to go for cheaper alternatives, like SE425, or what I've tried myself: GR07, EPH-100, and those ultra value buy dynamic IEMs. However, there'll be time when I felt discontented with the lack of something in the sound by those IEM, and wanting more. Thus here I am, listening to the SE535SE.
This IEM is highly dependent on the source you feed it. The better the source, the more it will be able to perform. In short, Source>Headphones.
Edit (11/23/12): After a few month using it, I noticed that:
1. Bass: Bass is deep, but not having much impact. While remaining airy, the bass don't punch the ears. Even on pop songs which normally have powerful bass, 535LTD isn't really portraying any much punches.
2. Details: Arguably one of the better IEM with good details However, due to the nature of the FR (rolled off treble), much micro details isn't really in-yo-face. Well, I guess 535LTD is more towards fluidity of the presentation rather than a microscope analyzing all the details (or defects) of the song. It's very enjoyable, yet not for those who demands excellent micros.
3. This thing isn't really isolating 100% of the sound. It blocks out most of the little annoyance, but not moving trains or roaring thunders. I'm not sure if it's due to my use of the Olives, but 535 to me is brest used with the Olives.
Thanks for reading. And enjoy your music :b
Pros - excellent sound quality, excellent build quality, great isolation and comfort, awesome color, good tips and accessories
Cons - cable is a bit short, very pricey
These have excellent mids, vocals sound very sweet, typical Shure.
Good treble with some sparkle, although less sparkle/piercing than the normal SE535, but more refined.
Bass is great, low and punchy, not overly emphasized, just the way it is meant to be heard.
Soundstage is okay, not as big as the Westone 4.
Sound isloation is excellent, for me it's better than Shure SE315 and SE215.
Very comfortable and snug with the black foam tips.
Cable is robust, but I wish it is longer by like 10cm, right now it's 116cm.
Although they say "enhanced high frequency response", the red 535 aren't that much better than the normal 535, just a little less emphasis on mids and a bit more details in the treble, same bass reponse.
The red SE535 are much more passionate and engaging than the Westone 4/4R, which are probably their biggest competitor, I prefer the Shures over the Westones; just my opinion. I highly recommend these earphones.
I've had them for over a month and I'm very pleased with what I'm hearing. They don't seem to change that much with burn in.
I've also realized the black foam gives a better sound than the gray silicone tips, the foam has more bass, and has a fuller, richer sound, while the gray silicone has a cold, metallic sound with harsh treble, and less bass. It's a very minor difference by the way.
The nozzles of the red 535s seem quite delicate, I could heard squeaky sounds from them when I was changing the ear tips.
Pros - Great clarity & details, no coloration (neutral), good soundstage
Cons - lame bass response, the high is too harsh when combined w/ my amp
When I listened to the sound for the 1st time, I was hit by it. I was punched by the not-punchy-bass. I was hoping it would offer much better bass response than SE315.. equals to Klipsch Image X10i. It gives better bass than SE315 but still far from Image X10i. The bass is still too weak, or just say not punchy. I am not a bass lover. I just want the sounds to be there whenever they are there, incl the punch. It's just the bass, fortunately. As for other details & freqs, I can listen to them more clearly than my other IEMs. I like the neutrality of the presentation & the soundstage. (Maybe the price that made me overexpecting, it is more expensive than X10i!) Another hit for me is when my eardrums were kicked by the high when I combine it w/ headphone amp from SoundMagic (A10). The high becomes very much harsh & felt intruding. The rest of the sound will better though w/ the combination, incl the bass. So, now I think this IEM is a little picky to headphone amps
I mostly listen to rock (U2, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Buckethead, etc) and classical (Yo-Yo Ma, etc), but also blues (BB King, Albert King, etc) and some electronic & rap (Prodigy, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, etc).
Overall, this is a fantastic IEM. The highs and mids are amazing and the bass is adequate. The bass has been discussed fairly extensively in the forum and while I agree that a bit more punch would be nice, the detail of the bass provided is superb. The highs are in no way too strong or aggressive. And the mids are as great as others have said. One aspect that I really appreciate is that the vocals shine and are exceptionally audible compared to other headphones I have owned (Denon 5000s). I am finding myself actually learning lyrics that I didn't know previously just because the detail on the vocals on the reds is so amazing.
I now have about 50-60 hours on these and I have seen a slight improvement over that period of time. But the first 10 hours probably made the biggest difference, with the IEMs opening up quite substantially during that period.
I previously owned the regular SE535s and sent them back to Amazon to order these instead. Overally these are marginally better (esp highs), but I would not recommend a replacement of your SE535s unless you are an extreme audiophile and listen to alot of classical music.
Until now, all of my headphones (Denon 5000s, regular SE535s and these) have been used on an iPod classic with the regular headphone jack. I have ordered a Pico Slim and can update my review once listening to the reds on the Slim. Truthfully I'm a bit skeptical how much the reds will improve on the amp because they sound fantastic already.
All in all, you can't go wrong with these IEMs. If you desire super punchy bass then perhaps you would want to look elsewhere. But if you appreciate nuanced bass (even in songs from groups like Prodigy, Beastie Boys, etc), then you should go with these.
I want to provide an update after listening to these with the Pico Slim and the SR-71A amps. Although the Pico Slim has the upper hand in resolution and clarity, I think these pair better with the SR-71A. The Pico Slim is known to do well with mids and highs and these happen to be the strengths of these earphones. When paired together, however, there was an edginess and strain to the highs, almost to the point of being hard to listen to with some tracks. On the other hand, the SR-71A and SE535LTD red combo seemed to be more complimentary, with the SR-71A providing a nice boost to the bass while not undermining the mid and high strength of the reds. The highs are a bit smoother than they are coming staight out of the ipod jack and don't have the edginess to them that they had when coming from the Pico Slim.
Pros - Instrument separation, sound stage, smooth & liquid sound
Cons - Price, can be sibilant with poorly mastered recordings
I've now finished getting used to these so the full review is complete and the score is accurate. Continue on past the review for a short tale about getting used to these phones... I hope you'll stick with me and I hope that this tale helps in the discovery process of new headphones or earphones.
Many people will balk at the price of the Shure's and I nearly did too, but I'm glad I went ahead. I have jumped straight from Re0s to the red 535s so I can't provide a comparison with other IEMs in between. No doubt there is some level of dimishing returns at play when you spend $450 on IEMs, but I bought these as much for their design as for their sound.
Audio Quality - Balanced awesomeness. Yep, that's pretty much it. They do everything like they should without colour or emphasis. The stock cable leads to a slight mid-range focus, but it's not major like I've heard of some other Shures. I have added the aftermarket Baldur Mk2 cable and it completely counters this emphasis and balances the sound beautifully.
With the Baldur cable, the Reds are clean, super detailed and balanced. Their sensitivity is quite awesome and you'll be hearing things that you never knew were in a recording and you'll be able to place exactly where they're happening. The texturing and clarity is truly amazing.
Bass is balanced and full without emphasis. Plenty of body, good attack when necessary and no bloat or boom. With amplification, the attack gets even better.
Because of their sensitivity, the Reds can tend to sibilance on poor sources (recordings, rips, etc.), but they are not a sibiliant or harsh phone. They will only give you what's already there in the recording or source.
Note: despite using balance armatures, the Reds do require burn-in. Chatting with a number of other head-fi'ers has confirmed that a number of us have noticed underwhelming sound and a pretty nasty top-end before allowing time to burn-in.
Design & Comfort - I love the look and fit of these. They never come loose, they create no wind noise and they look great too! The stock cable creates absolutely no microphonics. The upgrade to the Baldur cable does bring with it some very mild microphonics, but not enough to worry about.
The 535 series are all designed for over-ear cable management. Initially, it took me some time to get used to fitting them in my ears and guiding the cable correctly over my ear, but I soon got the memory cable adjusted to suit my ears and have never looked back. They are very comfortable phones.
The Reds come with heaps of tip options and will suit almost everyone. I have struggled a bit with the standard tips because I have very small ear canals. The smallest silicone tips provided by Shure were almost the right size, but seemed to add some strange resonance at around 10kHz. A fellow head-fi'er, spkrs01, was kind enough to supply me with some Sony hybrid tips and with a bit of modification they now fit perfectly and sound better than any other options.
Isolation is truly superb. With music playing I can hear absolutely nothing from the outside world. Without music on, everything is a mild murmur. These are great for loud environments such as public transport, planes, etc.
Overall I would guess that there might be a better IEM out there, but it'll be by tiny margins when compared to the Reds. They are subtle, detailed and beautifully under control. I'd highly recommend them.
I have owned a pair of Re0 IEMs for a couple of years and really loved their detail and balance. Unfortunately, they developed a loose connection in the right phone and had to be replaced.
After a lot of reading (and limited options in Australia without buying online and having things shipped), I decided on the 535 Reds because of their flatter bass response and musical presentation (according to what I'd read).
Update 1: 15th February 2012
Running them from my Cowon X7 with no EQ / BBE, etc. I was far from blown away on first listen. I found the sound was still a bit to creamy and thick for my liking and there was a harshness around 6kHz (based on some quick EQ testing), but figured I'd give them a chance...
Next, I plugged them into my Creative X-Fi HD USB sound card and discovered their impressive texturing and detail. A track from Jimi Hendrix' "Blues" album blew my mind with the textures of the bass and guitars, but I still wasn't sold - impressed in one area of excellence, but not sold overall.
Flipping and flopping back and forth between my X7 and computer (X-Fi USB) with FLAC files all the way I tried to find something to really love about the red 535s and then it happened...
While focussing on some emails, I turned down the volume on the X7 and magic happened... the "Reds" sounded better at lower volume!? No, not because I couldn't hear them anymore! I think I was so used to the volume levels required to drive my other phones that I set the starting volume a bit high for the Reds. The Reds are very easy to drive and were obviously providing a higher level of volume than I'm used to, but their clean, smooth style meant the sound wasn't uncomfortable to my ears.
When volume is set too loud, our ears react to protect our hearing and I think I was just on the borderline of that reaction. Not enough to notice any discomfort, but enough that my ears weren't relaxed and able to soak in the sound.
Suddenly, with the lower volume, I was noticing textures and details that were subtle and unobtrusive, but undoubtedly present. String sections had presence, acoustic guitars had resonance and character, and the overall experience was lush, but not too thick as it previously seemed.
As I mentioned earlier, I had been concerned about a subtle harshness in some treble notes from the Reds, but this too was gone with the lower volume - perhaps confirming my thoughts that I'd had them too loud and not even realised. Maybe they're so good that they sounded better than average when too loud!?
I've only just made this discovery so I'm excited to continue listening at lower levels and see if the magic continues. I'll report more soon and write a proper review once I give them a fair chance at proper volume and as my ears adjust to a different sound signature...
Update 2: 18th February 2012 (4 days in)
I've had much more time with my Reds now and I can honestly and definitely say that they do benefit from burn-in. The differences I'm hearing could not be solely from my ears adapting to the sound style. The harshness has completely subsided and the soundstage has opened up.
As my ears have adjusted, I am now hearing more and more subtle details throughout the music. This could also be due to burn-in.
I recall reading someone else's review (I'm sorry that I can't credit the writer as I don't remember who it was) which said the 535s seemed agile enough to reproduce multiple songs at once and I tend to agree. They seem completely composed and in control. It's actually a hard trait to describe, but they just don't seem to break a sweat no matter what I throw at them.
My next update will come some time next week when I add a custom cable to my Reds. Fellow Head-Fi-er, spkrs01, has been extremely helpful in helping me to source the best possible cable to link my Reds to my Cowon X7 player. Next week I'll finalise the full review and a discussion of the changes resulting from a custom cable.
Update 3: 3rd March 2012 (17 days in)
Thanks to spkrs01 I now have a perfect cable for the Reds. The cable is the Baldur Mk2 dual strand version (there are quad strand versions available).
With the new cable attached, the staging and separation of the Reds is hugley improved. The sound has more air and better balance between the bass, mids and treble. The sound just seems more open and returning to the stock cable, the sound seems almost strangled (relatively speaking).
The Bladur cable does create very mild microphonics so the stock cable would be better for any significant activity, but the Baldur is perfect for basic working and walking.
For some reason I have had troubles with my ears reacting negatively to the sound of the Reds, but this may be due to a cable fault that was causing unbalanced sound. Since fixing the cable, my ears are still a bit sensitive, but I'm relaxing into the sound more and thoroughly enjoying what I'm hearing.
The key here is to give your ears time to adjust. If you have new phones with a significantly different signature to your normal tastes, start at low volume and gradually increase as your ears adapt.
Pros - excellent soundstage and imagery, musical, a masterpiece for vocal and orchestral songs
Cons - mediacore cables, lacks transparency compared to W4, still not a good choice for fast and heavy songs, warranty only available in asia
Shure SE535LTD Review
Packaging and Ergonomics
Nothing much to expect, they are very similar to the SE535 with the exception of the cheap packaging. Maybe shure is going green as i expected a much better presentation coming out from a high end universal IEM (haha even the Westone UM series has nice solid packaging). Accessories however are excellent, no different from the usual (olive foam tips, yellow foam tips, triple flange sillicon tips, cleaning tool, airline adapter, 1/4" adapter, attenuator and a hard clamshell carrying case)
Now here comes the disappointing part; the cables. I just feel that the cable is a tad flimsier than the SE535s and the cheap grey colour does not do any justice. Maybe someone can clarify this as I tend to be nitpicky with IEM cables. The metallic red shells are just sweet but the dirty grey cable doesn't complement it! Black would be waay suitable.
The cables just feel as cheap as my sennheisser's CX300. Shure has also reduced the length here (~1.2m) making it restrictive for tall people and monitoring purposes (i wouldnt recommend it anyway). However if you're fine with the original shure SE535 cables, then im sure this wont bother you much (it is just that i am so used to westone's excellent twisted multi stand cables) . Luckily the cables are removable and you may want to consider unique melody's "beat audio cable" for the shure series.
Source: Cowon J3 unamped, FLAC, no EQ
The SE535LTD has a total different sound from its predecessor. The massive soundstage upgrade is the most prominent difference here. Presentation is more spacious and expansive and songs will no longer feel compressed and confined which is prevalent in the SE535 and UM3x. The soundstage size is definitely larger than the westone 4 and the shure 535. Coming from an orchestra and contemporary classic listener, I would say that the LTD has a better sound depth than the SE535 and separates the instruments even better. Play a string quartet band or the fleur du mal's of sarah brightman and you will definitely be impressed with these red candies. Strings feel much more alive and 'eargasmic', cymbals seem to be placed at the right distance and piano gives a much fuller and accurate sound tested on a variety of genres ranging from pop punk band Hedley to new age Jon Schmidt.
I would describe SE535LTD sound signature to be warm and colored similar to that of its predecessor. This might be good or bad news to some as sound coloration is indeed subjective . I find the warm and colored signature to sound weird in some genres particular rnb and clubbing songs.
You would still expect intimacy from vocals but they give you more room unlike its predecessor and the UM3x. I would place the intimacy range somewhat in between the SE535 and the Westone 4. But what impresses me most is the fact that shure had managed the vocals to remain full and realistic despite the increase in soundstage size. As a result, vocals are more lively and the added soundstage makes them even more realistic to listen to unlike the SE535. As much as I liked the Westone 4 for its smooth and balanced vocals, I just feel that they are not 'alive' enough in which I believe the shure triumphs over this area based on my subjective views.
Now back to our comparison with the SE535.. all you need to know is that the lushful and smooth midrange orientated LTD provides more realism and breathing room than its predecessor .
I would say there is a substantial improvement in the highs. Trebles are a little more prominent and the LTD does a better job at picking up fast and heavy music. I still wouldnt recommend the Shure series to iron maiden or metalheads. But do not get me wrong here.. the highs are nicely extended than what the SE535 was able to offer.
Previously on the SE535, i was dissapointed that the cymbals sound 'clustered' on mainstream pop punk/rock bands. I think the trick was to improve the soundstage and yes it does the job. Trebles are more extended making it even better for classical music. The biggest improvement here is how the cymbals sound as compared to the somewhat not 'fulfilling' sound its predecessor provides. The cymbals retain more detail providing a richer sound which is indeed a huge feat coming out from a midrange universal IEM. Unlike its predecessor, the LTD has no difficulty in picking up the heavy double pedals from the fast guitar riffs of death metal band kalmah while making mainstream bands such as simple plan enjoyable to listen to.
Well, don't pin your hopes high on this area as there are many IEMs out there with impressive highs. The SE535LTD is just not as alive and accurate as compared to the EX1000 and the westone 4. But i can assure you, the LTD does a much better job in this area as compared to its predecessor and the um3x 'dead and lazy' highs.
The lows remains well extended and pleasant to listen to, coming in only when necessary. They are tight and accurate and still lacks the impact of the westone 4 and hence basshunter and cascada fans might still have to look elsewhere.
The Shure SE535LTD is of a total different new level of its predecessor. I am still confused at shure's attempt in making this as a limited edition instead of branding it as a new series. Please pair the shure with the triple flange tips as i feel that it brings out the best of this series.
x Impressive wide and balance soundstage
x Less intimate vocals than the SE535 but remains lush and smooth
x Improved highs making the it suitable for a wider range of genres
x Bass performance is somewhat simillar to the SE535
x Warm and coloured signature