Shure SE530 Tip Mod
Jul 17, 2009 at 7:56 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


Caution: Incomplete trades.
Feb 29, 2008
In the world of DIY, this is a minor thing to report, but life is made up of minor things. I have these 530s from a project I was doing back in late May/early June. I wanted to compare the top universals - including Westone's 3 and UM3X, UE's Triple Fi 10 Pro, Etymotics' ER4P and (because of all the buzz) Phonak Audeo's PFE. It was a fun project. I ended up keeping the UM3X and selling off the rest, including the Shures.

In a recent PM exchange, I was discussing the HF roll-off people go on about in connection with the 530s. While the frequency response graphs at Headroom show a slight gain in bass followed by unrecessed mids through 2 kHz, the roller-coaster ride that follows through the HF is a common one. If you look at BA drivers, as well as great many dynamics, things typically get wobbly in the high end. Put another way, they all have issues with HF roll-off.

I can't count the number of times I've read a post that suggested the 530s have this serious problem with HF roll-off. While I admit some phones do amazing things at the highest end of the spectrum, I think the 530s have gotten a bad rap. I think one major reason for this is the misperception that the 530s are too forward with the mids. As I look at the frequency response graphs, the 530s don't look forward with mids so much as unrecessed. Many of us, from our loudspeaker days, have this little hack we like to employ. We go for that EQ smile so we can get more bass. Particularly on mediocre systems, bass needs all the help it can get. But once you kick up the bass, you have to compensate for it at the high end. Otherwise, you lose that sonic symmetry and the presentation just sounds dark and muddy.

By keeping the mids at the 0 line, the 530s sound, to many, as if they're too rich in the mids. In fact, the mids are less prominent than the bass, but because they're not recessed, they're taken as excessive. Likewise, as the HF struggles to measure up to the flat line imposed by the bass and mids, the 530s catch the rap that they have this serious HF rolloff issue.

I think the claim is overblown to the point of being bogus.

Recognizing, from days as a Grado lover, that sound can be radically altered with changes in the driver's orientation, as well as the cushions used, I decided to experiment with the tip. I'm speaking of replaceable tips, not the actual sound outlet of the shells. One thing I've noticed is that the 530s have a longer sound outlet than, say, the UM3X. I've also noticed that the 530 has several ridges that limit how far back the cushions can be pushed. Taken together, these two features tend to lengthen the tubing and place the cushion further into the ear. At first glance, this sounds like a good idea, but on closer inspection, it's counterproductive.

One of the odder discoveries I've had, while trying to build my own monitors, is that the further you go into the ear canal, the lower the frequency communicated.

This means that going deeper into the ear canal may not be the answer. What's more, it helps explain - at least to some degree - why dynamic driver phones, forced to pull to the side of the ear, are credited with having a higher frequency response. It may also have some bearing on why so many in-ear monitors have such odd reproduction when it comes to the HF.

In any event, I decided to experiment with my 530s by using stethoscopic tubing to create a better eartip: one with a larger diameter and one where my tips could be closer to the shells, so as to minimize the length of the external sound tube. I took the stethoscopic tubing, slipped it over the eartube and made markings which I cut against later. After pulling my old tips, I pulled out the narrower cores and slipped the foamies over the stethoscopic tubing. Then I slipped the whole assembly onto the portals' sound tubes. It's an easy mod. The only question was whether it would do any good.

KA says that tubing length and diameter attenuate the HF, so I went about shortening the tube and widening it. Once in place as my new eartips, I held my breath as I checked a wide array of tracks. I was completely blown away by the response. I don't know if it would make a difference on every monitor (It didn't seem to have a dramatic effect upon the UM3X, which already has a shorter sound tube). But for the SE530s, at least, it worked wonders.
Sep 11, 2009 at 8:27 AM Post #2 of 5
I 've tried the same thing in similar way as you did on my Westone 3.

The HF is much better and it also help balancing the mid and low. It's a great improvement as W3 always give me a dark and muffy sound.

Did you think of any further mod to make the phone bright?
Sep 12, 2009 at 4:02 AM Post #3 of 5
For less than $5, you can get a package of soft-silicone earplugs from Walmart. These allow you to mold and shape your own eartips from a material less sound-absorbant than foam. Even more important is the fact that you can poly-grip your earphones, sealing all the gaps, especially the "keyhole" that earbuds typically latch onto. Sealing the keyhole will double your bass without crowding your ears. Sealing from the outer ear, rather than deep into the inner ear, will also open up your soundstage and headroom.

Try it and see. For less than $5, you can achieve dramatic results.
Sep 19, 2009 at 5:33 AM Post #5 of 5
The one drawback to the silicone plugs is that they don't slide in like the foamies. They are very sticky. I found that they work better as a form of polygrip, helping to anchor the shell to the earlobe and seal all the little places where air pressure gets lost through a gap.

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