SE535 LE Kit Feature 3-01

Shure SE535 Limited Edition

I have owned the HiFiMan Re0 earphones for about 2-3 years, but they recently succumbed to a broken connection inside one of the earphones so I decided it was time for an upgrade. It’s been quite a journey…

After much research, I had decided on a few potential options, but my decision came down to a question of availability. The fact that I could buy the 535s from my favourite audio shop made it a simple decision. Thanks as always to George and the team at Addicted to Audio for their assistance with advice, comparisons and of course selling me all these wonderful goodies!!

The contents of the SE535-SE box

The 535 LEs come with all the same accessories as the standard 535s, but they DO sound different. The key difference is a slightly stronger top end and that improves the staging produced by the earphones, but back to the accessories…

The 535 LEs come with a grey, detachable cable (more on that later), an airline plug adapter, an inline volume control for loud sources that need attenuation (e.g. airoplanes), 3 different sizes of foam tips, 3 different sizes of silicon tips, a tri-flange silicon tip and a yellow foam tip. There’s also a small, hard carry case just big enough for the phones themselves, and a 3.5mm to 6mm adapter for plugging the phones into amplifiers.

Quick Specs

  • Speaker system:  Triple High-Definition (Balanced Armature) MicroDrivers
  • Sensitivity:  119 dB SPL/mW
  • Impedance:  36 Ω
  • Frequency range:  18 Hz – 19.5 kHz
  • Cable length:  116 cm

A quick side note…

The SE535-SEs with Baldur Mk2 cable

As good as the standard sound is from the 535 LEs with the stock cable, I would not recommend purchasing them to use with their stock cable – there are equally good options for half the price (e.g. the HiFiMan Re272 which I will review in the coming days). However, the 535 LEs have such amazing capabilities when paired with a high-quality aftermarket cable. I have paired mine with a Baldur Mk2 cable (available on eBay) and the changes to the sound are beyond extraordinary. It’s hard to believe that a cable could make so much difference and even harder to imagine a pair of earphones being as good as the 535s once paired with the Baldur!

The rest of this review is being written based on the sound WITH the Baldur cable because there’s no point considering the 535s without the cable upgrade. They are a great earphone in their stock form so there’s no problem buying them and using them for a while before upgrading the cable, but if you don’t ever plan to upgrade the cable you might be better off with something like the Re272s.

Bass

Attack: The attack from the 535s is fantastic. The balanced armatures provide an amazing clean, crisp sound which carries through into the attack from the bass. Bass notes hit cleanly and crisply with good articulation and dexterity. The texture in the bass is also fantastic – better than most of my other earphones or headphones! You can hear the subtle sounds like slight rattles in a bass string or the sound of the bass player’s fingers on the frets (depending on the recording of course).

If there’s a detractor in the bass reproduction, it’s that the bass is so cleanly delivered that it can sound “delicate” even when it’s not meant to. It’s a minor issue and depends heavily on the mastering of the music you’re listening to, but there can be a lack of body to the bass when you’d like some.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Mass: While not as good as my HFI-680s (full sized headphones), the mass in the bass from the 535s is excellent and truly awesome for balanced armature earphones. If you’re meant to feel it, you can actually feel it. Listening to a piece of music with a pipe organ (I can’t recall the track), I was shocked to feel the vibrations of the pipe organ inside my ear!!

I should clarify that even though the HFI-680s are possibly better with the bass mass, the 535s are probably more accurate. The 535s’ sound is natural, realistic and never muddy or clouded by the bass.

Rating: 8 / 10

Vocals / Mids

Shure are known for their vocal and mid-oriented earphones and headphones and the stock cable version of the 535 LEs is no different, but with the addition of the Baldur cable, the 535 LEs become very balanced. The mids are well placed and well balanced with the treble and bass. They are smooth and liquid, but defined and crisp. The details in the midrange are just as good as the details in the bass so you’ll be hearing all sorts of things in the music that you’ve never heard before – they’re really fun and exciting to listen to.

Rating: 9.5 / 10

Details

Even without the cable upgrade, the 535s create amazing resolution of details – you’ll be hearing sounds you never knew were in your favourite recordings. The details are addictive and I quickly found myself hunting for different instruments and textures in all my favourite recordings. The Baldur cable enhances the detail level – like going from basic high definition (i.e. 720p) to full high definition (1080p). This is because the Baldur cable improves the high frequency performance of the 535s, but it comes at a cost… you might not be able to enjoy crappy recordings when using these earphones. They can tend towards sibilance (uncomfortable/painful high frequency sounds) with poor recordings and that can be a problem at times, but on a good recording this doesn’t happen.

The 535s are so good that I almost feel like I need to go back and knock my rating of the AD900s down a notch for details. I said in the review of the AD900s that detail was their party piece… If that’s the case, the 535s just stole the show!

Rating: 9.5 / 10

Staging

With the stock cable, the staging of the 535s is nice, but not amazing. The slightly emphasised vocals and midrange mean that it is sometimes difficult to accurately place sounds in the soundstage. Every instrument has a clearly defined spot, but exactly where that spot is can be hard to imagine. With the Baldur cable this also changes dramatically. The soundstage really opens up – outside the boundaries of your head – and the positioning of instruments is very detailed and accurate.

One track that I use (courtesy of a friend of mine) is Fallen Angel by Robbie Robertson. In Fallen Angel, the recording is produced as if you’re sitting in the drummer’s lap. The 535s create the image of the drums around you better than any other speaker or headphone that I have – they are truly incredible. Simply put, with these earphones you will very quickly know which albums in your collection are well recorded and which are a bit shabby.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Overall

The Shure SE535 LEs are a marvel. In their stock form they don’t really give any clues of what they’re capable of – they sound nice, but not world-beating. Add the right aftermarket cable (and you need to ensure the correct cable as other cable options can sound terrible) and they show you what they’re really capable of…. magic! The only thing these earphones do wrong is to show up bad recordings and bad music sources (e.g. cheap amplifiers and players), but it’s worth it for every moment of incredible pleasure they’ll give you when connected to a great source playing a great piece of music that’s been well recorded!

Overall Rating: 9 / 10 (with Baldur Mk 2 cable)

27 comments on “Shure SE535 Limited Edition

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  2. reliability of the connectors are very low! I had intermittant reponse from the left withinone week and zero after that. I took it a part and found the connection broken. It was a very small solder joint that is not sturdy!!!!!!

    • Hi Charles, that must have been frustrating. I had some troubles with a custom-made cable where the solder on the cable side connectors broke, but the actual earphones haven’t missed a beat, only the after-market cable and I think it was my fault. Hopefully yours were reparied or replaced because they’re a wonderful earphone!

    • Hi Powerbird,

      A friend of mine in Hong Kong organised mine for me, but you can buy them on eBay (search for “Baldur Shure SE535″). It’s a blue coloured cable and there are often a few for sale on eBay with different plugs attached. It doesn’t matter which plug you choose, but the Oyaide is a personal favourite because it’s compact.

      Thanks for reading and let me know if you have trouble finding the cable on eBay.

      Regards,

      Lachlan

      • Thanks for the quick response I ordered one off of ebay but I also wanted to know who is selling Baldur MKII with the Oyaide because i too am looking for a compact plug.

  3. Many of the eBay suppliers will be making the cables to order as far as I can tell. Send them a quick email and see if they can put the Oyaide plug on instead. If not, you might be able to buy the plug separately and do it yourself (if you’re comfortable with simple soldering).

    Otherwise it’s a matter of searching for “Baldur cable Oyaide plug Shure SE535″ on google or eBay.

    Final option, jump onto Head-Fi and search for the “Shure 535 vs Westone with Baldur cable” thread (the name’s not exactly that, but similar). There’s plenty of info there and you can always ask on there for more ideas.

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    • They sound good even without an amp, but the iPhone output won’t get the most out of them.

      In other words, they’ll sound as good as the iPhone can sound (which is good), but you’ll get maximum enjoyment using them from a better source or by adding an external amp.

      The Baldur cable is a really good option, but I probably wouldn’t bother for use with just the iPhone as it will be the limiting factor more-so than the cable.

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  6. Nice review! Any other recommended after market cables that might work well with this? What’s the price range like for the one you got?

    • I haven’t tried any others, but I know there are a bunch around.

      Generally, the feeling is that silver-plated copper gives a nice cost-performance balance while pure silver is possibly the best for overall resolution and clarity, but may lose a little warmth and fullness.

      From what I read it’s best to steer clear of cheap aftermarket cables in most cases. BTG Audio may be the one exception as their cables have a good rep, but I can’t comment personally.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. If you check Head-Fi.org there are no doubt further discussions on the topic.

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  8. Hi Lachlan

    I’m a 535 (bronze) owner looking to upgrade my ‘orrible stick cable; so your review was great!

    Do you have any listening experience with Beat Audio’s “Thor” cable; i’d be interested to hear your view on 535’s matched with this or other similar high quality copper. I listen mostly to electronic music through my Ray Samuels Tomahawk amp, seeking some better bass

    By the way, your Baldur cable? Was it the £175 Beat Audio version or the eBay available Baldur Mk2 £92? Thanks!

    • Hi Crispin,

      My Baldur cable was an eBay one, but sourced by a friend in Honk Kong. There have been many variants and some using the Baldur name without necessarily being the same cable quality.

      In hindsight, I think a pure copper or pure silver cable (i.e. not plated) is preferable for coherence in the sound. It was hard to hear on the 535s, but other IEMs I’ve had show a definite lack of coherence with plated cables.

      I haven’t tried any other cables with the Shures, but will be trying a pure copper litz cable from Double Helix Cables very soon with my Miracles (not yet reviewed). In my experience, stick with copper for better bass and body. The Thor cable looks nice, but it’s a shame there’s not a lot of info available about it. For the money, you might be better thinking about finding a copper litz cable from somewhere. “Litz” means that each individual strand is individually insulated making the cable less prone to introduce any interference in the transfer of the audio signal. The Thor cable might be, but it’s hard to tell and I’m pretty sure you can get a litz cable for the same dollars (if you’re buying new – if 2nd hand, disregard this comment and go with it – you can always re-sell it later).

      Good luck!

  9. Hi Lachlan,

    Thanks for a great review. I was sold on the Red Shure SE535 Special Edition after reading your review. After two weeks listening to the SE535 with the stock cable, although they are breaking in nicely but I was not satisfied with the sound at all.

    Today I received my Baldur MKIII cables and when I out it on for the first time this morning. WOW what a different, that’s more like it! I listen to Fortet’s You Have Love In You LP through my valve amp, that was a really satisfying listening experience. It was just like how you describe them.

    I bought the SE535 to be used with my iPhone 5, I wonder if a Portable USB DAC would make a big improvement to the sound? Do you have any experience in this? I am thinking of a HRT Microstreamer or the likes.

    Thank you again for such a good review.

    • Hi Discus,

      I’m not sure the exact specs of the iPhone 5. I know it’s actually a good source, but I think, like most sources, it will struggle a little bit with the varying impedance of multi-BA IEMs like the 535s. The crossovers and different drivers used create some interesting and subtle variations to the sound when paired with most devices. With that in mind I would say that an external DAC / amp (just an amp would be fine) would be an improvement because it will better control the drivers in your 535s.

      There are plenty of options out there. An integrated DAC & amp is a great option, but the onboard DAC in the iPhones is quite good so you could just go for a line out device/dock cable (LOD) and connect to an external amp like the Tralucent T1 that I have which is great for multi-BA IEMs. I am assuming people are already making LODs with the lightning connector, but haven’t checked.

      Good luck and I hope you keep enjoying your 535s!

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  11. Hi !
    I see there is a mk3 version available .
    Was wondering if you know the difference between the mk2
    Thanks

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