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 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.
- 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…
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.
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
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
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
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)