User Review Shure SE535-LTD-J Impressions

Discussion in 'Reviews and Guides' started by esanthosh, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. esanthosh

    esanthosh Well-Known Member


    The only 'qualification' that I have for attempting reviews is that I could afford to buy all these nice IEMs and somewhat decent collection of sources way back when. Since I am lazy about taking photos and opening sale threads, I retain most of what I buy. That is a curse (to my bank balance) and a gift (I can compare X vs Y anytime without needing to resort to poor, illusory audio memory).

    More than a year has passed since I last wrote on anything related to audio. When I was writing a spree of reviews, all I wanted was to stop critically listening to the IEM and just melt away into music. The break from writing gave me exactly that. Since then, head-fi has raced full speed ahead, leaving me feeling like I am still stuck in 2010, but that's another matter altogether.

    I was hesitant to accept this offer, not only because I felt inadequate to do a review, but I had earlier reviewed SE535CL and found nothing that could pique me to listen to another variant of the sound. But, @itsvel06 was sure that it sounded different.

    I hesitantly nodded knowing fully well that it would massively burn all my free evening hours along with my energy. But, I did not imagine it would be such a tumultuous exercise to change from casual listening to attentive listening. If I had any clue, I'd have said "No". No matter how hard I tried, my 'audio lingo amnesia' continued to haunt me. All I could think of was the light at the end of this dark tunnel - When I am done, I could get back to listening to my music than listen to the same tracks over and over again and free myself from the torture of switching IEMs every few minutes / seconds.

    Thanks to @itsvel06 for being patient all this while. But, contrary to your expectation, this won't be a 'review', just some stray thoughts from a poor guy who lost his 'review mojo' long back.


    A couple of years ago, Shure released SE535 Limited Edition in Asia. Compared to the clear and Bronze metallic color schemes of the original SE535, LTD-J had a nicer looking red color with a detachable gray colored shorter cable (46" vs 64" in normal edition). It was said to sound better than the original SE535 with better details, sound stage and treble. At the time of writing, it is priced around $500 at Amazon.

    The famously infamous (or is it the other way around?) Rin Choi summarized the changes thus
    which led to some people to experiment with various dampers and arrive at a similar conclusion. According to the thread, Shure was shurely ripping off people by just changing the damper (See: Knowles damper list) which costs under $2 (Mouser link) and changing the color of the housing.

    Of course, being a technically challenged person with DIYphobia, all that went over my head. I thought I'd take this chance with these rusted iron ears to weigh in on SE535LTD-J as a stand-alone IEM.

    Note: Unless mentioned specifically, hereinafter, all references to SE535 (or just 535) refer to SE535LTD-J

    External Factors:

    Looks: While some people may be revolted by the combination of bright red with the understated gray cable, it is not my hill to die on. The housings are well built, better than many IEMs I own. The cable is thick with very good strain relief at the 90 degree plug and a beefy strain relief at the housing. The cable cinch / chin slider is a little tight, but I never needed to use it. There's nothing much to complain about the construction. Previous models, especially SE530, had numerous issues despite the supposedly better build quality, but not sure if that plagues this model as well.

    Fit: One of my gripes with SE535CL is that memory wire made it that much harder to get the right fit. While I could not figure out any difference in the memory wire portion compared to the photos of SE535 (V/CL), this time around, I had no issues with it. Since SE535 demands a good fit and seal, it is imperative for anybody to find the right tip and fit it as flush with the ears as possible. I just loop the cable over the ear, bring it all the way down, insert the tip, twist the IEM in place and then adjust the memory wire. With my own Shure Olives, the fit was more secure and the IEMs were very flush in both ears. With the bi-flanges, the IEM fits perfectly inside the left. However, in the right ear, it is flush with tragus, but angled may be a mm out close to the end of antitragus. If I was a little unsure, I made it a point to test the seal by playing bassy or sibilant tracks.

    The isolation is excellent both with Shure Olives as well as the bi-flanges.

    Comfort: Of course, the issue with this demanding fit is that over long sessions, the housings become a little uncomfortable to wear due to pressure on the ears. This was an even bigger issue for me when doing comparisons. Auditory memory, in case you did not know, is fresh and alive only for a few seconds. The effort in getting the correct fit every time, most often resulted in wasting valuable seconds. With fading memory, I had no choice but to listen again, this time with 535 first and the other IEM next. In other words, I ended up doing B:A instead of A:B comparison. This does not seem like a big deal unless one takes into account the number of times this needed to be done per session accompanied with constant adjustment of volume for equal loudness.

    Tips: Shure Olives were much more comfortable. But then, itsvel06 insisted that bi-flanges (converted tri-flanges) sounded better. I know better than to invite the wrath of an audiophile. So, I used bi-flanges for all listening impressions. Another minor reason was that while bi-flanges easily slide out when removing them, Shure Olives took some effort (One ear came out easy, the other got a little stuck) in twisting and turning to get them out. I did not want to risk breaking the lovely Shure's nozzle thereby wiping out my already shrunken bank balance.


    SE535 is a very efficient IEM, which can get loud at lower volumes, be it with the Clip+ or my test rig of UHA6S.

    With the correct fit, SE535 has a bass that extends very well. The warmly toned bass carries decent quantity, texture and punch. I felt that the bass was slightly slower in the lowest-bass regions thus clouding the resolution a bit. While no bass head would (or should) walk within 50 feet of SE535, it is undeniable that it has a solid presence across the bass region. It is neither rolled off nor is it always on like a few others. You can even feel a bit of the rumble. The presentation of bass, though varies between good (feeling enough) to satisfactory (I can live with this) to unsatisfactory depending on the nature of the track.

    The mid range of Shure is, as with the original SE535, it's highlight. The mid range is smooth, slightly warm, slightly forward in comparison to other IEMs, but never feels 'in your face'. I really like the vocals in SE535 which are natural (vocal timbre is excellent), engaging and stay free of sibilance.

    The treble is in line with the mid range and carries good energy and sparkle. While I should not speculate about treble extension with my HF hearing roll-off, I could not shake off the feeling that SE535 is somewhat 'constrained' in the upper registers.

    The dynamics of SE535 are pretty good which in combination with that warm tone makes it work nicely with Jazz and Classical. The sound stage has good width and decent depth and height. Layering is good and positioning is decent. Separation is not bad either. But when coming from other IEMs, SE535's overall presentation tends to sound blended (lack of air). It also falls short, at times woefully short, of others in presenting a sense of space. Unless mentioned otherwise, you can practically add, "X does better separation and portrays sense of space better than SE535" to every comparison.

    Comparison Methodology:

    Part I : Preparation

    Since I had not used IEMs with any regularity, I initially spent the first week listening to each IEM separately. I used a 10/12 track random playlist with Clip+ (Notes of my session with SM3 can be found here). The session was used to familiarize myself (yet again) to the IEM's general signature and/or quirks. I don't know why, but I did not get the best fit and seal with some of the tips I used earlier (Refer to issues with CK10 here). I did lose weight in the interim. Do ear canals change that much? I don't think so. May be I am just inserting them much deeper now? No clue.

    When I finally decided to do the one on one comparisons part, I prepared a new set of test tracks which include Eva Cassidy's "Fields of Gold", Norah Jones's "Come away with me", Clapton's Unplugged rendition of "Layla", a couple of old Pop tracks, a few Opeth tracks, John Coltrane's "Blue Train", Holst's "Mars" from Planet suite, Brahms Symphony 1.1, Breaking Bad extended theme, Explosions in the Sky's "Last Known surroundings", Massive Attack's "Angel" and "Tear Drop", various shades of Rock/Metal tracks from the good ol' Pink Floyd's "Time" to Sound Garden's "Spoonman" to Meshuggah's "Bleed" to Altar of Plagues to Eye of Solitude.

    I doubt you'd catch any real audiophile using anything other than pristine 24/192 WAV recordings of reference tracks for testing IEMs. But, my idea, as a normal portable-phile is to use familiar tracks, both well recorded and poorly recorded ones to gauge how it performs with them. Familiarity and avoidance of boredom (hence the variety of genres) were the only criteria for track selection.

    Side Note: No DSD, DXD, 24/192, 24/96, WAV files. No Diana Krall. No audiophile recording.

    Part II: Source Selection

    I didn't plan on including this section. But due to itsvel06's barrage of questions regarding the source and matching, not to mention the additional benefit of stretching the review length by adding more fluff than stuff, I decided to do it anyways.

    When reviewing IEMs, it is more important for the source to sound 'right' than it is to sound 'great'.

    Sounding great is what we call synergy. Some low impedance IEMs can sound great with a source that has high output impedance. HD800 does better with tube amps. Arrow 3G's bass boost would make CK10 sound 'nice'. But, the question is would you want to use FX700 with it? We will come to this 'synergy' part later on.

    So, when I am reviewing IEMs, I look for something that doesn't screw up the tested IEMs. A source which brings out the true nature of every IEM as-is, in other words, a neutral / transparent source, is what would make a comparison fair for all IEMs involved. While the role of output impedance may or may not be highly important in terms of the final sound we hear (we may like low Z IEM with a high OI source), when doing a review and striving to hear the IEM as-is, it is better to have a source that has as low a OI as possible when the IEM list includes BAs like TF10 and SE535 with their screwed up impedance curves (Source: Rin's blog).


    The second important thing is ease of use. During comparisons, at times, we could go back and forth many times between IEMs playing a small portion of 10-20 seconds. QA350 v2, otherwise a decent source, simply fails at ease of use basic usage. iPod Video 5.5G (through 2StepDance) was another choice. But due to it's HDD seek times, it sometimes has a half a second delay which may not be good enough when switching IEMs quickly before audio memory vanishes.

    Clip+ is usually a prime contender on account of it's flat frequency response and low output impedance. I usually do my listening with Clip+. But, I tend to keep the volume lower and lower (FX700 listening volume was -20dB on Rockboxed Clip+ in 2010, it is -41dB now). Due to equal loudness contour, I tend to hear less bass and treble than the IEM is capable of. While this is fine for normal, casual listening sessions, it would make my job harder when it comes to comparisons. It is especially important in case of upper tier universals, where the fundamental flaws (SM3 winks, but that's OK!) are less and specialties coupled with our own preferences make up the bulk of the difference.

    That led me to UHA 6S, an amplifier which could provide greater power to hear the full FR without blowing my ears off. With it's brick companion QA350 out of contention as a transport, I had my laptop, PC, iPad 3 (via CCK) and iPhone 5 (Lightning CCK cable) as the choices. I had casually tried it with my laptop long before and did not like the result. I avoided PC because it would be highly inconvenient to be tied down to a place. Due to my OPA209AID's susceptibility to interference, it would be really, really hard to use it with iPhone 5. So, by process of elimination, I was left with iPad 3. That is not a bad thing from my point of view. I now had iOS' ease of use, 64 GB of storage and FLAC Player app to play FLAC files (so no additional conversion or iTunes interference).

    Even without the UHA6S, iPad is a pretty decent source, though audiophiles among you may disagree. It has a measured output impedance of 0.78 / 0.84 depending on whose word you trust more - Golden Ears or Sonove (Refer here for list of output impedance of many more sources and amps). Sonove even goes on to say "Headphone out's performance is excellent. I think that it can even be used as a DAP. Speaking purely based on RMAA measurements with a dummy load, it could rank among the better DAPs" (Reworded from Google's translation).

    Side Track: To my ears, iPhone 5 as transport sounded a tad brighter. It makes no rational sense since DAC processes digital data whether it's fed by iPhone or iPad or Helipad. But sometimes, this world of audio seems to function on fuzzy logic than binary logic.

    But no matter how good a thing 'measures', it should also subjectively sound good. So, I briefly tried all IEMs in a row to see if they stayed true to the signatures I know them to have. Since it sounded good enough, I decided to stick with the combo as my source for all the comparisons.

    Side Note: But one problem with UHA6S is that it makes me like everything.

    III. Comparison Process:

    IEMs were loudness matched to the best of my hearing. Volume level depends on several factors like the efficiency of the IEM, the recording (Classical recordings with large dynamic range may sound 'quieter' compared to the brick walled recordings of the last decade) and the stepped adjustment allowed in the amp / source volume control. Most of the time, I required only between 7 and 8 'o clock on the dial for SE535, whereas the comparison IEM varied from 8 'o clock to a slight bit above 9 'o clock.

    Most of the time, I listened to a small portion, lasting few seconds, of a song while doing a A:B comparison (or A:B:A). Other times I listened to a few minutes of a song to get the 'feel' with that IEM and switched to see what the other IEM offers. Sometimes, I just let the playlist go on for a while before switching to another IEM. After finalizing the draft, I listened again while editing the review, this time not strictly confining myself to test tracks alone.

    IEM Comparisons

    Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 ($265 at Amazon, used to be $99 two Black Fridays ago)

    TF10 has been around for very long and at one time was a top universal along side SE530. Everyone knows by now that they are different sounding IEMs with TF10 emphasizing on bass and treble and SE535 on the mids.

    Both of them have well extended bass. But, the nature of presentation differs greatly. TF10 has a thick sounding bass which is high on impact, but not as great on finesse and details. The sub-bass, though well present, is subdued a little next to the mid-bass hump. SE535's presentation is much softer. Though it is easy to say that 'quality' is better on the 535, I feel that it could use a little more texture.

    I don't find TF10's mids to be that recessed. But that is not my problem. How do I say this? Moving from TF10 to SE535 feels like switching from a Black and White movie to a color movie. Vocals sound more natural on the 535. TF10 seems to give a thicker accent and cold tonality to all it's vocalists. TF10 is also a little more prone to sibilance present in the recording, though it is not grating.

    The treble of TF10 is a bit more forward and carries plenty of sparkle, but also carries a metallic tinge. TF10 betters SE535 with it's airiness, separation, sense of space and layering. On the faster tracks, while I can't say SE535 was 'slow', TF10 felt paced better.

    SE535 was way ahead of TF10 during the first portion of my comparisons which included vocal and slower tracks, especially because it felt more coherent than TF10. By the time I got to the end of the list, TF10 had pulled itself up a little. I would say that it was slightly difficult to choose between the two. In the end, because it's goods outweigh it's bads, I'd have to pick SE535.

    Hifiman RE272 (Discontinued. MSRP: $250, last known price: $200)

    Side Note: Strangely, both these IEMs exhibited a strange peak in upper mids with Clip+, which they do not with UHA6S. It is not 272 alone, I felt that even with RE262.

    Despite it's low impedance rating, RE272 really shines when amped and given a little bit of a push on the volume front.

    While I may have started as a treble-head for whom bass did not matter, with time I have come to appreciate how important bass is to music reproduction. I hate bullshit arguments like "It's all about quality, not quantity". While RE272 is quicker and better resolving in the bass region, SE535 presents much better texture and quantity. RE272's bass is not just flat, it is definitely f*ked.

    At the other end, it is 272 all the way. 272 has a crisp, clean, sparkling treble that manages to stay largely smooth. The mid range of 272 is crisp, neutral in tone and sounds a bit more 'open' compared to the lush, warmer, more forward mids of SE535. I can live with either of them, though my choice depends heavily on the track being played.

    RE272 feels a bit more effortless when it comes to transients and dynamic range. Sound stage and presentation are better with the 272. If I had to be reductive about my experience, I'd say 272 sounds clean, while 535 feels smooth. Technically or otherwise, while I would not put the two too far apart, my vote in this contest goes to RE-272.

    Audio-Technica ATH-CK10 (Discontinued)

    CK10 with comply gives me one of the most comfortable fits. I used it with both Comply and the Sony noise isolating tip (due to complys sucking some treble energy) during the comparison.

    CK10 is in such a hurry that it attacks and withdraws, leaving most of the bass texture at the mercy of listener's imagination. Bass is a little more present with complys than other tips. Compared to CK10, SE535 sounds richer in bass, with longer decay, quantity, extension and impact.

    CK10's mids are a slight bit recessed next to SE535, but are much clearer, resolving and analytical. Needless to say, it is far from natural sounding (timbre). Once I get past the initial minutes of adaptation, CK10 has that addictive speed that keeps me hooked. SE535's more forward mids are smooth, but feels a bit too polite when coming from CK10.

    CK10 does have a treble spike which only treble heads like me can survive. That combined with a metallic timbre can put most non-treble heads away. Usually, heightened treble gives the illusion of 'details' and 'clarity'. But in the case of CK10, I think the natural clarity and speed of the drivers play a greater role.

    CK10 has a presentation that layers and positions stuff in such a way that it reminds me of a microscope under which music is split into tiny bits of information and made available for observation.

    Till this part in comparisons, I went back and forth between IEMs and SE535 never felt like a step down. But, CK10 makes me grin so hard that I found it hard to go back to SE535 at times to complete the comparison. I would not recommend CK10 to everybody though.

    Earsonics SM3 v1 (Discontinued)

    While other IEMs do things one way, along comes the Forrest Gump of our comparison that twists everything to fit it's own vision of 'music'.

    The first thing you notice is that every vocalist suddenly gets chesty and they all seemingly want to spit in your face. You also notice that the lead singer, no matter where he was in the mix with other IEMs, is picked out and placed dead center in the stage. You start changing track after track, genre after genre, in hopes that things will be different, but feel no change at all. Everything from Classical to death metal gets played in the same club in the same way. It takes sometime, unless I am using SM3 on a daily basis, to get used to this.

    The bass on SM3 is plentiful, extended and hands down beats SE535's bass in every way. Treble in SM3 is subdued, though not recessed. Even with recordings that have splashy treble, SM3 politely puts the cymbals in the background as if it doesn't want anything to do with it. Even though SE535's extension is suspect, it does put a little sizzle in those recordings. Vocals of course, feel more natural with SE535. But, it does lack the ability of SM3 to pick and place the vocalist at the center of proceedings. Mids on the SM3 feel very thick, even when going from the not so lean SE535.

    Despite the oddities, SM3 has very good separation and the ability to create a good sense of space. In certain busy passages, switching from SM3 to SE535 makes 535 feel downright congested.

    I still do not have a clue why I like SM3. Even though I know SE535 is more 'correct' than SM3, I found it very hard to switch back for the comparison. I have been trying to figure out SM3 for the last three years. But, I always give up a couple of hours into listening. It's like this quote Forrest Gump.

    Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don't have to worry about money no more. And I said, that's good! One less thing.
    You don't necessarily need to know everything, you know. One less thing to worry about!

    JVC HA-FX700 (~ $300 at Amazon US)

    While most IEMs needed a fiddling of the volume knob when coming from the efficient 535, FX700 plays nicely with just a little turn of the knob.

    While 535 is polite, FX700 is aggressive. How do I put this? Imagine a well dressed, finely behaved gentleman talking in a polite tone with a body language that screams sophistication. Then imagine a young punk next to him, laughing out loudly as if he wants to bring down the building and is least bothered whether he can be heard 10 feet away.

    You want bass? FX700 delivers it in spades, never mind things like fine toothed control. Bass of FX700 is well extended, deep, hits hard and unashamedly makes you twist and turn with it's high impact. Even Clapton's "Layla" has this big, bad, gargantuan bass. Next to the polite, flattish bass of SE535, FX700 sounds boomy and is a little hard to get used to. But, but..... don't you dare to argue with me your politically correct view about 'accurate linear flat bass' when I am grinning ear to ear with FX700 rumbling like a sub-woofer on my head.... stay safe.. may be 20 feet away. This big bass is the reason why FX700 makes an excellent low volume, shallow insertion, quiet environment friendly (due to poor isolation) IEM, especially when paired with Clip+.

    The treble, is similarly energetic like bass, sparkly, detailed, but staying clear of peaks.

    You will also likely cringe about FX700's vocals being slightly cold and recessed. But, once you get over the difference in vocal quality between 535 and FX700, you'd notice that FX700 does not miss a beat. It has all the details, just not as engaging as SE535. It is also not as forgiving as 535 when it comes to sibilance. If bass and vocals are your primary concerns, then it's OK to give FX700 a slip.

    But then, one thing not to be missed would be it's unique timbre, coupled with excellent dynamics and speed (see, there are already several not-to-be-missed-things). The sound stage is well spread out with good layering, delivering a great sense of space. FX700 is a little bit of an instruments first, vocals next kind of IEM, whereas SE535 does not differentiate that much.

    I'd say that due to the slightly unique nature of FX700, it requires a bit of brain burn-in. But unlike SM3, which may require 3 hours, you would be sucked into FX700 by the third track. For the life of me, I never understood what PRAT means. If it means something that induces foot tapping, then I'd say FX700 is among those IEMs that does it right.

    On some tracks, I felt SE535 was very good, only to change my opinion minutes later when I switched to FX700. At times, going from FX700 to SE535 felt like moving from a live rock performance in a large hall (if not stadium) into a room with near field speakers. FX700 has an epic quality, a grandness, which I find missing with SE535. SE535 does pretty well in the beginning of my playlist, which contains vocal tracks and unplugged performances. But once the playlist moves to Jazz, Classical and branch into Metal, do I need to spell out which won the battle of my preferences?

    Sony MDR-EX1000 (~ $500 at Amazon. Damn!)

    Till now, if you have followed the comparisons, you would be dead tired. But, you would have also noted that SE535 at least has one trick up it's sleeve against the other IEM, a few in certain cases.

    But, it holds no such victories over EX1000. Where do I start? EX1000 has excellent clarity, speed, dynamics, details, sound stage size and above all, timbre. And that's for a start. One word that comes to mind frequently with EX1000 is refinement.

    While SE535 has bass presence, EX1000 shows the best way to present it. It still remains to this day, the best bass presentation I have heard in an IEM. It has the quickness, extension and the right quantity and impact. It neither goes overboard like FX700 (too much) nor underwhelms like RE272 (too little), may be just a touch more than what would have been an ideal 'balanced' level.

    While the mid range is distant, especially compared to the forward mid range of SE535, EX1000 maintains excellent clarity. Vocal timbre is excellent. If I have to put a strike against it, if the recording has sibilance, EX1000 won't mask it as much as SE535. The mid range of SE535, which so far has not met great competition, sounds colored next to the more natural sounding mids of EX1000.

    The treble of EX1000 has received some criticism for being 'hot' and at times, grainy. I can tell you that it clearly is not grainy. It is not hot within the limits of my listening volume either. It comes down to the recording. If the recording has it, EX1000 would be transparent about it (APC's 'Breña' for instance). It too maintains excellent timbre and stays smooth. If you see EX1000's frequency response, you would observe that it too, like 535, does not extend all the way. But, due to the energy (not CK10 like energy), EX1000 doesn't feel similar to 535.

    The presentation of EX1000 is wide due to the fit. Instead of a stage on your head (or as in SM3's case, in the middle of the stage, dazed and confused), the back of the head presentation makes it feel like witnessing a very wide stage from far away. Yet, everything is as clear as watching from the first row. While it doesn't separate the instruments into distinct zones like CK10 or space them over the length and breath of the stage like FX700, it doesn't feel odd at any point. While FX700 would add a little more fun when it comes to metal, I don't find EX1000 to be too far behind in terms of enjoyment. It may just be my ears, but FX700 and EX1000 are the only two IEMs I find to be greatly suited for Classical music - where recordings actually have a dynamic range and music can flow between near silence to explosive finale. The rest? Hmmm....

    If it seems that I have written far too much about EX1000 and not as much about SE535, who cares?

    Bonus: Shure SE535 (~ $440 at Amazon)

    I know, I know! I don't have them side by side and I don't trust my audio memory one tiny, weeny bit. However, reading my old review and comparing it with my current impression of SE535LTD-J, I think they may be the same IEM with a different damper. My major gripe about presentation remains unchanged. If I had to speculate about the changes, I feel that bass region, upper mid range and treble may be a bit lifted up compared to the old version. May be that additional clarity brings 'details' to the forefront, thus negating another one of my strong dislikes about the old model.

    But, whatever be the internal changes, major or minor, I find LTD to be better than my vague memory of the original SE535. It may simply be because I hadn't compared them one on one with any of these other IEMs except SM3. If I had, I would now have a pretty decent idea about how I felt about the IEM when listening. In the absence of that, it's all shooting in the dark anyways.


    At last, after all this time, I finally reach my most favorite part of the review.

    Shure SE535LTD-J are a good upper tier universal, which offers brand name, looks, build quality and a nice sound for those who can afford to spend $$$. During my comparisons, it did hang around with others for the most part, except of course, presentation.

    As a result of these comparisons, my rankings have changed. Those who can figure out the changes either have very good memory or too much time on their hands to waste on my poorly formed opinions.

    It is a desirable IEM for those who....
    • Need a brand name
    • Have deeper pockets (at least deep enough to buy used)
    • Need looks and build quality
    • Can take care of them like 'precious'
    • Can spend time to insert them properly each and every listening session for proper fit and seal
    • Do not need tons of bass
    • Need good, smooth mid range
    • Do not want peaky treble
    • Listen to lot of vocals or simple arrangements
    • Are not anal about things like separation, layering, imaging and sound stage
    • Own at least one low output impedance source that shows what these IEMs are capable of
    • Have the patience to read this far
    • Won't ask me to fix any grammar or spelling 'bugs' because I am too fatigued to proof read
    Would not suit those who...
    • Like V-shaped sound
    • Like analytical sound
    • Like easy fit and removal of IEMs
    • Are anal about separation and presentation
    • Value 'value for money'
    • Think bass quantity is a necessity
    • Think punchy bass cures headaches
    • Think treble should be extended endlessly even if their own hearing is rolled off at 12 Khz
    • Already own the 535LTD-J
    • Have the user name of esanthosh

    Attached Files:

    #1 esanthosh, Dec 29, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 10, 2014
    Brendon, Renegade, Tenzin and 8 others like this.
  2. itsvel06

    itsvel06 Active Member

    Great job posting your impressions man! Thank you! Excellent work as always! :) I quite agree with what has been said in the review about the SE535's NEGATIVE aspects. While running sine sweeps, I noticed a sharp roll off in the upper treble registers ~17-18khz and as a result there is quite lack of a sense of air (which is present in those ultra high frequencies) and openness to the SE535's and also because of its mid centric/ boosted nature, the fundamental frequencies and the lower order harmonics steal the focus from the higher order ones. And according to my belief that seems to be the reason why it seems to lack that zip and pace when compared to the ex1000/fx 700 and others which are not treble shy and do the exact opposite to the focus of the music!

    If it's ok with you I would like to highlight the positive aspects tomorrow about the 535 from my personal experience which unquestionably tethered me to the SE535s right from the very first listen and made me cough out the dough from my heart! :)
  3. hzant6681

    hzant6681 Active Member

    Would not suit those who...
    • Like analytical sound
    • Think treble should be extended endlessly even if their own hearing is rolled off at 12 Khz
    I'm of the above :cyclops:.... ah! the re-0 treble:singing: and I like to see them with clear glasses :watching:
  4. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    There's no need to ask permission. Do post your impressions.

    PS: Why did you quote the entire post though?(it was late in the night, of course). Can I add that to my word count and say that I fulfilled the promise of a 7800 word review? :rolleyes:
    #4 esanthosh, Dec 30, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  5. kenpachiroks

    kenpachiroks Active Member

    Great review as always. At no point did I think, "Oh God! Just get to the point!"

    PS: So looking forward to that RE400 review now!(which you are halfway through I believe?:bag:)
    (Curious about your take on the treble considering your preferences)
  6. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    That will have to wait. Loaners and review samples always take precedence. Since all my new IEMs have been burnt in for 100 hours, I would next head to C-12 review. Depending on how hard it gets for me to rank the IEMs involved, it may take another 2-3 weeks at least. By the looks of it, @itsvel06 has not released the chains off me either. So, that would need to be accommodated on the sidelines as well.

    Since I own RE400 and am already trembling about choosing a favorite among RE400, PFE and HF2, it is way down my priority list.


    I edited the review to fix dyslexic sentences and re-arranged the sections for slightly better flow of ideas. Damn! It took so much time :( (I even edited the last sentence twice thrice)
    #6 esanthosh, Dec 30, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
    itsvel06 and kenpachiroks like this.
  7. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    Quick, short impressions of Amp pairings out of iPad 3's headphone out. I have not thoroughly tested, so take them with a sea of salt.

    Zo2 V3: I forget that I still own this thing. I had to charge it first and then re-learn how to operate using the manual. SE535 mildly hisses when no sound is playing. While the hiss is not an issue if the music is playing, with some silent passages, I can still hear it mildly in the background. The bass gain from green to red is gradual, but the quality is really good and at the high levels can make 535 a bass monster. The mid bass boost is a touch higher than sub-bass. Bass, despite the quantity, remains tighter and fuller than Arrow 3G's bass boost (esp. BB II). The mid range is more warm, but does not get drowned out when bass gets boosted (as it is boosted along). I liked listening to it casually, but felt that it may be missing a bit of transparency.

    Arrow 3G: Bass Boost on Arrow is different compared to ZO2 as the bass region alone is boosted. Bass boost I is better as II is a bit too bloated for my tastes. The sub-bass boost is much better than ZO2, though it loses a tightness at Bass Boost II. Overall, it has a slightly darker tonality, which makes 535 a bit 'neutral' sounding. Mid range is pushed back a bit and the sound stage size feels much bigger compared to the forward, intimate stage straight out of iPad 3. Arrow does the best in sound stage size perception.

    2SD: Fantastic amp. The sound is so clean and well etched. UHA6S is 'light footed' as it decays a tad faster. The bass, while lacking the boost of ZO2 and 3G, has a touch more impact compared to UHA 6S. Compared to 6S, the mids are placed a tad back, but the sound stage is also wider. Both factors make 6S seem more intimate sounding among the two. Imaging and layering is a tad better on 6S. I liked 2SD the most of all the amps I tried today, though 6S was not far behind. One issue with both these amps is that they pick EMI interference (2SD slightly worse). Damn! I couldn't keep my phone around either of them :(
    #7 esanthosh, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
    itsvel06 likes this.

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