Shure 535 LTD – Review

I had to go to Boston, Massachusetts a few months ago with some work related stuff. After the first day in Boston, I started thinking that a pair of in ear headphones wouldn’t be a bad idea, as I already missed listening to my music. I said to myself that I don’t want to spend too much money on them and I’ve ordered the Shure SE 215k, which should be very good for the money. I got them the next day, but the night before I was already looking at the Shure 535 and I felt sorry I didn’t buy them.

The next morning a colleague of mine saw my tab page opened on Shure 535 amazon page and said that I should buy them and sell the 215k to him. In the next 10 minutes I was already waiting for their delivery, but I chose to go with the Shure 535 LTD which some say to have better clarity and more treble.

Do I need to say that when I received them I was already looking at SE846?

General Presentation &  Specs

These little red headphones seem to be very durable showing good build quality. The cable is thick and seems resistant also, giving me confidence that if I accidentally tension it with a mechanical action, it won’t break easily.

0a Shure 535 LTD Review (1)

Technical Specifications

SE535LTD – Red Transducer type Triple balanced-armature drivers

Sensitivity (at 1khz)- 119 dB SPL/mW

Impedance (at 1kHz) 36 Ω

Frequency Range 18 Hz – 19.5 kHz

Input connector 3.5mm (1/8 in.) gold-plated stereo plug Net weight 30 g (1 oz.)

Operational temperature -18° C to 57° C (0° F to 135° F)

Storage temperature -29° C to 74° C (-20° F to 165° F)

They also come with different sleeves that are very important in getting a good fit. So you have to try more of them to see which suit you more. If you don’t use the right ones,  you won’t get the most out of these headphones.  The package also contains a  3.5 to 6.3 adapter, and a resistant carrying case.

If you buy them, don’t forget to read the manual, as you have to clean/perform maintenance on them from time to time.

Listening Impressions and Tests

The tests were performed with iFi iDSD Micro,  Shure 535-LTD, Sennheiser IE800, FiiO X5, FiiO E12A

FiiO E12A Review (1)

When I started listening to my 535 LTD for the first time I was quite disappointed. The sound was too bright for me as the upper midrange and lower treble was too aggressive for my taste.  I was quite surprising for me as from what I’ve read about 535, they should be smooth and very enjoyable. Then after looking around a bit, I found out that LTD is actually a normal 535 with another filter that does exactly what I did not like in the sound.

Adding FiiO E12A to my X5 was the first step that made me like them more as it gave a smother sound with better bass and a lot clearer sound than on X5 which actually inserted a hiss on the very sensitive 535. With E12A, they were dead silent.

Turning the bass boost on made my day. I started to enjoy the sound and in time became very attached to it. The bass boost was exactly what I needed to reduce the effect of the midrange/treble boost.

One day, I had to go UltimateSound.ro  to take care of some unfinished business.  By the way, did you know that we have a Custom IEM manufacturer here in Romania? I have seen their work and they are truly professional!

A lot of music bands and singers from Romania bought his products and are quite happy with them! I have met Cristi, the owner of Ultimate Sound a few months back and he is a great guy and a professional. Hope to hear his products soon.

He took a look at my Shures and he immediately sees the filter that I had by default and he stated that this is why I have such a harsh sound. My filter was very close to the raw ( no filter) sound of the headphones, sound that is kind of aggressive on the mids/treble.

in ear monitors filters

It seems that I had the 340 ohm filter, that has an even bigger peak than the grey one in the picture above. After changing the filter to the 4700 one, it changed the sound completely, but it had too much bass and the sound was too muddy, so I got the red one which seemed ok at the moment.

This is what I have now, but I will change it soon to the green one which should sound a little more clear and sparkly than the current red one which is smooth and fun, but kind of dark and bassy overall.

At last I could listen to my music with pleasure and loose myself into it. If I cannot do that, that product is not for me.

Michael Jackson – Bad

This song was really enjoyable on the Shures. The bass was punchy and fast leading to an energetic sound. Michael’s voice had very good presence accompanied by a natural tonality. You could grasp a lot of details throughout the song, but what what I noticed was that the soundstage was a little small.

Metallica – Battery

Ah, this is what I am talking about. The famous Shure 535 mids. The guitars from the beginning was really pleasant with natural and tickling sparkle attached to the plucks. The electric guitars had body and presence, added the fast sound in general, it lead to a headbanging experience. The sound also seemed kind of closed in.

Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane

Again the acoustic guitars at the beginning were quite impressive, showing good attack on the plucks and good string extension. Before adding the new filter, I wanted more bass, now the bass was kicking my ass from every direction on this song. It had a very strong kick and I think it would be wonderful for bass heads, but a little too much for me. What I would love more at the bass would be a little more detail and extension to make it more enjoyable and more to my taste.

J.S. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major 

The instruments sounded natural and the song was overall enjoyable but it was kind of closed in to make this piece truly shine . Changing the foam tips to the spongy yellow ones did help a little in achieving a bigger soundstage. This is where IE800 quite better, as it beat the 535 in soundstage, instrument separation and details. What I did like more on the 535 was the tonality which was closer to real life than IE800 which sounded a little unnatural. Also some instruments had a little more presence on the 535, as IE800 has a V shaped sound. 

Mercedes Sosa – Kyrie

The 535 really shine on this song. The magical mids take the lead and offer a great performance. The drum in the beginning has a good impact and this time and especially with the yellow sleeves, I didn’t find the sound too closed in. Mercede Sosa’s voice and the chorus were very present and natural leading to a very emotional listening experience.

Mike Oldfield – Muse

I admit it, I am a very big fan of the midrange section and the 535 really delivers in this area. I just loved the guitars on this song. The plucks presented a very smooth and natural sound but also accompanied by a strong pluck with sparkly extensions.

Natural Blues – Moby

These little headphones really become addictive after a while. This voice had something special here, an emotional extension and presence that made me loose myself into it, forgetting what I was doing at the moment.

Shure 535 LTD Review (4)

Summary

Bass

With the stock filter that the Shure 535 LTD came with, I really found the bass to be weak and lacking. Changing the filter to the red one made it really enjoyable bringing more presence on the bass region, making the sound fuller. It also added to the impact and extension. This bass really knows how to kick you around as it has a very strong punch and is quite controlled. Overall I liked it, but I would have wanted a little more detail and textures on the bass region.

Midrange

This is where these headphones shine. I am a big fan of this region and these headphones got me with this part really good. I love the instruments and voices as they have something special that makes me lose myself in the songs. They are smooth but energetic with good impact and also natural and very pleasant to the ears. (With the stock filter, the midrange was too aggressive)

Voices

The voices are amazing on them, having a very natural tonality with very good scenic presence and emotional textures and extension.

Treble

The treble is well tamed, especially with the red filter and it is not as extended and sparkly as I would like them to be, but it lets the midrange shine and that is good enough for me.

Transients

The transients on 535 is fast and have an exploding attack. You can feel the string plucks, leading to a energetic and visceral sound presentation. Visceral as possible with in ears, as you can’t feel the instruments like with full sized headphones, but  still very enjoyable.

Natural Sound

I have found them to sound quite life like and this makes them very enjoyable. The instruments and voices have an analogue and natural tone that helps you get more emerged into the music.

Soundstage

The soundstage is a little closed in, especially if you use the grey rubber  sleeves. Getting the yellow spongy ones or the foam ones help a little, but they just solve a little part of the problem.

Compared to IE800

iFI Micro iDSD Review (3)

Bass

The bass on IE800 is better extended and textured while the one on 535 has a stronger punch. Overall, IE800 wins here.

Midrange

The midrange is kind of recessed on IE800. The initial model I have reviewed didn’t have this problem from what I remember. 535 had a more present midrange that lead to more present and natural voices and overall to a more emotional listening experience. The mids on IE800 were however more detailed than the ones on 535, even though they are further in the back. Overall I would pick the Shures in this section.

Treble

While the treble on IE800 is a little sibilant, it is better extended, sparkly and detailed compared to the one in 535.

Tonality

I feel that the Shures had a more pleasant and natural tonality compared to IE800 bringing the sound closer to real life, especially with voices.

Soundstage, Imaging and Instrument Separation

You know when in a box match one player K.O.s the other in the first 10 seconds? Well….kind of the case here. IE800 completely knocks out the 535 in this department.

Details

I would go and say that in this region, 535 would be Audeze LCD-2 and IE800 would be HD800. The conclusion is that I hear new stuff with IE800 after I listen with the 535.

Conclusion

While these headphones have an extremely different sound signature and could be very well a matter of preferences between the two, IE800 wins from a technical perspective.

I love listening to classical music on IE800 and I didn’t hear any in ear yet to beat it on this section. However, I do prefer rock and vocals on Shure 535 overall.

Shure 535 LTD Review (6)

Conclusions

I was lucky enough to meet with Cristi from Ultimate Sound and changed the stock filter on 535 LTD which I found to be horrible.  I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy myself with these headphones and I would have sold them quite quickly.

With the red filter they became truly enjoyable.

As many other people said, I am a fan of the midrange on 535 as well, as they really create a special sound experience.

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Durable and detachable cable
  • Very good and rich midrange that adds emotion to the music
  • Good bass with strong pungh and control
  • Fast transients with very strong attack
  • Natural tonality

Cons

  • I would enjoy better extension and texture on the bass section
  • The treble would need more sparkle and detail
  • Small soundstage
  • The stock filter that comes with Shure 535 LTD  sucks as it has a very aggressive upper midrange
  • A little pricey