Shure has built a strong reputation for providing professional musicians with the absolute best sound-quality on stage and in the studio. But are they worth such a large investment for average commuter or music lover? I wore them as my daily headphones for a while to find out.
- Incredible sound quality
- Good isolation without ANC
- Extremely comfortable
- Very expensive
- Can be fiddly to put on
Shure 535 release date and price
The Shure SE535 are certainly a premium product. The American audio giant sells multiple versions of these headphones, but the edition I tested came with both the Bluetooth 5 wireless connection and a 3.5mm cable with a remote and microphone. This most feature-rich package costs $549 if you buy directly from Shure. If you opt for the non-wireless version, you can save $50. The Shure SE535 comes in bronze or red.
You get a load of stuff in the box for your money, including soft flex sleeves, foam sleeves, triple-flange sleeves (for extra isolation), a carry case, a 1/4-inch adapter, and both the Bluetooth connection cable and a regular universal 3.5mm cable have a remote and microphone for taking calls.
Incredible comfort and build quality
The actual design on the Shure 535s has been around since 2010, but the wireless aspect has been added more recently. Shure calls these 'Sound Isolating' earphones. That means you are not getting active noise cancellation here, and the job of filtering out unwanted noise is done through a secure fit rather than through technology. The idea is that you can achieve the same kind of sound isolation you can with ANC, passively.
The sound isolation technique is certainly successful. The Shure 535s are incredibly comfortable to wear once you've played around with the multitude of tips and connections that come in the box. These are not your average in-ear headphones, and those looking for something to pull out of a bag and quickly throw in their ears might find them frustrating. But those who invest a little work into getting he fit right will quickly realize that active noise cancellation is not really needed here - I certainly didn't miss it. The sound isolation is good but the headphones don't block the ear canal so that you get that strange, underwater, sensation. There's a nice balance here.
The build quality is superb, but that's what you expect for this kind of money. Interestingly, the earphones themselves disconnect from the cables completely for safe storage. The individual earphones are light, and each side features three speakers in total, (one tweeter, two woofers).
The cable that connects to each earphone, and thus is designed to sit behind your ear when you wear them, is stiff. This is so that you can shape the wire into a comfortable position, increasing wearing comfort and stability. It's a successful design, but it does make the Shure 535s more of a pain to put on. A little patience is required here. For the busy commuter, they're not ideal.
Incredible sound, if you can have it available
Sound quality is where these earphones live and die. Nobody is spending $550 on a pair of Shure's for average audio. I'd go as far as to say that if you are seriously shopping for this kind of product, the sound is probably the only thing that matters to you. Fortunately for the company, then, the sound is superb.
Most headphones on the market today tend to favor one end of the frequency spectrum over another. Manufacturers identify markets and tune their headphones to cater to that market. This is why the thump of hip hop sounds great on Beats over-ears, given their origins and the fact that Dr. Dre is among the founders. Others go for a sparkle in the high end or a really balanced EQ for podcasts and classical music genres. The Shure 535 don't really fall into this any of these categories, because everything sounds great on these, proving you can feed them something of high enough quality in the first place - and that's not easy, or cheap.
If you wear the Shure 535s as a replacement for your regular commuter or office headphones as I did, you start to notice things you did not in the past. Spotify sounds different to YouTube Music, podcasts that used to sound the same as each other in terms of audio quality suddenly sound miles apart. The Shure 535s really expose the quality of the recording in ways that your $50 or $100 earphones simply can't. It's a testament to Shure's engineers and what these earphones can do, but it's also a curse for some regular listeners.
To get the most out of your $550 high-end earphones, you need a high-end audio player to do them any justice. Plugging these into a regular smartphone via the 3.5mm headphone jack is also largely a waste. They won't sound bad, of course, but unless you own an LG phone with quad-DAC audio, you're not hearing even 25 percent of what the Shure 535s can offer. Better still, something like the Astell & Kern Kann is what you really want for making the most of these headphones, and that's going to cost you close to another thousand bucks.
Up to 8 hours of wireless audio joy
The included Bluetooth 4 earphone communication cable means that you can enjoy the Shure 535s wirelessly. You get up to 8 hours of battery life from this little chip. It's a little more cumbersome than what some people will be used to with the recent explosion of true wireless headphones. You essentially wear the Bluetooth connection like a necklace. It's fine, I guess, but it's not as comfortable as a neckband for me. I didn't find any reason to doubt the 8-hour battery life during my test.
The Shure 535s are, without doubt, one of the best pairs of earphones I've ever heard in terms of audio quality, transparency, and pure audio joy. The manufacturer's reputation for professional-grade products oozes out these. For audiophiles who want the absolute best sound quality, the 535s can certainly do a job as everyday earphones.
For those who listen to Spotify, Soundcloud or other music streaming services, the Shure 535s are overkill to the extreme. You simply won't be hearing your $550's worth unless you feed them with higher quality audio such as a 320kbps MP3 file or the Tidal music service. At CES 2020 last week, Shure announced two new wireless products, including a pair of true wireless earbuds. Those could be the ones to wait for if you are looking for amazing sound and modern practicality.