Every now and then a product comes along that is just good at what it does. Occasionally these tend to do many things at once, while in other cases they just tend to focus on a specific task. Being able to perform just one or several tasks so well, these sometimes completely raise the bar and makes you think differently about products in a certain category. In some instances they even reach an iconic status. While In-Ear-Monitors have yet to reach that iconic status in the eyes of the general public (I think they should), the former can be said about the Shure SE530PTH, which this time is the subject of our review. The SE530PTH isn’t a do-it-all product, but rather chooses to concentrate on a single task: produce sound, but it does this so wonderfully well, that it has easily raised this reviewer’s expectations and made me think differently about earphones in general. But there’s a catch of course: this type of performance does come at a cost, placing it firmly into the luxury accessory category and putting it out of reach for the average consumer. This review is set to answer several key questions when it comes to the Shure SE530PTH: Is it really worth its price and are music lovers better off with cheaper alternatives? How does the Shure SE530PTH compare to one of our all-time favorites, the Etymotic ER-4P?’, ‘As always, let’s start by looking at the technical specifications.
•Sound Isolating Design
•Speaker Type: Triple TruAcoustic Microspeakers
•2-Year Limited Warranty
• Included Premium Fit Kit (with additional 9” extension cable)
•Color:Available in metallic bronze only
•Transducer type:Triple balanced-armature drivers
•Impedance (at 1kHz): 36 W
•DC Resistance: 18 W
•Sensitivity (1mW): 119 dB SPL/mW
•Impedance (1kHz): 36
•Frequency Range: 18Hz – 19kHz
•Cable Length/with Extension: 18 in. / 45cm (54 in. / 136cm)
•Input connector 3.5 mm (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)
1.1:The Shure SE530PTH
\r\nThe SE530PTH, formerly known as the E500PTH, is Shure’s flagship Canalphones or In-Ear Monitor (IEM) and replaces their former top IEM: the E5c. Basically there are 4 types of headphones: Circumaural (these have pads that go around the ears), Supra-aural (have pads that go on top of the ears), Earbuds/Earphones (are placed directly outside of the ear canal, but without fully enveloping it) and Canalphones or In-Ear Monitors (IEM). IEM are ear buds that sit just outside the ear canal and fully envelop it. IEM were developed originally for musicians trying to monitor their performance in loud onstage environments. While Shure markets them as “Sound Isolating Earphones,” the SE530PTH falls firmly into the Canalphones or In-Ear Monitor category. By sitting directly inside the ear canal and fully enveloping it, IEM serve a double duty: besides producing sound, they also act as earplugs to block out environmental noise. This not only has its advantages when it comes to isolating the listener from the outside world, but it also has its implications when it comes to the volume needed for comfortable listening, as you can listen at lower volumes due to the sound being produced doesn’t have to compete with outside noise. When it comes to performance, IEM deliver much greater dynamic range, as compared to the average earphone/earbud.
Analyzing the SE530PTH’s name, the “SE” stands for Sound-Isolating Earphone, while the 5xx designation is usually reserved for their top IEM. And last but not least the “PTH” stands for Push-to-Hear, referring to the optional Push-to-Hear accessory which we’ll talk about in a bit. While it may look like there are two versions of the SE530, in reality there’s not. The SE530 and the SE530PTH are exactly the same product with the same specifications and performance, with the inclusion of the Push-to-Hear module being the only difference. In the case of the former E500PTH there wasn’t a separate E500 product, as the Push-To Hear module was included with every unit sold. Shure made a wise decision in making the accessory optional, as not everyone would be interested in the module, which does add to the overall price. The SE530 retails for around $4949.99, while the SE530PTH costs $54499.99, a $50 premium due to the Push-to-Hear control. Buying the unit separately costs $659.99, adding an extra 10 bucks if you decide to buy the unit later on.
As already mentioned, the SE530, SE530PTH and the E500PTH are also exactly the same: the change in name from E500 to “SE530” and “SE530PTH” was done to adapt the product to the new naming scheme Shure uses across their entire line of consumer IEM which now consists of the SE530PTH/SE530, SE420, SE310, SE210 and SE110, instead of the previous
Compared to Shure’s previous flagship, the E5c, the SE530 has shed the previous clear plastic look for a much more sophisticated metallic bronze coating. On top of that it has gained an extra armature micro driver or “TruAcoustic MicroSpeaker” as Shure likes to call them. A second Woofer is thus added, totaling two woofers and a dedicated tweeter! Also worth mentioning is the fact that the SE530 and SE530PTH have a Sensitivity ( at 1mW) of 119 dB SPL/mW compared to the E5c’s 122dB SPL/mW. The newer model also has a lower Impedance (at 1kHz) of 36 ohm, when compared to the E5c’s 110 ohm which should make it ideal for Music Phones and Audio Players to drive them at good volumes.
1.1: The Push to Hear (PTH) Control
The optional Push to Hear control solves a problem that has existed ever since IEM were created. The noise-reducing properties of IEM can be considered both a blessing and a curse.IEM act as earplugs to block out environmental noise, but let’s not forget that they don’t just block noise but every single sound around you, including people trying to talk to you. Let’s imagine a typical scenario where you’d carefully put on your IEM to get the best possible sound (at first this can take some time) and just shortly after that somebody comes along and says something you. While you could always continue listening to your tunes, I bet that the person wouldn’t be that happy, so most of us would stop or pause the music. But due to the noise-reducing properties of IEM, it sometimes can be diffcult to understand what the person is saying, especially in loud environments like a busy street or airport. You could always take out your IEM, but after spending some time to properly put them on and minutes or sometimes seconds after that having to take them out again and repeating this several times a day, this will quickly become a hassle. It is for this reason Shure created the PTH control: a compact microphone accessory designed to work with Shure earphones. The unit uses it’s built-in “VoicePort” microphone to to feed the audio it’s picking up and sending it directly to you you’re the SE530 and is designed to interrupt the sound source (the source your listening to) for very brief conversations. The basic idea is that you won’t have to go through the hassle of constantly having to take out the SE530. The unit is done in the same bronze/black combo as the earphones themselves, making it a perfect match for the SE530. The unit is not only designed to work with the flagship SE530, but with their entire line of IEM. It’s bronze and black color might perfectly matches the SE530, but it will kind of look out of place with the rest of Shure’s line of IEM. Shure should consider making a black version, specifically to match the the rest of the line.
The unit consists of three parts: The main part is the the battery holder, which also houses the Power switch, Power LED, battery compartment, clip and volume control. There’s also microphone which attaches to the main battery holder through a thick cable on one end and a 3.5mm audio port on the other, where you would plug in your SE530. The last part is a 3.5mm jack that connect to your audio source.
Kudos has to be given to Shure for coming up with such a creative solution that I must say is brilliantly executed, despite a few rough edges here and there. Turning the unit On lowers the audio volume of your audio source and you immediately start to hear the sound picked up by the mic. You can control the volume of the audio being picked up by the microphone, but the problem is that Shure made such a tiny dial that it’s way too difficult to use. In the manual they show what looks like someone using the cleaning tool control the volume. Shure should have made a big dial or at least one that allows you to control this volume using your fingers and not something tiny that you’re bound to lose. Small dial aside, the PTH works amazingly well, allowing you to hear exactly what the person is hearing. Perhaps it works to good as it will give you some kind of super hearing, picking up conversations that you normally could not listen too. I was also concerned about having an adapter between the audio source and the SE530 as this could somehow affect the sound quality, but carefully listening to music with and without the unit proved that it doesn’t affect the audio at all. While the unit works extremely well, like I’ve said before it’s a bit rough around edges: for one it’s a little too big. For such small earphones that will most of the time be used in a mobile environment, I find the unit to be way too big. I do understand that it needs to house the single AAA battery, but I still have to wonder what the rest of the space is used for. The larger is somewhat alleviated by the presence of a shirt clip, but I think Shure should at least make the unit half the size it currently is. I also dislike the fact that it uses 1 AAA battery, in my opinion a not so environmentally friendly option. For this reason, Shure should just stick to a built-in rechargeable battery that could be charged via USB or an included AC adapter. Adding a built-in battery I assume would also help to make the unit a lot better.
2.1: Sound Isolation
IEM, including the SE530PTH are known for their noise-reducing characteristics. This feature didn’t happen by chance as IEM were created with noise-isolation in mind. Originally developed for musicians demanding to monitor their performance in loud onstage environments like concerts, IEM were created for professional usage and later ported for consumer use. The noise-reduction is important as the music generated by the driver is affected by external sounds. By blocking these, in similar fashion to earplugs you get a simple, natural form of noise reduction. In fact, Shure IEM block up to 37 dB of ambient noise. Because these create an isolating listening experience they allow you to hear greater details at lower volumes. Low-volume listening can be less fatiguing over extended periods and safer than turning up the volume on your headset to compete with background noise. This is done passively, compared to popular active noise canceling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort3 that are only able to block a lower amount of ambient noise. Because they actively block out sound with the use of electronics they are heavier/bulkier, are battery driven and generate tones that can only target selected frequencies. Headphones using an active noise canceling system can even add additional audio artifacts, including the audio hiss found in many active noise canceling headphones. Sound isolation depends on a good seal created and the interchangeable sleeves play a key role here. It’s a good thing too that Shure provides different sizes and types of these sleeves as it will increase the chances for the consumer to find just the right fit. The is important, not only when you consider the various shapes in ears and the need to have different sleeves to accommodate them , but also the varying opinions as to which sleeve type is more comfortable use. Included were three sizes (Small, Medium and Large) of the Flex and Black Foam Sleeves as well as a pair of the Triple Flange Sleeves. In the end it all comes down to just trying the different sleeves and seeing what works best.
When it comes to passive noise-reduction, the SE530 is no different than other IEM. Having them on feels similar to being under water, you see things happening around you but the sound is highly recessed or completely blocked once you start pumping your tunes. Shure states that their IEMs are able to block up to 37 dB of ambient noise. A quick look at the Etymotic’s ER-4P specs reveals that it’s able to block up to 42dB of ambient noise. Doing a quick comparison between the ER-4P and the SE530PTH shows this to be true with the Etymotic being able to effectively block more of the external sounds. Personally I think the extra noise-reducing characteristics of the Etymotic is in part due to the the large Foam sleeves that they use. Shure should take a close at these and try to use the same kind of material. On top of that, when you look at the Etymotic ER-4P you’ll see that its shape is almost completely elongated, making not only the sleeve but also the rest of the “body” help in reducing noise. To make things clear, I am comparing the two IEM when no music is playing, once you do get the music going, it’s pretty much a tie as you won’t be able to hear a thing. Listening at reasonable to high volumes you can be pretty sure that on both models you won’t hear a anything other than your music.
2.2:Sound Isolation: The Sleeves
The sleeves play a vital role when it comes to IEM and with the SE530 it’s no exception: they not only block ambient noise, but they have the very difficult task of providng a tight fit and and yet feel comfortable at the same time. Those new to IEM have to get accustomed to the Triple Flange due to their pointy nature and due to the fact that these end up going a bit deeper inside the ear canal. In the beginning these are probably the ones most people feel uncomfortable using. But once you do get used to them, they are sure to get the most out of any IEM. When it comes to Foam sleeves I can comment that these are very comfortable and expand and provide extra amounts of isolation and because you can easily roll them up and they’ll expand once inside the ear, they are also probably the easiest to use and thus recommended for the first time user. On the other hand these will easily get dirty and cannot be cleaned with a simple wash like the Triple Flange or Flex sleeves. Another annoyance about Foam sleeves in general is that with time they’ll lose their ability to expand, which will have an adverse effect on its ability to create a tight seal. It is for this reason they are also the type of sleeves that you’ll have to change more often. Flex sleeves are high on comfort, but will take some time to get the seal just right.
What about the sleeves included in the package? In my opinion Shure did a fairly good job in providing different sizes and shapes, but some small changes are needed when it comes to the included Foam and Triple Flange sleeves to make the package perfect. The Foam sleeves included with the SE530PTH are a bit different in the sense that they seem to be a hybrid between Foam and Flex sleeves when it comes to the shape and material. Other Foam sleeves I’ve seen before, like the ones included with the Etymotic ER-4P are much much larger and it is this excess of material that helps in providing extra isolation. Shure should consider making these a bit bigger to help noise-reduction. Instead of focusing on including three different size, they should just make them oversized, as their ability to expand will make them ideal for just about any ear, making the inclusion of three sizes of the foam pretty much unnecessary. On another note, when it comes to the material itself I’m happy to report that these are a step ahead of anything I’ve seen so far, because you can wipe them of and remove ear wax with something like a wet cloth, consequently you will probably be able to use them a bit longer than your conventional Foam sleeves. Regular Foam sleeves have tiny openings in the material and it’s due to this that ear wax gets inside, making it impossible to clean. The included Shure Foam sleeves are made of this foamy material that has this almost glossy looking surface, allowing you to easily wipe them clean. When analyzing them, they will easily fool the untrained eye into thinking that these are Flex sleeves and it’s only until you squeeze these you’ll be able to tell that these are in fact Foam sleeves. While Shure seems to have solved the problem of being able to clean Foam sleeves, one thing that hasn’t changed is their tendency to lose the ability to expand with use, which again comes down to the fact that you can only use them for a certain period. This is not Shure’s fault but rather an inevitable characteristic of this type of material. When it comes to the included Flex sleeves there isn’t much to complain here as these seems to be Shure’s sleeves of choice and also the type of sleeve they expect most consumers to use, judging by the fact that in the product shots Shure IEM always sport Flex sleeves. These are handy in the sense that you can wash them and because they sit very comfortably inside the ear, providing good sound quality. These however will take a little bit more effort to get the seal just right. A plus point goes to Shure for the inclusion of three sizes. Last but not least, I have to say that the included Triple Flange does an “OK” job, but it would have been better if they had included three sizes, as these don’t have the expanding qualities of foam sleeves. I also found the material used to be of a lower quality and stiff type of plastic, that I’m sure will get loose with usage and washing, but it isn’t as good as the soft and flexible material used on Etymotic earphones.
As I pointed out earlier, one of the advantages of IEM is having the ability to change sleeves and because the SE530 uses this system, you can always swap them with for custom-fit earphone sleeves. Shure recommends those created by Sensaphonics, which manufactures them using your very own ear molds. The process involves making molds with the help of your Audiologist and sending these in to Sensaphonics. The advantage of custom sleeves comes from the fact that they will improve the performance of your earphones with greater isolation and a more secure fit. It would be pretty sweet and definitely not something I’ve seen from competitors if Shure could somehow include a coupon for a free pair of custom-fit sleeves for their high-end earphones like the SE420 and SE530 or future high-end models. When it comes to sleeves Shure did a good job, by including various types and sizes of sleeves. But they should have included different size of the triple flange and used a different type of material, like the ones used with Etymotic products. LastLy they should consider oversized foam sleeves, as this seems to help with isolation and to improve the sound.
2.3: Sound Isolation: Comfort
Most IEM will feel uncomfortable at first, but after about a week’s usage you’ll barely notice that they are there. I can’t say much about this “first time usage” as it’s been quite a long time since I used my first IEM and during that time I’ve gotten quite accustomed to IEM and how to properly put them on. But what I can say is that Shure has been a long time known not only for their IEM with excellent audio performance, but also comfort when wearing them. The SE530 doesn’t disappoint in this area,staying true to Shure tradition. In fact, among all the earphones I’ve tried before these have got to be the most comfortable! Compared to the Etymotic ER-4P, the Shure has the definite edge, which I think has to do with the distinct shape of the SE530’s body. Even Shure’s E4c which isn’t much different in shape from the current SE420, can be considred way behind the flagship SE530. If you take a look at your Outer ear, specifically the part called the “Concha,” which is the area of the Outer ear right before the Ear canal, you’ll notice that the Shure SE530PTH’s shape perfectly fits this area, while comfortably using the sleeve to fully envelope the Ear canal opening. Other earphones like the Etymotice ER-4P for example have a more pointy shape that in the end feels less comfortable to wear and are also more likely to feel uncomfortable with prolonged use. I found myself using the Shure SE530PTH for very long periods without feeling uncomfortable and in many cases even forgetting that I had them on. Another factor that made a lot of difference was the fact that the SE530’s body is completely characterized by flowing shapes and completely smooth surface. This makes putting them on or taking off quite an effortless task in the sense that they just comfortably glide into place.
Shure suggests wearing the SE530 either over-the-ear in back or over-the-ear in front. Personally I found the over-the-ear in front worked. With the secure fit of the SE530’s body in the Concha, the sleeve in the ear canal and the cable going around each ear, there would be absolutely no way the Shure could come out or even dropped. When it comes to comfort the SE530 scores big and probably one of the best on the market.
3.1: Design and Package
The SE530 actually comes in 3 layers of packaging: a clear plastic layer that surrounds everything, a black, silver and red outer package with the usual product name and underneath it all, a very nice, two-piece black and silver metal cube box. At this price-point I wouldn’t expect anything else, as many luxury products tend to go all out on the presentation and included accessories. Shure doesn’t disappoint here by providing a high-end and sophisticated looking metal package that could very well serve as a luxury gift without the need for any gift-wrapping. Just one look at the package and you’d most certainly start to think that there must be something really special inside. The metal box has a very understated design, where the upper part fits right on top of the lower half. The bottom part is done in a silver metal look, while the upper part is done in black, while both are finished in a scratched metal look with the Shure logo on top. Shure has basically stuffed the SE530PTH’s package with plenty of accessories that are actually useful. Inside you’ll find:
– Three sizes (Small, Medium and Large) of the Flex sleeves
– Three sizes (Small, Medium and Large) of the Black Foam sleeves
-1 pair of the Triple Flange Sleeves
– 3” extension cable
– Carrying case
– Volume control
– ¼” adapter
– Airline adapter
One of the included tools I feel deserves special attention is the cleaning tool. The cleaning tool might seem like an unimportant little tool, but after using several IEM it’s one of those handy little things I’ve come to appreciate, allowing you to get to those difficult to clean areas in the Nozzle/Damper or Sleeve. It’s in fact so handy that I found myself “borrowing” Shure’s cleaning tool to use with other manufacturer’s IEM. Considering the fact that this little tool is probably very inexpensive to make, I have to wonder why other manufacturers haven’t included such an accessory.
Other small, but thoughtful things include the ¼” Adapter which turns the 3.5mm SE530 compatible with audio solutions that have a ¼” jack. For travelers there’s also a handy dual-prong Airline Adapter which also turns the SE530 compatible with in-flight entertainment systems and a Level Attenuator, allowing for comfortable listening from any high-output audio source, including airplane armrests. Typical for most IEM, there’s also an included carrying case but fortunately Shure uses a newly designed high quality case, instead of going for one those cheap cases that barely protects the IEMs. This new case is much larger and sports an oval shape whereas the previous case had a round shape. The case is large enough to hold all accessories except for the Push-to-Hear module which I do admit is on the large side. Inside there’s a lack of any dividers to keep the accessories separated from the SE530. Shure should include a separate compartment inside (with zipper) to keep the accessories away from the IEM, especially considering the fact that there’s enough space to accomplish this. Shure should also consider giving the new case a two-stage design where you could store the Push-to-Hear module in the upper half and a lower half with separated compartments for the rest of the accessories and and the SE530 to prevent them from getting scratched.
When it comes to the package Shure does an excellent job when it comes to presentation and included accessories. The high-quality metal case looks good and is something worthy of the overall $500 tag and Shure goes all the way by stuffing the package with usefull accessories. Only thing Shure needs to do now is go back to the drawing board and come up with a two-stage carrying case capable of carrying and protecting the IEM, accessories and the rather large Push-to-Hear Module.
Taking a look at the IEM itself, first thing you’ll notice is the shiny metallic bronze coating, unusual shape and inwards bending nozzle, typical to high-end IEM. This shape isn’t just for show, but is purposely chosen to tightly fit into the part of the outer ear known as the Concha. The inwards bending nozzle didn’t happen by chance as the ear canal in most ears bends inwards and up, back or just straight in. While Shure could have gone with an all-black or grey metallic look, they added a touch of bling by giving the body a shiny bronze color. This isn’t wouldn’t have been my first choice in color, but I do have to admit that the bronze coating does look extremely good on the SE530 and it does separate these from the rest, giving it a rather unique look. Even if you weren’t aware of the price, taking a close look at the SE530 reveals that this isn’t your typical IEM and that there is something “unusual” going on. Although most people I showed it too couldn’t guess the price, they did however comments that the product had a “high-end feel” to it and that it probably costs “a lot.” The parts tightly fit and the materials don’t give the impression of being some cheap plastic. One concern I had when Shure first send me the SE530 was the fact that many products with these shiny surfaces en up getting scratched up quite badly, but I’m happy to report that after a few months of usage with let’s say a less-than-careful usage and even dropping it a few times, there isn’t a single scratch on the metallic bronze body, clearly showing that the nice looking coating used on the SE530 isn’t just for show! I also noticed that due to the slippery surface, dirt and ear wax doesn’t stick to the body, making easy to clean with a damp cloth. The body actually has a two-tone design: the upper part of the body has the aforementioned metallic bronze color, while the lower part that connects to the cable has a rubbery finish. The high-quality feel of the SE530 continues with the fairly thick heavy duty cable used. Despite its thickness it’s not overly so, making it quite flexible. Shure suggests wearing the SE530 with the cable going over the ear in back, over the ear in front , but just straight down sticking out of the ear would also work. I did find that the Shure’s recommendation works best as this makes sure the earphones sit more securely into the ear. Shure has also created a cable sleeve that helps to tighten the cable. This sleeves works really well as without the cable would have been more likely to move around an increase the chances pulling the earphones out. Shure has done a great job hear as the over-the-ear cable wearing style and cable sleeve combo made sure that the SE530 stayed securely inside the ear, even during extreme activities, very impressive.
While we are on the subjects of cables, if you’re familiar with IEM in general, one thing you are probably aware of is what is known as microphonics, where in some instances when the cable hits against your body,it generates a loud thudding sounds that is heard no matter how high you’ve set the volume. While some people don’t mind this, others may find this very annoying as it interrupts the otherwise impressive performance IEM are capable of. It is for this reason many IEM are unsuitable for many activities that require a lot of movement like aerobics for example, as these activities would constantly let the cable hit against the body, creating that loud thudding sound. I don’t know what Shure does to prevent this, but microphonics wasn’t an issue with the SE530. No matter what activity I did I just couldn’t get this to happen. I even tried holding the cable and hitting against my body or a plastic table without any luck of creating this effect. Those planning on looking for an IEM for sports activities should seriously consider the SE530. Microphonics aside, the cable does keep moving around and it would have been nice if Shure had included a shirt clip.
One of the unique features of the SE530 and something I really liked about it (besides the audio quality) has to be the Modular cable design. You know how some IEM have cables that are too long, while in some cases it’s just too short to be useful? Add the fact that what is considered “long” or “short” when it comes to cables varies from person to person or it depends on the situation and you will quickly end up with a hell of a situation for IEM manufacturers. Shure seems to have solved this in a very simple yet ingenious way by creating a modular cable system where it’s just a matter of adding a extensions when you need or leaving them out when you don’t. Shure was even kind enough to include two extension: a 3-foot cable (91 cm) and a much shorter one (about 10 cm), while the cable on the SE530 itself is about 9”(23 cm). Due to the fact that the SE530 uses the universal 3.5mm and the included short extension allows you to connect any 3.5mm cable, this means you could easily buy any standard 3.5mm cable at any at any length and it should work just fine with the SE530.
On the inside Shure has equipped the SE530 with not one, but three armature drivers that consist of two woofers and one tweeter. It’s no wonder that the Shure is using two woofers for to handle bass, as the lower frequencies have always been Shure’s strong point and it does make sense for them to leave the task for not one but two woofers. Interestingly Shure has decided to let a single Tweeter handle the task of both mid-range and high frequencies, instead of opting for dedicated woofers for each frequencies range. I would love to see Shure add dedicated drivers for both the mid and high frequencies, as you’ll see in the Performance section the SE530 does overall extremely well and probably the best I’ve heard so far, but there’s definitely room for improvement when it comes to the high frequencies.
In the end you just have can’t help but be amazed by the technical marvel that is the SE530, especially considering the compact size of the body. Shure has managed to stuff a considerable amount technology into an outer shell no bigger than your average earphone.
Let’s get one thing straight, the SE530 is probably the best sounding IEM under $1000, coming close and sometimes even rivaling the sonic performance of IEM I’ve had the pleasure of listening to that cost twice as much! Once I started listening to these bad boys, I quickly forgot about every small flaw in the design or package, it was now nothing but me and the sound. Listening to the SE530 is an experience all on its own, that is just very difficult to describe and better left to be experienced, but clearly worthy of its $500 price tag. When I first started listening I was impressed by the extremely balanced, dynamic and definitely meaty sound that was effortlessly being produced by the SE530. There are IEM that can just as impressively produce certain frequencies, but again, Shure’s flagship represents the best all-rounder under the $1000 price range. The sound produced is very detailed, characterized by a solid, deep, tight and detailed base and overall uniform sound, without any dramatic emphasis on the lows, mids or highs. Shure IEM do have the tendency to sound warm, indicating the slight preference toward the mids and lows, while competitors like the Etymotic ER-4P sound a lot brighter.The SE530’s deep, tight and detailed bass was evident when listening to THX’s world’s deepest bass and IACA’s Do you like the pressure. It does this while keeping it all together, even at high listening levels. The reason why I mention this is because many IEM do a wonderful job at the lower listening volumes but once you crank up the volume they start to sound a bit edgy or totally loose composure. With the right audio system, the SE530 has the capability of showing every single detail in an audio performance, especially when it comes to DVD-Audio, SACD discs or CD’s ripped in the WAV or WMA lossless format. Those new to IEM and especially in the case of the SE530 will almost always be amazed by the level of detail, hearing small yhings that even some high-end speakers fail to produce. This level of detail adds a breath of fresh to your current audio collection as you’ll be discovering small details you previously might have missed. In one particular song for example I could clearly hear clapping hands and even a whistle in the background when using the SE530, something I had never noticed before. This type of detail does have its disadvantages when it comes to crappy low-quality mp3 files. Everything below the 192kbps will sound simply horrible as the Shure will make the audio compression and audio artifacts very noticecable.
One area where high-end IEM distinguish themselves from the mid and entry level model is in the mid range. Most of the time they do a convincing job in the high and low ranges but the mids are often overpowered by the mids and high. I’ve also noticed that male voices are rarely produced in a convincing way. Shure’s strong point has always been in the bass /midrange and with the SE530 it’s no different: detailed and warm are the words I would use to describe the mids. Vocals shine with the SE530 and truly have a lot of presence.
When it comes to the highs, the SE530 does an impressive job, although the $300 Etymotic ER-4P does out perform it in this area. That will probably remain the only part where the ER-4P has an advantage over the SE530, as the latter clearly leaps and bounds better. With a MSRP of almost twice the price of the the ER-4P, the Shure’s clear performance advantage doesn’t come as a surprise . A comparison with our current favorite IEM, the Etymotic ER-4P, clearly places Shure on top. However there’s no denying the Etymotic Etyomotic ER-4P’s performance in the upper parts of the sound frequency and the fact that it’s probably one of the best values in IEM.
The SE530 is the best sounding IEM under the $1000 range. Period. With its balanced sound, convincing mids and impressive bass, the best way to describe the SE530 is just: Impressive. The Shure SE530 has dramatically changed how this reviewers looks at IEM in general. Competitor like Ultimate Ears that sometimes cost twice the price of the SE530 should seriously be taking a very close look at Shure’s offering. Despite the high price, the SE530 is worth every single cent, but its definitely not the best in value. The performance gap between the Shure and the Etymotic ER-4P is quite large with the SE530 being the clear overall winner, although the ER-4P does perform better at the higher frequencies. The overall best values in IEM still go to the ER-4P and ER-6. The SE530 oozes quality and the overall presentation and package is worthy of the high asking price. Shure has literally stuffed the package with useful goodies, although they should consider making larger Foam sleeves and three sizes of the Triple flange sleeves. It would also help if they used a more flexible kind of plastic for the Triple flange.
The PTH control is a creative solution to and old IEM problem and it’s just brilliantly executed, although I wish the unit was smaller, had a bigger audio control dial and used rechargeable batteries.
Personally, of all the gadgets I have, the Shure SE530 is probably the best. Despite a few shortcoming, such a performance will make you them and the price. For this reason the Shure SE530 deserves nothing but a 10 of 10.
Best performing IEM under $1000
Impressive presentation and package (metal box)
Package stuffed with useful accessories
PTH works really well and makes conversations with SE530 possiible
Cheaper Ety ER-4P outperforms it in the high frequencies
Triple flange sleeves are a bit stiff and only one size included
Foam sleeves should be oversized
Highs could be improved
PTH control is too big, no rechargeable batteries, small volume control dial
No place to store PTH in case’, 2670, 3, 0, 0, ‘admin’, 1, ‘R’),