The bronze-hued Shure SE535 sits atop the storied brand’s in-ear headphone lineup. A hard clamshell case holds the ’phones, plus an assortment of different rubber, foam, and “flange” tips. The rubber tips look like standard rounded earphone tips, while the foam ones are yellow and look more like cylinder pipe insulation for really, really tiny pipes. The flange tips (several of the ’phones in this roundup had these) look like tiny conifer trees. Inside the SE535 are three “High-Definition MicroDrivers,” which Shure rates at 18 Hz to 19 kHz and a capable-of-brain-crushing 119 dB.
I liked the small foam tips the best and used these throughout. Comfort was good, though there was more physical in-ear pressure than with the custom JH16 Pro, as you’d expect. Also, the earphones hang in the ear rather oddly, with the wires leading upward and over your ears. The JH16 Pro did this, too, but with the combination of the SE535 and my ears, the cabling just wouldn’t stay in place, falling in front and threatening to pull the earphones out. Isolation from the real world was very good.
Sound quality was highly neutral. Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar’s detailed acoustic guitars on “California Zephyr” (included on the soundtrack One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music from Kerouac’s Big Sur) had a wonderful sense of realism and presence. I did hear a slight coloration in the midrange, but overall the SE535’s sound was very accurate. Bass wasn’t quite as intense as with some of the other ’phones tested here, but it could also be argued that those models are all too bass-heavy.