HOME / PRINT
Shure SE530 Earphones
It’s a well-known fact that earphones bundled with MP3 players (yes, even the iPod) look and sound plasticky, and anyone serious about music should consider replacing them. The device I’m reviewing today is meant for those who do not believe in audio compression at all; and who need to hear every nuance at the highest audible frequency. Let me warn you that the product is ridiculously expensive, so stay away if you're either broke or skeptical! The rest of us can take a look at the high-end Shure SE530 in-ear earphones.
Design and Features
These earphones have a globular structure, with the driver jutting out from the front of the round surface, tilted slightly inwards at a 45-degree angle. This is a different form factor from the regular straight protruding earbuds, and are bit more interesting. The surface of the driver housing is a reflective metallic one.
Vital accessories are included with the unit, which is a hard shell pouch. This includes a packet of different types of sleeves and a cleaning device, a thin black rod that does the necessary earwax removal from the sleeves.
There is also an external volume adjuster switch, and two extension cables. This modular design suits different styles of usage, such as MP3 players kept in a shirt pocket (short cable) or PC cabinets kept on the floor (long cable). The sleeves range from large and small rubber jobs to black foam.
These are a 36 ohm pair, which is low enough to be driven by anything. However, I have the opinion that higher impedance models have tighter bass response, and are better for the amplifier (less current is drawn). Please see below for detailed specs. The rated sensitivity is something to look into, as 119 dB is quite high!
The drivers are Shure's 'Triple TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers'. Basically the units have a dedicated tweeter and two woofers, plus a passive crossover. This sounds impressive, and as my expectations have been raised considerably, let’s get to the tests.
I plugged the earphones into my soundcard, and used a colleague’s iPod for source music. Before playing any songs, I decided to check some bare characteristics, so I played some self-made sonic tests. Then on I used Trilok Gurtu, Miles Davis' Relaxin', Jamiroquai, and some Electronica MP3s.
First of all, let me state that it's darn loud; one of the loudest I’ve come across. The test tones sweep in intervals from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and it's here that bass and low mids are at one level. But high mid frequencies around 2K were bumped up and yielded a very present sounding response. Absolute high frequencies were more in control and sounded very refined. This type of response is not bad at all; it can make vocals and stringed intruments sound very crisp.
You need to push the ear buds right in to get the optimal response, and these are really sensitive earphones. This is a very positive point towards sound isolation, as pure sound pressure level is the best solution rather than noise active circuitry. When on, I could not hear my noisy neighbors at all.
As a corollary to such high levels, the sound totally engulfs you and exposes glitches in recordings. This is where a point needs to be stressed: these earphones are very good in dynamic range, and do not distort, but if you hear bad recordings or heavily compressed formats (such as MP3s), it might sound a bit harsh.
The sound is especially good in jazz and instrumental music; even spectacular, as these recordings are also well-toned. Techno too sounds good, but volume needs to be kept a little low or the pounding can quickly get to you.
So here you are; a true high-end pair of earphones for the serious audiophile. The cost? A mere Rs 30,000. The sound is no doubt right up there with the best, and one of the most refined I have heard, but the price still comes as a shocker. I could find no flaw with the performance, but 30K is quite a lot of moolah. If you have the money, however, go for it. You won't be disappointed.