Review: Shure SE535 and Shure SE846 earphones

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The first model we tested during this week’s review was the Shure SE535. These in-ear headphones are a 3-way model, with balanced armature drivers, and an independant detachable cable with a Bluetooth receiver and integrated remote control.

The Shure SE535 earphones boast an exemplary build quality.

Shure SE535 review: balanced armature

Balanced armature drivers are made specifically for in-ear headphones. Extremely small – consisting of a micro-box with an emissions tube – they ensure a significantly better transient response than conventional dynamic transducers. Dynamic drivers don’t vibrate as quickly because their cones are weighed down by a copper coil. The balanced armature driver, however, uses a separate diaphragm and coil, joined by a thin metal rod. Therefore, their transient response is excellent…

Shure SE535 review: drawbacks

… but it’s at the expense of the frequency response, which is restricted. This is why manufacturers often combine several balanced armature drivers. The Shure SE535 earphones have three, each handling a separate frequency range (lows, mids and highs).

The Shure SE535 earphones feature detachable cables with MMCX connectors.

Shure SE535 review: the numbers

The Shure SE535 in-ear headphones have a high sensitivity rating: 119 db for 1 mW. With an impedance of 36 Ohms, they are very easy to drive.

Shure SE535 review: the accessories

Shure provides a slew of different tips, ensuring a perfect fit. The connecting cable that includes a microphone and controls is detachable and can be replaced by a cable with a wireless Bluetooth receiver (SBC codec only).

The Shure SE535 earphones’ SBC Bluetooth receiver can be charged via a micro USB connector. Battery life is around 8 hours.

Shure SE535 review: listening impressions

The Bluetooth receiver is a let-down. The restitution is cruelly flat, the soundstage completely compressed. With a wired connection, from a smartphone or DAP, the musical restitution acquires a little more space and vitality, and therefore seems more balanced and precise.

  • François’ opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

To achieve satisfactory results with the Shure SE-535 in-ear headphones, it’s essential that they fit perfectly. This is the case for all in-ear headphones. If they aren’t inserted correctly or are used with the wrong tips, the sound is simply catastrophic: the lows are completely absent and, as a result, the restitution is dominated by the mids and highs, which makes for a tiring listening session. I experienced this with the medium-sized silicone tips which clearly weren’t the right fit for me. When I swapped them for the smaller tips, which went farther into the ear canal, I was able to enjoy the balance that is representative of Shure earphones. The lows were present but lacked clout. Nonetheless, I found the restitution to be balanced and wonderfully transparent. The vocals, in particular, were restituted smoothly and precisely (The Civil Wars’ cover of Billie Jean…). However, I achieved better results with the size 2 memory foam tips, which immediately offered more bass. The restitution is bright and rather dynamic (the bassline and guitar attack in Lenny Kravitz’s I Belong to You). The stereo range is satisfactory.

  • Valentin’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

With the Bluetooth receiver, the soundstage delivered by the Shure SE535 earphones lacks depth and balance. Using a wired connection with a smartphone, the soundstage is slightly more dynamic and precise. Overall, however, the restitution remains too focused on the mids, as we already experienced with the Shure SE425 earphones.

The Shure SE535 earphones mainly provide richly textured and melodic mids, without any harshness and with a degree of realism which enhances their presence. The lower end of the sound signature is pleasant, even though the lows lack a little impact and aren’t very deep. They remain controlled nonetheless, and they don’t smother the mids. Instruments are expertly structured.

  • Clement’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

As a leading specialist of sound equipment, Shure doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the essential features for in-ear monitors. The Shure SE535 and Shure SE846 are both very comfortable to wear and ensure impeccable isolation, mostly thanks to the selection of tips that come with the earphones. These Shure models offer an energetic restitution and allow you to enjoy many hours of listening without any fatigue.

Nevertheless, the Shure SE535 earphones lack a little substance in the lower end of the sound spectrum, which results in a listening experience that is undoubtedly very analytical, but which would greatly benefit from more authority in the lows. This can be remedied, however: an equalizer will allow you to quickly correct this minor inconvenience and adjust the sound signature to your taste.

Shure SE535 review: verdict

With the Shure SE353 earphones, you can observe the analytical qualities inherited from Shure’s experience in professional audio. The lows are present but not exuberant. This is a result of the manufacturer’s desire to offer a balanced soundstage. The SE535s are a lot less appealing when used wirelessly. On paper, the detachable Bluetooth receiver is a good idea, but its lack of oomph is disappointing.

These in-ear headphones provide an analytical and balanced sound with present, but not exuberant, lows.

The Shure SE535 and SE846 earphones’ MMCX connector.

Shure SE846 review

The Shure SE846 in-ear headphones are a 4-way model with balanced armature drivers, a detachable cable with controls and a separate Bluetooth receiver. An improved version of the SE535s, therefore, with an even lower impedance (9 Ohms).

The Shure SE846 earphones’ transparent casing reveals the multiple balanced armature drivers.

The accessories that come with the SE846s are the same as those for the SE535 models, including the SBC Bluetooth receiver.

Shure SE846 review: listening impressions

The tonal balance is a lot better, with more present lows and delicate highs.

The integration of each frequency range is excellent, and dynamics are equally distributed.

The Shure SE846 in-ear headphones are not quite as enjoyable with their Bluetooth receiver. With a wired connection, they are a lot more engaging.

  • François’ opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

Compared to the SE353s, the Shure SE846s have more substantial lows. The lows aren’t dynamic, but when listening to Low Rising by The Swell Season, for example, they have more weight and consistency, which benefits the overall balance. I also noticed a more extensive spatialization than with the SE535s, and more space between the different elements of the soundstage. There were significant differences depending on the associated source:

– heavier bass with more impact but a little less transparency with a DAC featuring an ES9018K2M chip via a direct output.

‒ a softer sound, rounder lows and clearer vocals using a headphone amp with a tube preamp (2 x 6J9) driven by the same DAC.

  • Valentin’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

Using Bluetooth, the listening experience is disappointing with the Shure SE846 in-ear headphones. The soundstage lacks a little balance and depth, despite having an aptX HD compatible receiver. The SE846’s qualities are only revealed with a wired connection, which provides a much better tonal balance, more present lows, and soft, harmonious highs. I highly recommend listening to these earphones in wired mode to appreciate their full musical potential.

  • Morgane’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com store in Lyon)

The Shure SE846’s best quality is their bass restitution. They deliver deep, full-bodied and textured lows that are truly unique in this product range, and that don’t affect the overall velocity or impact. We still find Shure’s characteristic mids, perfectly structured and tangible, with expertly organized instruments. We aren’t left wanting more when it comes to the highs: slightly emphasized but not tiring, these sparkling highs will enchant your ears. The soundstage is pretty intimate ‒ in other words, rather close ‒ but completely envelops the listener. The different filters allow you to adjust the sound signature, the white filter being the most neutral.

In my opinion, the Shure SE846 earphones remain a standard in high-end portable hi-fi.

  • Clement’s opinion (Son-Vidéo.com Nantes)

In wired mode, the SE846 are remarkably balanced and each frequency range is perfectly positioned. The listening experience is immersive, transparent, detailed and captivating. These in-ear headphones are ideal for both the stage and everyday listening.

Shure SE846 review: verdict

These are a great pair of in-ear headphones, with a relatively spacious soundstage and very low distortion. However, their price isn’t quite in line with the performance they provide. Earsonics and Westone are strong competitors, offering products at a more attractive price.

What we liked:

  • The precision and depth of the SE846’s sound layers
  • The numerous tips provided

What we would have liked:

  • A Bluetooth aptX receiver with more a dynamic amplification
  • A more competitive price point


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