Join Date: Jul 2002
Shure's SE530 Sound Isolating Earphones With PTH Option.
Product Category: Hardware
Where to Buy: Amazon [affiliate]
Price: SE530 In-Ear Sound Isolating Headphones: $549.00 USD with the PTH option; $499.00 USD without the PTH option.
System Requirements: Windows Phone or other PMP and a good ear for music.
- The ear phones themselves have superb acoustics with quality construction for the most discerning audiophiles;
- Excellent array of ear buds for many different tastes and comfort for any ear and fit;
- Extremely comfortable; even for long periods of time of wear;
Fits flush within the ear making them very discrete.
- Wicked expensive; depending on your taste for quality sound;
- The PTH (Push-to-hear) option is not a push but rather a slider; i.e., instead of a true click push button;
- Superfluous amount of cabling just to disable outside ambient noise;
The PTH cabling and the ear buds themselves do not fit completely inside the carrying case.
If you listen to music or watch any type of multimedia, these headphones will surely delight you; that is, if you have properly ripped your music and converted your DVDs to a bitrate that is worthy of these ear buds. I personally have a set of Shure's SE530's (yes, I paid for them); but, I use my Windows Phone extensively for music and multimedia. I was excited when the good people at Shure allowed me to test their PTH option. Music is one of the necessities of my life and in my quest I have had many headsets, ear buds, etc. in the past. Aside from having a personal mold made of my ear and sending it to have it fit "perfectly," I have never found a more perfect pair of noise reduction, in-ear set of headphones that make you look like a normal human being instead of a techno DJ with cans on your head. Custom molds can cost in upwards of $1,000 USD or more and although I've always considered it, (stay with me for another review) I've never seen, nor heard, such aural nirvana before as with the SE530s from Shure. In this review it's only fitting to compare the two separate as they can come either together as a kit, or separate, it would not be fair to couple them together. Keep reading to see why.
Figure 1: To the left, the aluminum metal box which the headphones, accessories and hard shell casing comes in. Instruction booklet to the right.
Figure 2: The ear buds in all of their glory, note the memory foam ear tips
These are the Shure SE530 Sound Isolating Headphones. First, you will be greeted with an aluminum box (classy) with the Shure branding. Just looking at the box, you know you're about to embark on a treat and the price tag seems to slowly sting a little less. Once opened, you'll see them - the shiny metallic bronze starring at you and begging to be picked up. They're tightly wrapped in foam and the connector is gold plated. Once they're removed from the aluminum vault that they came stored in, you'll see the nice hard shell casing - again with the Shure branding. Inside the case is where you'll be greeted with an array of cables, accessories, and ear buds of all shapes, textures and sizes. The ear buds that will probably catch your eye first are the soft, black, memory foam shaped tips. You'll receive in the case the following, all with gold plated connectors: Modular cable (3 feet in length), 1/4" adapter, a Level Attenuator (more on this later), a wax removal tool (hey, it's a necessity), and finally an airline adapter (only useful on European airliners). All of this, plus the earphones themselves, will fit nicely into the carrying case. You have a choice of several tips ranging from silicone, soft rubber, and memory foam as stated earlier; surely one is bound to meet your liking.
Build, Sound and Performance
Figure 3: Diagram of the build of each headphone.
Each ear bud has two dedicated sub-woofers, a dedicated tweeter which provides high tones and mid ranges, and even a crossover (unprecedented in any headphone of this size). The specifications are as follows:Sensitivity (1mW): 119 dB SPL/mW Impedance (1kHz): 36 Frequency Range: 18Hz – 19kHz
That's very impressive for earphones this small. The quality and construction are solid with nice thick cabling and gold adapters. Like I mentioned earlier, I listen to music and multimedia extensively and my taste in music is broad and eclectic so I run the gambit of frequencies. The Shure SE530s produce crisp highs, warm mids and deep bass that is not overbearing. If you're listening to classical music you'll pick up on every instrument - from an oboe to the French horn - with clarity. If you listen to country, you'll notice the twang in each banjo strum and the pedal steel guitar will sound perfect with every pitch. Finally, if you enjoy R&B or any other type of music, the sub-woofers will not overwhelm the lyrics that come to the table with each song.
Performance and build are strong keys for me since I sleep with mine every single night to help promote sleep. The headphones fit flush in the bowl of the ear and inside the external canal. This is important because when sleeping on your side you do not want a pair of headphones to further protrude into your canal posing possible damage to your ear. These can be worn for 12 hours at a time or longer without any pain (using the memory foam tips). Just please be careful to keep the level of your audio low or you will eventually cause deafness.
"Triple TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers Optimized for listening to high-quality recordings and lossless formats, the SE530PTH utilizes three balanced armature drivers—one dedicated tweeter and dual woofers. Additionally, integrated passive crossovers ensure that high and low frequencies remain distinct and defined. The result is an incredibly wide and detailed soundstage, distinguished by precision highs and robust bass. This innovative triple driver configuration is first in class for universal fit, sound isolating earphones."
This, personally, is where it falls apart and why I wanted to review these earphones separately. The sheer amount of cabling that goes into this design is so superfluous that it's borderline comical. I'm not trying to be harsh but the footprint is massive once it's all put together and finally attached to your Windows Phone. Take a look:
Figure 4: Note the headphones connected to the PTH accessory which is then attached to the HTC in-line USB adapter.
This does not bode well for me and now you can see where I think it borders on comedic since so much cabling is unnecessary when all you really have to do is pull an ear bud out of your ear and ask the person "Huh? What did you say?" But, fret not, I decreased the foot print dramatically to what I use every day:
Figure 5: The HTC BH S100 which can accept and receive phone calls, is Bluetooth 2.0 Stereo compatiable, and can clip to your clothing. It also has play, pause, forward and backward controls for HTC Sense and Windows Media Player.
The cabling on the PTH is nice and thick which is a plus, but that's where it stops. It's not a "Push-To-Hear" design. It's a "Slide-To-Hear" design. Where I thought would be a button, is actually a slider and it feels very cheap and it's actually difficult to slide. The volume controller is actually too flush and I could not use my thumb to adjust the volume, I had to use my fingernail:
Figure 6: The volume slider on the PTH accessory is too flush or depressed into the main body, making it difficult to adjust the volume.
There is a clip on the back of the main body of the accessory to attach to your belt, waistband, or other piece of clothing, but again, there is just too much cabling to justify the clip. Also, there is another clip that can be attached to your shirt to hold the other cable in place as it makes it way to your ear, but again, this negates the purpose. All in all, when it comes to the bottom line, it's all about the massive design, overuse of cabling and poor design overall that sends this accessory to the very bottom of my list and I'm grateful it's an option that you're not forced to pay for. Other designers have streamlined their PTH buttons inline within the headphones themselves which makes it more convenient and makes a lot more sense. It's also included in the price and not an extra expense. They are true PTH's where it's a button and not a slider and does not use a battery, which itself is an extra expense and an unnecessary expenditure - which brings me to this little nugget. The SE530s have a Level Attenuator that comes WITH the headphones themselves - remember, from the beginning of this article? If you need to adjust the volume to hear someone you can easily lower the volume and hear them partially or just remove a ear bud and hear them with clarity and that right there my friends does not cost a dime, nor does it add bulk.
While I already knew the headphones would sound wonderful as I already owned a pair, I was very excited to try out the PTH option. The headphones, of course, did not dissapoint, but the PTH accessory was an "epic failure." So, to sum I would have to say that the headphones are phenomenal and worth the money if you have it to splurge. I would forego the PTH accessory and instead just take your ear bud out and ask, "What did you say?"
Monty Gibson is a Registered Nurse in Tampa, Florida, U.S.A. and is always on the lookout for the next best pair of headsets that won't entrap him while sleeping at night, but at the same time wants a symphony in his ear.
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