Shure’s SE535 earphones are a little bit perfect

Asking me to tell you what the best headphones are is like asking WeRateDogs to pick its favorite canine. In both cases, there’s far too much variety, diversity, and idiosyncratic charm to crown just one specimen as the very finest. That being said, I do have a favorite pair (of headphones, not dogs) that I can’t put down right now and that is Shure’s $449 SE535s.

One thing that might give away the greatness of these in-ear headphones is that they’ve been around since 2010 and their price has barely budged from the original $499. Far from becoming obsolete, the SE535s this year got a fresh breath of iPhone-friendly life with a newly introduced Lightning cable option, which is also compatible with the majority of other Shure in-ears. Like buying a fine piece of Bang & Olufsen home audio equipment, a pair of Shure earphones has, if you’ll pardon the pun, a reassuringly long support cycle. My way of coming across the SE535s was via a path of simple curiosity after reviewing the technically exceptional $2,999 KSE1500 electrostatic earphones from Shure: I wanted to know what the company had to offer for the budgets of mere mortals.

Like the majority of its other in-ear models, Shure calls the SE535s sound-isolating earphones. That’s because, with a good fit, you can achieve much of the effect of active noise cancelation passively with the SE535s. They come with a varied range of ear tips, among which I very much favor the foam type, which is designed to expand inside the ear (after I give it a squeeze before inserting). The seal created by the foam tips is secure without being fatiguing, and its acoustic effect is to block external noise and thus provide the best possible bass reproduction. The light weight of the SE535s themselves, which include three tiny speakers on each side — one tweeter and two woofers — contributes to the general effortlessness and comfort of using them.

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