The SE530s are the top model in Shure's new line of noise-isolating headphones, the SE series. They're backed and used by such artists as KT Tunstall and Rocco DeLuca and sit alongside their less-expensive siblings, the SE210s, SE310s and the SE420s.
This new model from Shure builds on the performance of the previous gen, the E500PTHs, but are around £100 cheaper. We put them snugly into our ears wondering if anything has been sacrificed in the process
Simply put, the SE530s are the best noise-isolating headphones you can possibly buy (which at that price they should be). Not only that, but they also come with a headphone cable that splits in half, giving you just 0.5m of lead to tangle instead of over 1m in length. This is handy if you clip your iPod Shuffle to your lapel or store your hard disk player in your shirt pocket.
Shure says that these 'phones feature the most effective noise-isolation technology it has ever produced. The foam earbuds in the box come in a range of sizes that allow you to experiment in finding the most suitable fit. Finding the correct fit is crucial as the sound-isolation feature is solely dependent on your headphones being snugly lodged in your ear canal. Once in, however, the isolation is impressive. It's very difficult to even hear people speaking when they're properly in place, even when no music is playing.
The SE530s are built using twin bass woofers and an accurate tweeter, collectively referred to by Shure as 'Triple TruAcoustic Micro-Speakers'. At lower volumes you may not be able to notice the difference in performance between the SE310s and the SE530s, but crank the volume up to its higher levels and prepare to have your brain hammered from the inside.
Together these three separate drivers produce a beautifully rich and accurate reproduction of all frequencies throughout the audible spectrum, from 18Hz to 19kHz. Bass booms into the skull at apocalyptic proportions while clearly defined mid-range frequencies flow gracefully, with power and warmth. Alongside this superior amalgamation of audible performance, the tweeter bleeds crystal-clear high frequencies into the mix with excellent clarity and precision.
For bass performance testing we'd lined up the drum and bass club favourite, Slam by Pendulum. So loud are these headphones, even we daren't crank the volume up past 90 per cent. Even at this level bass was blisteringly heavy and deep, while drums and cymbals retained accuracy and clarity.
Listen to KT Tunstall's Black Horse and The Cherry Tree and you'll hear an array of subtle background noise that is easy to miss on other headphones. For example, during the verses the faintest click of a drum kit's hi-hat can be heard in the background. This is easily noticeable through the SE530s. Throughout the song there's also a rhythm played on the hi-hat's metal stand. It's a sound that's easy to hear during the percussion-driven verses, but with these headphones it's still possible to hear the beat clatter in the background during the significantly louder and more complicated chorus.
Listening to quality music through the SE530s feels as revolutionary as the first time you heard music coming off a CD. It's exciting to listen out for subtle and previously hidden sounds in your favourite songs and to any music fan this is a wonderful experience.
Good performance comes at a cost -- £330 in fact. You'll need to be sure that you're going to get the most out of these, either by frequently -- nay, obsessively -- listening to a wide range of music styles, or by using them in semi-pro studio environments.
The other downside to the SE530s, as with the previous E500PTH model, is the awkward way in which you need to insert them into your ear. You're essentially required to put them in upside-down, then loop the headphone cable over the back of your ear. Rest assured it gets very easy with a bit of practise, and is extremely comfortable, but newbies to Shure may find this a little off-putting.
The SE530s will make your music collection come alive like never before -- you'll feel like you're standing at a live show and the band is funnelling their sound directly into your head.
These headphones make every other pair of earbuds seem vastly inferior and rightly so. At £330 you're going to pay for the luxury, but audiophiles and devoted musicians take note: you owe a pair of these to your music and to yourself.
Available from AdvancedMP3Players.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield