That being said, we appreciate the thickness and flexibility of the cable of the SE535; it speaks well to the headphones withstanding the test of time. Plus, the Y-junction and L-plug housings are extra rugged, and Shure now reinforces the wire with Kevlar. Add to that a two-year warranty and the fact that the earpieces are detachable, and you have a setup that practically screams "durability."
As for extras, the SE535 earphones include the usual suspects. You get a hard-sided, zippered carrying case, an earwax-cleaning tool, an in-line volume attachment, and a quarter-inch adapter. Plus, there's Shure's standard fit kit with three sizes (S, M, L) of the flex and black foam sleeves as well as one pair of triple-flange and one pair of universal-fit yellow foam sleeves.
Of course, sound quality is doubtless the chief concern for a pair of earphones costing half a grand, and the SE535s don't disappoint in this department. Indeed, audio is the star of the show here--it's stellar, through and through. This isn't entirely surprising, given that these earphones feature the same impressive internal technology found in the S530s. The earpieces cram in Triple High-Definition MicroDrivers, which means that each one has a dedicated tweeter and dual woofers.
These 'buds definitely live up to their lofty price point. In fact, our listening tests inspired frequent bouts of desk dancing, much to the amusement of neighboring editors. The Shure SE530s sound fantastic, but where to begin? First, the 'buds offer excellent passive-noise isolation, assuming you achieve a proper seal with the ear, which shouldn't be a problem given the aforementioned array of fittings. The seal also allows for deep, tight bass response--it's enveloping without being overwhelming, and there's no distortion. The highs are sparkly, and music overall has impressive clarity--even during frantic hard rock riffs, we could pick out the varying sounds. Detail is certainly not lost to these 'phones, either.
With headphones that offer such exceptional audio quality, it's tough--if not impossible--to decipher which genres really shine. Everything sounds good, but techno, hip hop, electronic, and dance perform phenomenally (no doubt thanks to the four woofers). During Robert Miles' "In My Dreams," we were transported, surrounded by speakers. Of course--with any earbuds--you're not going to get sound as open as with full-size headphones or external speakers, but the Shure SE530s do an admirable job of opening the experience.