DennisO (denniso) wrote,

Triple Heaven: Westone W30 vs Shure SE535LTD

I refuse to run with smartphones. Phones have gotten bigger and heavier - they add bulk. You definitely don’t need these things during the race. Some cash - yes, ID - yes. Phone? No!


Running with one - reminds me of a trainings military drill with a radio-pack on my back


After every race at the finish line, I witness the same thing again and again: ‘damn, my phone died after mile XX’. Of course it did, silly! You run either in dense area with tons of radio-networks (Wi-Fis, Bluetooth, cellular), or thru remote site, where reception is flaky. Plus, you have your GPS at full blast, your running mapping software and your music.

Apple or Android - these phones suck, if you are racing. Relying on one in the race - is the most stupid thing one can do if he/she trains for an event. They will eventually let you down.


Apple had a shot with their Apple Watch to outperform Google and release Sport Watch with integrated GPS, low-power BT for earphones and integrated media player. But they chose not to. Android - don’t get me started. It is not much better, still.

So, like many other runners, I still have to rely on robust and accurate GPS Watch. My choice is FitBit Surge. And for music - a dying breed - iPod 7th gen, with a set of quality wired headphones.

I wish I could use Bluetooth headphones outdoors, but they a) prone to breakage under stress b) BT connection is a problem, if you place your player anywhere below chest line.

Ideal placement for BT media player - is a wrist! It is the only place on human body that will not attenuate wireless signal to the extent when you want to give up on it.

So, wired headphones - is still the only reliable choice, especially for long distance races.

In my previous post on wired earbuds, I praised Shure SE215 and for good reasons. These are robust, versatile, sound great, very sensitive and to the near-audiophile - near-perfect.

I have had several pairs over the last 5 years and I’m still happy with them for any fitness activity.

But after all these years, I wanted an upgrade. So I did.

Meet Westone W30 and Shure SE535LTD.

Both are triple-driver systems. Both accept same type\size eartips (yah!) and same cord connectors! All accessories are interchangeable - and that is a huge plus!


Yes, these are not apple to apple comparison. SE535LTD - are professional, pristine earbuds designed to output the clearest sound possible in live stage environment. Minimum distortions or sound color. And they deliver. Boy, they sound great!

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.07.56 PM.png

Just having sensitivity at SPL 119 dB per 1 mV is great engineering achievement! Shure earbuds are very loud and sensitive. No wonder they have been in production for over 5 years now! Try to beat that.

Packaging, as you should expect from $500+ headphones, is impressive. Aluminum box is an overkill, but this is what you get for paying premium.

Unfortunately, not suitable for Sport. Why?

First, Shure doesn’t specialize in Sport. So, sound you get with these is very good for studio, stage and any other application where you want accurate presentation of music. SE535 have very distinct signature and its essence - it is bright. Crystal bright.

Take 1,000 yards deep artesian well, draw purest water out of it, discille it several times, freeze it to -40F and serve it with beluga caviar. That is what you get with SE535.

In fact, they are so crystal clear - at higher volumes it hurts my ears if I listen to these for more than an hour. And this is how it should be. They are designed to ‘disappear’ and leave with with the artist and music 1:1 close and personal.

I was very impressed with the sound quality of these earbuds. High praises.

Can I justify $500+ price tag? No. Not a chance. For someone who is truly audiophile or a professional musician at a certain level - maybe, yes. For everyday training or even races only - no.

Cord with volume control again does not have memory wire integrated, and that is a known issue with Shure.


So, I turned to Westone W-line. These are targeted toward active lifestyle users. They are different from their custom ES and UM-lines, which is a plus. They add more colors to your music, yet don’t push it too much.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.09.07 PM.png

SPL is at 107 dB per mW, which is still very good (way better, than Jabra’s Sport pathetic 94 SPL). You have plenty of room to damage your hearing. )

Yet, sound is ‘comfortable’ - you can use these for hours without any troubles.

Next - triple drivers - you can actually hear all three at work. If with Shure, sterile lows leave you wondering - is that you, or the track you are listening to, in Westones - there is just enough of boost in the lows and mid-low spectrum that you don't have to wonder. Slightly softened highs compared to Shure, contribute to the listening comfort.

But don’t get me wrong. These will not leave you relaxing on your couch for long. A bit of volume, and with flat EQ of your iPod - you’ll be ready to go for any adventure of your choice!

Supplied earplugs are a bit awkward, they are long. Very long in their shape. Maybe some will like this design, but I went back to my favourites - large Shure silicone rounds, and they are perfect (another reason why compatibility is so important).

You do get three different colors to customize the look of the earbuds - additional plus for Sport-junkies who are trying to avoid color-disaster (LOL).

Supplied case - is strange but versatile enough. I prefer to use Shure travel case, and find it much better solution.

Cords, not again!

Same issue as with Shure. You get two of them. One, black braided, is a little too short, and doesn't have volume or track controls. But offered memory wire.

The other one (phone-cord), does have controls - but no memory wire. WTF? Here we go again. Great product - but major drawback overlooked by the team! Fix it, fix it, please!

I have gone back to my solution - UE900 cord suites these drivers good enough and provides all controls and memory wire is included.

So now, in my gym bag I have everything I need for my next adventure. Shure SE215 (as a backup), UE900 cord for all my earbuds, Westone W30 drivers and backup Westones black wire with memory wire but no controls.

Small package that is always with me if I need to go outdoors.

I’m glad Westone made slightly better earbuds for Sport applications than Shure. I can’t justify high premium even with this great sound quality. Not at $500+ level.

Westone W30 on the other hand, are still not cheap, but I’m much more comfortable spending $200 less for the quality that I enjoy more.

With that, Good night. Oh, since we talk about selfies in races, every time you take one, think of her:


P.S. Its going to be an exciting day tomorrow. Running session with Dean Karnazes, The UltraMarathon Man. But more about it in a few days. Run fast and share your enthusiasm!

Tags: earphones, marathon, run, shure, westone
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