Hands On: Shure SRH1440 & SRH1840 Headphones
Shure ships its new SRH1440 and SRH1840 headphones with hard carrying cases, 1/4-inch adapters, cables and extra ear pads to provide users with everything they'll need to get into a pair of high-performance headphone products with a lineage that traces back to professional audio.
Recently I wrote CE Pro’s annual Top 100 Brand Analysis to find out what brands the 100 highest-grossing custom installation firms are using. One of the most surprising things I discovered in this story was that many installers are selling headphones.
It shouldn’t have surprised me. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has estimated that headphones were going to be one of the most popular product categories in 2012.
One of the pillar manufacturers of the growing headphone category is Shure, which has built a loyal following within the professional audio community. Products like its SM-57 dynamic microphone can be found in just about every recording studio across the globe, and in addition to its microphones, there’s an army of recording engineers that use its headphone products.
Through the years Shure has also supported the consumer headphone market, which includes times when headphones weren’t the trendy product category. Recently to help support its line of consumer products the company introduced its SRH1440 and SRH1840 open-back headphones.
The SRH1440 and SRH1840 share many common traits, starting with the fact that both use 40mm Neodymium driver; they both utilize open-back, circumaural designs and they both ship with hard cases that include ¼-inch adapters and extra ear pads.
Shure separates the products through a few design revisions that include the 1840’s use of individually matched drivers; aircraft-grade aluminum yoke; and stainless-steel grill for durability. It also includes a steel driver frame with a vented center pole piece that is said to eliminate internal resonances. The headphone can also be used with a headphone amp for audiophile system applications, and its cable employs an oxygen-free copper and Kevlar reinforced jacket.
I used both sets of headphones with my PC and my iPhone for the most part. Both products assemble the same way: Unzip the headphones’ hard cases to grab them from their molded protective shells and then unzip the cases’ pouches to grab the connecting cables. The headphones ear pieces are marked “left” and “right” and the cables are fitted with color-coded black and red ends that also bear a “L” and “R” marking. The cables easily snap up into the ear pieces’ cable inputs and if necessary, the optional ¼-inch adapters thread onto the cables’ 3.5mm fittings.
When it comes to evaluating audio products, I enjoy pro gear from companies like Shure because I believe more often than not they eschew personal performance preferences to develop a product that is neutral sounding. I think that is the case with both the SRH1440 and SRH1840.
When looking at the two products, however, there are some slight differences. I think the SRH1840 reveals more of Shure’s professional roots through its neutrality, detail, wide dynamic range and precise imaging. While it’s not recommended, the 1840s can be used with portable devices like an iPhone or iPad. The product really comes to life when driven by a headphone amp. I used a HiFiMan EF-6 headphone amp and the bottom end and midrange of the headphones filled in, with the top end becoming much more detailed.
Overall, I’ll add that with the EF-6 driving them, the headphones were played much more effortlessly. In either scenario (with or without a headphone amp), the SRH1840s are a versatile product that can be used for recreational listening, home recording and everything in between.
The SRH1440 do just about everything the 1840s do. I’ll also point out that if someone is worried about damaging their iPhone or iPad, the 1440s are much easier to drive so using the them with a portable device isn’t an issue.
Where the 1440s fall a little short of the 1840s is in the last degree of detail, transparency and imaging. I found the 1840s to play with a little more bite and crispness and the imaging was just a bit more precise.
Both headphones also offer extended dynamic range; I was able to play test tones ranging from 20Hz to 16kHz, and I thought both sets of headphones were uncolored in their presentations of everything from metal and pop music, to home recordings and the pink noise.
Considering the state of the headphone market where celebrity-endorsed products with skewed frequency responses drive sales, the high-performance SRH1440 and SRH1840 headphones are priced competitively at $400 and $800, respectively.
I started the review with the 1440s and was really impressed with their comfort and performance. Once I moved onto the 1840s, I found that as good as I think the 1440s are the 1840s are that much better. In either case, however, I don’t think a user could go wrong. Both headphones are comfortable to wear over long periods of time; they assemble easily and they both sound great.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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