Open Back Shures: SRH1440 and SRH1840

shure_srh1440-1840_10
In Context Of The Other Headphones In The Market

The Shures don’t jump out at me with a brilliant technicality or a striking sound signature. In a way they’re a lot like the Sennheiser HD600/650, headphones that are never known for a big wow factor the way a Beyerdynamic DT880, AKG K701, or even modern planars have. If you set up two tables in a meet, say one with a Hifiman HE-500/400 based set up and the other a SRH-1840 based set up, I can imagine most of the praises would go to the Hifiman as it jumps at you with its crystal clear planar sound, where the 1440 and 1840 are plagued with the typical dynamic-driver disease: grainy sound and not-so-black background.

That impression may change as you’ve spent more time with the 1840, as I can attribute the Shure to having a better balance in the sound than the Hifiman, and the Shure’s more laid-back sound, better comfort and easier drivability make for a better day to day companion than the Hifiman. But the point here is that the Shure is not a headphone that flaunts its technicalities the way the HE-500 do, rather is a headphone that grows on you. Even taking on a comparison to the $1K flagships, the 1840 is still far from touching the $1K headphones’ technicalities, and yet they way it presents a well balanced, laid back sound can be a strong appeal on its own.

To me, the 1840 at $699 makes for a highly recommended upgrade path for people currently on $300 headphones, especially if you like your Senn HD600/650s but have always found them lacking a tiny bit of clarity. The only aspect about the 1840 that I wish could be better is the bass slam that though sufficient, would’ve been more pleasing at the HD600/650′s level.

The SRH1440 is a little more competitive than the 1840 with its $399 pricing. Having both the 1440 and 1840 with me for this review, it’s really hard to be enthusiastic about the 1440. As I’ve mentioned, little differences here and there, but the overall sound of the 1840 is just such a big improvement over the 1400. A more valid comparison perhaps would be to the Sennheiser HD600. The extra $100 you spend on the SRH1440 isn’t going to buy a bigger sound, but it’s more comfortable and is easier to drive than the 300Ω Senn, while also offers a slightly clearer sound.

End Words

Shure has done a good job with the two open-back headphones. Like the closed back SRH840 and SRH940, the open backs don’t come with a tremendous amount of wow factor, but rather the sort of sound that grows on you.

I think they did a great job on the pricing, having the 1440 to compete at the $300 level (currently at $399, but I suspect it’ll be lower in about a year), and the 1840 at $699. I can’t say much about the 1440 except that it’ll be the model to compete with the $300 headphones, which for a lot of people is the mark of their first high-quality audiophile headphone.

The 1840 is more significant in that it provides just the perfect stepping stone between the $300 headphones to the $1K models. In fact a lot of us have been asking for a $600-$700 headphone (including the new Sennheiser HD700 which people wished would’ve been offered in the $700 range), and aside from the popular Hifiman HE-500, we don’t really have a lot of choices in this range. I’ve talked to a few people who’s auditioned the 1840 and most of them find it very likable, so I can imagine the 1840 getting a significant share of the full size headphone market in the future. It’s great because now they don’t have to make that $700+ jump from their current $300 cans to a $1K flagship, but that Shure will take good care of them with the $699 SRH1840. I hope the 1840 will get enough traction in the market that it’ll force manufacturers to release more entries on that price bracket.

 

Special thanks to Shure Indonesia and Shure Asia (Hong Kong) for making this review possible. Also a big thanks to HeadRoom for making the graphs available.

shure_srh1440-1840_09 shure_srh1440-1840_04 shure_srh1440-1840_08 shure_srh1440-1840_06 shure_srh1440-1840_05 shure_srh1440-1840_07 shure_srh1440-1840_03 shure_srh1440-1840_02 shure_srh1440-1840_01

  • http://twitter.com/Original_Ken Ken Stuart

    Mike – Assuming you still have them available, can you talk some about the “fit” of the SRH-1840 (as opposed to the “comfort” or the “build quality”) ?
    This seems to be the one odd aspect of the SRH-1840 (or perhaps Shures in general ?) as Senns and AKGs have design that allow the ear pieces to adjust in two or three dimensions, so that the pads are flat on your head regardless of the shape of your head.
    Instead, the SRH-1840 ear pieces pull up and down from the head band in the usual fashion, and then the ear pieces pivot in the same up and down direction. What is missing is front and back direction pivoting. If you don’t have the same head shape as the Shure R&D mannequin head, you are likely to encounter less bass and overall worse sound quality, since the drivers won’t be positioned properly. The customer will just conclude “I don’t like the sound of these headphones” and return them – these days customers don’t make inquiries, they just return things that don’t work (even when a bad battery was the only problem).
    I have yet to see this factor mentioned, although I see some similar discussions regarding the SRH-940s…

    • dalethorn

      I have a hard time with some headphones that don’t rotate because my ears are slanted forward somewhat. The V-MODA M80 is one case, and fortunately there was an easy fix bending the headband forward. In the case of the 1840, sure enough when I start to put them on they feel a bit awkward like the earcups are not fitting right, yet they do somehow – the pads seal all the way around, and the least contact area, the back sides about halfway between the center and bottom of the pads, still seals OK. But I’m going to guess that they may not seal all the way around (at or near the bottom of the pads) on all heads – small heads maybe. I would also expect them to feel like there is more pressure on the back side of the pads due to the shape of my head, yet I don’t feel that at all when they’re on my head. So I guess the very soft and spongy earpads make the adjustment without conveying any sense of pressure difference between front and back.

      • http://twitter.com/Original_Ken Ken Stuart

        Thanks for the feedback.
        I’m still interested in Mike’s take on this issue – I just saw someone mention the same issue in a Fidelio L1 customer review, but I never see it in “pro” reviews.
        When buying $99 headphones, there is an assumption that everything, including the “fit” of the headband and ear pieces, is a compromise. In a $699 flagship, that should not be a factor.

        • dalethorn

          I hope Mike has some insight. But fit is not the same as sound, and the best sound experts might not get a good fit, while the worst judges of sound could get a good fit. So I offer you 3 thoughts: One, my wife was not able to get a good fit on two of my closed headphones, due to some overhang at the bottom of the earcups which left a gap at the bottom and the bass was mostly lost. My second thought: The earcups on my 1840 are slanted slightly toward the rear, the opposite of how my ears are slanted on my head. I confirmed this (if I had any prior doubt) with the v-moda M80. But in spite of the reverse slant, I have no fit problem. Third thought: I don’t know if a gap in the earpad “seal” of the 1840 would make a difference in the sound or not, being an open design. So there are a few thoughts.

          • http://twitter.com/Original_Ken Ken Stuart

            In my case, I found that the bass on the SRH-1840 was not in balance with the rest of the spectrum – until – I found a suggestion for the SRH-940 that said to move the ear pieces lower on the headband until the top of the ear was close to the top of the ear cup (rather than being centered, as is intuitively done). That helped significantly.

        • dalethorn

          BTW, the Philips L1 fit *will* be critical for several reasons: One, it’s closed and requires a proper bass seal. Two, the earcups of the L1 are smaller inside than the 1840 and barely fit my ears. Maybe those are the only important differences, but they are certainly important.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Sorry for my late response.

          I think that with a lot of full size headphones, you’d find that a lot of them doesn’t have a dedicated hinge that allow the cups to rotate outside/inside freely the way Grados, the Fidelia L1, and the AKG K550 do.

          A lot of common headphones like the Beyer DT770-880-990, Senn’s HD600/650, AKG’s K701 doesn’t come with a rotating hinge like that, but they allow sufficient play that gives a few degrees of rotation so that they can fit different heads. The Shures also follow this design. They don’t rotate fully in and out, but there is enough play to fit different head shapes.

          Personally I find the Shures to be just as comfortable as the K550 and the Fidelio L1 (which you can rotate fully in/out). I didn’t feel that they were pressuring some part of the head more than the other, and I have a pretty large head myself (I wear an XL size helmet).

          The comfort on the Fidelio was a little less than the K550 and the Shure, but this is mostly due to the stronger clamping force from the headband — which is required for strong bass.

          Let me know if I miss anything in answering your question.

  • http://twitter.com/Original_Ken Ken Stuart

    So, I’ve been auditioning the SRH-1840 during the process of burn-in.
    One problem I’ve had is that the headband/earpiece fit was not
    particularly good for me (as I’ve mentioned in other comments). I tried
    one suggestion I found elsewhere on putting my ears up relative to the ear
    cups and it helped, but did not seem to be a long-term solution.

    Meanwhile, I finally ended up with about 100 hours of break-in and I
    have to say that it sounds to me that it made a difference all the way
    through the process. The bass quality and quantity are both significantly improved,
    all shrillness and edginess to the treble vanished, and everything is
    quite smooth now.

    But, I’ve found that I can move the ear cups around on my ears with my
    hands and sporadically heard sound improvement, confirming my impression
    that there is something not quite right with the “fit” – i.e. placement
    of drivers for sound quality (as opposed to comfort).

    Then, I found this thread on the big headphone forum of a mod for the
    SRH-940, and since it was easy and non-destructive, I tried it on the
    SRH-1840 (using a paper towel aince I am out of cotton balls):

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/591325/how-to-hi-end-ify-your-srh940

    All I can say is – OMG – all of my “disadvantages of the SRH-1840″
    vanished. The bass quantity is now certainly at least equal to that of
    other high end phones. The already impressive imaging improved further,
    and the audibility of hall sound and ambience improved as well.

    The original strong points of excellent timbre accuracy and even balance of all frequencies are yet better now.

    I can say that if I were making a purchase decision based on
    out-of-the-box (before break-in), I would make the wrong decision, so I
    think that Shure (and other makers) should consider in-house break-in
    for this price range of product.

    So, I strongly recommend:

    - 100 hours of break-in (with about 20 hours a absolute minimum)

    - Apply the mod in the thread linked above (the material used should be to your preference, I don’t think it matters)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Ken.

      I’ve always found that modding a headphone always comes in a plus-minus package. That an improvement somewhere would be accompanied with a step backwards in another area. The problem is, most people posting about a headphone mod only focuses on the plus and never the minus.

      But it all comes down to you enjoying the sound. :)

      • http://twitter.com/Original_Ken Ken Stuart

        I think in this case – aside from the fact that the “mod” is totally non-destructive and reversible (just stuffing some cotton in the ear pad) – the effect is mainly to correct the aforementioned “fit” issue.
        And, in fact, that is discussed in the thread.
        Given that the same “mod” works for the SRH-940 and the SRH-1840 in the same way, it seems likely that Shure uses the same ear pad design for all their high end models, and that the ear pads are too “thin” for some ears.
        And yes, it is true that every sound change affects other aspects of the sound – for example, increasing bass level reduces treble level automatically.
        But in this case, I think that the “mod” (unlike, for example, the HD555 mod) merely corrects a problem that some users may encounter – it is comparable to bending the headband to increase or decrease the clamping force.
        The mod makes the ear cups seal better if you have ears that stick out more than the average.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes I have yet to try out the mod myself. :)

  • Jonah_Chao

    Hey Mike,

    How do you think the SRH1440′s compare to the HE400′s?

    Thanks,

    Jonah

    • SoundEskimoo

      I also curious about this

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Jonah,
      The HE400 has a more aggressive signature, a bit darker, stronger bass, more forward, strong PRaT.
      The SRH1440 more relaxed, better ambiance, moderate PRaT.

  • SoundEskimoo

    SRH1440 or HD600?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Didn’t I say that the two are quite similar in character?

      • SoundEskimoo

        Yes. between those similarities which still have most technologicals & results supremacy?
        Sennheiser still rule the world?

  • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

    how is the comfort of the 1440, compared to the one of HE-400, for long listening sessions (ear fatigue + clamp force) ?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think the SRH1440 is more comfortable, probably primarily due to the weight.

  • ryan

    Hi Mike….currently i have the shure 535 red with govibe vestamp+. I would like to add a full size can. Budget < $500. Would my current amp sufficient for full size Shure? How would you compare with the Senn HD650, Beyer Dt880? Thanks

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The vestamp probably has enough power for the Shure, but the quality of the amp is very important for the Shure and you’ll get better results with big desktop amps.
      Comparison with the Senn and the Beyer, it would be good if you can read the Senn HD650 and DT880 comparison article as the answer to your question would be a pretty long one. I believe I have made some comparisons of the Shure to the Senn HD650. http://www.headfonia.com/old-school-trio-akg-k701-beyer-dt880-sennheiser-hd650/

  • ryan

    Hi Mike, currently i have the shure 535 red with govibe vestamp+. I am planning to add a full size can. Budget < $500. Would my current amp sufficient to drive full size can? How does the Shure 1440 compare to Senn hd650 or beyer dt880. Thanks

  • ryan

    finally took the plunge and purchased the srh 1840…now waiting patiently for it to arrive from Singapore on Sunday….:)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      From Singapore? Where are you based?

  • ryan

    i am base in surabaya…..my sis in law just fly to singapore today and will be back this Sunday…bought it in stereo singapore

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I see.. better price there than local?

      • ryan

        more or less the same price depending on the exchange rates

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

          come to hong kong… $620 and no taxes…

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1250923044 George Lai

            Hi Nick. Slightly off-topic but there’s a HK website gimmedigi. Supposed to be JV between HP and Hutchison. Any experience with them or knowledge of them? Thanks.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              Nope. Usually I don’t buy online unless they’re authorized distributors of their products and I couldn’t get them anywhere else or if they are a online store which also have local retails. And usually for a local buyer like me, street prices are still lower for headphones. If you really want to buy audio stuff, come to Hong Kong and go on a audio shopping spree or something. Just to give you an idea on the ridiculously low prices of some of the more popular cans and IEMs…

              HD600: $270~
              HD650: $330~
              DT880: $300~
              UM3XRC: $300~
              TF10: $150~
              IE80: $330
              DT990 Pro: $260~
              ATH-PRO700MKIIANV: $200~
              ATH-ES10: $330~
              AKG K550: $250 Local MSRP

              Shures not cheap though… they’ve become a consumer level brand so they keep their high prices

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1250923044 George Lai

                For a tourist, can you recommend some of these retailers for my next visit there?

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1705466507 Jack Knight

                how come those things so cheap there?

                • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

                  quite simply, 0 taxes and massive audiophile community and most audio specialist stores would be concentrated in places with cheap rent to push their already competitive prices lower. If you bought at any consumer electrics store you may as well find the prices higher than MSRP.

                  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                    A bit late to the discussion but Nick is right, Hong Kong is cheapest for electronics and that include headphones too.

                    Here are a few:
                    http://www.mingo-hmw.com/home/

                    http://www.headphone.com.hk/

                    http://www.jaben.com.hk/

                    I’m not affiliated with those stores, but friends have said good things about them before.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

                      The other local stores that have better prices often don’t have websites however, you really have to go down and get yourself lost in audiophile district around here. For the ultra high-end stuff, you have to hunt for the speakerphile stores.

                      Mingo is borderline MSRP, and in some cases higher for example they sell the LF339 for $610 when it is $550 direct from Yuking. But rest assured, they have the largest variety and is the most complete retail store around.

                      Headphone.com.hk (Kingsound Audio) have good prices. However, the ALO stuff is not significantly cheaper and in some cases, higher priced.

                      Jaben is actually a Singapore originated store, and sells mostly imported source and amps. Again good prices on the cans and more variety.

                      I’ve looked around in Hong Kong for source and amps but those aren’t cheap unfortunately. The problem in Hong Kong is that people buy high end cans but don’t seem to care about the source components so there isn’t really a large market for that, resulting in higher prices since not many audio stores sell those. Amps like the Schiit, Woo Audio and Graham Slees have higher MSRPs in Hong Kong.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      Thanks for the in depth information, Nick.

  • ryan

    No shure 1840 for me…tested the one and only pair and found out it was faulty…went to another branch and found out customer bringing back a pair of 1840 and complaining it was faulty…need to send to service center for repair and takes about a month…
    In the end, took the senn hd650…hahaha…

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Ouch that’s really bad.

      Thanks for sharing your experience Ryan.

      • ryan

        not bad at all….didn’t purchase after first test with the one and only faulty unit….went to another branch and heard another customer complaining about the faulty issue on the 1840….in the end I decided on purchasing the hd650 instead….

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

      wait I thought you already got someone else to buy it for you? or did you refund it?

      And make sure you can drive the HD650 too, big diff in driveability between those 2 cans :

      • ryan

        Didn’t buy the 1840…went for the HD650 :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

    Hi Mike,
    I am thinking of upgrading my HE-400(v2) to the HE-500.
    I have a problem with the 400′s midrange (vocals especially)..i am using the Fiio E10 as my DAC/AMP. I am also looking for better Imaging.
    What will sound better with my current setup: the 1840, or the HE-500 , for indie-rock/pop / ambient?

    Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      With the E10? You should forget about Hifiman (except for the 300 and 400) in any case.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

        there is some amount of clipping with the E10 and the HE-400 during complex passages.. darn it (

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          I have not experienced that with the E10 so far.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yea definitely, and even without the clipping usually the dynamics would be compressed when under-amped.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      What L said. Also I think the HE-500 without a powerful amplifier tend to be light on the bottom. Not sure if it’s a good idea.

      The SRH1840 is nice, but I don’t see it being ideal if you play fast-paced rock and pop.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

        if i upgrade to the Odac+O2 combo. (JDS-Labs), is there any difference in the conlusion ?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Need something more powerful for the HE-500 IMO.

          • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

            and what about the LCD2 ?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Ditto..

  • http://www.facebook.com/adli.hakim.3 Adli Hakim

    Hi, Mike.

    Awesome review as always. I’m also impressed with Shure new SRH1440, since before this they are detail monster. I’ve got question though, what do you think better for me if I’m listening mainly JPop (such as YUI, Alice Nine, Vocaloid, etc)? Currently planning to upgrade from my MS1000, I’m looking at Shure SRH1440 and Hifiman HE300, though never tried the HE300 properly. I’m using laptop as primary source with iBasso D12 as DAC and amp with AD8066 opamp.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Adli,
      I’m not familiar with the Jpop bands you mentioned but I probably would try something with a darker, faster transients planar sound for Jpop. Something like the HE-400 (new version is fantastic!) or the Mad Dog headphone.

      • http://www.facebook.com/adli.hakim.3 Adli Hakim

        I couldn’t demo the HE-400, since Jaben didn’t carry them and I never heard any planar headphone, so any headphone you think that could give me rough idea on how HE-400 sound like?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Tough..

          • http://www.facebook.com/adli.hakim.3 Adli Hakim

            Hi, Mike, sorry about the late reply, but do you think Grado RS1 or Beyerdynamic DT880 (250 ohm) is suitable for JPop? I prefer to get it from Jaben, since I’m in Malaysia, and Jaben is quite near. Any warranty issue also easier to deal with them.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              I don’t know, the RS1 may be worth trying. The DT880 I wouldn’t recommend for Jpop as the recordings tend to be very hot on the treble.

              • http://www.facebook.com/adli.hakim.3 Adli Hakim

                BTW, Mike, does my iBasso D12 sufficient to drive HD600? I wouldn’t consider HD650 since I would need to build desktop setup to make it practical, and I heard HD600 is easier to amp. HD600 should be able to keep up with the trance and electronics. My music mostly electronics, vocals and acoustic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

    how are the 1840 vs dt880 600ohm ?

    is there a winner? and if not: what are each positive and negatives ?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      1840: More refined, smoother, more laid back.
      DT880 600Ω: More apparent detail, more spacious, cleaner sound, better articulation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eyal1983 Eyal Sade

        is “more refined” means better clarity ?

  • Damián Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, how are you?

    I’ve just purchased the SRH1840 at a very good price, about 495 USD :).

    I guess it is a nice upgrade from the HD598, I can notice the difference, and it seems to scale better too. The LX + C421 improvement over the notebook sound card seem more evident. I’m using it in low + bass.

    Maybe what I notice is much more clarity and instrument separation, somehow is less muddy.Less warm too. There is a touch less slam.

    What do you think?

  • Stefan Peterson

    I have had the 1840 for a year now. Agree that they have a sound that gets to you, no immediate wow-factor. A couple of months ago I recabled them to balanced contacts and using a Rudistor SR-100 they really opened up. Less grain, “blacker” and more controlled bass response. Quite astonishing improvements.

    Cheers
    /Stefan

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thank you Stefan.

      Good amp pairing does improve sound a great deal. I have no experience with the Rudistor SR-100 though.

  • yozz

    Hi Mike, I am already owned 1840 for 4 months and feel happy with it. I am usually pair it with centrance DACport to my computer (tried to combine with martini amp but become too warm and boomy).
    Now, I want it to be slightly more smooth and a bit warm (without being boomy), which DAC or amp should I use ?
    Thank you Mike

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I get good results with the HRT Microstreamer or Audioengine D3.

      • yozz

        Wow..thanks for suggestion, Dale..
        Though I found difficulties to test those 2 since it’s not available in 4 big audio stores in my country,Indonesia.
        Do you have any other suggestion,Dale?
        Oh, forget to mention that I am mostly listening to Jpop (Yui, Utada Hikaru, Maaya Sakamoto,etc)..

        Thanks :)

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          The ALO Island is very good, and I think that was reviewed here. I only had it a short time, but it compared very well.

          • yozz

            Ok Dale, would try it then..
            Thanks :)