Open Back Shures: SRH1440 and SRH1840
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.
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.
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