Open Back Shures: SRH1440 and SRH1840


First of all, there is no mistaking that Shure tuned their new open-back headphones for the music listening crowd. Vastly different than the closed-back SRH840 and SRH940, the open-backs takes a more musical stance, something that reminds me of Sennheiser’s HD600/650’s sound. It’s funny because I had a totally different expectation of how the Shures would sound, that it would be an open-back version of either the SRH840 or SR940’s sound. Yet the Shure SRH1440 and SRH1840 resemble almost nothing I know of the SRH840 and SRH940’s sound.

The SRH1440 compared to the SRH1840

Both the SRH1440 and the SRH1840 are relatively well-balanced headphones. There are little differences here and there that separate the two, but I really don’t have any strong complaints with either headphone. As you can see in the picture of the drivers below, they are based on different drivers, which also translates to easier drivability of the SRH1440 (the SRH1440 is only 37Ω and 101 dB SPL/mW, the 1840 65 Ω and 96 dB SPL/mW). Both headphones come on identical sized boxes, hardcase, a pair of extra pads (velour) and removable cables.

On my first day of listening to the headphones, there are areas that I thought I liked better on the SRH1440, and some other on the SRH1840. On the second day, while I still notice the differences, I am beginning to appreciate the 1840’s balance and refinement more. After the third day, however, my conclusion is certain that I’d be a fool not to pick the SRH1840 for almost any music and it has absolutely nothing to do with the superior build quality of the SRH1840.

The SRH1440, costing almost half the price of the SRH1840, is quite enjoyable at first, but longer listening time next to the big brother makes me go to the 1840 every single time. Here is where the differences are: Most noticeable is in the bass section where the 1840 is a lot more complete down to the low lows giving a more proper weight in the sound.

The second biggest difference between the two is the better sense of clarity throughout the frequencies, top-to-bottom, that you get with the SRH1840. Not only better clarity but also a smoother sound, less grain, and better three dimensionality. It wasn’t apparent to me on my first day of listening but as time went, I definitely couldn’t ignore the difference. It wasn’t a huge gap in technicalities say HD650-HD800, but definitely a larger gap between say a HD600 to a HD650.

The SRH1440 is the more forward sounding headphone, where the SRH1840 is the more laid back. The forward aspect of the SRH1440 is very noticeable on the frequency response measurement chart from HeadRoom where from 1K up to 10K the SRH1440 records a higher amplitude. During most of my listening time, I think the combination of the frequency response and the less-refined sound of the SRH1440 makes for a slightly glaring and honky presentation of the treble, while vocals are also less natural on the SRH1440. These little differences with the two headphones are not likely to pop out during one day meet listening sessions (at least not with me), but by the third day they were very evident to me, and it keeps pulling me back to the SRH1840 every single time. Needless to say by the end of this review, the SRH1840 was the star of the two.


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Open Back Shures: SRH1440 and SRH1840
4.17 (83.33%) 12 votes

  • Interesting, looks like I won’t be getting a SRH-1840 as I originally thought. Not worth it.

    • Why?

      • I guess you mentioned that they were similar to the HD600/650 abeit higher cost and slightly better clarity, but that’s where the amps kicks in right? What equipment did you use to drive the Shures? It would be interesting to find out how these two scales with amping if they’re similar to the Senns

        • I tried them with anything from portables like the C421, National and Continental, to desktops like Asgard and RSA Darkstar. The Shures scale up perhaps just as good as the HD650.

    • I’ve heard people say they are a pretty detailed headphone, but from what I’m hearing from you, not worth much of an upgrade if you already have a really good setup on the HD650. Might as well just go for the HD800 or LCD-2.

      • True. I think the point here is making for an easier upgrade path at $699, rather than $1500 (the current HD800 price).

    • please, austin.  don’t drop the shures from your want list just based on mike’s review.
      i personally have stopped believing half the crap i read on these sites.  head-fi, innerfidelity, headfonia. 
      they all are folks just like you and me, who hear things and bring their own perceptions to the table.
      i personally find the SRH1840 the best headphone i’ve heard under $1000.
      but, who am i, right?  ; )

  • Oh, and I’d love to see a SRH-1840 wallpaper, if you can. 🙂

    • I should be able to make one from the photo stock. 🙂

      • That would be very cool, the black photos look mighty fine, in my opinion.

  • Derpy Mcderpinson

    Love the looks of the 1840, doubt I’ll get it though.

    • Why, the price?

  • What amp & DAC do you suggest to match the 1440 and the 1840?

    • I enjoyed them with the C421, the National, and the Dark Star. As for DACs, I tend to like less grainy sources like the Dacport LX, Kingrex UD384, the CLAS and the Tera-Player.

      • Thanks. Not too demanding, yes? 🙂

    • I want to add that the Shures have a grainy sound, so that’s why I prefer less grainy DACs.

  • Initial impressions: (straight from my post at hf…)


    – Extremely comfortable earpads!! (after trying the NIGHTMARE that was the Audio Technicas A900X, these are heaven!!)

    – Similar pressure on top (headband) as the SRH940 (please note though, I’m getting balder everyday!! lol!!)

    – Definitely “treble-happy” or “bass-light” (whatever term you like…)

    – Even though they lack QUANTITY on the lower region, the sound still sounds kind of “full”,… it’s a bit weird actually…

    Listening to Kaskade – Room for Happiness, it sounds extremely well. Vocals up-front as expected, sound-stage is quite great, effects are full of life and, again, even though they are bass-lite I love how songs are reproduced.

    – Same track on the D5000s, sound way more fuller, more bass quantity
    and impact, vocals A BIT recessed but not by a lot actually (yep, the D5000s are still my favorite it seems… :-p)

    – Same track on the HD600s, less highs, less sharp, similar
    soundstage, a bit more bass quantity and presence… and to be honest, I’m liking sound reproduction on the SRH a bit more than the HDs… but just by a hair…
    BUT, just like the 940s, it seems they will be destined to be genre specific headphones and not all-rounders…

    • Thanks for sharing your impressions.

  • Nice Review. But at $800 I think I still have to listen for myself to really know if I will think the 1840 will be worth the money.

  • Jeff Kong

    The 1840 does fit into a nice bracket…they also look awfully comfy :3
    this review was a nice read, but there was a lot more of the comparing going on compared to the usual. 

  • oh well.  a “meh” review, just like i figured.
    i guess i’m the only person so far who has picked up on the Shure’s superior imaging and tracking ability when compared to other headphones in its price class.
    somewhere between 50 and 75 hours of burn-in brought about a very impressive instrument separation that i simply don’t get from other headphones under $1000.
    so, my brief relationship with the SRH1840 has been pretty far from “meh”.
    in fact, each time i listen to these cans, i say “kudos to shure!”

    • L.

       75 hours? you sure it wasn’t you geting used to the Shure? No offence ment

      • JackyM

         Im interested in what you think about the Shure 1×40 line up, L. Since you enjoy the HD 650, HiFiman HE-500 and Audeze LCD. Mainly in HE-500 vs the Shure since apparently the HE-500 is basically superior to the HD 650.

        • L.

           I’m sorry but I haven’t listened to the Shures, Mike has them

        • The HE-500 versus the Shure 1840:

          HE-500: better overall clarity, transients, cleaner sound
          Shure 1840: More laid back, more relaxed, better soundstage image

  • Shahrose Malik

    I prefer the stock 1840 over my T1s and HD650s (both recabled).  The Shures needed a healthy amount of burn-in to settle. I gave them a 100 hours, after which I definitely noticed no changes.

    In terms of technical performance, the T1s are slightly better. It’s not a huge difference.  If you replace the T1 with the HD800, then yes, it’s a significant difference.

    Another thing Mike, I feel the 1840 are very forgiving. Yes, they scale up well, but they manage to sound good from lower-end gear too (moreso than other flagships). I guess it’s because of their slightly slow/rounded, smooth sound.

    • Yes the 1840 is more forgiving than the T1 and the HD800.

  • dalethorn

    If you insert two more foams into each earpiece of the rather bright 1440, it then sounds very much like the 1840, and the 1440 bass is then better also. Foams are the backing on the extra earpads. I used the spare foams from my 1440 and 1840.

  • Pingback: Test des casques ouverts Shure SRH1440 et SRH1840 sur Headfonia()

  • Fabio_Rocks

    I am really impressed by the pictures! WOW! The best pics I have ever seen on HFN! Anyway I just ordered the Sennheiser hd 650, I found a screaming deal for 289 Eur. Shure must be happy anyway because the Shure se 215 just reserved some money on my wallet:D
    I was really torn between the HD 650 and The Hifiman he 500, but for half the price I must be happy with the hd 650. (best price for he500 was 599 Eur)
    The comment was totally out of topic, I know, I am sorry! Nice review Mike.

    • spkrs01

      I just bought the HE500 to compliment the HD650 and also have the Shure SRH 1840 coming in later this month. I am using a 3rd party cable on the HD650 which I find improves the bass immensely in terms of eliminating the bass overhang which is very prominent on the HD650. It brings the performance of the two headphones a lot closer driven by the DX100.

      Using the Triad L3, the performance widens again!

      • Fabio_Rocks

        Nice to hear that! Can you tell which is the cable
        You use with the hd 650? It will be my next buy then. Just one question, between the hd 650 and hee-500 which one you like the most? Thanks

        • spkrs01

          I prefer the HE500, it is more balanced and coherent sounding. Images are more palpable! However, it is very heavy not not as comfortable as the HD650.

          I am using a silver plated copper on the HD650. 

        • Fabio,
          ALO is a sponsor of our site so take this advice with a grain of salt, but I personally find the ALO cable to be the best cable for the HD800 and HD650/600. It’s very very expensive though.

          • Fabio_Rocks

            Thanks Mike!

      • Yes actually even using a HD600 cable would help with the bass overhang. I’m now using a steel-core cable from the HD25SP which I also like better than the HD600/650 cable. Weird, huh? 😉

        • spkrs01

          I have just bought a Violectric HPA V200 and the HD650 really scales up incredibly well. I have changed to using a high purity OCC copper, as I am am sending the silver plated to a Head-Fi er to try.

          The HD650 has to be one of the few bargains left in this hobby. The sound is very sophisticated and dare I say, extremely high end! It will be definitely worthwhile to try a good silver cable on it………….

          • I’ve tried many many different cables on the HD650 😉

            Don’t like silver. They always add some harshness to the sound. I think silver-plated copper is best for those looking to bright up the HD650.

        • tre54321

          Hey Mike, the steel cable you were mentioning, is it the 150cm or 300cm variant? What improvements did you find it to bring on the HD650?

          • It’s the 300cm one. The sound is more spacious, the bass clearer though slightly less thick.

    • Thanks, Fabio and hope you enjoy the HD650. 🙂

  • …. and the price of good headphones continues to shoot up like a rocket. I blame the Beats. 

  • …. and the price of good headphones continues to shoot up like a rocket. I blame the Beats. 

    • Blame Senn for the HD800. 😉

  • Is it possible to exchange the back side mesh between headphones?

    Do the foam pads in front of the driver have different thickness?

    Because the slight difference between them sounds like a little more open back and a little thicker foam pad. 🙂

    There’s some experimenting to be done Mike.

    • dalethorn

      I pulled the foams from both. I don’t see any differences.

    • Eugen,
      The foam pads are the same thickness and material, and I don’t think you can replace the back mesh.

  • 🙂 

  • I just tried the 1840 over the weekend and am pretty impressed. To me it sounds like a less-refined  HD800 but with a more forward, more intimate midrange. The fact that it sounds good even out from lesser upstream components (unlike the extremely picky HD800) and costs half of the HD800 makes for a nice alternative. 

  • Did I miss something? How’s the build quality compared to the HD650, HD800, LCD-2, and T1?

  • dalethorn

    The build quality of the 1440 and 1840 are very similar, with a slight edge to the 1840 for the extra metal connecting the headband to the earcups. I haven’t had the 600 and 650 for 2 years now, but as best I remember they would be about like the 1440 but not as good as the 1840. The build of the HD800 is good, but no better than the 1840 — it’s just the HD800 is massive which makes it look like an extra good build since all of that extra material is good quality. The HD800 comfort is way better than the 600/650 which are claustrophobic by comparison. The 1840, even though the earcups are similar to the 600/650, is much more comfortable and less claustrophobic – almost as good as the HD800. I say almost because the HD800 pads don’t really touch the ears. Since the 1440’s clamping force is much higher than the 1840, it doesn’t have near the comfort level, although it’s still better than the 600/650. LCD2 I don’t know, but from what I’ve heard it would be in the same class of earcup comfort as the 1840 or HD800, but much heavier on the head. T1 I also don’t know. Does the T1 have round earcups?

  • dalethorn

    I recently ordered a CD called The Power Of The Organ played by Rachel Laurin, which has many very deep fundamentals good for testing deep bass response. When the 1440 and 1840 play those notes, it feels to me like I’m in the cathedral and those big pipes have enough power to split the foundation. That’s some amazing bass.

  • Thanks for sharing, Michael.

  • Hi Mike, I have one question have you tried to put your hd 580 or hd 650 in the case of 1840/1440 I ‘m  interested in the case even more than the headphone itself 😀

  • Hello Mike, your comparison make me interested with hifiman he-500
    unfortunately, cannot find hifiman he-500 in Indonesia

    maybe gonna buy shure 1840 first and compare it when there is opportunity

    Thx Mike for the review

    • Alright, Tom.

  • dalethorn

    At the Stereophile headphone forum (which has view statistics) the SRH1440 review in 16 days has now gotten as many views as the 1840 review got in 39 days. It shure looks like the bargain hunters are taking a longer harder look at the SRH1440.

    • L.

       ” It shure looks like… “. Nice job sneaking that in there 😉

    • Interesting.

    • I took all 3 headphones (SRH-940/1440/1840) to a Head-fi meet a couple of weeks ago and was pretty surprised when the majority of the people at the meet prefered the 1440 over the 1840. I think part of this is likely because a meet like this is pretty noisy so the more forward mids of the 1440 and it’s more aggressive sound was easier to hear. But the majority just thought it was a funner headphone to listen to. Those same listeners often owned very expensive and “higher end” gear. So I do think the 1440 deserves serious consideration from bargain hunters and audiophiles of all levels. It really does boil down to preference as much as anything.

      • Interesting.. thanks for sharing, Michael.

      • What about your personal take on the three headphones?

        • The 1840 is the most neutral of the 3 but to neutral for my tastes. The 940 is the most easily revealing.  The 1440 is somewhere right between both and consequently offers the best of both for my tastes.

      • dalethorn

        I did read your original stuff on head-fi — much appreciated. I did the 1440 double-foam mod you can see in my video on youtube, and although I haven’t completely made my mind up about it, I hear a much better sound that way. Less brightness, more like the 1840. Still more forward, probably not as “refined” as the 1840 or whatever the most severe critics might find about the difference. But I think anyone who finds the 940 somewhat bright and the 1440 possibly marginal – not so bright but not perfect either – they might find the mod makes the sound unbelievably good. I am enjoying the modded 1440 more than anything I’ve heard so far (1440, 1840, Senn 800/600/650, Philips L1, Grado PS500, a few others).

        • That was an interesting video on the mod, not sure I will take the foams out of my spare pads or not  but I will see if I have some paterial I can use to try that and if not will look at how much replacement pads costs just so I know how much it ould costs to replace the pads if I decide to sacrifice a set.

          I like the 1440 alot but like you find they are just a touch to hot or bright at times so am  interested in what this can do.

          • dalethorn

            I’m not so sure that cutting out the foams is actually destructive. Since the foams tuck into the earcups so well on the 1440 now, I’m going to assume that you could put the de-foamed earpads onto a headphone later on and then just tuck the foams into the earcups. They are stable that way. I did try some different materials with the 940 about 6 months ago, and didn’t like the results. I can’t try now with the foams since I sent the 940 off to someone in the Philippines.

            Edit: I did get better results with 2 sets of foams in each earcup. One foam only has surprisingly little effect.

  • spkrs01

    Received my pair of SRH 1840, last Sunday, After listening for a few days, it has gone back into the box. I found the 1840 rather bleached and brash sounding and somewhat fatiguing. It has huge potential and I am sure I will grow to love it once a new cable comes through.

    There are many qualities for it to be an excellent pair of cans, like the clarity in how music is portrayed through them, the amount of detail and the soundstaging is remarkable.

    I have a new silver/gold cable for the HE-500 and bought the LCD-2 Bamboo yesterday. At the moment the HE-500 with a 3rd party cable rules the roost by quite a fair margin.

  • Help,
    940 vs 1440 without amp??

    • Mark,
      Both be okay without an amp, and okay without an amp. What’s important is to choose the one that suits your preferences. Perhaps read the SRH940 review also.

    • dalethorn

      The specs for the 1440 indicate it’s about 5 db more efficient than the 1840, but in my experience it’s much less than that. So although I get satisfactory results with the unamped 1440 in most cases, it’s still marginal for volume sometimes. I can’t compare directly now to the 940, but I think the 940 will play louder. As far as the sound goes, the 940 is very good for soundstage for a closed headphone, but the 1440 still sounds better in that respect. When I did have them in-house together, I got the impression of better bass with the 940 – better than either the 1440 or 1840.

      • Yes I agree on the impressions. The bass punch on the 940 is very nice.

  • nightfly

    Having purchased the Grado PS 500 last winter, I am just wondering how the Shure SRH 1840 compare since they are in the same price range? Always been a big fan of Shure IEM.

    • Technicalities wise, the SRH1840 is better than the PS500. But headphones aren’t always about technicalities and different headphones suit different music better. What else can I say? Both the 1840 and the PS500 are fine headphones.

    • dalethorn

      I gave my PS500 away, but for lack of space, not lack of interest. I think it has better musical tone somehow than the 1840, but the 1840 is more accurate for whatever that’s worth. It would be great to have a topic on accurate -vs- musical somewhere.

      • I think the PS500 is very musical too, but i find that the presentation is not something I can live with for a long time. I don’t know, I just find the presentation to get old very quickly.

        • dalethorn

          That must have been it. Anyway I hope my PS500 is happy in its new home in Singapore. It is/was a marvel of hand tooling in an age of automation.

  • OK, today I picked up a cheapy little tube headphone amp from a friend and it has transformed the SRH-1840 from something I found somewhat lifeless into a headphone with vitality. I have not tried the 1440 yet as I am just enjoying the 1840 to much at this point in time. But if you own the 1840 and are feeling frustrated that it’s not lively enough in the mids and to some degree the treble, heck actually even the bass. Then I suggest you think about investing in a small tube amp (if you don’t have one) as the $50-100 investment mighht just shock you. I will see what happens with the 1440 and 940 as I have time. I am actually a bit scared it might make the 1440 in particular a bit to edgy and aggressive. I am starting to wonder if the issue of some finding the 1440 to aggressive and the 1840 much better coming down to the synergy of the source and amp with the headphones.

    • What amp were you using for the SRH-1840 before changing to the tube amp?

      • I have a small solid state amp locally manufactured from RWAudio which is a neutral to almost cold sounding solid state amp. The owner is actually the one who loaned me the tube amp. I like his amp and the tube amp with the SRH-1440 but the tube amp just completely changes the SRH-1840 for me.

  • Mike – can you comment on SRH-1840 vs HD700 (with the understanding that we are talking about “the HD700 preview version that may not be the same as the production version” ? What was better/preferable on the HD700, and what was better/preferable on the SRH-1840 ? Thanks !

    • dalethorn

      I see that TTVJ is selling the HD700 now – he filled his backorders and has new stock available too. So, has anyone auditioned the final version?

    • Ken,
      I think the HD700 was far more impressive technically, but the 1840’s signature would be easier to enjoy for a wider range of music.

  • jonathan meader

    Hi Mike ,
    Would you say the $699 SRH1840 are worth nearly twice the price of the HD650 ?
    Also can you please briefly comment on their differences ?
    Much appreciated

    • dalethorn

      If you pay $300 more for the 1840 the law of diminishing returns is really in effect there. But a 1440 with the earpad foam mod would be $300 cheaper and very, very close to the 1840. That would be a good one to compare to the 650, if you could.