From big time microphone manufacturer Shure comes a new headphone designed to top the Shure SRH-840. Big thanks to Harris and Franky over at Shure Indonesia for lending us the unit used in this review.
I was really impressed with the semi hard case that they include with the SRH-940. A very welcome addition over the plain leatherette pouch I got for my SRH-840. And like with the SRH-840, you also get an extra set of pads with the SRH-940 except that the 940 comes with verlours instead of leather. In photographs or in real life, the dark silver finishing looks classier than the SRH-840’s matt black finish. But when you hold the two headphones in your hand, the SRH-840 feels more solid than the SRH-940. I don’t know if Shure lightens the plastic walls on the SRH-940 to get an overall lighter headphone, but the SRH-940’s lighter weight and clamping force is far more comfortable than the SRH-840. Since the pads on the SRH-940 are oval shaped, I find them to be more comfortable than the circular verlours on the Beyer full size headphones. Good stuff.
The changes in the sound signature is quite obvious. The SRH-940 is clearly a brighter headphone overall than the SRH-840. You get more treble, more clarity, more sparkle. The bass loses some body but it’s a lot clearer than the bass on the SRH-840. The result is a headphone that feels a lot lighter in the sound but is overall quicker in pace and even perceived transients. When I did the Closed Cans Shootout, one of the things that I wish was different is the presentation of vocals on the SRH-840, which was quite laid back in relation to other headphones like the Shure SRH-750DJ or the Audio Technica M-50. In this case, the SRH-940 has gotten the vocal presence just perfect. The vocals are forward and engaging, not too close or too glaring, and the instruments properly laid down on a different layer behind the vocal.
From a monitoring perspective, the SRH-940 is definitely an improvement over the SRH-840, and quite a big improvement too. Not only you get better clarity on the treble, but also very noticeable on the bass regions. For music listening, however, though vocal presence has been vastly improved, but the SRH-940 is dryer sounding than the SRH-840, so that’s something to keep in mind. The SRH-940 is also more critical of the recording and source quality, and although it’s a very desirable trait for a good monitoring headphone, the SRH-840’s more forgiving stance would be more preferable to us music listeners. Obviously Shure was building the SRH-940 to be a monitoring headphone, and in that sense I think the SRH-940 is a much better product than the SRH-840.
Although I’m used to listening to the Sennheiser HD800, still the amount of detail that you get from the SRH-940 is just staggering. I know that the HD800 is better in translating ambiance in the recordings and things like micro details, but even the HD800 doesn’t push all the details in the music out like the way the SRH-940 does. Now you need a good recording to hear all of this effect and for that 24/96 Classical music files are best, but even a moderately well recording like Jewel’s Spirit album is giving me goosebumps from the SRH-940 & Audinst HUD-MX1 combo. When I first listened to the SRH-940, I thought the headphone was a bit dry. But after some ~24 hours later, I think the dryness has subsided though it still is not as smooth as the SRH-840, mainly due to the verlour vs pleather pads differences.
When I received the SRH-940 and noticed that you get an extra sets of pads, I quickly thought that it would’ve been nice for Shure to give us pleather pads from the SRH-840 instead so we get to choose between verlour and pleather. After all, verlour is known to make sound brighter and reduce bass boominess (also takes out some bass body), while pleather does the opposite: darkens the sound and add bass body. But, guess what? I tried swapping the pads from the SRH-840 to the SRH-940 and vica versa, and I didn’t like the result. The effect I anticipated was there, the SRH-940 gains bass body, but it was more like an abrupt 3dB bump throughout the bass frequencies. Yes, you get more bass, but gone is the balance in the tonality and the smooth transition from the mids to the bass. Not recommended.
The opposite is also true with the SRH-840. Less bass with SRH-940 pads gives you better detail on the bass, but it did sound like an abrupt EQ to lower bass quantities, resulting in a somewhat hollow feeling on the low frequencies while adding some low treble to the mix. Let’s face it, the engineers at Shure knows their business and both the SRH-940 and the SRH-840 work best with the stock pads on. If you happen to feel that one headphone is not quite right, the best solution is to change to the other model entirely.
Overall the SRH-940 is still primarily a linear headphone geared more toward monitoring, as most music listeners would prefer a fuller and punchier lows, more mid coloration, and a less intense treble, even if that means less detail levels and looser bass. In that sense you can take something totally different like the heavily warm and colored B&W P5 headphone, and feel that music flows better out of the P5. But there are times when we want to hear those details in the recordings, and in a way, the SRH-940 gives me almost the same detailed sensation I hear on the Beyerdynamic DT880 headphone, except with better mids and vocal reproduction.
Quite a winning product, in my opinion. Just remember that given the accurate, monitoring stance of the SRH-940, the headphones are very picky about your source and recording quality. Most of the harshness, sibilance, and extreme compression on mainstream recordings will be very audible through the SRH-940s. Likewise, old analog based recordings also don’t sound too good out of these.
The Shure SRH-940 is available for $299 from Amazon.com, while the SRH-840 is available for a mere $140.74 from Amazon.com (down $109.26 from the $250 list price). I do think that the street price of the SRH-940 should be lower after a few months (in the US, at least).
GEARS USED FOR REVIEW
Headphones: Shure SRH-940, SRH-840, Sennheiser HD800, Audio Technica M-50
DAC/Amp: Fostex HP-A3, CEntrance DACMini