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Shure SRH 940

Posted

Pros: Detailed, "open" feel, Build Quality, Included goodies

Cons: Heavy, Uncomfortable headband

It has started to become a trend that when I review equipment here on head-fi I give a small background regarding my audio experiences, in an effort to provide the reader of the material a better idea of my opinions to ultimately aid in objectifying such a subjective category of audio.  For those of you who have read my other reviews you may find this repetitive, but I still feel it is of importance to the quality of the review and for what the reader takes away from it.  So... here goes:

 

I am a young audio enthusiast who is relatively new to the headphone scene.  I may not have years of experience with headphones specifically as many of the other members of head-fi have had a chance to have, but I am certainly not new to the world of quality audio playback.  Audio fanatics run common in the family, so even from a very young age I have had a vast exposure to high end loudspeaker systems.  It is this exposure that I blame for my audio-snob like qualities today, as hearing music played back sloppily frustrates me to the point of frowning or even sometimes removing myself entirely from the situation.  Most of my experience comes with external setups, whether it be my exposure to family members' hi-fi loudspeaker systems or my own custom built extensive car set-up (soon to go all out on a home hi-fi system).  I am diving into the unrealized headphone niche of audio... being a college student and moving from place to place frequently has made headphones one of the most feasible options for enjoying beautiful sound for the time being.  I may be less than a year old in the headphone world, but I am certainly not new to audio in general.  I also think it worth noting that I listen to many different types of music for these reviews, and although I usually don't mention the song genres specifically, I think it should be known that I listen to as many genres as possible for these reviews, whether I find such a genre enjoyable or not.  Regardless of whether the genre is of my taste, I try to pick out the strengths and weaknesses the headphone offers up for said genre and write based on the sum of all strengths and weaknesses.  My best realized sonic experience comes from the Sydney Orchestra playing in the main hall of the Sydney Opera House.  With that disclaimer said, I will do my best to draw comparisons from other headphones I have heard as well as make comparisons to external setups for perspective's sake.  I hope you find this read informative, and do not hesitate to ask me specific questions if this review did not answer your question.

 

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Comfort: Compared to other headphones I have owned and demoed, I have to say these are probably a notch below average unfortunately.  While I have not tried the SRH-840 for more than a couple minutes, I can safely assume that these are probably more comfortable overall, but certainly still have some issues.  The clamping force and overall comfort on the ears is just fine.  My complaint comes both from the weight of the headphone and from the pressure of the headband.  Shure makes quality products, but on their Studio Reference Headphone line it just seems they have struggled in the headband department, as many complaints regarding this physical piece of the headphone are out there for the SRH-840 as well.  I find that they are much less comfortable than both my Sennheiser HD448 and CharterOak SP-1 because of the pressure the headband applies on the top of the head.  It takes frequent adjustments after as little as a half-hour listening session.  On the upside, the velour pads are very comfy and protect against sweaty ears for multi-hour listening sessions, unlike my SP-1 or HD448, despite being closed and offering some isolation (more on this later).  Unfortunately I have to report that the comfort on these headphones could be much better.

 

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Durability: Don't let the plastic material choice cause you to draw erroneous assumptions about the build quality of these headphones.  They might be on the heavy side, but they're certainly built like a tank.  To actually break these things would take some effort, and the hard case that comes with them renders them likely candidate to physically last as long as you want them to.  As mentioned earlier, they may not be the most comfortable, but they make up for it in durability.  The swivel joints on the Shure aren't even exposed.  I really think the only way to damage these without smashing them against something would be to twist the joint the wrong way with some hearty effort.  An extra set of pads are even included in case you ruin your current set.  Absolutely no worries here.

 

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Sound Quality: Since this is arguably the most important aspect of the review, I will spend the most time on this section and break it up into the logical three categories - Highs, mids, lows.

Highs: Airy, detailed, extended and controlled.  Wow, what a combination!  For my experience at least, it seems that when the upper registers have the lightweight feel to be as nimble and detailed as I am looking for, I have to pay for it by tolerating a brighter feel.  I am okay with a subtle brightness if it does indeed provide the detail in the upper mids and highs, and it usually has to roll off a tad early just so it doesn't provide too much listener's fatigue.  These SRH-940s do an incredible job of keeping the highs airy and detailed while never becoming bright.  The control of the highs is even more impressive when you hear the upper register extension these have to offer.  I haven't quite heard extension like this in a headphone... in fact these SRH-940s maintain high frequencies like many of the loudspeaker setups I have heard do, which is quite impressive considering the external setups I am speaking of have a dedicated driver for the highs.  The extension reminds me a lot of some dedicated MB Quart car tweets I have, but the Shure's don't require the rest of the frequency to have ton of juice to keep up.  Even more so, the highs remind me of an external setup in the sense that it seems they have a volume sweet spot.  Since external setups often have dedicated drivers for specific frequency ranges, it is not uncommon to hear the balance of the setup change slightly as you increase or decrease the input power.  Often each set of drivers will have slightly different sensitivities to the input power and thus turning the volume knob can generate changes in balance.  Usually there is a volume sweet spot for which the system in tuned for.  I notice these balance changes as I up the volume outputted from my FiiO e7/e9 combo, and that these headphones have a sweet spot.  The presence of the highs seems to become extreme passed this sweet spot and there seems to be a slight emphasis on the mids below said sweet spot.  This, of course, is somewhat subtle but still worth noting as I don't observe these balance changes as drastically in my other headphones.  This intrigues me since the headphone only uses one driver per ear cup, and is most likely indicative of an impressive soundstage.

 

Mids: Always my favorite part of the spectrum... if it can't do midranges it isn't for me.  In my opinion the mids are very neutral in this Shure.  It seems as their purpose is just to tie the highs and lows together, and this gives it a very natural feel.  The vocal ranges certainly aren't as juicy as they are in my CharterOak SP-1 but are far from veiled or colored.  Just like the highs, this range is very well controlled and imaging is superb for a headphone, especially a closed one.  The upper mids definitely contain more detail than that of the lower mids, and overall I find the detail in the midranges to be ever so slightly behind the SP-1.  The imaging however in the Shure is quite impressive, giving you more a "room" (wide) feel than the "hall" (direct) feel the SP-1 does.  The SP-1 puts you a little closer to the music and the Shure makes you take a step back.  The SP-1 presents the music more athletically while the 940 gives it more of a laid back feel, while both sounds still remain "analytical".  I also find my SP-1 to be very mid-forward, so that may have something to do with it.  Honestly, because of the nimbleness, increased detail, and clinical feel in the midranges from the SP-1 I would probably dub it a better "reference" studio monitor than the SRH-940 (SP-1 was also more money), but I'm finding I prefer the Shure when I just want to listen to the music and not think about it.  When extension is the most impressive aspect of this headphone, it shouldn't be surprising that the mids have less to comment about.  That being said, I have no real substantial complaints about the midrange - they are very natural and "fair".  If anything they swim in the large sonic space the SRH-940 offers without feeling empty or gapped, and give one more bullet point of evidence towards the above average soundstage.

 

Lows: This could be the most difficult aspect of the headphone to asses for a couple of reasons.  It doesn't help that I am very picky with my bass, and I feel that it is the first to go as you work your way into cheap options.  Bass presence usually is never the problem, but bass quality almost always is.  It seems so common that bass is overdone and spills into the mids, drowning it out.  I prefer bass that carries some impact, but more importantly carries tone and recovers promptly.  The first thing I notice when equipment is underpowered... whether it be headphones, car components, or speaker towers is the bass becoming sluggish and lagging behind.  Obviously amplification makes huge differences throughout the spectrum, but in the bass is where I generally hear the most substantial difference.  I noticed the same with the SRH-940s.  Straight out of an iPod classic I noticed that the mids and highs were hardly affected, but the lows lost a lot of texture and layering, most likely due to bass notes not recovering fast enough and leaking into each other...leading to more drug out than separated notes.  These sound fine unamped, but MAN if you throw some real juice behind them the bass just tightens up and becomes layered, fast, deep, and noticeably impactful at least.  The low end extension of these headphones is nearly as impressive as the extension in the highs, effortlessly hitting very low notes with more volume than other headphones I have tried or owned.  The bass reminds me a lot of the bass in the Senn PX-360 but with WAY more control to it and no bleeding into the lower mids.  In fact, if anything they have a slight recession in the low mids/midbass region which help with this bleeding effect.  Do I prefer this recession?  Not entirely, as I feel my SP-1 seems to love this range while still preventing the "bass bleeding" into the mids.  The Shure certainly makes a nice sonic compliment to the SP-1 for this reason.  This ever so slight recession in the mid bass is probably my only true complaint of the Shure SRH-940 with regard to sonic signature.  All the rest of my mentioning was more comparison and appreciation of difference rather than dislike.  I will conclude this section by saying the bass extension, layering, and texture are all very excellent while the bass impact is fine and the recession in the midbass region is mildly frown-worthy.

 

Additional Notes: The "extras" that come with this headphone are excellent.  Shure includes a nice hard zipper case that should protect them quite well if you are a frequent traveler.  Inside the case are an extra set of velour pads (which are removed from the headphone very easily, yet still remain secure during use), a removable straight AND coiling cable (very nice of you Shure), and room for a portable player/amp if you want.. my iPod and e7 fit just fine.

Isolation is fine/average - better than my loose fit SP-1 and slightly worse than my HD448... I'm guessing due to the velour pads.  I will say that for how big of stage and the imaging they provide.. it is impressive these offer the level of isolation that they do.

I will say that it is subtle but nice that they quantified the notches on the side of the headband so you can get the extension of both sides of the headband right the first time to allow quick fitting.   If I let other people use the headphone and they adjust the band I can remember "if I set both sides at setting 3 that it will be comfortable" and that is nice.

Both cables come 3.5mm terminated with the ability to utilize the threaded 6.3mm adapter.  Both cables attach into the left ear cup via a twisting lock.

 

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Nutshell: Most definitely a treble lover's headphone.  It does well with instrumental and string oriented music.  They sound fine unamped, yet utilize an amp very well.  This means that if you're looking for a headphone that will run out of a portable device or anything unamped and know you may upgrade to a better amplifier later, these are safe bet.  Just remember that these (to my ears) seem to have a volume sweet spot and you may have to do some tinkering to find that once you amp them.  For 300 dollars, I would say you're getting what you paid for.   The sonic signature is gorgeous and really the only hiccup is the slight midbass recession... but the control and extension in the highs and lows combined with the large soundstage and solid imaging make this headphone easily worth 300 dollars.  Value wise, I think it would be tough to say these are anything other than "solid", especially considering all the goodies you get with them.

 

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Posted

Pros: Detail, Clarity, Bright Mids/Highs, Neutral, Easy to Drive

Cons: Bass Light (Neutral), Price (worth it though)

The Shure SRH940, a Subjective Opinion-Based Analysis Subject to Scrutiny

 

         The Shure SRH940: "I can hear the smoke in the bar."

 

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Background (A Preface)

 

Before even beginning to describe my journey with the Shure SRH940 headphone, I should explain where I'm coming from to help explain some of my perceptions, expectations and generally how my opinion is formed. I'm a basshead at heart. I like thundering, pant shaking, jaw rattling bass. I like it low, tight and with impact. I don't like muddy uncontrolled flabby bass, even if it's full and wall shaking. Because of this, my headphone collection is pretty centered around bass heavy headphones such as the Ultrasone Pro 900, BeyerDynamic DT990 and the Sony XB500. My reference point for determining neutrality and color is usually done with my Sennheiser HD580 headphone. I keep my Audio-Technica AD500 and Sony XB500 as reference points for inexpensive headphones to make references to between a closed bass heavy headphone and an open air headphone with good soundstage. After all, what's the point of a $300 headphone if a $50 headphone can do it too. It's good to have a wide spectrum of things to sample from to get an idea of quality, sound spectrum, extension, rendering, well, the total package.

 

Too Long; Won't Read (TL;WR): I'm a basshead going after a detail monster headphone for vocals and acoustic.

 

Why I Chose the Shure 940

 

I already have a Sennheiser HD580, so why would I want to get a Shure SRH940? Simply put, I wanted a headphone that would deliver clarity, crispness, detailed highs and likewise mids that wasn't a bass centered headphone like most of my other headphones. I wanted something specifically for classical music, female vocals, acoustic, indie, folk and jazz. The Sennheiser HD580 already performs this task very well, but is laid back and is open air so it's not very ideal for portable use. I wanted something a bit more forward with the highs and mids that was specifically closed so that I could use it while going portable as well as when at home for isolation if quiet-time is needed. Very few headphones that were closed fit the bill in terms of the sound signature I was looking for and the style and comfort that had to pair with it. Searching around landed me the Shure SRH940. A closed back headphone with velour pads and an easy-going-headband grip that has forward mids and highs with good bass extension that is not too bright and little to no sibilance that is relatively easy to drive and sounds excellent for acoustic and female vocals (primarily for me) with incredible detail and clarity while being very comfortable and able to be used portable and it had to have cloth pads, as I will not wear anything else when going portable.

 

Too Long, Won't Read (TL;WR): Closed back headphone with forward highs and mids, neutral bass, that is bright and clear with a great sound stage and good extension. Perfect for vocals, acoustic, jazz, indie, folk, etc. Basically, if you want a personal studio session with Ani Difranco, this is your headphone.

 

What's In The Box

 

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Some people do not really care about what package, and others do. I like to have accessories and extras that supplement and actually are useful. When it comes to a headphone, the things I'm looking for in terms of these things are extra ear pads, additional cables, a carrying case, etc. The Shure SRH940 has a really good offering in terms of it's package, aside from it's headphone. The carrying case it comes in is a sturdy semi-hard rubber finish-feeling plastic case with a good sturdy zipper. The case does not have a lashing or band, it's just a case, so you have to hold it to carry, it doesn't turn into a hard bag so to speak. It compresses if you press with force, so a crushing force will destroy the contents, but it's sturdy enough to protect the headphone and contents in your luggage bag, backpack, messenger bag, piling books on it on the table, etc. Inside the case, you get two detachable cables, one straight cable and one coiled cable. Both terminate with a 3.5mm jack and come with a 1/4th adapter that screw locks onto the cable. It makes for quick swapping and adapting to your source device. There are additional velour pads of the same color included. The case has a zipper bag inside the case for the additional cable. And of course the headphone itself. The middle of the case has a hard rubber place holder for the headphone to hug. When in place, the headphone does not move around making it a great travel case with some pretty good protection.

Overall, the contents are great which enhances the headphone as a package. By comparison, this package is far superior to what came with my BeyerDynamic DT990, which did not include detachable cables, and was a very flimsy pleather case-bag essentially with a big foam insert in a big tear drop shape where the headphones are cradled. On the other hand, the Ultrasone Pro 900 case is superior to the Shure SRH940, as it is a more sturdy case made of vinyl material that is less prone to show dust and finger prints and comes with a lashing so you can hold it like a hard bag for carrying (and the contents from Ultrasone included extra pads, extras detachable cables and something really neat, a CD with recordings to test the sound stage and rendering ability of the headphone). Shure could have included something like that and made a better case. I've seen a lot of people really liking the case, but the Ultrasone case and contents are superior in my opinion. If you need absolute protection, none of these cases will do. If you want total protection, I recommend an inexpensive hard gun case with foam insert.

 

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Construction & Style

 

Specs:

 

Driver Size: 40mm

Weight: 11oz (320gram) without the cable

 

The headphone itself is made entirely of plastic except for a few internal bits which are definitely not plastic (more on this in a moment). The color is two tone, grey and silver, with black pads, band and cords. The headphone is not flashy like an Ultrasone back plate for example. The plastic itself is very sturdy. Note, it's easy to scratch the plastic. I noticed this right away compared to the hard rubber material of the Ultrasone. I've already scratched mine a bit just from heavy use and tossing it around with other objects. The headband is lined with a pleather material and foam. The pads are velour and very comfortable, they're not a rigid foam like the Ultrasone, the pads more resemble the soft squishiness of my Sennheisers. The cups themselves swivel 90 degrees and completely flip (you can literally turn them inside out). The cups are shaped like an oval, not a circle, and are circumaural. The headband extension is actually labeled with measurements, so you can match both sides without having to eye it, it's labeled, so you can put both sides to "4" for example and it will be equal on both sides (I found this feature to be a nice detail). The cables are detachable, and lock in place (via a twist lock mechanism, if they are yanked they do not come out, they will simply pull the headphone, so beware). Speaking of cables, it comes with two detachable cables. One is straight, one is coiled. Both are thick and feel durable. They terminate with 3.5mm jacks and come with a single 1/4th adapter that screws on. The design is a single cable (ie, both cups do not have a cable extension).

 

There is an odd thing to the cups, the swivel mechanism has a spring mechanism inside which was not really documented anywhere and this is my first flaw that I found. The spring (or whatever it is in there) makes the cup snap back to it's position where the drivers face each other, ie, listening position. That seems nice, but the spring feels like a cheap spring mechanism, not a tight tense spring or tight swivel. And I worry that years from now, if that spring loses it's potential that it will start to just be loose and freely swivel around or possibly rattle or something. I don't like the spring thing in there. I don't notice it while wearing. I only even know it's there when I move the cups manually while holding them in my hands just to turn them around.

The construction of swivel cup allows the headphone to easily drop around your neck which makes it a decent full size headphone for portable use while being closed back. I flip them so that they're backwards when portable, so that when I drop them around my neck, the back plates face outwards (instead of the driver). It allows your headphone tell everyone what they are (great conversation starter for people interested in higher end audio equipment).

 

I've never been a fan of the Shure look. The Shure SRH940 is a deviation from there typical look with velour pads, the color, and the cups themselves. This flagship's look is a definite improvement to their line and is one of the only reasons I even started to entertain getting a Shure headphone (their IEM's look fine of course). I wear these in public without worry at all, they look great. I don't think they're as classy looking as my Ultrasones and they don't have a nice mechanical look the way my BeyerDynamics do. But they definitely look better than other Shures do. I have ugly headphones, and I won't wear them where someone can see (ie, Sony XB500's). So the Shure SRH940 is an attractive headphone for being out and about representing higher end audio to the community. I'm not sure if it looks like a $300 headphone (I think the Ultrasone Pro 900 and the BeyerDynamic DT990 look like their price tags) though.

 

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Comfort

 

I find the headphone to be more comfortable than my Ultrasones and even my BeyerDynamics. The Beyers have always been one of my most comfortable headphones, due to big pillow velour pads. My 10 year old Sennheiser HD580's are the only thing that come close to the comfort of the Shure SRH940. The grip is loose, but not `fall off your head' loose. I don't even notice the headband while wearing them unless I think about it. They're not heavy, but they're not so weightless that you think they're falling off all the time (the way my AD500's feel). They weigh 11 ounces (320 grams) without the cable.

 

The overall comfort and feel is very satisfying.

 

Portability

 

The headphone was meant to be a headphone that can travel. It's portable. It's a full size portable that comes with a carry case, swivel and folding cups and detachable cables that is easy to drive and doesn't require amplification to enjoy. So in a nutshell, yes, it's portable. I found it was very natural and easy to drop the headphone down around my neck. I tend to wear my full size headphones backwards when I'm going portable because when I drop my headphone down around my neck, I like the driver to face my chest so that the back plate faces everything else (essentially showing the back of the headphone to everyone). I like knowing you can see what the headphone is, not just open drivers. Plus, spilling coffee into the driver compared to the closed plastic back of the driver is an obvious perk of doing this. Clearly, I know from experience regarding that and do not recommend it (hah!).

 

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Sound

 

Let's get to the heart of the matter: how the SRH940's sound. The Shure SRH940 is a bright treble, forward to neutral mid and bass neutral headphone that has strength in details, clarity, soundstage, extension, and isolation. Again, this is why I went for this particular headphone, it has the sound signature that I wanted for listening to things like acoustic, classical, folk, indie and female vocals, while being a closed headphone for isolation. My first impression after listening a while was that the headphone lived up to it's reputation and immediately performed exactly what was expected of it and more.

We should probably at least have a basis here, so I'll share what hardware I used as my source(s) and what music I used to test the range and rendering ability of the headphones.

 

Hardware

 

I used my Shure SRH940's with a few different bits of hardware for both desktop home listening and portable listening. For desktop use, I used my Matrix Cube DAC as both my primary DAC as well as my solid state amplifier. To compare solid state to tube amplification, my tube amp is the Little Dot MKIII. And for my portable setup, the Vivid V1 Technologies is my DAC/AMP combination.

 

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Music Samples Used

 

Overall, I tested mostly vocals, acoustic, jazz, folk, indie and pop. I added in some electronic (house & dub) and rock just for comparison sake. All my music is lossless FLAC via Fubar2000 or my Sansa Fuze when portable.

 

               Strong: Acoustic, Classical, Folk, Indie, R&B, Jazz, Vocals.

               Capable: Ambient, Metal, Rock, Scores, Pop.

               Weak: Electronic (House, Dance, Dub, Techno).

 

Ani DiFranco - Both Hands

Ingrid Michaelson - Corner of Your Heart

Regina Spektor - Samson

Dar Williams - Calling the Moon

Diana Krall - 'S Wonderful

Norah Jones - Young Blood

Marie-Jo Therio - Cafe Robinson

Paul Simon - Love and Hard Times

Ludovico Einaudi - Ora

Keith Jarrett - Koln Concert

Pawnshop Jazz - Limehouse Blues

Euge Groove - A Summer Night's Dream

The Cranberries - Such a Shame

Jackie Evancho - Nella Fantasia

Lustmord - Primal

Rush - Tom Sawyer

Journey - Keep On Runnin'

Opeth - Windowpane

Ronald Jenkees - Disorganized Fun

BT - Rose of Jericho

OceanLab - Satellite

Parov Stelar - Libella Swing

Justice - Genesis

DeadMau5 - Some Chords

Crystal Castles - Black Panther

Skrillex - Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix)

Bay Area Dubstep (BAD) - Tip Tap Toez

Nero - Act Like You Know

 

Highs

 

The highs are forward and bright, however they are not so bright that they immediately cause fatigue. The highs are not laid back the way my Sennheiser HD580 presents. Instead, the highs are rendered very clearly, forward, a bit bright, airy, and with a bit of energy. The lovely thing is that even though it's forward, sibilance is minimal to non-existent. This was important to me because I was going to be listening to a lot of female vocals with acoustics with this headphone. Compared to my Ultrasone Pro 900's which have forward bright highs as well, but they were often fatiguing for intense female vocals for me--this is not the case with the Shure SRH940 at higher volumes which was completely impressive. Female vocals are hauntingly good with this headphone because it's able to present a good neutral mid with a forward high, so it projects and isn't subdued by what else is going on in the music. It's all about the details here, when listening to acoustic and vocals for example, it's very pleasing to hear the little things that are not even musical, but rather the human counterparts making the  music (of course not all recordings have it, it greatly depends on how the recording was done, like studio to live, concert, etc). Hearing the gentle scratches on the strings, shoes moving over the sustain pedal on a piano, breath sounds, the sound of a mouth when it opens after swallowing and prepares to sing (that may sound weird, but it's amazing), etc, is the detail of the headphone I was looking for--again, it has to already be present, recorded, but you then need a good headphone that is able to render it in a way that allows you to hear it. The quoted title of "detail monster" is pretty accurate. And this is where my saying "I can hear the smoke in the bar" comes from. Because of this attention to detail and ability to render it, your source matters a lot more than perhaps with another headphone. My Sennheiser HD580 for example is a very similar headphone sound signature wise, but it's highs are not forward and that's where imperfections are often heard or not heard. The Shure SRH940 will reveal every little perfection. It will be more important than ever for someone interested in these headphones to have the absolute highest quality possible recordings that they can get their hands on. I tested some various bit rate MP3 compression levels and absolute lossless and it was easy to tell which recordings were compressed and which were not. 320kbps simply doesn't cut it in my opinion here. It's pleasing to listen to, but I found it obvious which was 320kbps and which was FLAC when comparing music from acoustic to electronica. The devil is in the details.

 

Compared to my Ultrasone Pro 900's, the highs are bright, but the Pro 900's are even more bright at the same volume. The Sennheiser HD580's have great highs but are not bright, they're more laid back and not as engaging. The BeyerDyanmic DT990's are bright and forward and more similar to the Pro 900's than the Shure SRH940. The XB500 have no highs to really speak of, they're completely recessed and shallow. The AD500 has forward airy bright highs that are sort of similar.

 

Mids

 

The mids are neutral and the center of the headphone's signature. The mids sound gorgeous, very generous, and are the bulk of what you're going to hear. The mids are not lost to the low end frequencies and essentially tie together the top and low end nicely. The mids are where you find most of the frequencies involved with vocals  and various instruments and the highs top it off and give some of the detail. In this sense, the mids are absolutely clear and a bit bright, but not as bright as the highs. I would describe the mids as neutral, airy, articulate, breathy, detailed, open and transparent. I think the mids have to be a strong, but not over the top presence in a detail headphone like this because it's producing the bulk of what you're hearing. This headphone delivers in mids and highs as a single end of the spectrum. Primarily I focused on vocals and acoustic instruments and the detail and richness of voice and the detail of a guitar or saxophone (including the sounds associated with reed use and wind instruments in general) were incredible. Voices are projected forward when I compared to other headphones and literally take center stage with a full forward sound. Instruments were incredibly detailed (dependent on recording of course). Listening to some jazz, I was listening to various details such as the mechanical working of the saxophone specifically, the sound of a wet reed after prolonged playing, the gentle taps and thumps of a guitar body during play and especially the body of a piano and it's mechanisms that you can hear through the tones being played. The detail was there. The notes were crisp and separate. Absolutely clear and detailed, not muddy or congested, and they didn't drown out the highs.

 

Compared to my Ultrasone Pro 900's, the mids are forward and neutral, where as with the Pro 900's they're more recessed, I noticed a big difference in vocals and acoustic. The Sennheiser HD580's have excellent mids and are much more similar to the Shure SRH940 but are still a bit laid back and less forward. The BeyerDynamic DT990 has more recessed mids compared to the Shure SRH940. The XB500 mids are there, but are muffled and recessed with the mid-bass. The AD500's have forward mids that are similar to the Shure SRH940's but lack the detail and fullness.

 

Lows

 

Right away it should be repeated, I'm a basshead, so these are a huge break from my typical headphone. My biggest fear was always that I'd get a detailed high/mid focused headphone and immediately reach for my Ultrasone Pro 900's or BeyerDynamic DT990's. The bass extension of the Shure SRH940 is actually quite impressive. The Shure SRH940 was able to render low frequencies when I tested it on various tones and music that had incredibly low bass and it was there, very tight, very controlled, but not forward and definitely not the focus of the headphone's sound signature. The bass is there and very capable, but it's neutral and sometimes you have to listen to even realize that there's a really low frequency playing. The detail is still incredible and you can pick out separate sounds with ease and the bass is like this too. The bass is satisfying in the setting of vocals, acoustic, jazz, indie, folk, classical and some rock. I tested some electronic music with some very extensive bass and bass focus, and found it rendered nicely, but definitely wasn't the strong point of the headphone. In a bass-lite headphone, when listening to dubstep for example, you immediately realize you're not wearing basshead cans. This is not a flaw, but rather, what the headphone is not all about. I tested the bass to see if the headphone was capable of being made more bassy with equalizer setting changes and found it was able to become quite forward and very rich. So the headphone is actually capable of quite a bit more if you do need to be able to make it more bassy, it definitely can do it. It still is not nearly as monstrous as headphones like Sony XB500's or Ultrasone Pro 900's at all, not even in the same league what so ever. But the bass presence is enough to satisfy me, a basshead, while listening to things that are not focused on bass. I was actually impressed how low the headphones were capable of going and it was clear and controlled, simply not forward and not at all covering up the mids. This was a very refreshing sound and when I compared to my other headphones, immediately liked this sound much more for music like vocals, acoustic, jazz, indie, folk and classical. But the bass is present enough that I get a satisfying low hum from a cello, piano and bass saxaphone. If you need present bass, these headphones are not for you. However, I will say again, with an equalizer tweak, it was impressive how much the headphone could change in the bass department.

 

Compared to my Ultrasone Pro 900's, the bass of the Shure SRH940 will immediately sound like it ran away from the fight, but that's because the Pro 900's are monstrous with their controlled extended low powerful bass. The Sennheiser HD580's are more similar to the bass of the SRH940 in that it's rather neutral, not forward, present and has good extension capability. The BeyerDynamic DT990 bass is also much more powerful, full, rich and forward than the Shure SRH940. The XB500 has ridiculous bass that just rattles your jaw and is the absolute opposite of the Shure SRH940 in every way. The AD500 has very light bass that is not full, less rich than the Shure SRH940, so the Shure is more bassy than the open air Audio-Technica by quite a bit. Overall, bass shouldn't be why you're getting the Shure SRH940. I'm merely giving a bit of a comparison should you own one of these or heard one of these headphones to get an idea of what kind of bass you might expect.

 

Soundstage

 

The soundstage of the Shure SRH940 is good for a closed headphone. Instruments are all over the place, even though it's heavily recording dependent. I have a lot of music that is acoustic and vocal based, and when something is not centered it really stands out and is different. In a headphone with poor soundstage, you hear most everything separate, and in some headphones, the channels are so separate that there's too much left or too much right and it just sounds artificial and very poorly recorded. Electronica music generally is very central, no variation on channels, other than movement from direction to direction for fun. But classical, folk, indie, jazz, etc, with several instruments really let the SRH940 shine by allowing you to easily pick out which instrument you want to pay direct attention to and it's relative orientation in the sound field. The soundstage is not the same as that of an open headphone, but it's still quite impressive. I had a few recordings I listened to that I thought I heard someone knocking on the door, or something was happening in the house, but realized it was just something in the background of a recording. Separation of the left and right channel is very subtle, it's not pronounced, so when you hear a recording, things are not only left or right, it's very well mixed. Things can be centered or just slightly off centered, without too much obvious "one channel" sound.

 

Isolation

 

A big reason I went with the Shure SRH940 is because it's closed back, so I could have some isolation. It helps to have the headphone available during travel and helps to enhance detail. Isolation is a big deal if living and listening around other people, be it at the house or in an airport. Direct comparison to the Ultrasone Pro 900's, I noticed right away that the higher frequency sounds like "sss" were more hushed with my Shure SRH940's than with my Ultrasones. So overall isolation was a tad better with the Shure SRH940's. I tested how well they isolate at home and found that when the drivers are open to the room, you can hear them like speakers from two rooms away. I was hearing music in the bathroom of a bedroom next to the office room which had my Shure SRH940's playing away with the drivers exposed to the room. Vise verse, when the headphones are clamped on something for listening, isolation is quite good for natural passive isolation and you can barely hear them from a few inches away and not at all from another room. None of the noise cancelation gimmick stuff is involved. I had the opportunity to test the headphones at home and on the go, I tested them in Miami and Jacksonville airport and their respective flights for several hours. I used them in the airport in Miami and I could not hear anything except music. In the actual airplane, I couldn't hear people or announcements, but I could certainly hear the rumble of the jet engine, but it was still muffled enough to where I could enjoy listening to acoustic at normal listening level. It's very difficult to completely isolate out a jet engine next to you. I was impressed.

 

Here's a video with audio to give an idea of isolation at 8 inch distance and high volume:

 

 

Amplification Notes

 

Specs:

 

Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW

Impedance: 42Ω

 

Testing amplification has been a bit tricky, but I've made a few notes that are worth mentioning. When I play various music through my Sansa Fuze without a portable amplifier and with a portable amplifier there are small differences. When I test my Sansa Fuze with and without my Vivid V1 Technologies portable DAC/AMP, I noticed that the bass is slightly different. When amplified the bass is a little more pronounced (which is still not forward at all compared to the mids and highs). I think I notice more of a bump in the mid-bass range that gives it a bit more of a full sound. It does not suddenly make the headphone bassy at all, to be clear on that. I do not think the headphone needs amplification beyond what your portable player can provide (depending on the player). These headphones are not power hungry and are not hard to drive. But again, I think you will squeeze a tiny bit more out of their lower ranges with an amplifier should you be interested in these headphones for portable use.

 

As for amplification at home in the desktop setting, I tested both solid state and tube amp with my Matrix Cube DAC and my Little Dot MK III. I noticed the tube sound really warms up the headphone at least in my setup and the bass was a bit more full under the tube. Solid state seems to be a better amplifier for the headphone in regards to detail and producing a neutral and more true to the recording sound for this particular headphone. I noticed a little more sound stage with my tube amp as well, but it's very slight. I think overall I enjoyed the sound of female vocals on my solid state amp more because it seemed to have less of a bloom and less of a tubey echo sound. They both sounded great, but I think I simply enjoyed the quiet, detailed, nothing added amplification that comes from a good clean solid state amplifier. The tube made it a bit more fun. So depending on what you're looking for in sound, one way or another could be important. Overall, I think the solid state approach is better for a detail headphone that is meant to be neutral, or neutral with a color towards mids/highs.

 

Too Long, Won't Read (TL;WR): Amplification is not necessary. It enhances the fullness of bass response when used very slightly. Solid state amplifier I think sounds better than tube amplifier for this headphone due to detail and not adding any particular sound to the render the way a tube amp tends to.

 

Closing Notes

 

I have to say that I've spent over 100 hours on these headphones at this point constantly switching and comparing to my other headphones and trying different combinations with my gear to see what I find works best out of what I actually have. I am more and more listening to my Shure SRH940's than my other headphones, largely because I'm listening to more acoustic and vocals. I immediately change to my Ultrasone Pro 900's when I get into more dance and house, without hesitation of course. But I find I don't even want to use my Sennheiser HD580's when I have these Shure SRH940's. The Shure is just more engaging and the mids and highs are just gorgeous, and being close and portable, and easy to drive, it's my headphone of choice between the two so that I can basically use it anywhere.

 

I've not noticed any specific changes with the mystical burn in, as I've just listened to the headphone the whole time and it sounds just like I put it on, except that I'm used to hearing it now and of course either continue to like it or not.

 

I'm definitely happy with the headphone. If you're looking for a headphone for acoustic, jazz, vocals, indie, folk and classical, that is closed back, portable, full size, very comfortable, that can handle high volume female vocals without sibilance or shrills, this is the headphone for you. I don't think these are the headphones you want for rock, metal, pop and ambient even though it's capable. And you absolutely will not want these headphones for hip hop, dance, house or dub (electronic) music because the bass is not emphasized. The headphone is quite a good reference headphone should you want to do professional work. But in general, I would call this a good monitoring headphone for the above genres mentioned that it works well with.

 

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Thanks for reading my opinion and thoughts.

 

Very best and happy listening.

Posted

Pros: Comfortable, detailed/clear highs and mids, deep low-bass, excellent for: orchestra, classical, jazz, vocals, and certain kinds of pop and rock music

Cons: Mid-bass could use a tad-bit more 'oomph' without using an EQ, slightly fatiguing, poorly recorded or mastered tracks sound bad, headband cracking

WILL UPDATE SOON REGARDING HEADBAND CRACKING.

 

So, I received my Shure SRH940's on September 7, 2011. Yay!

 

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This is my first time posting a major review of an audio product and it addresses many of the questions I had when I was searching for my next major headphone. I hope this review is useful to both newcomers and veterans of Head-Fi. I am still learning about all of the technical terms and details of how to describe a headphone's sound signature, but I will try my best to convey my thoughts.

 

 

 

Where did I purchase my SRH940's?

Short: Headphones.com

 

Long: I bought the 940's from Headphones.com with a 15% off-discount for a total of $255 USD. I would personally like to thank Mr. DavidMahler from Headphones.com for assisting me through the ordering process as the website, for some reason, wasn't accepting the discount code.

 

 

 

What comes with the SRH940's?

I posted a silent unboxing of the 940's on YouTube. It's not the best of quality, using only a digital camera, but it gets the point across.

 

These headphones have a lot of things bundled in the rather large box (see the section about the 940's lying flat for more details).

 

Inside the box:

Official product manual

2 year limited warranty

Large hard-foam/plastic storage case

Shure SRH940 headphones

4 velour pads total (two on the headphones, two extras)

9.84 ft. (3 m) detachable coiled cable (when coiled it's around 3.5 ft or 1 meter) with 3.5 mm gold-plated straight jack

8.2 ft. (2.5 m) detachable straight cable with 3.5 mm gold-plated straight jack

1/4 in. (6.35 mm) gold-plated stereo audio jack (screw on)

 

Headphone specifications (from the Shure official website)

40 mm drivers

42 ohm impedence

5 Hz - 30 kHz frequency range

320 g mass (without the cable attached)

 

With an extra cable and replacement pair of ear pads, I'm sure the 940's were packaged with durability in mind. The hard storage case feels like hard foam on the outside, almost like a plastic material. The inside is mostly lined with some sort of fabric, and a foam ring is in the middle to hold the headphones in place when inside the case in addition to a detachable cable. There is a Velcro-secured compartment for the storage of the extra velour ear pads, and a nylon pouch is attached to the inside lid to store the second cable and 1/4 in. stereo jack.

 

 

 

How comfortable are the SRH940's?

Short: Very comfortable, heavy, but padding helps with the weight.

 

Long: For a full-sized headphone, the circum-aural (the ear pads surround the ears) 940's are very comfortable. The clamp force is moderate, not too tight, not too loose. I found that the squishy velour pads help relieve the clamping force. Compared to the 940's brother, the SRH840's, they are actually heavier by measurement. Don't let that fool you though, I found the 940's to be lighter on my head than the 840's. It might be because of the cushioned bumps located on the 940's headband, which the 840's lacked. Despite others' opinions about the 940's having the same "crown of death" comfort effect as some AKG headphones, I found the headband quite comfortable. I do have to mention that the headband+weight of the headphones does cause me to have "flat baseball cap hair" if I wear the 940's long enough.

 

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The 940's have marked levels on the headband to make it easy to adjust one side of the headband equal to the other side. I have a small-ish sized head and I find that the 940's are most comfortable with the headband set at size 3 (out of 10) on both sides, so the 940's will fit on most heads.

 

The velour ear pads are a huge welcome to me. I've tried a good amount pleather/leather headphones at my local Guitar Center store and I found most of them to be uncomfortable, not to mention how quickly they heated up. I don't know if it was the pleather ear pads of the 840's, but I found that the 940's didn't clamp as hard on my head as the 840's did.

 

 

 

How comfortable are the SRH940's while wearing glasses?

Short: They feel about the same as without glasses on.

 

Long: To me the 940's are still very comfortable even with glasses on. I have glasses with thick arms, and even with that, the 940's squishy velour pads conform to the glasses.

 

 

 

How well do the SRH940's isolate noise?

Short: Less isolation than in-ear monitors or pleather/leather ear pads, but they still isolate pretty well.

 

Long: For a closed headphone, the 940's provide decent noise isolation. They don't isolate as much as in-ear monitors nor pleather/leather, but they still do a good job. I can still hear surrounding noises while wearing them, but I find that to be good so that I can be more aware of my surroundings.

 

 

 

How durable are the SRH940's?

Short: They seem durable, although some parts do squeak when adjusted. Extra bundled pads and cable are a welcome addition.

 

Long: Despite the 940's being made of plastic for the most part (the outer ear piece and the SHURE logo feel metal to me), the 940's feel pretty durable. The swivel and folding mechanisms on the 940's do squeak a little when I move them, but I don't think that will cause problems in the future (I hope). As I mentioned earlier, the extra ear pads and cables are good as backups should the first set break or malfunction. Shure does provide a 2 year limited warranty with the 940's, covering only product defects and not normal wear-and-tear damage.

 

 

 

How portable are the SRH940's?

Short: Very portable as a full-sized headphone. Detachable cable prevents cable strain.

 

Long: The 940's fold up pretty neatly, similar to the Beats by Dre headphones, making them fairly portable headphones (without using the hard storage case). One side of the headphone folds inward while the other side folds right on top of it (either side can be folded first, the order does not matter). The detachable cable makes storing the 940's a breeze without having to worry about the cable-ends being stressed or bent.

 

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Do the SRH940's lie flat (on a surface)?

Short: No, a spring mechanism and angled headband prevent them from lying flat.

 

Long: Although there is a swivel mechanism that allows the ear cups to swivel 90 degrees, there is one strange detail about the 940's swivel mechanism. There seems to be a spring mechanism that naturally prevents the 940's ear cups from rotating the full 90. As a result of this mechanism, the 940's are actually pretty large when left by itself, hence why the storage case is large. It is convenient to place the headphones directly from your head to a surface so that the ear pads lie on the surface rather than the top or sides of the ear cups.

 

Natural lying position ear cups facing upward (note that the headphones do not swivel flat with the drivers pointing upward due to the spring mechanism)

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Natural lying position ear cups facing downward (note that the headphones do not lie with the drivers pointing downward flat due to the spring mechanism naturally pushing against the ear cups from swiveling the full 90 degrees)

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Pushing the ear cups to swivel the full 90 degrees (note that even with the ear cups fully swiveled at 90 degrees, the headband is actually 'bent' downward so that they do not lie completely flat)

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If the SRH940's ear cups do not swivel 90 degrees naturally, then how do they look on one's neck?

Short: Wear them backwards on your neck.

 

Long: Moving the headphones from listening position (on your ears normally) to your neck, the ear pads face upward and actually dig into my chin/neck. This is uncomfortable and I can barely move my head without bumping into the velour pads.

 

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However, moving the headphones from listening position, turning them around 180 degrees, and then placing them on my neck so that the ear pads rest on my shoulder, they are much more comfortable to wear.

 

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Do the SRH940's require amplifier to sound good, or can they be run straight out of an iPod?

Short: An amp is not needed and an iPod provides sufficient juice to power the 940's.

 

Long: No they do not require an amp to sound decent and they are capable of running straight out of an iPod. However, an amp may help (I don't own an amp myself).

 

 

How do the SRH940's sound?

Setup: Unibody aluminum Macbook (FLAC files played in VLC with flat EQ, with the exception of the picture below); iPod Touch 2G (320 kbps CBR)

 

Tracks or albums used during the review:

Deems Tsutakawa - Deems Greatest Hits (jazz)

Pet Shop Boys - The Most Incredible Thing (electronic/orchestra)

Ottmar Liebert - Up Close (binaural acoustic)

Hungarian Chamber Orchestra - Vivaldi/Geminiani Guitar Concertos/Sonatas (orchestra classical)

Mongo Santamaria - Montreux Heat (Latin jazz/percussion)

Fighter X - Unreleased (chiptune)

Trash80 - Icarus (chiptune)

Vitas - Philosophy of Miracle (Russian pop/opera)

Usher - My Way (R&B)

Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (piano jazz)

Chiaki Ishikawa - Uninstall (Japanese vocal pop)

Gackt - Diabolos (Japanese rock)

Franz Ferdinand - Tonight (indie rock)

High and Mighty Color - Swamp Man (Japanese alternative metal)

Dazzle Vision - To the Next (Japanese visual-kei screamo)

Lia - Tori no Uta (Anime soundtrack)

Ayana - Last Regrets (Anime soundtrack)

Twelve Girls Band - 敦煌,奇迹 (Chinese folk)

S.H.E - Play, Shero, Super Star (Mandarin Chinese vocal pop)

Hebe Tien - To Hebe (Mandarin Chinese vocal pop)

Joey Yung - Ten Most Wanted, EP2, 容祖兒, 姚珏 & 莫拉維亞交響樂團 (Cantonese Chinese pop, Cantonese Chinese pop/orchestra)

Harlem Yu - 哈林天堂 (Mandarin Chinese pop)

Jane Zhang - 我爱邓丽君,改变 (older Mandarin Chinese vocal pop, modern Mandarin Chinese vocal pop)

Fish Leong - 崇拜,愛的大遊行 Live全記錄,燕尾蝶:下定愛的決心 (Mandarin Chinese pop)

Rainie Yang - 半熟宣言 (Chinese vocal pop)

Joanna Wang - Start From Here (Mandarin Chinese/English folk)

Jolin Tsai - J-Top 冠軍精選,J1演唱會影音全記錄,Myself,舞娘 (Mandarin Chinese pop)

Sammi Cheng - 信者得愛 (Mandarin Chinese vocal pop)

Eason Chan - DUO 陳奕迅 2010 演唱會,The 1st Eleven Years 然後呢?,U87 (Mandarin Chinese vocal pop, Cantonese Chinese vocal pop)

 

 

Initial impressions:

Short: Great extension on both ends of the sound spectrum. Lows are present but seem quiet compared to the mids and highs. They lack the bass punch that most headphones have. Mids seem laid back and upper-mids are more forward. Vocals sound very good with the 940's. Highs are detailed and are the most prominent of the 940's. Despite the highs being prominent, they handle sibilance quite well, though they might be fatiguing to some.

 

Long:

Lows

Being the first pair of headphones over $100 USD I've owned, my initial impressions of these 'phones are just about on par with everyone else; they seem 'bass shy' in the sense that they don't have the mid-bass 'thump' that I'm used to hearing (especially coming from Sennheiser CX-300's). However, there seems to be very good bass extension. Is this what neutral bass is supposed to sound like? I found that with a slight increase in the lower end with an EQ (about a 3-5 dB gain at around 60-130 Hz) is good enough for me. That said, some electronic tracks sound odd with the 940's since they lack the mid-bass 'thump thump' effect. Ladytron, however, sounds all right with the 940's since her songs feature her voice.

 

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Mids

Vocals seem forward and very clear, which is what I was looking for in my next headphone. Female vocals indeed do sound brilliant with these headphones. Guitars and congas also sound very good with the 940's. Rock music sounds fantastic with the 940's with the prominent highs and forward vocals.

 

Highs

The highs are definitely more prominent than any headphone I've owned so far, but not to the extent where it hurts my ears (my ears are sensitive to sibilance). I find that the 940's handle sibilance quite well actually. Some of the sibilant tracks I have don't sound as sibilant to my ears with the 940's as they were with the CX-300's. Most brass instruments sound great with the 940's so they are an ideal match-up for jazz.

 

Soundstage

The soundstage is pretty decent for a closed headphone. I found it to be wider than the ATH-M50's and the Sennheiser HD25-1-ii, having better instrument separation and air between the instruments played. They I haven't tried them for gaming yet, but I was going to try them out soon.

 

All in all, my first impressions of the 940's are impressive. The lack of the bass thump is my biggest complaint, but I can manage it.

 

 

Final impressions:

Short: Bass is more noticeable but still quieter than the rest of the sound spectrum. Highs are tamer and not as fatiguing. Some rock music doesn't sound right with the 940's and some brass instruments for jazz can sound harsh. Can be used for gaming, but I haven't heard a serious gamer's headphone before so I can't really tell you what's good and what's not good for a gaming headphone. Overall, I notice some imperfections in some of my music and I noticed details in the upper frequencies that I didn't notice before. Poorly recorded tracks and/or low bit-rate tracks are noticeable with the 940's.

 

Long: After about 50 hours of use, the sound signature of the 940's seemed to be a bit tamer. After listening to my music more carefully, I can hear some of the imperfections of my tracks. It might be because of the clearer high notes, but I'm really starting to hear more details in the songs I listen to. Just for the sake of testing, I tried playing a 192 kbps track from the Hungarian Chamber Orchestra's album listed above and it sounded pretty bad with the 940's. I think they call this feature "unforgiving" in terms of describing a headphone.

Lows

The lows/lower-mids seemed more noticeable than before, although they are is still relatively quiet and laid back compared to the rest of the sound spectrum. I find that the bass isn't focused on the mid-bass, but more on the lower-bass. I keep thinking the bass can be described as not the clubbing type of bass (mid-bass), but more like deep sound rolling thunder (lower-bass). I actually prefer this kind of bass since it's not the kind of bass I get to hear every day (so many young people seem to have a liking for that mid-bass). Despite that, classical music sounds fantastic with these headphones. The bass required for most classical music isn't the clubbing type of bass, so the rolling-thunder bass of the 940's work quite well for this genre of music. However, some rock tracks may sound odd with the 940's due to their lack of sufficient mid-bass and emphasized highs.

 

Mids

I didn't mention this before, but most of the mids seem to be forward. Guitars and higher-pitched instruments such as violins and pianos all seem to take the front stage. Vocals still sound excellent on the 940's, both male and female. However, due to the emphasis of the 940's highs and upper-mids, female vocals are absolutely amazing with the 940's. I really like the way pianos are presented with these headphones. I found that if you have pop music that emphasizes vocals over bass, the 940's do a sufficient job at presenting that type of pop music.

 

Highs

The upper-mids/highs seemed to be toned down slightly so that they aren't as fatiguing as they used to be, but are still the most noticeable sounds from these headphones. Sometimes the highs can be a bit harsh on the ears such as trumpets, although I've always found trumpets to be too much for my ears. Jazz music also works well with the 940's for the most part.

 

Soundstage

For gaming, I found the 940's to be adequate for the games I play. I mainly play computer games via Steam (Spiral Knights, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2). The explosions are present, but it, again, lacks the 'thump' of the mid-bass. To me, the explosions sound good enough but I haven't heard a serious gamer's headphone before, so I can't really tell you what's good and what's not good. I am able to hear other players' footsteps during game play, so I can locate players more easily than I could with the CX-300's (which had lots of bass but a rather small soundstage).

 

 

 

What's the verdict?

Overall, I am really enjoying these headphones. They have nearly all of the attributes I wanted from my first major headphone purchase. For a closed, comfortable, decent-soundstage, deep low-bass, foldable, highly-detailed, mid/high focused, portable headphone at $275 USD street price, I would recommend this headphone.

 

 

 

Thank you

Thank you for taking the time to read or glance over my review. I hope this review is helpful in some way or another. I'm not too experienced in the world in high-fidelity sound (this is my first major headphone purchase), and I know it's not the most detailed review you've read in terms of describing the sound signature, but I tried my best.

Posted

Pros: Highs, mids, lows, accuracy, sound stage, smoothness, build quality, accesories, everything

Cons: Some people find them uncomfortable

I was for the longest time skeptical on these. Following intently on the srh940 thread the reviews were varied. Some people just up and claimed them to suck and sound fake while others praised them. When i purchased these i was afraid the naysayers may be correct. I received them and they are so wrong. These are the best headphones i have ever heard. These are smooth, detailed, neutral, fun, and revealing in a way that doesn't ruin enjoyment. Build quality also feels top notch to me. Way better built then the srh840.

 

 

Durability/Design

I prefer the color black for headphones but if there is anything to be said about the looks of these headphones it's that they look striking and expensive. Durability feels top notch other then the plastic extenders. I assume with extra care you should have no issues. 4.5/5 for durability/design.

 

 

Comfort

Opinions of comfort on these are varied. Some people think they are horrid. Others such as me think they are wonderful. I have never worn such a comfortable headphones unless you consider the bose ae2 to be a credible headphone. 5/5

 

Audio Quality

Heres where i got issues with the head-fi community. To me these are not harsh and very smooth, these are perfectly bassy enough and the mids are wonderful. These are perfect for rock/metal and i even deem them good enough for electronic music. The whole idea that these sound fake, lifeless, and have a bass hole is to far from the truth. Maybe to bass fanatics they are bass light but they have ideal bass for rock/metal imo.

 

These have a good enough soundstage and instruments separation to do rock/metal justice.

 

Sound quality gets a 5/5

 

Value/Overall

For $299 i feel i should worry about getting arrested for stealing. These are incredible. These are top of the line and sound amazing. If i hear another pair of headphones under $500 that sound this good then i would be surprised. These are magical, they do what no other headphone has done. This is what i was after. My audio nirvana has been reached.

5/5

 

I recommend this to anyone and everyone.

 

Posted

Pros: Great mostly balanced sound for recording, great package that includes all you need, removable cables, best “mids” I have heard out of any headphones

Cons: Not very portable, not the best isolation, no handle on box that encloses the cans and accessories, still bass-light (or too treble friendly ;-))

Introduction:

 

After a whole lot of browsing, reading, testing, etc., a couple of years ago I decided on getting new cans. This resulted in me acquiring the Shure SRH440s. At the time I had not listened to such type of headphones, meaning quite balanced with great mids providing a complete package that actually made you want to keep listening and enjoying music. (I.e. most headphones I had were cheap Koss or Sony’s, etc.) These cans opened up a new world for me. Yes I had good audio equipment, cheap but good sounding, for my home theater, “recording” room (I’m not a musician, it’s just a hobby to create some song snippets.), etc. but never thought much about headphones. It all went “downhill” after that… Started buying headphones just to compare but still I was attracted to my 440s. When I read that Shure was planning on releasing an updated pair, I quickly jumped on them.

 

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My main concern with the 440s in the start was what I praised them for now. Mids were kind of anemic… I don’t know if it was “burn-in” or my ears getting used to the sound but after a while I couldn’t get them away from my ears, I loved the mids! Bass was something that quite never settled with me. They were kind of lacking (when compared to a couple of other closed cans) but the upgrade to 840 pads made some sonic changes for the better (especially bass region!). So for the 940s I was expecting more great things (including better bass…). I was wrong… (more in a bit :-p)

 

SRH-940

 

First let’s talk about the headphones.

When I saw them I was surprised. The industrial-like silver/gray color was great looking and a departure for the whole black-motif of the earlier series (except the “DJ” one). The velour pads were another departure (I live in hot-ass Puerto Rico and I was just thinking of sweaty ears/head lol!!) which I wasn’t sure about (after getting used to the 840 pads). The complete package was complete enough that gave me the security I made a good purchase. But it all hinged on the sound…

 

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Stats:

 

* Transducer type: Dynamic neodymium magnet

* Driver size: 40 mm

* Sensitivity (1kHz): 100 dB/mW

* Impedance (1kHz): 42 Ω

* Max. input power (1kHz): 1000 mW

* Frequency range” 5 Hz - 30 kHz

* Net weight (without cable): 11 oz (320 g)

* Length of cable: Coiled: 9.84 ft (3 meters), detachable, Straight: 8.2 ft (2.5 meters)

* Type of cable: Detachable oxygen-free copper

* Plug: Gold-plated 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo mini jack

 

Package Contents:

 

* Replaceable velour ear pads

* Two included detachable cables (coiled & straight)

* Zippered hard travel case

* 1/4th adapter

 

06142011398.jpg

 

Sound:

 

And we got here… even though I was expecting more low-end presence on these headphones, it was actually the opposite. I have to say that high-end band and mids were more forward than the 440s (or any other I have ever heard) and still bass light (even more so than the 440s with 840 pads!). Was I disappointed? Shure! ( ;-)) But I also had to keep in mind that these were “recording” headphones. Started breaking them in and using them everyday and then I started noticing.

 

  • Crisp sound! Crystalline in fact!
  • Mids were even tastier. Vocals on this thing were surprising (women performers in particular!)
  • Even though it is a bit bass-light can (compared to AT-M50s, 840s, some Senns) the low-end extended well and was pretty clear!

 

Began modifying my playlists, added a couple of Jazz, techno, electro-pop, etc. and felt in love back again! Highs were not fatiguing, mids were the best I have heard (still is! Love vocals and acoustic guitars on this thing!), and the bass… it does goes low but it depends… and that’s my other point. These headphones LIVE OR DIE BY THE SOURCE!!! If a recording is poor, these will be a pain to use and listen to all day. Due to the high-end being so forward, you will not be happy when you start listening to hiss, distortion, etc. Again NOT the headphones fault, but take note! Finally, soundstage, it’s great for a closed headphone. It will definitely not beat HD600s nor cheaper AD700s soundstage but it’s good. Tested with indie and jazz you can actually pay attention to the music and instruments without being disappointed in them being panned way to your left or right, etc. (unless the recording is actually like that! Lol).

 

Overall, I grew to like them and it’s now my preferred “portable” cans!

 

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Conclusion:

 

I really think that for music recording these are a great addition to your arsenal since you will be able to clearly listen to any defects you might have (being brought due to those forward highs!). If you play your cards right, you can even mix a bit with these just have in mind that these are not bassy so don’t overdue the bass quantity! Isolation is not the best ever so I wouldn’t record vocals with these on just in case any sound leaks. But I was really surprised with how “listenable” they are. Yes they are a bit heavier than the 440s but sound is so tasty that you’ll forget about them being in your head and start rocking out.

 

I trusted Shure and I was not disappointed!

 

If they break apart, would I buy them again?

HELL YES!! (along with Hifiman HE500s… yes… these hobby is like a drug! Lol ;-)).

 

Hope you liked this mini-review.

Some bonus pics…

 

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Thanks.

 

 

 

Update: Just testing out with JDSLabs CmoyBB amp and… WHAT A GREAT COMBINATION! Soundstage a bit expanded, and I HEAR MORE BASS!! Is it my mind?!? Naaah, made some notes, time coded, on a couple of songs. Bass presence is definitely there!

 

Update 2: If you are wondering what I used to drive the headphones: Archos 7, Archos 605, my main PC through Icon HDP and Lexicon Omega Recording interface.

 

Update 3: Have I adequately burned these in? Although I don’t believe in burn-in (to me is just your ears/mind getting used to the sound signature) yes, I have had a couple of months using these for 6 or more hours 5 days a week so… hundreds and hundreds of hours! ;-)

 

 

Posted

Pros: Detail. Accuracy. very bright (if you like that)

Cons: Headband a little uncomfortable. very bright (if you don't like that)

These headphones should be valued for providing an ultra-bright sound signature not offered by any other headphone that I'm aware of.

Comparisons with the HD800: If you compare the 30hz and 300hz square wave measurements from the innerfidelity charts between these and the Sennheiser HD800, you'll see that the two are almost identical. I own the HD800s and this, and I can say that the SRH940s are much much closer to the HD800s than their prices would suggest. The HD800s handle bass and mids better, and their treble is a little smoother, and they have better spatial characteristics, but the two are close, with the SRH940 being brighter.

More on their brightness: These are possibly the brightest headphones made today, which is something I appreciate. They are almost like taking the tweeter out of your stereo speakers and putting them up to your ears. OK that's an exaggeration but do not underestimate how bright these are. On their bass output, they're not like a clock radio that can't put out bass. If you play a bass heavy song you'll hear the bass notes and they can go quite deep on the frequency chart. But if you like to hear a bunch of bass on all your songs, then you'll need to use the equalizer to turn these into the headphones you want.

Ultimately, if you want to know what your music sounds like with excess exaggerated treble (and sometimes it sounds better) these are the headphones to own.

The only problem is that they put pressure on one spot on the top of my head if I wear them for a long time (the cushions were designed poorly and they focus the weight on one spot).

Posted

Pros: detailed, balanced, goodies, portability, isolation

Cons: short life expectancy, stupid sensitivity to ear positioning


Sound quality:
I must say that I was quite disconcerted by the sound signature of these headphones when I tried them first. I was not completely happy with what I was hearing, and despite the fact I was impressed by some of the qualities of the headphone (very detailed), especially when using a good source like the Xonar Stx, I felt frustrated. The good news is that I noticed later, that the sound I get from the srh940 is quite sensitive to way I position the headphones, and most of my dissatisfaction was gone.

The following diagram, is a perhaps a bit exaggerated. But the idea is to move away the ears from the center, and put them closer to the top of ear cup. I get a much satisfying result on position B:

ear-reversed.jpg

Before you scream by saying that the previous picture is unacceptable, here's how I really put the headphone on my head. On position B, I've just elongated the headband so that the ears move near top of ear cup. Also I've inclined the headband a bit above the forehead, I believe this helps to maintain a clamping force, and hence more bass.

30ffb00c_headposition.jpeg

Let's describe the sound.
On position A: it's very detailed, but it sounds a bit unnatural to me. There's a treble emphasis at 9 kHz. But eq-ing doesn't help much; I find they are painful with anything a little harsh on the music. I feel uneasy with chill out music like the Buddha Bar compilations, because from time to time I hear the percussions that stand out a bit too much. And it sounds just too bright overall, it's weird. I feel easily some fatigue, and going back to my hd595 is very tempting, despite the much less engaging sound.  The soundstage is not bad, but it's not enough wide to be "comfy", and to forget the "sound on your face" feeling.

On position B: the soundstage is vastly improved, and they can even compete with open cans like the hd595. I'm much less annoyed by the treble; I can hear anything harsh with much bigger tolerance. I can relax while listening to some Buddha Bar compilations. It's more balanced, and I think I hear more bass too. The fact is that enjoy a much wider range of music genres, and I don't feel the need to go back to my hd595.  They are perhaps not the best for electronica, drum & bass or techno (no mind-blowing thumping bass), but they manage to bring me a smile on my face overall (sorry , if it's not more technical than that). I love how they deal with subtle bass, while listening to Bob Marley for instance. So yes, they are enough balanced, and "all rounder" to me.

On position A, I'd rate the sound quality as 3/5 , and as 5/5 on position B (I decided then to rate them as 4 on average). My explanation of why they are so sensitive to ear position:
there's not much space between the drivers , and the ear canal on position A. The sound is just too much directly injected on the ear canal. An analogy with "soft light":  you don't like to receive light directly in the eyes.
You might be skeptical about my story of "ear position", but you have to notice that:
- the ear cups are not much deep. I think my ears (the pinnas) are in direct contact  with the "velour surface" when I  put the headphone on my head.
- the ear pads are not particularly thick  , and just directly behind them, there are the drivers!

drivers.jpg

 

Edit: measurements from innerfidelity seem to confirm variation in the bass region, depending of headband position. For the treble, it doesn't seem to have an impact on frequency response, but I remain  sure that there's less  listening fatigue depending of position.

 

 

A last note regarding the importance of source : the srh940 sound much more refined when using a Xonar Stx as a source, than with an onboard soundcard. They do not sound bad , when using my onboard realtek  soundcard, but I  assume "position B", otherwise they are quite disappointing (with treble emphasis , the flaws of the source are slapped on your face). Also the volume level is a bit limited when using an onboard soundcard (well, you can't blast the volume to deafening levels).

Comfort:
Well, I found they are pretty comfy. Still I feel the need to remove them from times to times, and "take a pause", perhaps because of their weight and the clamping force too. They are comfy, but not as comfy as my hd595, that I could just wear endlessly and completely forget. Hey, I've let once a friend try my srh940, he didn't react about the sound, he just said "they are super comfy".

Durability:

After merely one year of use , I  noticed small crack near swivels, just like for the photo below.

I've added super glue and scotch to prevent the cracks from spreading, and it's a bit ugly now.

Disappointing. There are also some horror stories, from users that literally broke the headband.

 

 

 

Who cares of  the detachable cables, when there's an issue regarding durability of headphone.

You see the cables connections below.

cable.jpg

Miscellaneous:
I appreciate the portability of these headphones, as I travel regularly between two towns (Quite convenient carrying case).   The choice between the straight and the coiled cable is great (I prefer the coiled one). The isolation is nice too, especially when you have a computer that is not particularly quiet, or when you are running some air conditioner.

Conclusion:
I got my srh940 for 255$, and for this price they are pretty sweet to my ears with a wide a range of music. They don't lack bass for most music (unless you are looking for some drum & bass, techno, electronica ....). But I'm a bit upset, because it took me a while to realize their full potential.
 

Epilogue:

A year later, I  noticed cracks on the srh940. So the durability is quite questionable, and hence I've downgraded the overall rating of this review. It's a bit sad, because even after buying the  hd800, I  still found the srh940 enjoyable to some extent. Although the hd800 is technically superior, I  don't think it's unreasonable to stop a compulsive desire to upgrade with the srh940 .

 



ADDENDUM / POST SCRIPTUM / EDIT

Quite after posting the original review, I've modded my shr940 ; and I'm so happy with the result that I thought it should be mentioned.

What I get :

  • more punchy bass
  • after repeated listen I must admit that clarity is improved. It's so obvious than when I revert the mod I find it's  sounds muddy (mids especially)
  • slightly more flat/neutral.
  • improved soundstage/ stereo. I can  virtually locate and isolate better subtle details.
  • improved comfort, I can wear the srh940 for long periods.
  • one con:  on rare tracks, sibilance can be annoying. Playing with ear cup position might help.


And the mod is reversible. All I  got to do is to find a way to make the ear cup deeper (but not too much).  And I've done this , using a plastic rope.

The two piece of rope I  used. Each end of rope are burned, because doing knots would take too much of the thickness  (otherwise the rope structure might be undone).

c6a49546_rope.jpeg

The rope thickness is roughly 1 cm, and each piece of rope between 23 - 25 cm.
Note: Regarding the thickness of rope, I think that what matters, is that while puting the headphone on your head, a small space is introduced, between the pina of your ears and the velour surface inside ear cup.

155438a8_centimeter.jpeg

One ear cup stuffed with rope:

a6a6788e_ears-cups.jpeg

You can compare the difference in depth between a ear cup stuffed with rope, and a normal, stock ear cup.

03b52b1e_comparison.jpeg

 

EDIT : It's seems that when  using  a thicker rope,  treble becomes  less  euphonic,  more dry .  Also the clamping force can be more noticeable.

Finally, it's better to test  with different thickness of rope, until you find what match best your taste.

Posted

Pros: Spectacular Clarity, Extended Highs, Warm and Smooth Mids, Excellent with Acoustic, Jazz and Female Vocals, Comfortable Pads, Great Accessories

Cons: Bass Very Much in Background, Headband Comfort, Build Quality Questionable

The SRH940 is Shure's top monitoring headphone, and the chance to step up from the SRH840 was one I wasn't going to miss.

 

srh940-1.jpg

 

Packaging And Accessories

When I first got these, the first thing that hit me was the excellence of the packaging, and the completeness of the accessory package.

 

You get a nice carry case containing the SRH 940's, spare pads, 2 replaceable cables (straight and coiled) and a 3.5-6.3 mm adaptor.

 

srh940-2.jpg

 

srh940-3.jpg srh940-4.jpg

 

Build / Comfort / Isolation

The next thing I noticed was the "apparent" excellence of the build.  these look sturdy, and did look built to last.  They have a moderate clamp force, and feel quite stable when wearing them.  They also isolate very well.  The pads feel very comfortable & I would easily forget I'm wearing these if it wasn't for the bumps on the headband.  I know a lot of people have had issues with the SRH840 in the past (heavy and flat headband).  Personally I found the SRH840 extremely comfortable - but the SRH940's headband is one I can't quite used to.  For me they are definitely not as comfortable.  I tried just wrapping the headband cover of my DT880 Pro around the SRH940 - and immediate relief (it's just a pity it doesn't fit properly).  I hope Shure eventually get the headband correct - because these are truly comfortable headphones.  But  they are nowhere near as comfortable as the Beyers IMO.

EDIT - there have been quite a few complaints about the SRH940 cracking at the hinges.  Mine were fine, but I didn't have them long.  This seems to be a recurring issue - and I have updated my review accordingly.

 

srh940-6.jpg

 

srh940-7.jpg

 

Sound Quality

 

Well I guess this is what it boils down to.  For me personally, I like a well balanced headphone - although I do like a warm mid focus.  I listen to a broad spectrum of music from classical and jazz to rock and blues.  I do like a detailed can - but I also like a balanced bass presence as well.  I listen to a lot of female vocals and acoustic rock.

 

Detail - the mid/high focus on the SRH 940 help giving a very detailed and revealing sound.  They are amazingly clear & although it's a cliche, I was hearing some things I'd missed before.  Malveaux in his appraisal said you could almost hear the smoke in the room - and with these it really feels like that. 

 

Soundstage - very good for a closed can.  Definitely a sense of space, perhaps heightened by the mid/high focus - but still intimate (although not crowded).  I would put the stage on par with my DT880 - good, but not spaciously great.  I did try gaming with these & the directional queues are actually quite good also.

 

Highs - The SRH 940 highs extend really well, but amazingly so far I have not found them even the slightest bit sibilant.  They need a good quality of recording - I listened to a couple of 'questionable' quality youtube clips - and they were simply unforgiving.  But on well recorded tracks these shine.  Cymbals are clean, and everything sparkles without being overblown.  Enjoyable.

 

Mids - these are the focal point, and they are IMO just breath-taking.  Shure really nailed it.  The mids are warm, smooth, and just an absolute joy to listen to.  For my main genres - especially acoustics, jazz and female vocals - the SRH940 just shines.  If I was marking them out of 10 for mids - no question - straight 10.  They have a way of concentrating the main focus on where it should be - whether that be vocals, guitar, piano.

 

Bass - very well extended, nicely layered.  It just lacks mid-bass impact, and therefore balance for me.   The problem I have with them is that while the bass is excellent in quality, it just sits a little too much in the background for me.  When the bass is supposed to be there - it is - but it's not balanced.  Porcupine Tree's "Trains" is a classic example.  The mids and highs are rendered faultlessly - but the clapping and the drums are supposed to have more impact.  They unfortunately sound 'thin'.  For my tastes, this has been the biggest fault.  I play the same track with my modded Alessandros & it just sounds the way it should sound (IMO).

 

srh940-8.jpg

 

srh940-9.jpg

 

Summary / Conclusion

The current pricing of the SRH940 makes it good value (street price around the $220 mark) for what you get.  They are technically a great headphone - and if you buy them principally for jazz, acoustic, classical, or female vocals - you won't be disappointed.  Unfortunately for me - the presentation is a little too slanted toward the upper end.  A little more in balance and these would have been perfect for me.  I guess I'll wait for the 1040's wink.gif

 

Incredibly good headphones - just not for me.

 

EDIT - there have been quite a few complaints about the SRH940 cracking at the hinges.  Mine were fine, but I didn't have them long.  This seems to be a recurring issue - and I have updated my review accordingly.

 

As such - I've adjusted my overall review downward - mainly due to the build quality.

Posted

Pros: sound quality better than other headphones of similar price range-around $300

Cons: terrible wearing design

I have HD600 and once had DT770(32OHM), DT880(600OHM) and D2000. Don't have too much money so I just have a cheap CD player, a cheap amp and a sound card(essence st) to support the headphones. I have listened to many high-end headphones in many places, including T1, psk, HD800 etc. And I think I know the actual sound quality of some famous headphones quite well. This Srh940 I first listened to it in a audio shop and the next day I decided to buy it, for HKD$1900, around US$250. I know I bought it in a lower price. This Srh940 suprise me as its overall sound quality is so great! Absolutely good listening with almost all kinds of music. The sound is smooth and very detailed. I expected it may sound little bit more monitoring but actually its musical feeling is also very great, I would say not worse than DT880. Compare it with HD600, I would say the sound quality of both are in similar level, but they perform well in different aspects. I think the Highs quality of 940 is obviously better than Hd600. Hd600 may have better or stronger Lows. So, a big bomb from Shure, Srh940, I really like it. It is also very easy to drive, can be easily driven by portable players.

 

My english is not good enough to describe so many things, sorry.

 

My ranking for the sound quality of some headphones including Srh940 is this:

 

HD600=Srh940=DT880>K701>DT770>Sr225I>D2000>Srh840

Posted

Pros: Sound Quality, Comfort, Bang for Buck

Cons: Low quality plastic, Bass may not be beefy enough to some

Bought at a local electronics network for 1000NIS ~ 275USD (including 17% VAT) in order to replace/supplement a pair of Grado SR80, these headphones sure provide a lot of sound for the buck.

Used mostly at home and driven by either Asus STX or Musiland 02 ("Dragon"), they are very accurate yet without harshness and provide a good soundstage. The bass, however may be too lean to some.

These headphones are a solid 5 stars on the money to sound scale, but lost 2 stars due to Shure's choice of low quality plastics for the headband. For like so many others, my headphones left plastic arm cracked and almost completely snapped off. It is now holding together with a generous amount of epoxy glue and a small piece of metal I stuffed inside the hollow arm. 

Shure SRH 940
By:
Description:

Designed for professional audio engineers and in-studio talent, SRH940 Headphones provide accurate response across the entire audio spectrum to deliver smooth high-end extension with tight bass. Superior transient response minimizes distortion. Collapsible, lightweight design with premium padded headband offers superior comfort and portability. Included detachable cables and replacement set of velour ear pads ensure a long product life.

Details:
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