Pros: detailed, balanced, goodies, portability, isolation
Cons: short life expectancy, stupid sensitivity to ear positioning
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:
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.
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!
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).
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".
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
One ear cup stuffed with rope:
You can compare the difference in depth between a ear cup stuffed with rope, and a normal, stock ear cup.
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.