Pros: Comfortable, great built (similar to SRH1840), excellent pads, pleasant sound quality, imaging/separation and accessories.
Cons: Bass is elevated and intrudes on lower mids, isolation a bit weak for a closed headphone, leaks sound, price.
Shure oh, Shure. Have to reiterate, I'm a Shure Fan. Like their microphones, loved their headphones. Was a fan of the SRH440/940 combo when I had them, liked (but did not own) their SRH840 offering and definitely needed to try their open-back "flagship" SRH1840s and did for a while last year. So of course when I read that a new closed-back flagship was about to be released, I got pumped and waited for availability. As soon as they were "In-Stock", I placed the order. It just sounded like a promising entry, you know, SRH1840 style and design, alcantara earpads, and the only thing I was questioning was: are these going to sound as excellent as their previous cans???
|Frequency Range:||5 Hz – 25 kHz|
|Weight:||10.1 oz (286 g)|
|Cable Length:||6 ft (1.8 m)|
|Cable Style:||Dual-exit, detachable oxygen-free copper|
|Plug:||Gold-plated 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo mini jack|
As usual, Shure doesn't skimp on accessories. It's sad seeing a barebones package like those provided with the old Denon series, most Audio Technica headphones, etc. and paying "premium" prices where all you get is the headphone and... well, nothing else.
- HPACC3 (Zippered, hard storage case)
- HPAEC1540 (Extra set of Alcantara Ear Pads)
- HPAQA1 (Threaded 1/4" Adapter)
- HPASCA3 (Extra Dual-exit, detachable cable)
Design, Comfort and Build:
If you are familiar with the SRH1840s, then you shouldn't have problems loving the build of the 1540s. They are just excellent. I mean, "aircraft-grade" aluminum alloy, steel, carbon fiber construction, they might seem like buzz words but once you hold them in your hands you cannot deny that they feel like a premium headset. Best of all, they are EXTREMELY light! I don't doubt that these could withstand abuse and the test of time. Really. Design, again similar to their previous offerings. These look good without going extremely utilitarian nor too flashy. But I'm pretty sure that people will still talk about how they look once on your head. Shure still uses the same system when extending the headband and it looks like instead of extending down, they extend sideways and you look like a dork with them on! LOL sorry, but that's what I think anyway but maybe it's just me since I really have more of a long-ish head than round-ish... Even with this caveat though, comfort is top-notch. They made a great decision by going with the Alcantara pads. Trust me, going from something like the Alpha Dogs to the Shure's is like night and day. I rate the Alpha's very high in comfort factor but the 1540s take the cake because of their light weight!
As always, the important bits... The sound. As soon as I felt the great comfort, I turned "On" my X3, pressed "Play", closed my eyes and I knew I was in for something... different. Being used to the 440/940 sound and very familiar with the 1840/SennHD600 sound, what was coming out of the SRH1540s caught me by surprise. Why? Well previous Shure's were lean on the low-end. Bass presence has been "there" forever in all of them but not really powerful nor particularly impactful. The 1540s are ALMOST basshead levels to these ears. Bass has definitely been increased so the good thing is that they don't sound as "boring" as most of their previous entries. The bad news, I feel that bass overpowers and smear a bit into the lower mids. This "heft" especially in the mid-bass region gave the overall tuning a bit of warmth. So initial impressions were:
1) "Oh, these are surprinsingly bassy!"
2) "a bit of instrusion but still lovely mids as always"
3) "Salsa sounds excellent, love the separation, let's play this track on the Alpha Dogs... yep very nice!"
4) "Highs a bit tamed..."
Went through my usual suspects after that of course and definitely the bass was the main player in ALL of them. Mids were in Shure fashion, EXCELLENT. Guitars crunch, vocals come through effortlessly my ska/punk records make me want to get up and dance, I thoroughly enjoyed every song I was playing but noticed that a bit of "air" up top was missing. Not sure if highs have been "muted" to maintain a more even frecuency throughout or if it's that whole "we are bassy/fun and don't want to do like Ultrasone and blow your ears with emphasis on highs as well" mode these cans have going on. I think Jude mentioned something about a "safe" sound signature and this is basically what these are. Elevated bass, a bit thick/warm but lovely mids and "safe" highs. List of songs played for the review:
Thrice - Under a Killing Moon
Miguel Bose - Este Mundo Va
Kaskade - One Heart
Blink 182 - Kaleidoscope
Jon Cleary - So Damn Good
Mima - Oigo Voces
Esperanza Spalding - What a Friend
Sara Bareilles - King of Anything
Killswitch Engage - Fixation on the Darkness
Juancho - Amor en la Mesa
Boston - More than a Feeling
J-King y Maximan - Ella me Pide Something
Calvin Harris - Feel so Close
Three Six Mafia - Late Night Tip
Orquesta Macabeo - Me Repito
I listen to different genres because I get bored easily and what I have liked about the Shure's is that they play well with most genres every time. And this one is no exception. Love the clarity in the mids, the detail and separation especially with my favorite Salsa and Merengue tracks.
But I do have to say that, I miss a bit of the sound signature of the "old" SRH940s... Heck, even the SRH840s. In fact, I mentioned in board discussions that these new 1540s are REFINED SRH840s. They share A LOT of similarities but the 1540s have better imaging and sound stage, more mid-bass, more evenness overall and of course are more comfortable.
How do they compare?
Well, the latest headphones I've been using a lot are MrSpeakers Alpha Dogs and Beyerdynamic T5p's and I believe I mentioned everything in the Alpha Dogs review...
Compared directly to the Alpha Dogs, 1540s offer more bass, a bit boomy, mids not as forward but clear and good sounding, non-offensive highs, excellent imaging (similar to the 1840s and ADs), wider sounding. These Shure actually leak a bit of sound though and they are more comfortable (lighter as well) than the ADs.
And this was actually disappointing, the 1540s leak what I believe is A LOT of sound when volume is increased to "enjoyable" levels (for me). At least I saw my co-worker head-bopping to one of the songs I had playing... lol. I asked her if she actually knew what song it was and yeah, she knew... So that's a fail for me there.
The Beyerdynamic T5p with Blue Dragon cables highlight is definitely their mids, very clear, forward and excellent. Due to their more "treble-forward" approach, they sound colder than the Shure's. Soundstage and imaging are very good as well but their highs are a bit too much sometimes (maybe too revealing to my tastes or maybe they are too peaky?). Bass is actually quite anemic in comparison with both the ADs and 1540s but what it shows it's good quality. Also, straight from the X3, I didn't found them that anemic and through the Burson Soloist SL, I actually enjoyed them more than the Shure's These are very comfortable as well, good isolation and no leakage.
Bass quantity: SRH1540 --> Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p
Bass quality: Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p --> SRH1540
Mids presentation: Beyer T5p --> Alpha Dogs --> SRH1540
Soundstage/imaging: Beyer T5p --> Alpha Dogs == SRH1540
Highs: Alpha Dogs --> SRH1540 --> Beyer T5p
Sound Isolation/Leakage: Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p --> SRH1540
Fun Factor: SRH1540 --> Alpha Dogs --> Beyer T5p
Price: Alpha Dogs == SRH1540 --> Beyer T5p
Finally, just wanted to mention that I tested these guys with my usual setup:
Astel Kern AK100 MK2 --> Schiit Magni
FiiO X3 --> Schiit Magni
PC --> NuForce Icon HDP --> Lehman BCL
Straight from the FiiO X3 and AK100 MK2
(These are fairly easy to drive, did not have a problem with my gear.)
So, Shure 1540s, excellent mids, very good imaging, just "Ok" isolation and leakage control, but a little bit too much bass. They are indeed enjoyable headphones and one of the most comfortable headphones I have ever put on BUT sadly, at this point in time, they are not for me. I'm still a fan though. Shure knows how to create products and cater to specific audiences. I just hope that on their next headphone they do something with their presentation (i.e. tame the lows a bit, more clarity up top) and change the design a bit so that one doesn't look weird wearing their headphones! ;-)
For $500 retail (you can probably get them at $400 if you skulk enough), they seem to be a good buy due to their accessories, the build, the comfort, etc. but sound-wise I'm not sold, especially when the range of headphones on the $200-$400 bracket is so competitive and newcomers seem to also pack their boxes with accessories as well. Still prefer the Alpha Dogs over these as well as other lower priced options such as the Yamaha MT-220 (not because of their build nor comfort, just based on sound preference).
So all in all, if you are a fan of Shure, enjoyed their SRH840, love comfortable headphones and ear pads, don't care about leakage and prefer a bassier signature with even mids and highs, these should be a good buy for the RIGHT price. As always, just be sure of what you really want and make your selection based on your tastes and gear.
I love these connectors!!
Pads, extremely comfortable but probably the reason why isolation is not super great and sounds leaks.
Even though there's not a lot of padding, there's not a lot of pressure up top, so they feel good.