Pros: detailed, transparent, efficient
Cons: headband padding a bit thin
I recently purchased a pair of SRH-940 and was very taken with their sound, enjoying their open presentation and level of detail. So when presented with an opportunity to hear and review the SRH-1840 I jumped at the chance even though I knew I could not afford the flagship headphone at the moment.
The headphones I am reviewing are someone’s private headphone and have well over 100hrs of use on them so I burned them in for 20 hours after my initial listen just to see if there was any change sonically and after being satisfied there was no change in sound I started to do some critical listening.
Before I get to the sound of these, let’s talk about the basics.
The package these come with is MASSIVE! The retail box is designed in such a way as to hold the headphones in a foam holder in the bottom of the box and then have the travel case sitting on top of the headphones. This design has made the case large and bulky (online retailers probably hate this kind of packaging due to exorbitant shipping costs, while stores will be torn between liking the luxurious feel of the box and the wasted space on the shelf. Over all I love the look as it does exude class.
Once you open the box, the headphones themselves are well made utilizing a minimalist approach that keeps them light and agile with no structural weak points. Some people who equate complex design with quality will think these are cheap but personally I think Shure has designed a very solid functional shell for this headphone.
From a comfort perspective these are lighter than the 940 due to the lighter weight but a very slightly thinner ear pad design increases their pressure points making them slightly more present around my ears. The thin nature of the padding on the headband also makes them slightly harder than I would like. Overall though they still are a comfortable headphone, just not as comfortable as they could be.
The cabling of these is double sided as compared to single entry like the SRH-940 but I don’t mind have the cable on both sides and this will likely make their sound slightly more balanced. I do like the thinner nature of their cable as compared to the 940 cables. This makes them a bit more portable for me.
There is two pair of cables in the box and one extra set of velour ear pads along with an excellent travel case ensuring a complete and long term headphone solution.
So now let’s get down to the sound.
To start with, THESE ARE NOT THE SRH-940 or SRH-840 IN AN OPEN HEADPHONE DESIGN! So if you absolutely LOVE either of those headphones for their sonic signature you might be disappointed with the sound of these in comparison. But if your unhappy with those headphones you may be very happy with the 1840 depending on why your didn't like them.
Bass – The bass of the 1840 is slightly heavier and warmer than the 940 but not as heavy as the 840. It strikes a nice balance that allows for the proper weight for instruments like cellos and bass guitars without coming across as bombastic or over bearing. This is the one area like the SRH-940 where I can see some people unhappy. The bottom line is Shure has deliberately made their top of the line headphones bass neutral or light in comparison to many mainstream headphones. So if you want or need to have massive bass these will not cut the mustard. Having said that I personally find the bass close to perfect for my ears and the genre’s I listen to.
Mid-range – This is the one area that is most significantly different between the SRH-1840 and the SRH-940. The 1840 midrange is very neutral in comparison to the 940. It has the same type of detail but simply does not stand out as much as the 940 in comparison to the bass and treble. This give the 1840 a much more relaxed sound and for young ears, louder listening, and genres that have aggressive midrange oriented sound it will be more appropriate. Personally since I am getting older and I like my music quieter, and most of me genre’s improve with more forward mids, I find this headphone not as optimal for me. I LIKE MY MIDS!!!
Treble – The treble of the 1840 is quite bright and feels like it has a small spike in the lower treble to my ears. This tends to accentuate the crash of cymbals a bit too much for me while minimizing their decay. This tendency is not severe enough for me to dislike the treble but is enough that I notice ear fatigue after listening to the 1840 for extended lengths of time. This tendency also gives these the sensation of not having the same level of detail as the 940.
Detail - Speaking of detail I find these to have similar levels of detail as the 940 but you have to work harder to hear that detail. This is caused by the fact these are open and consequently let in more outside noise, but is also because these are a slightly more natural sounding headphone. If you want to easily hear all the detail of your music you might prefer the 940, overall though these provide a more holistic music experience.
Sound Stage - The sound stage of these also benefits from the open design giving these a nice open feeling with lots of room for the instruments to breath. In comparison to the 940 the stage is wider and deeper but the more ready availability of detail of the 940 gives them about the same amount of instrument separation.
Overall I do think the SRH-1840 is a wonderfull headphone. It’s sound is balanced and it offers the highest level of refinement I have heard at it's price point (and in some cases above). But having said that I would caution people to look at the differences between the SRH1840, the SRH1440, and the SRH940 as each model offers differences in sound that may be more appropriate for your listening pleasure.