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Shure SRH440 Impression

post #1 of 393
Thread Starter 
Here is my thorough impression of the Shure SRH440.



So to begin, I'm just a budding basshead and a virgin to amps and DACS but that does not stop me from enjoying my music. I look for music with a strong melody across a variety of instruments coupled with warm bass, which leads me to like Japanese Pop and some Rock, electropop (Susumu Hirasawa is my favorite artist), orchestral (they're truly my favorite, but it's so hard to find ones that I enjoy), jazz, and a dash of classical. I'm very discriminating, so I have a meager 118 songs that amounts to 7.9 hours of music (I have many more songs, but I rarely, if ever, listen to them. And I know that pales in comparison to many of other people's libraries). I like warm and encompassing bass but not so much that it drowns out the mids and highs. Also, the music I listen to is Japanese Pop and some electropop (Susumu Hirasawa is my favorite artist). As a note: all of the songs I reference unless otherwise specified, I have as 320 kbps mp3's. So to start, I'll focus on the physical properties of it.

The Looks and Feel

I'm a sucker for sleek black electronics. Overall, I like the design and the way it folds inwards, but it's harder (not too hard) to unfold. It does not get smudgy (as you can tell by the picture I took of it). I've only had it for a month now, and I can say that they are still pretty much as sturdy as when I bought them.
As far as how it feels when you wear it, it's not very heavy. You will notice its on (but to be fair, I have a bigger head than most), but it is comfortable to wear, and fits nicely around my ears, which are kind of big. The pads look like this:



and this:



So for those of you with big ears and heads, these headphones will treat you well. Maybe not as well as the Sony MDR-XB700, but those are huge. Your ears will get warm after using them for a while, but I've worn them for hours on end without any discomfort. The cable is very long, I've never been able to fully stretch it (but I usually sit at my computer) and I can't comment on portability because I usually keep it in my book-bag when I'm on the move, and it is a big book-bag.

As far as its isolation ability goes, I've never been a fan of noise-canceling headphones because they usually degrade their own sound while they block outside noise (although the Bose QuietComfort Q15 were pretty good). These headphones use passive attenuation, i.e. they cancel noise by virtue of their design and their material composition. That said, the Shure SRH440's will not let any sound out (perfect for when you're in a quiet place with lots of people) and will not let any sound in while they are playing. Of course, if a person is yelling (they have to be a bit close) you'll be able to hear them regardless of what headphone you buy.

Another note to those who want to know: unamped and unequalized, the Shure SRH440 sound like cheap earbuds. Which means these will make poor gaming headphones for those of you who don't have amps or equalizers. Some headphones sound better than others in this situation, but that doesn't mean they are better. So if your looking to start your journey into hi-fi and you're not buying these headphones with some audio equipment, I would not recommend that you buy them at that time. This is just a note for those who want to know.

How it Sounds

This will be the biggest section, as it is the most important.

Overall sound quality is excellent, not exactly what I'm looking for, but far from horrible, at least when listening to music through WMP (yes, I have used other players but WMP is my favorite). I don't have an amp, so I'm stuck with the headphone's natural ability and my sound cards ability (VIA VT1708S, which are very decent), so you can use this impression as a base comparison for those of you who have better equipment.



I'll be comparing these headphones a little to the XB700. As you can see by the graph, there is a noticeable peak at around 10 kHz, which is both good and bad.

The good: In some songs, this translates into astounding clarity. For example, in "'Libera me' from Hell" (a song in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) the opera singer in the background hits amazing notes and the aggressive nature of these headphones in the upper registers help bring it out her notes in the song and her beautiful voice. It's not very often that I find this kind of song, and I like it when good headphones like this one make me fall in love with a song all over again. There is also a constant amount of bass in this song which includes beats and a drum. There is treble from a piano and a small string ensemble. Amazingly, these headphones deliver a very good amount of clean bass, but I'll get into that later.

The bad: In other songs, this translates into a harshness in some songs and some sibilance that ruins great songs. For example, in "Mermaid Song" by Susumu Hirasawa (you must listen to this song, it is absolutely wonderful) there is quite a bit of sibilance within the song itself, and these headphones don't do much to mitigate it. This will be a plus for some, as these headphones reproduce what they are given as good professional headphones should (quite frankly, I find that admirable in them), but if you are looking for headphones with sibilance control, these are not them. Not really a minus for the quality of the headphones, but for me, it's a minus on their enjoyability. Techno songs are not really enjoyable on these headphones either because they overemphasis the squeaks, bleeps, and so forth in many of the songs, making it feel like someone is stabbing your eardrums.

These headphones do well with songs with an acoustic guitar, like "Fukia Mori," but lackluster in songs with electric guitars, like "Chain." I guess now would be a good time to talk about the strength of these headphones (I'll explain about the guitars soon).

The SRH440 is clear; if the world was coming to an end and if whatever demonic force that was bringing an end to life said that the only way to save the planet was to give him (or her) the clearest headphones possible, I would hand him (or her) the SRH440 without hesitation. NOTHING you can do (or that I have been able to do with an equalizer (although resistors can do some magic here, but that's not very fair)) will muddy up the sound of these headphones. You can make it as bloated as a dead orca whale, but goddang it you will here every instrument in that song. You could make sound as boxy as Muhammad Ali but you will still have a fair amount of soundstage in that song.

That being said, electric guitars (in general) sound lackluster on the SRH440. Some of the appeal of the electric guitar is that it's not a very clear sounding instrument (I hear from some of my friends that's why they go to concerts, I don't), but the SRH440 will find a way to do the impossible! You can get guitars to be "muddy," but in does not sound controlled nor is it as deep sounding on the SRH440 as I would like. While I'm on bass instruments, these headphones sound cool and laid back in this region of sound. They have great bass extension, and the proof is in the song "Scream" by Avenged Sevenfold (I hate the song but love the bass. It's a love hate relationship and I only listen to like the first 15 seconds of it, which is where the rolling bass is). There is a rolling bass note down in the sub 30 Hz region, and it was delivered with as much power and no distortion as my XB700. I was very surprised and impressed. Of course, the XB700's bass was fuller, but nonetheless, the SRH440 was able to respond very well to the full sound spectrum. The SRH440 has punch, but little boom and breadth (remember, I'm a basshead ). Outside of just this song, watching movies with the SRH440 (especially LoTR: Return of the King in high-def) is not as immersive as it is with the XB700. Explosions are just not as awe-inspiring both in games and movies. But enough of these unfair comparisons, the XB700 was made to deliver bass.

So, moving back to the good these headphones have amazing sound quality. It's a tight competition between the XB700 and the SRH440 on performance in orchestral songs, I have a few in FLAC (there's no competition in classical, which are also in FLAC files. The SRH440 wins hands down). On one hand, we have headphones that make every instrument tonally north of the trombone sound amazing, while on the other we have headphones that surround you with sound while not doing a bad job with the mids and highs. It comes down to what you prefer more, which I prefer the sound of the XB700, but I wish they had the bright character of the SRH440 as well. Which leads me to the final section of this review:

How the Shure SRH440 Compare

These headphones weren't made for my taste, that should be made clear right now. If your a basshead, don't bother considering these headphones as they will disappoint. They have great bass, don't get me wrong, but you can never have enough bass, and the SRH440 can't give close to enough. To put that statement into context, In some songs I wish that the XB700 had more bass (if I give it more, it drowns out the mids and the highs start becoming strained, could be the sound card, could be the headphones, I'm not sure. Headroom also says that these headphones tend to drown out the mids in bass heavy songs, so it might be the 'phones). I know that may sound crazy, but it's difficult to put into words the reason why I love bass.

That said, they have great sound balance, and they could probably handle many tastes (except for bassheads ) with the proper equipment (even a good sound card will suffice). They have no where as much bass as the XB700, but look at the response graph; would you expect these two headphones to have the same amount of bass? That said, there's no audible difference in the mids and highs of songs when the bass is boosted on the SRH440 as opposed to the XB700, which do have a difference (on some songs). In my earlier post of this review, I said that the Sony MDR-XD200 could match these headphones in sound quality; I completely retract that statement. I don't think anything sub $60 could pose a threat to the SRH440. I really don't regret paying those $84 for the SRH440 (even though they aren't made for my tastes, they come close to my tastes).

The Verdict and Summary

For bassheads, skip on these headphones.
For gamers, skip on these headphones unless you have a way to bring out the bass in them.
For everyone else with decent audio equipment (most of Head-Fi I take it), take a look at these headphones. They are durable, sleek, and sound great for the money.
For everyone else, skip on these (but really, get yourself at least a good sound card, you won't regret it).

The Good:
Well-defined and a fully extended bass.
Great clarity and transparency in songs.
Soundstage is impressive.
Bright sounding character.

The Bad:
Overall weak bass (for my taste).
On songs with electric guitars, you can either have uncontrolled bass or no bass.

(From the original post)
Edit:
So after some more use, I want to note just two things:
1) It seems that the headphones don't like cold weather. If they aren't used in cold conditions for extended periods of time (i.e. it's winter (temperature wise, more or less) so your house is cold and you go to sleep) the drivers will need "warming" (just like some cars) when you next use them. I have observed this twice so far; both nights were very cold and the next time I used the headphones, the mid bass to lower treble just wasn't there. The base was punchy as usual though, and the highs were there, but the bass was lacking. At first, I thought it was just my ears, (the first occurrence was last Monday) but the same thing happened today. Not really much of a con, but I thought it was worth noting.

2) The mechanisms that control the headphone arms lose their strength, rather quickly it seems. They still have a considerable clamping force to your head, but the speakers no longer close together when you take them off like they used to. Only time will tell what this actually means for the durability of these headphones. After a months use, they haven't change any. I think they just loosen up a tad after coming from the factory.
post #2 of 393


I was going to buy these...but now I'm not too sure
post #3 of 393
Same here, are they that bad out of an iPod?
post #4 of 393
Quote:
Originally Posted by Merdril View Post
But I value bass above all else.
Well if you'd read the impressions thread you would have known that these have weak bass -> and probably not bought them.
post #5 of 393
Interesting impressions. I have the bigger brother (SRH840), and when properly driven, saying it's bass-shy is the last thing I'll call it.
post #6 of 393
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoulMisaki View Post
Same here, are they that bad out of an iPod?
I haven't used an iPod enough to know if it has an equalizer. I use my cellphone, which has an 8GB miniSD, and WinamPAQ, which has an equalizer, to listen to music on the go. The SRH440 sound similar to my computer on my cellphone, but the highs are a bit recessed on the cellphone. But if the iPod or any mp3 player you use doesn't have an equalizer, you should look elsewhere for headphones. The Shure SRH440 will sound like cheap earbuds when not equalized.

Quote:
Originally Posted by av2606 View Post


I was going to buy these...but now I'm not too sure
If you like bass, don't get these . If you like accurate sound reproduction, I'm sure these headphones fit the bill. Also, if you play games and/or don't have an equalizer (hardware or software) or amp, don't get these .

Quote:
Originally Posted by azncookiecutter View Post
Interesting impressions. I have the bigger brother (SRH840), and when properly driven, saying it's bass-shy is the last thing I'll call it.
The SRH440's aren't bad (well, they are if you don't equalize or amp them). It's just like I said, they aren't the headphones for me. I would have bought the SRH840's because I like the way they look and they seemed bass stronger than the SRH440's from the graphs, but they were out of my price range.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post
Well if you'd read the impressions thread you would have known that these have weak bass -> and probably not bought them.
I actually did look at that thread and it helped me make the decision to buy them. Now knowing that what many people consider bass and what I consider bass are completely different, I wouldn't have bought them .
post #7 of 393
1) Lack of Burn-in

2) Introduced the (in)effectiveness of the equalizer.

3) Misunderstands psychoacoustics.

No offense, but really, I don't consider this review 'valid' because of these.
Lack of bass. Ok, sure.



I always use the DT880 as a reference for a 'linear' sound.

EDIT: But that said, there's seems to be two ends of the spectrum in terms of bass preference: Either you like a crapload of bass (the public, particularly the youth,
majority) or that you get accustom to bass-light or bass-recessed headphones / earphones (the majority of audiophiles). That's what I've noticed anyway. For 'serious' listening, I always go with a linear, balanced sound.
post #8 of 393
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
1) Lack of Burn-in
There's a reason why I wrote this 1 week and 1 days after I ordered them. I started using them the moment I got them and made no judgments because I know that all headphones require some burn-in time. They were playing pretty much for the entire first week, with a few 1 hr - 4 hr breaks in between. So all in all, they have at least 130 hrs of burn-in. They may get better with 300+ hrs of burn-in (if any headphone needs that much), but I'm sure there won't be much difference if any.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
2) Introduced the (in)effectiveness of the equalizer.
I'm sure hardware equalizers would have done a much better job than WMP's equalizer, and I'm also equally sure that my sound card is not the greatest (I built a computer for a client with a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi which I used with my Sony MDR-XD200 and was very impressed by the difference in sound quality). For that reason, I listened to it without an equalizer for a good bit of time to judge how good it was. I have done the same with my Sony MDR-XD200 and the crappy wireless headphones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
3) Misunderstands psychoacoustics.
Like I started out the thread saying, I am not a headphone expert. Treat this as an impression, if you dislike it, but "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It's a fact that I don't like them, that's undisputable. It's just like trying to make a science out of art (reviewers in the realm of art have their own preferences as well). Whether they are good or bad, that depends on who's using them. But you can't consider this thread not 'valid' simply because it's not how an expert would review it. I tried to make it as nontechnical as possible and biased towards people who like bass because that was my target audience. I even said that those who value "accurate sound reproduction should stop reading this thread," because this review is not geared towards that audience. Besides that, this was my first post and venture into the world of hi-def audio. It's nice to know that I need improvement, but I think I made it clear that this impression is biased.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
EDIT: But that said, there's seems to be two ends of the spectrum in terms of bass preference: Either you like a crapload of bass (the public, particularly the youth,
majority) or that you get accustom to bass-light or bass-recessed headphones / earphones (the majority of audiophiles). That's what I've noticed anyway. For 'serious' listening, I always go with a linear, balanced sound.
Sounds like you have quite a bit of experience with headphones . My headphone listening will probably always be for enjoyment, which I don't feel like I should be chastised for. Anyway, I wish you would have left some headphone suggestions for me if you have any . I think a song that captures what I want in a headpone is one that can play "Sorairo Days" by Nakagawa Shoko with strong bass (as in the sliders from 31 to 125 were set as high as they could go without distortion on the Sony MDR-XD200) without overpowering the highs (if the highs include 2k - 16k, feel free to correct me if high is not the correct term)). However, I'm not the kind of person who likes bass to the point that it goes "buuwaaaammmm" (if you know what I mean) like the cars that roll by with the volume of their hip hop/rap turned as high as possible. I'm not sure if the amount of bass I like is a crapload, or if it's a large amount. I wrote this review with another goal if using it as a way to find the headphones for "me." So, please leave a suggestion of closed, circumaural headphones (under $100) that might suit me .
post #9 of 393
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
Lack of bass. Ok, sure.
I wouldn't say they lack bass for the genres he mentioned, as a lot of pop-bass is above 100hz.
post #10 of 393
No offense intended, but IMHO terms "audiophile" and "Japanese pop"/"electropop" do not belong on the same page. These terms are frankly mutually exclusive. And BTW, I did test the Shures yesterday with a bit more varied music (Howard Shore´s The Two Towers) and the performance was very good.
post #11 of 393
Japanese Pop and Electropop are music genres too, dont be such a retard. People can listen to what they want and those genres are just as good as any others YOU listen to. Probably better.

Yes. I went there.
post #12 of 393
Thread Starter 
Well, I didn't know that being an audiohpile (if my latin and greek are correct, that's a lover of sound) restricted you to certain genres or demanded you like everything (even Norwegian Death Metal). But what I look for in headphones are the ability to play the song with the instruments that were intended to be audible, actually be audible, and be able to play a song with extra bass without distortion. The SRH440's were able to do that, just as well as my Sony MDR-XD200's were able too. However, their performance in songs I like had little change compared to the Sony MDR-XD200. They excelled in classical and orchestral music, if you read the last paragraph of the "How it Sounds" section, you'll see that. So as objectively as I can say it, they are not bad headphones. However, the improvement, or lack of, in most of my songs (not all. In some songs, they sounded like $84 headphones) over my Sony MDR-XD200 does not warrant spending 61 more dollars.

Edit:
Japanese pop and electropop aren't the only two genres I tested. The others are soft rock, power metal, death metal, classical, orchestral, jazz, and pop (as in American pop). Quite frankly, I don't like any of the other categories as much, but I do have many songs in those categories. It's just only one or two make it to my five star list which is the list I listen most to.
post #13 of 393
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoulMisaki View Post
Japanese Pop and Electropop are music genres too, dont be such a retard. People can listen to what they want and those genres are just as good as any others YOU listen to. Probably better.
Could you please point out where did I claim that those two are not musical genres? Or that I denied anyone´s right to listen to them? It is just that an "audiophile" means a connoisseur to me and to me connoisseurs are seeking something more demanding that pop mp3 files. Just like automobile connoisseurs are more keen on Rolls-Royce or Ferrari than Toyota Yaris.
post #14 of 393
Thread Starter 
mp3, flac, ogg, it's all sound when it comes down to it. Some formats are better than others at the preservation of recorded sound, which is why the different formats exist. All of my classical music is in flac form, but it's hard to come by music I like in flac, ogg, wav, or acc form. If I hear a song I like, I usually spend an average 10 - 15 mins looking for it high quality forms. Most of the time, the highest is a 320 kbps mp3.

But on the car analogy, those vehicles are high performing and are limited in their usage (i.e. you can't take them off road, but I don't see why anyone would want to). Likewise, japanese pop mp3 files (really, any mp3 file depending on the artist) can have a lot of detail and instruments. However, this is a small spectrum out of the rainbow that is music, just like those cars are only one kind out of all the different kinds of cars, and my headphones need to perform well in that spectrum of music. The Shure SRH440's did not deliver the performance that the demanding pop mp3 files required. So, I'm disappointed, and probably shouldn't have bought them in the first place. But I'm certainly learning from this mistake.
post #15 of 393
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
3) Misunderstands psychoacoustics.
I do see what you meant by that . My next review will be much more conscious of audio terminology and usage. I plan to review the Sony MDR-XD200 next, it will mostly be from memory though (but that's the memory of about 2 years of consistent use).

Edit:
My opinion on these headphones are better, I've been able to equalize them that brings out the detail and makes the sound warmer without suffering distortion and retaining its clarity. Still testing them on other songs, but so far they are good (listening to "My Will" by Dream (an Inuyasha ending song, I don't like the anime though) and the Shure SRH440 sounds miles better than the Sony MDR-XD200). However, I still do not recommend using them without an amp or equalizer (in other words, they aren't good for gaming) and I still plan on getting more bass friendly headphones.
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