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A Shure Shootout! SRH-940 vs SRH-1440 vs SRH-1840

post #1 of 196
Thread Starter 

I recently bought a pair of SRH-940 and was impressed with their sound enough that when I was givent the opportunity to review the SRH-1840 I jumped at the chance, even though I was not in the position to buy the flagship Shure headphone. But the differences between the 940 and 1840 was enough I just was itching to hear the SRH-1440 as well. So when I found that a local music store has the 1440 in stock I went down dor a quick listen. Long story short I decided to buy the SRH-1440 and do a proper review with comparisons between all 3 models.


So I need to get something stated up front. I AM A HUGE FAN OF ALL 3 HEADPHONES! So I will try to be even handed in my reviews but my enjoyment of these headphones will likely make the reviews look biased. I DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THIS THOUGH as I think these headphones deserve a lot of praise and are all worthy of being considered as higher end even if they are not always priced as such. If you don't like reviews that are to positive then I suggest you save yourself the trouble of getting frustrated and just move on to another thread.


I will post my original SRH-940 review followed by my SRH-1840 review, and then my SRH-1440 review. I will then give a brief discussion about where I feel each headphone best fits from a listening perspective. I feel that while these each have a different price point I think they all offer a different enough sound experience to each jusify their own following. If I can figure out to do it I will try to put together a chart as well.


I am hoping other members with more than one model will post their finding in thisw thread so people will have one place to go and read about these headphones. But I also realize there are strong threads for these headphones so will be posting in those thread as well.


I am going to a head-fi meet this tomorrrow so also will have a chance to compare all 3 of these headphones against several other top tier headphones. As such I will post my listening experiences and comparisons of those headphones to the Shures headphones here and in the appropriate Shure threads that have already been started.

post #2 of 196
Thread Starter 

Closed design meets open sound goodness meets IEM detail?!


Let’s get the basics out of the way first.


I was quite happy with the solidly built case and accessories that came with this headphone. I find the cables to be of decent quality and it’s nice to have a choice between a coiled and straight cable. If I had one wish though it would be for Shure to create a shorter thinner cable for use with portables and if they built in a microphone and IPhone compatible set of switches I would be ecstatic! If they make such a cable I will be the first one in the line waiting to buy it.


The ear pads are extremely soft and comfortable and I have no issues with clamp on these nor do I find them too loose on the old noggin either. I have actually fallen asleep with these on and when I woke up several hours later found the only discomfort I had was too much warmth in my ears. I also find I can slip them down around my neck comfortably when I want to talk to someone. But like others have commented I wish the cups didn’t face upwards as I too get paranoid something could get spilled into the drivers. The headphone is heavier than some I have owned but I took the one reviewers advice and wear these with the headband more forward on my head than tradition and find the headband does not bother me.


So how do these sound?


SRH-940 – Closed design meets open sound goodness meets IEM detail?!


Ok you’re asking yourself, has this guy flipped his biscuit? Who knows, maybe I have, but if I was to sum up the SRH-940 in one sentence, that’s what I think of.


Anyone who has followed my meandering path through head-fi land will know I have dabbled on both sides of the fence (full size versus portables/IEM’s) pretty heavily. I started out buying low end locally available IEM’s and portables and then gradually graduated to more expensive and online purchases. I then started to be intrigued by full size headphones and played around with a variety of headphones and bought my first desktop amp which I still use to today.


So what does my history have to do with my outlandish statement?


In my first forays into full-size headphones I was introduced to what a sound stage could be like and also what bass could be like as compared to what I was experiencing with IEM’s. I started with an AT AD700 and then upgraded to the AD900. In both cases I loved the sound but found the bass to be lacking and the midrange to either be to distant or to thin and the treble was just to strident and sharp for me (especially in the case of the AD900). So I then bought a pair of Sennheiser HD600 which was more satisfying in the bass and fuller in the midrange but I found the treble to just be wrong for cymbal and other percussive reproduction. I then bought a pair of Denon D7000 which I found to have fantastic bass and better treble than the HD600 but ultimately I found I just wasn’t listening to the D7000 enough to justify owning such an expensive headphone. Today I can see I also subconsciously missed the intimacy and detail I was getting as compared to a good IEM.


While I was going down my full-size headphone journey my IEM journey was also running rampant. I struggled to find what I wanted, vacillating between different signatures, being wowed then turned off by the extremes. Then finally realizing I liked lots of midrange and treble detail with good bass that did not intrude and muddy the sound. This part of my journey ran the gamut of a dozen or more mid-fi level IEM’s, to higher end gear like the Sennheiser IE8, Monster Turbine Pro Coppers, Earsonics SM3, Ultimate Ears Triple fi 10, VSonic GR07, Etymotic HF3. Note I include the HF3 and GR07 in the high end because despite their price or their limit on only having one BA (HF3) I feel they offer similar levels of technical proficiency and musicality to the other more expensive IEM’s on my list. I personally do not ascribe to the idea that expensive equal’s hi-fi.


I also went down a similar path with portable headphones but that path has been limited since I find portable headphones just don’t have enough of either full-size headphone qualities or an IEM’s portability and intimacy.


OK OK, I know what you’re thinking. When is this guy going to get back to his outlandish statement??


In a nutshell with all of my experience I think the SRH-940 give me the same type of detail I have received from my most detailed IEM’s while having the sound stage of an open headphone like the HD600 and the isolation of a closed back studio monitor.


I have even heard more details in some of my music than I have with any IEM I have owned. Some of that detail is annoying as it is obviously unintentional utterances or sound in the studio, but more often than not it’s intentional and adds to the experience of the music. More importantly I find myself incorporating the detail into the music rather than just being drawn to the detail itself, the detail sounds more organic than other detailed IEM’s and products I have owned. I also find this headphone more capable of transitioning in volume levels than most products I have owned. Songs that have subtle changes in volume and position are very well handled by this headphone. If someone is meant to sound like they are in the distance and to the right, getting louder until they are in the center the 940 handles this type of transition very well.


I’m a front row spectator… This headphone definitely places me in the front row. The cool thing is that front row can feel like a small jazz club or a large amphitheatre depending on the music but so far has not felt like the front row of an insanely raucous rock concert. But I’m definitely in the front row. So if anyone prefers being further back you might prefer a different headphone.


Let’s talk bass – The bass of the SRH-940 is very neutral with pretty much ZERO mid-bass emphasis. So for those listening to music that requires a lot of thump like dubstep, bass heavy electronic music, etc. you might want to audition these if possible or simply buy something else if you can’t audition these rather than take a chance. But for most classic rock, psychedelic rock, older hard rock, classical, jazz, country, new age, folk, and acoustic music the bass will most be adequate and if not just require a small EQ boost to become satisfactory. In my case I use a small bass boost from 1 at 500Hz to 5 DB at 32hz on my computer setup and almost exclusively listen to these with no EQ on my iPhone. I find the bass lacks the timbre and presence I have heard on the best headphones I have owned or heard but this area is not substandard it’s just not as good as the best. Do I wish it was as good as the best? The answer is of course YES, but only if it could be accomplished without affecting the rest of the sound.


Mmmmmm… Mids – This is where this headphone starts to truly shine. I have to be honest here. My musical preferences lie in the midrange and treble frequencies. I thought I was a bass-head but over the past few years I have either become or finally realized I am a mid/treble-head. But while I say that, I can also say with complete certainty I am not fond of strident or shrill mids or treble. The SRH-940 more than any other product I have tried seem to be able to balance the fine line between detail and transparency without making me want to remove the headphone if a song has sibilance in it. I also have never felt ear fatigue after using these. I have read these are great for female vocals and that is absolutely true but I think it’s a disservice to this headphone to think that is all they are good for. I find they handle all singing well along with any instrument that falls in the midrange spectrum. They are detailed without ever crossing the line into sounding artificial or overly aggressive. This might make them too polite for aggressive music genres like Death Metal etc. but I think that would only be for those who almost exclusively listen to those genres, in which case I suspect certain Grado headphones would fit the bill better. But if you are like me and have found it hard to get a signature that balances the warmer and smoother mids of a Sennhieser headphone like the HD600 and the aggressive Grado type mids, these might just do the trick for you. I also find the mids of the 940 to have none of the thinness I experienced with the Audio Technica AD900.


Treble – For me the treble of a headphone is where you separate the pretenders from the contenders. It is the one area that has to be done right and it’s the hardest area to get right. Personally I can’t stand overly bright treble, metallic sounding treble, tinny treble, or pingy sounding treble. It needs to have good decay and it needs to be detailed without sounding artificial. In my search for the most realistic sounding treble for cymbals I have heard, the VSonic GR07 has been the best… up until now. I feel the SRH-940 does an admirable job of cymbal reproduction, one that surpasses the GR07. The only full-size headphone I have truly liked for cymbals was the D7000 and I think the 940 is better than the D7000 in this area (mainly due to the D7000 being a bit too piercing). The 940 offers excellent detail and decay without crossing the line into artificial sounding or distracting.


So is this a giant killer? Should all HD800 owners sell their gear? Should Beyerdynamic just close up shop? No, but while this headphone may not a giant killer it is at least as good as any $3-500 headphone/IEM I have owned or heard. It deserves to be mentioned alongside the Sennheiser HD580-650 headphones, Audio Technica AD900/1000, AKG K701, and other upper mid-tier headphones, and it may offer a compelling argument against a few of the headphones in or around the $1000 mark, depending on mitigating factors such as genres listened to, need for isolation, ability to be played from portable sources, modest amplifier requirements, etc.


In my case, the fact I am willing to wrap the big cable this comes with when on the train or out walking the dog versus using a much simpler to manage high quality IEM just so I can get the better sound quality, is a HUGE statement about how much I like this headphone because in my case comfort and easy to use generally out-weigh sound quality for me (please don’t judge me too harshly!!).

Edited by dweaver - 4/21/12 at 10:37pm
post #3 of 196
Thread Starter 

Wonderfully detailed balanced headphone without breaking the bank


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.





Edited by dweaver - 4/21/12 at 11:23pm
post #4 of 196
Thread Starter 

In your face but in a gentle kind way

Today at 10:34 am
Reviewed by dweaver
Pros: Nicely detailed, midcentric, solid bass, extended treble
Cons: may be a bit to aggressive for some genres, sound stage is good but feels smaller due to the more forward mid-range

This is my 3rd and final review of Shure's new top line headphones. As such I will mention points about the SRH-940 and SRH-1840 as I go through the review. I intend to try and keep this review mainly on the SRH-1440 but there will be some cross polination as I go through this.


The SRH-1440 like it's big brother SRH-1840 comes in a massive retail box, in fact they appear to be identical except for the pictures and information printed on the box. Upon opening the box the 1440 has the same travel case with accessories. The earpads of the 1440 are different than the 1840 though and for the better in my opinion. The cables are the same between both models though which is a good thing as this means the cables are fairly easy to use in a portable fashion.


The build of the 1440 is all plastic so has a weight closer to the SRH-940 than the 1840. But the design is better than the 940 in looks and comfort. In fact I would say these rival the 1840 for comfort due to the plusher headband. All in all I find these comfortable and fashionable.


But let's get to the brass tack shall we. HOW DO THESE SOUND?


Bass - The bass of the 1440 is slightly more mid-bassy than the 1840 and the 940 and has slightly less sub-bass. Now before anyone gasps thinking these have a huge mid-bass hump, you can relax. These do not have that problem. As someone who has grown to really dislike a mid-bass hump I can assure you these just offer a slightly different bass presentation to their siblings. Over all I have to say I actually prefer the 1440's bass for relaxed or fun listening. It's present enough to say "lets have fun but not so present as to be shouting or subwoofer-ish. In a nutshell it's satisfying.


Mid-range - This is where the 1440 shines in my opinion. These have a similar but ever so slightly warmer mid-range as compared to the SRH-940 and are massively different than the 1840 which sounds positively recessed in comparison. So this is also where people need to think hard about what they want in a headphone. Personally I love the more forward mids, but I also listen to music at low volumes and am 47 years old with the accompanying hear loss most people my age have, and my genre's of choice are Jazz, Classical, alternative rock like Pink Floyd, classical rock, accoustical, New Age, folk music, and a smidge of hard rock like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Most of my genre's benefit from this headphones signature. For aggressive genre's that have harsh guitars or loud percussion and louder volume listening, these may give the listener a headache. For those other genre's or volume levels I suspect the 1840 will be better fitting.


Treble - The treble is darn near a perfect mix of the 940 and 1840 signatures. It is slightly louder in the lower treble than the 940 like the 1840 but has the same level of loudness and extension in the upper treble as the 940 which helps it not lose the decay of things like cymbals the way the 1840 does. I don't have to work to hear the detail like I do with the 1840. But it's not quite as in my face and bordering on artificial like the 940.


Sound stage - The sound stage is slightly smaller than the 1840 and more intimate sounding but larger than the 940. I found it's accuracy to be very good like it's siblings. All three place instruments in pretty much the same place just at different distances depending on the size of the sound stage.


Detail - As I alluded to earlier I find it easier to hear details from the 1440 than I did the 1840 but not as easily as the 940. This allows me to enjoy my music without having to analyze it or switch to analytical listening easily when I want to pay attention to something.


Overall I would say if a person can live with an open headphone design the 1440 offers a unique sound that is different enough from the SRH-940 as to offer a different view into their music without losing the best aspects of that headphone. I have seen it suggested that this headphone is over priced, honky and inferior to the SRH-1840. Personally I think these comments are off base a bit as I did not notice any degradation in sound quality anywhere in the sound spectrum. This headphone simply offers a different presentation. As for price, I think it is built better than the 1940 justifying it's higher cost. So overall I have no issue with it's price. Having said that if it's sales drop enough that they lower it's price closer to the 940 all the better for us consumers.







Edited by dweaver - 4/25/12 at 9:47am
post #5 of 196
Thread Starter 

I have tried to give values for key features of each headphone, not some values do not always denote "best" just where each headphone sits on a scale of one to three. I will adjust this as I go along if I feel I have made an error or want to add something to the chart.


Shure Model Attribute Comparison
  SRH-940 SRH-1440 SRH-1840
Comfort 3 2 1
Weight 3 2 1
Design 3 2 1
Isolation 1 2 3
Leakage 1 2 3
Bass Quantity 3 1 2
Bass Detail 3 2 1
Midrange Loudness 2 1 3
Midrange Detail 2 1 3
Midrange Warmth 2 1 3
Lower Treble Loudness 2 1 1
Upper Treble Loudness 1 2 3
Treble detail 1 2 3
Aggression 2 1 3
Sound Stage Size 3 2 1
Sound Stage Accuracy 1 1 1
Instrument Separation 2 2 1


Edited by dweaver - 4/25/12 at 8:27pm
post #6 of 196

Thanks for the reviewing effort! I will also be auditioning the open back Shures sometime this/next week. 

post #7 of 196
Very good work, i am planning to buy either srh1840 or srh1440 online because in my country the price too expensive, but there are no audition unit at the store here, so this thread will help me a lot, i have never bought any shure product, this is the first time, i did hear the shure se535 REd version, i like its sound, the mids and highs are great, then 1840 1440 come out, i am having a hard time to decide, hoping this thread can help me. biggrin.gif
post #8 of 196

Great write-up, these new Shures need more exposure

post #9 of 196

Thanks for the great effort man. tl/dr for now, Subscribed.

post #10 of 196

Great write-up dweaver! I think that by having all three on hand, you will be the one who will really be able to get down to brass tacks and say what is really going on with the Shures.


I have been able to do further listening using most of my amps and the 1440 really shows up the differences in source, amplification and interconnects. I'm thinking of getting a nice inexpensive tube amp for the 1440.


I am still readjusting and getting used to the 1440 sound signature. I see so much talk on Head-Fi about bass and treble. With the 1440, the midrange just stands up and says "I'm running this show, you guys (bass and treble) just stay put where you belong!". The midrange takes no prisoners. It exposes any flaws in recordings and gear and you really have to be careful because the tendency is to blame the messenger. The 1440 just delivers it. You hear closer to what is actually there. But because the mids are right there and not sunk back like on a lot of headphones, you have to back off on the volume. I find myself not going much past 7 o'clock on the volume pot. Almost makes you wonder what a higher impedance version would sound like. So I would definitely say the 1440 would be a frowning-face EQ as opposed to a smiley-face one.

post #11 of 196
Thread Starter 
I have to write up the 1440 review but Beagle has it pretty much down. The 1440 is all about the midrange somewhat like the 940, but there are subtle yet distinct and important differences between the two headphones that I will not say the 1440 is just an open version of the 940. I won't say anything more though as I need to spend more time listening and A/B testing these and takIng notes.

So far the 1440 is a bit of the lost child in this mix as people go for either the closed 940 for isolation or the 1840 because it's the flagship of the line and it is a significant departure from the 940 sound signature. The 1440 is being touted as just an open 940 which then makes people pass over it unless they only want an open headphone.

I really do not think of any of these as being "inferior" to the others from a sonic perspective they each are just different, their price differences are more because of the differences in how they are built and a need for Shure to designate their flagship models and price them accordingly. Believe it or not if Shure did not do this it would actually NEGATIVELY impact their sales as people would simply not take them seriously. As it is, they are already fighting a perception of being lower end simply because they are not selling these for more money. It's silly that this is the case but it is a reality of how consumers think. I remember listening to a store owner in a high end audio store patiently explain to a friend that if his amp he was selling was in a larger slightly more luxurious looking shell and was $300 higher in cost the store would be able to sell them like hotcakes. Marketing really is weird counter intuitive "black art" but absolutely vital for the success of a company.

I am packing up all my gear and getting ready to head off to my head-Fi meet. Really looking forward to seeing how all of these stack up against the other flagship headphones. Expect a flurry of posts and impressions plus the 1440 review over the next couple of days :-).
post #12 of 196

Thanks for your write-up dweaver

I enjoyed your impressions. Agree with everything so far. My SRH1840 are only two days out of that mega-packaging.

My SRH840 is a different beast altogether from the SRH1840. I'd also like to do some comparing to the SRH940 and SRH1440.


post #13 of 196
Thread Starter 
Interesting day at the head-Fi meet. I was surprised by most peoples reaction to the 3 Shure headphones. Everyone liked all three headphones but there was almost a universal appreciation of the SRH-1440 over the SRH-1840. I was sure I would be in the minority in regards to preferring the more forward mids and some degree treble but that was the general comment from almost everyone. There was only two people who felt the SRH-1840 was technically better. So I do think the 1440 has been getting the short end of the stick.

There was also a lot of love for the SRH-940. All three headphones also worked well with the higher end amps as well as more modest fair.

For those wanting bass I can happily say that a couple I the amps I heard today really boosted the bass of all 3 of these headphones.

Unfortunately the environment wasn't as conducive to A/B testing as I would have liked. But I did have a chance to hear a set of LCD2, T1, HD800, and couple other headphones. From what heard I do think the 1840 is the most similar to the HD800 and T1 But is not as good as the HD800 and similar to the T1 in quality. I prefered the 1840 to the T1 by a bit and preferred the HD800 over the 1840 by quite a bit more. The HD800 seems to manage to be as detailed as the SRH-940 while still having better quality and quantity bass and a more balanced sound and was clearly more detailed than the 1840 (think of the detail of the 940 but more laid back presentation of the 1840. But at double the cost plus needing an amp worth alot more compared to the 1840 make it an OK trade off in my mind.
post #14 of 196

Headfonia just reviewed the 1440 and 1840.



post #15 of 196


Originally Posted by dweaver View Post

Interesting day at the head-Fi meet. I was surprised by most peoples reaction to the 3 Shure headphones. Everyone liked all three headphones but there was almost a universal appreciation of the SRH-1440 over the SRH-1840. I was sure I would be in the minority in regards to preferring the more forward mids and some degree treble but that was the general comment from almost everyone. There was only two people who felt the SRH-1840 was technically better. So I do think the 1440 has been getting the short end of the stick.


I think maybe the 1440 sounds very fresh and alive, exciting and clear. It's almost unique for a fairly large, open-back headphone. Usually they are soft warm bass and sucked-out midrange, which is probably what the 1840 sounds like in comparison.



Originally Posted by gkanai View Post

Headfonia just reviewed the 1440 and 1840.




This guy's ears are all over the place.



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