SRH1540 is a new closed back flagship from Shure. Currently selling for $499USD, it is selling for the same price as Shure's open back flagship, SRH1840. Don't let these numbers fool you. Shure intended the SRH1540 to be at the level of SRH1840, and hence lowered the price of SRH1840 to match that of SRH1540. Just released few month ago, I don't think many head-fiers have had the chance to own these yet, and that is why I'm beginning this review, although I've only had my SRH1540 for 4 days.
Shure's previous closed back flagship was SRH940, and I own and cherish a pair as well. SRH940 was famous for it's unmatched clarity and detail, getting praises like "Best detail under $1000."(unknown head-fier). Nonetheless, they did have some major issues, which kept many head-fiers from purchasing them. Did Shure fix all those issues for this new flagship? Lets find out!
Alright. Let the review begin. BTW, this review is filled with pics!
Cables, pads, and more!:
Shure's typical MMCX connectors. I hated them on their SE(iem) line, but I actually like them quite a bit for their headphones! This is different from SRH940. SRH1840 and SRH1440 uses the same connectors from my memory.
The Y-split is on the big side. A quarter was used for sized comparison.
The cable is also quite thick. The thin cable in the back is Sony's MDR7550 cable.
Same old Shure 3.5mm jack. It's bit bulky, but well built.
Case is also nice. It's on the big side, but one of the best cases I've owned.
They give you extra Alcantara Pads! Also included, but not in the picture is an extra set of cables. Great accessories, as expected of Shure.
Well, Shure has been known for legendary build quality, but their SRH940 was a huge disappointment, as it cracked very very easily. In fact, my SRH940 cracked, so I had to get it replaced. Thankfully, they do have great warranty in Shure USA.
So, the SRH1540...Job well done Shure. Superb build quality. The frames are made of aircraft grade aluminum, and faceplates are real carbon fibre, the hinges are strong, and overall headphone is built rock solid. Not to mention that these are still ultra light. Also, these can take some abuse against scratches. The cables are also very safe, as they just snap out incase you trip over it or something. Even the cables have superbly built as well. Again, great job Shure,
The headphone themselves are very light, adding to the overall comfort. The padding on the headband is generous and plush. Now, the pads... They used Alcantara pads. From my memory Alcantara is a synthetic material, first used by the legendary Sennheiser HD800. These are perforated Alcantara pads, with memory foam under it. As I expected, these are ultra comfortable, and doesn't get as hot as pleather. Nice choice Shure. Overall comfort is exceptional, much much better then SRH940, and slightly better then SRH1840. I recently worn these to a trip to Penn, about a 6hr ride, and didn't have any issue with the comfort.
I forgot to cover this at the beginning. The isolation on SRH1540 is decent. It's not superb like on ears like DT1350 or Momentum, but they still manage to give decent isolation. The leakage is also fair. There is some leakage at high volumes, but I use my SRH1540 in classrooms without disturbing others, so it's not too bad.
First impression from my friend: "Whoa! Those look cool."
This reaction is not normal, especially for an audiophile headphone. With real carbon fibre, silver aluminum, and design from SRH1840, SRH1540 has one of the best designs I've seen. As another one of my friends put it, it looks premium.
Alright. Lets get to the more important part now.
*Please note that I've only owned these for 4 days, and had about 15-20hrs of use. My impressions may and probably will change, and my review will be updated constantly.
iRiver AK100: 22ohm OI, overall flat sound.
Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII: Superb amp with overall flat sound.
SRH940: Previous flagship from Shure.(http://www.head-fi.org/t/665919/100-300-headphones-review-ath-m50-vs-ath-ad700-vs-hd598-vs-srh940-vs-dt1350-vs-v6-vs-modded-v6-vs-bose-oe-updated-6-19-13#post_9481088)
UE Reference Monitors: Pinnacle of monitoring CIEM. Flat reference sound with superb clarity.(http://www.head-fi.org/products/ultimate-ears-in-ear-reference-monitors/reviews/8928)
SRH1540 is rather easy to drive. These are usable with iPods, but definitely benefits with good source. I recommend solid state amp, as these already have a bass boost with rich mids. As with SRH940, these are not affected by AK100's 22ohm output impedance. SRH1540 pairs well with AK100 and UHA-6S.MKII. Amping is recommended, but not necessary. Using AK100, I've concluded that a good DAC benefits the SRH1540 quite a bit as well, kind of like SRH940.
Sound: As always, divided into parts.
Overall description: Rich bass, thick mids, and smooth extended treble, with great detail and clarity.
Bass: Deep and well extended. The bass extends as much as my hearing reaches, and unlike any other Shure headphones(and I've heard all of them), these have what I would call "strong bass". Don't get me wrong here though. It's still not bass head level bass. It's just 5-10db(my est.) more then neutral, which is what most people consider warm bass. As I mentioned, the bass has great impact and presence. Punch and attack is good, and most importantly, the bass sounds real and natural. I've had some sub-bass boosted headphones that was really enjoyable, but drums and percussion sounded fake. SRH1540 does a superb job with bass. Most bass boost is in the mid bass region, so expect punchy bass. Sub bass is also very present, if that concerns you.
Mids: Shure mids! Love them from the bottom of my heart. Shure, as a mic manufacturer, knows how to get the vocal right. Every one of their headphones had smooth and rich vocals, and these are no exception. Mids are rich and present. Detail and transparency is also very good. Overall very realistic and enjoyable vocals. Also, these are superb when dealing with sibilance. These are one of the least sibilant headphone that I've owned(and I've owned lots!) Some say bass intrudes the lower mids, but I don't notice that.
Treble: Apparently, I have ultra sensitive hearing in the treble region, and have rather good hearing extension for a human being. Anyways, I haven't tested them with test tones or anything, but I think I can still judge them. The treble, is very unique. When I use the SRH1540 and use the KEF M500(not treble heavy), I feel as if KEF M500 has excessively bright and harsh treble, which might suggest that SRH1540's treble is recessed. However, when I listen to SRH940(treble heavy), and go to SRH1540, SRH1540 still sounds very clear and natural. I concluded that treble is present, but just silky smooth. SRH1540, I believe has a small dip in the upper-mid to treble region, which results in smooth sounding, but extended treble. Although some may say dip is bad, I think this minor dip contributes hugely to the smooth and silky sound of SRH1540, and is actually intentional.(This statement about dip is just based on my hearing, not measurements.)
Detail: SRH940 was praised for it's details. In fact, they had more detail then SRH1840. I feel like SRH1540 is closer to SRH940 in terms of detail. Stunning details. In a way, it reminded me of my UERMs, the most detail audio gear I've owned. They manage to portray micro details without forcing them.
Clarity: The nature of this kind of tuning creates some muffled sound. However, Shure did a superb job making these sound very clear. While not as clear as SRH940, I feel that for this kind of tuning, this is as clear as it's going to get(for the respective price).
Soundstage: As a closed back headphones, soundstage might be a concern for many buyers. Let me say that for a closed back, these are superb. I don't know how Shure does this, but they manage to make their closed back have one of the best soundstage for a closed back. They do lack a bit when compared to open backs like HD598, but it's still good.
Imaging: SRH1840 was widely praised for superb imaging ability. SRH1540 also has great imaging capabilities. Although not as widely spread as SRH1840's imaging, it's still very good.
vsSRH940: Think of SRH1540 as a SRH940 with more bass, richer mids, and more tamed treble. SRH1540 are marginally better in almost all ways, besides clarity. I believe it's worth the price difference.
vsSRH1840: SRH1540 are obviously very different from SRH1840. SRH1840 have more flat sound. Both are superb. SRH1840 has better soundstage and imaging, while SRH1540 has better bass capability and detail.
vsKEF M500: Not a match here. M500 are great portables. Nonetheless, nothing is really comparable here. SRH1540 is better in almost all aspects, besides neutrality. M500 are more flat, but sounds muffled and harsh when compared to SRH1540.
vs(Request for something!)
Bonus: The ear pads on all Shure headphones are interchangeable. Hence, I tried velour pads from SRH940 and put them on the SRH1540. The bass was tamed a bit, and treble gained bit more presence, making the SRH1540 a more flat sounding headphone. Definitely worth a try if you want a flatter sound. SRH1540 pads on SRH940 increases bass and tames the treble, making SRH940 a more balanced headphone as well.
I feel like Shure has improved a lot. The SRH1540, in my opinion, are well worth the asking price. But if you are a total neutral head, looking for a flat sig, these are not it.
*Updated again, after 3 weeks of use. I've mostly updated my impression on treble. These are still my main headphones.
Edited by kimvictor - 2/10/14 at 7:24pm