Shure SRH 440 Professional Studio Headphones

Rating:
4.08824/5,
  1. peskypesky
    really liking these for the price
    Written by peskypesky
    Published Apr 6, 2011
    4.0/5,
    Pros - good sound, low price, solid construction
    Cons - heavy
    I've only had these for about a week, so take that into consideration.
     
    Sound: love it. Robust, musical and nicely balanced. Not quite as good as my Grado SR80s, but not outshined by the Grados either. I've really been enjoying listening to several types of music with them: classical, rock, jazz. They seem especially good for classical choral music.
     
    Construction and Design: They seem pretty well-made, but only time and use will tell. The design is pretty ho-hum. Not ugly, but nothing special either.
     
    Comfort: They fit pretty well, but the weight gets to be a bit much after an hour or so of use. I definitely feel the weight pressing on my head. I wish they were lighter weight like the ATH-M30 and ATH-D40fs sets I have at work.
     
    For the price these are pretty nice headphones. I am pleased with my purchase.
    1. JK1
      I haven't seen anyone here compare this with what it should be compared with, closed monitor headphones similar in price. These include the Sony V6, Sennheiser HD280 pro, and AKG K240 monitor.
      JK1, Jan 4, 2012
  2. Hexidecimal
    Great Starter Cans
    Written by Hexidecimal
    Published Aug 25, 2011
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Neutral, Great Balance, Awesome unamped
    Cons - Light on the bass without an amp
    For reference, I am using these with the SRH840 Pads, powered through a Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty Titanium & Behringer Xenyx 1202FX Amp/Mixer.
     

    So lets go!

     

    First off, Comfort. A lot of impressions said they felt these headphones were heavy, or the headband was painful. I've been wearing mine hours on end since I got them and I haven't experienced any discomfort with the headband, or the weight though to be fair I am used to wearing a PC Headset most of the time and they usually run heavy. Also the SRH840 Pads make a huge difference in the pad comfort. The memory foam makes them squishy and feel like they're not even there.

     

    Isolation: Again the 840 Pads help with this, but they isolate outside noise to the point my wife has had to come to the top of the stairs in the office and pound on something before I can hear her at all. She was not pleased she had been screaming up the stairs and I couldn't hear her.

     

    Sound Quality: AMAZING. This is my first pair of professional headphones but they are so crisp and crystal clear it's hard to believe. The Highs and Mids ring true even over the ample bass. I know there are a lot of people who seem to feel this set is lacking in the bass department. I am not a basshead, but I have listened to several bass heavy albums (the Dubsteb Saved My Life mix CDs, Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday, The Marshall Mathers LP, Dre - 2001) and there was plenty of bass to go around.

     

    They also fair very well with quieter pieces (Iron & Wine - In The Reins, Crosby Stills Nash & Young - So Far, Andrew Bird - Live in Montreal). With Andrew Bird - LiM I could actually hear as he hit the pedals to start and end loops of violin pieces. I could hear every snicker and whisper from the audience. I could even hear him quietly counting time to himself between loops. I'd never been able to hear that on any set of speakers or headphones I own.

     

    They're also a great set for rock (Foo Fighters - Wasting Light, Incubus - If Not Now, When?) Vocals shine through heavy guitar with no distortion and no single part drowns out the other. Every aspect of the music seems perfectly balanced at all times.

     

    Overall I couldn't be happier with these headphones, and can't wait until I can afford a pair of phones that will make these sounds bad. Thanks again to the community here for helping me make a great decision, and I'll be updating this with impressions through my Samsung Epic 4G w/ FiiO E5.

     

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    My FiiO E5 Arrived, and I'm listening to the 440s with the amp right now. I know the E5 is a very entry level amp, but even for the 20 dollars, the little nudge in volume and bass that this amp gives really makes these cans shine even more. Mids and Highs are more defined, and bass has that added THUMP that seemed to be missing before. I'm glad I picked this up as a starter amp, and I'll certainly be picking up the cmoy omap2227 amp I want asap! If a starter amp like this helps, I can't wait to hear a decent amp power these cans. It just makes me want the 840s that much more. Soon...

     

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    Edit: So after some more listening I think I'd revise this a little. They're definitely a fantastic set of of full cans but they certainly have a specific purpose. I've found them to be most enjoyable with acoustic & vocal pieces. They suit rock music okay, but I don't think I'll continue to use them for anything with an emphasis on bass (Dubstep, Hip Hop).

     

    The bass response is very sterile, or dry I guess would be a good way to put it. It's there, it just isn't impressive, even with the extra pads.

    1. rawrimevil
      I think it's mostly the distance from the driver to your ears that gets most people. They sometimes press against the upper tips of your ear and it hurts after long listening sessions.
      rawrimevil, Aug 29, 2011
  3. gelocks
    Shure SRH-440 mini review - Great Starter Cans
    Written by gelocks
    Published Aug 29, 2011
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound, Detachable cable, Removable/replaceable earpads, Good build quality and foldable
    Cons - Heavy, Not very portable, No flat response
    Note: I wrote this almost 2 years ago! :wink:
     
     
    Introduction
     
    Last year, after using open Sony cans that served me well for
    what seemed to be a lifetime, I decided that it was time to look
    for new cans, ones that would let me get lost in my world while I
    was at work and to use for recording ideas that sometimes hit my
    head. The search was long and hard. I read hundreds of reviews
    from different sites, different types of headsets (i.e. in-ear,
    closed, open, etc.) and in the end I still did not know what I
    wanted. Enter Shure:
     
    shure_1.bmp
     
    Now, this company is no stranger to the audio business. Anyone
    that has seen ANY concert knows their presence since the SM57
    is one of the most-used microphones ever. It seems they are

    gathering a strong presence also in the earphone business,
    something I did NOT know of. When I looked at the SRH series, I
    felt in love. Then I read some of the reviews and it was a given, I
    NEEDED TO OWN ONE OF THESE.
     
    SRH-440
     
     
    Now, remember on that first paragraph when I said I wanted new
    headphones to use at work/home? Well, I bring back that note
    because these cans are BIG. Really big! Also, these cans are
    HEAVY and these cans make use of a 10 foot long COILED cable!!!
    Trust me, you wouldn't want to use these while walking in the mall
    or wherever... get some cheap in-ears for that.
     
    shure_2.bmp
     
    Stats:
     
    * Transducer type: Dynamic neodymium magnet
    * Driver size: 40 mm
    * Sensitivity (1kHz): 105 dB
    * Impedance (1kHz): 44 Ω
    * Max. input power (1kHz): 500 mW
    * Frequency range: 10 Hz - 22 kHz
    * Net weight (without cable): 181 g
    * Length of cable: 3 meters
    * Type of cable: Detachable coiled oxygen-free copper
    * Plug: Gold-plated 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo mini jack
     
    Package Contents
     
    * Shure SRH440 Professional Closed Back Headphones
    * Replacement ear cushions
    * Threaded 6.35mm gold-plated adapter
     
    * Detachable Coiled cable
    * Travel pouch
     
    shure_4.bmp
     
     
     
    Even though these are intended for musicians, and they even
    mention the word "MONITOR" when describing these, they do not
    have a flat response, meaning there is some "coloring" when
    listening to music and that does not a good pair of monitors
    make... but that doesn't mean they don't sound AWESOME!!!!!!!!
    And that's the best thing, you get immersed with the sound they
    produce.
     
     
    [size=medium][color=#333333][font=Verdana-Bold][size=medium][color=#333333][font=Verdana-Bold]Sound[/font][/color][/size][/font][/color][/size]
     
     
    Let me start by saying that I'm no expert. I'm no musician (at least not good! :wink:) nor an
    enthusiast! I'm just an end user with very distinct tastes. I can
    listen everything from Chopin to freaking Dillinger Escape Plan but I
    want them to sound good :p and believe me, these pair sounds
    great. Pop in the "****** Buttons" and you'll hear every effect,
    every beat perfectly! Put on some Underoath, Killswitch Engage,
    etc. and you'll hear every bass line more clearly, every lick sounds
    tasty and that's what's important. Definitely the sound is
    what puts this headset on the map! The only negatives with the
    sound... vocals and bass!! I mean, the whole mid-range is kind of weak, but
    other than that the balance is quite good.
     
    *UPDATE* After a few more hours, mids settled in quite Ok. Maybe it wasme
    getting used to the cans.
     
    *UPDATE_2* Replaced earpads with Shure 840 ones and sound changed for the
    better. I can actually enjoy them EVEN more now as it sounds fuller, even the low-end
    enjoyed a bit of a boost.. so I recommend getting a pair of 840 pads (they are more
    comfortable too!)
     
     
    shure_5.bmp
     
    Sure, the headphones do have its cons, but overall, these are the
    best pair my ears have had the pleasure of hearing (and I've had
    some Seinheisers, Grados, etc... they are all good, but they also
    have their differences and if you give me some SR60s, I'll pick the
    Shures!)
     
    Conclusion
     
    Shure did enter the headphone arena with a bang! Love
    the sound produced by the SRH-440 and the design is good (I don't like the
    exposed driver cables though). Being closed earphones, you can indeed use
    them for recording on a studio but be aware of the slight coloration.
    The best part about all of this, that I had not mentioned, these cans only cost $100
    bucks. Heck, if you go to amazon.com, you'll probably find them
    cheaper now!! (they were a hundred when I bought them like 6
    months ago!!)
     
    So if you are looking for great closed headphones and are on a budget,
    my vote is for the Shure SRH-440 and no other. If you are looking
    for great headphones, are on a budget, but you don't record, or don't care for
    tonal balance, then get the Grados SR60s. If you don't like open/close and are
    looking for in-ear ones... then do whatever, I don't really care for
    those! hehehehe :p
     
    1. Hexidecimal
      Great Review. Though I do walk around with mine on, never thought they were as heavy as everyone else does.
      Hexidecimal, Aug 29, 2011
    2. bcasey25raptor
      Hexidecimal, I have the Shure SRH840 and I bring them with me everywhere. They aren't bad as portables and I don't have any weight issues. Considering these are even lighter I don't know why people complain. I think people care to much for trivial things.
      bcasey25raptor, Aug 29, 2011
    3. gelocks
      You get used to it. After 2 years of using them, I hardly noticed them (except for the cable).
      Same thing with the 940s now. :wink:
      Thanks for reading.
      gelocks, Aug 30, 2011
  4. xtian2900
    Shure SRH-440
    Written by xtian2900
    Published Oct 9, 2011
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound like a charm!!!, very noticeable quality and balance, excellent sound pressure, good quality, zero leaks
    Cons - Too heavy, I'm worried about the small cords up the cans
    Shure SRH-440
  5. gregoire
    Too uncomfortable for me
    Written by gregoire
    Published Jan 4, 2012
    2.5/5,
    Pros - Rugged
    Cons - Painful to wear. Heavy
    Bought these based on the good reviews. Tried and tried but they were just so uncomfortable i sold them. Way too much pressure on the ears, plus the headband never sat well either. Most uncomfortable cans i've ever tried on. Shame, as they sounded pretty good.
     
     
    1. View previous replies...
    2. JK1
      The SRH440 is a studio monitor, it is not an extra bass headphone like the Skullcrusker. Perhaps you would prefer the Sony XB500 or JVC HAS600 (or even the JVC HAS4x?) if you want something with extra bass.
      JK1, Jan 5, 2012
    3. gregoire
      @JK1 Yes the price in the UK is about £80. I replaced them with a set of DT770s for £133 - big improvement in comfort and sound.
      @sweetkorea Yeah glad its not just my head. I was really disappointed with the fit of these cans. $40 is a great deal though - 1/3 of what i paid !
      gregoire, Jan 5, 2012
    4. krisarj90
      In India it costs $120. Amazon + shipping would be more
      krisarj90, Sep 20, 2012
  6. demize
    Shure SRH440
    Written by demize
    Published Apr 9, 2012
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Good sound, great bang for buck
    Cons - A bit uncomfortable for extended use
    These were the first high quality headphones I ever bought. I love their sound, although it could certainly be better when it comes to the treble in some songs. The only issue I have with them, really, is that they're a bit uncomfortable for extended use -- they're like a vise on your head.
    1. Xinze
      That would warrant a -2 on the comfort scale?
      Xinze, Apr 10, 2012
    2. demize
      Well, two things here. 1) I'm looking at the scale as out of 5 rather than 10, and 2) I phrased that wrong, they're quite uncomfortable after a while. They can start to hurt your ears and the top of your head after probably an hour or so (maybe more, I'm not sure) of use. They're very sufficiently padded, but their weight and strength overpowers that after a while. Don't get me wrong though -- these are great headphones and the comfort isn't really an issue unless you're using them for long periods of time.
      demize, Apr 10, 2012
  7. ahujasid
    Great
    Written by ahujasid
    Published Nov 9, 2012
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great sound quality, Rugged
    Cons - Bit uncomfortable, exposed wires
    The mids and highs are amazing. The soundstage isn't very wide but it's pretty good for closed back headphones. The response is almost flat with a bit of a "bright" sound signature. They get uncomfortable after about 30 minutes of listening.
    The sound quality is great. You can clearly hear each instrument separately. These sound absolutely great for closed back headphones.
  8. compubomb
    I would say pretty damn good
    Written by compubomb
    Published Dec 2, 2012
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great Mids/Bass/Highs
    Cons - Very Very long burn-in
    I own an m-audio Fast-Track USB Sound card which I use. I bought both these headphones & the sound card for work. My initial reaction to the headphones is they were cheaper than some of the others, but better sound and comfort than the other DJ style headphones. Plus they fit my budget, so I picked them up at the Guitar Center. So after using these guys at work for almost 2.5 years, after not listening to them for a month or so, what I noticed finally is that they have completed the burn-in process. The music, especially the mids/base finally feel like they have smoothed out and not as punchy as before. When i compare the base with these vs my HD600's, they are starting to finally come within range, before the base was very punchy, but not smooth. Also the head-band takes a very long time to relax, as when you buy these, it feels like putting a vice on your head, but with some considerable wear-usage, they are finally relaxed enough to wear for long periods of time.
  9. Argyris
    A criminally overlooked option for semi-portable, closed back neutrality
    Written by Argyris
    Published Dec 21, 2012
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Neutral balance, detailed, nice texture overall, nice tight, punchy bass, well extended treble for a closed set, good imaging, commendably transparent
    Cons - Uncomfortable without slight modification, underwhelming bass extension, can seem somewhat bright, only average soundstage, isolation not stellar

    Introduction

     
    Like my DT880, and for almost as long, the SRH440 has been a trusty companion, in its case pulling double duty as my portable headphone and as my "plug-it-in-real-quick" set. Therefore it's only fair it gets a proper review as well.
     
    Back in 2009, Shure released a new line of closed-back, full-sized headphones, which included the SRH240, SRH440, and SRH840. The latter two received a lot of interest, though the flagship (at the time) got the lion's share of that. Essentially, Shure had managed to achieve the impossible, which was to make a closed back headphone that actually sounded good and whose name didn't contain the letter M or the number 5. And some of us who've owned both might say we should drop that qualifier entirely. [​IMG]
     
    It's funny how people forgot about that once all the shiny new headphones started coming out, though, and the SRH440 especially seems to be entirely abandoned. I'm here to try and turn the tide back in favor of this headphone because I think it's criminally underrated. Is it a giant killer? Probably not, as it's not even better than my humble DT880, but it's a damn good set of headphones for less than $100 these days.
     

    Overall Summary

     
    As usual, here's the shortened version: the SRH440 is a neutral headphone, leaning slightly toward brightness, with an average-sized soundstage, good imaging, punchy but not terribly extended bass, well-textured and balanced mids, and slightly leading treble with good extension for a closed design. It's not particularly comfortable stock, unfortunately, but can be slightly modified (see the relevant section) to improve comfort considerably. Also, do not replace its pads with the SRH840 ones as is commonly suggested, at least until after you've read my special section about that.
     

    What's in the box, Build, Comfort, Ergo, etc.

     
    The box doesn't come with a whole lot in it apart from the headphones, but that's not a big deal. You get the SRH440 itself, a 1/4" adapter, a quick guide/specifications book, a black pleather carrying pouch, and an orange warranty card. The cable also comes separate in the box (if I remember correctly)--yes, if you didn't already know, all the SRHx40 models apart from the SRH240 have a detachable cable. It's coiled, though a straight cable is available from Shure (for $20, last time I checked).
     
    One place where the SRH440 doesn't impress me so much is in the build quality. The structure creaks a fair bit, and the plastics, while they've held up fine for almost two years of fairly constant abuse, feel a bit on the cheap side. The structure also feels a bit hollow, and in some places firm pressure can actually flex some of the plastic pieces. On the other hand, it lacks the utterly asinine hinge system of the old Sony V700 (which was copied, apparently down to the brittle plastics, in the SRH940), so the entire structure is more sound than this description might make it appear. Like I said, it managed to survive some pretty rough handling without a scratch, so I can't complain too much. I still expected more from Shure, though.
     
    Comfort is initially sub par, on account of a bizarre design choice (or perhaps, more cynically, an example of built in upselling): the pads are quite shallow, and the material attached to the back of them that's meant to protect the driver from dirt and earwax is so thin it may as well not be there. The upshot is that the hard plastic driver guard installed to protect the driver from accidental puncture jams right up against the ear and becomes painful in under half an hour. The SRH840 pads have much thicker material (almost like cloth) attached to the back of their pads, so the driver guards on their respective model presumably don't cause this problem. Also, the headband on the SRH440 (and from what I've read, the SRH840 as well) digs uncomfortably into many people's heads.
     
    I've solved both these problems, the first by placing a felt circle on top of each driver guard (I punched out holes for the bass reflex ports), and the second by using a piece from a velcro roll to stick some foam under the headband. With these modifications comfort is actually quite good. I can wear them for hours without any issues. As I said, I "fixed" Shure's mistakes, which I don't feel I should have had to do, given how these issues should have shown up in any reasonable product testing.
     
    Rant over. Ergonomically I'll point out that, like several Sony monitor headphones I know of, there's only one correct way to wear the SRH440. In other words, you can't swap channels by flipping the headphone around. They seem to have a reasonable range of cup motion, so overall fit shouldn't be a problem, but I just thought I'd point out the orientation thing.
     

    Sound

     

    Tonal Balance

     
    The overall balance is neutral leaning toward slightly bright. Their treble peaks aren't as tall as those of the DT880, but the overall treble level is actually slightly elevated over that of the DT880, believe it or not. Therefore, while overall they don't come across as quite as bright as the DT880, part of their EQ calibration curve (see the relevant section) involves shelving down everything above 10kHz by 3 dB.
     
    -BASS-
     
    Extension is somewhat lacking, but the midbass is pleasantly punchy and is very slightly bumped up. The overall character of the bass is tight, punchy, and exquisitely textured. There's a certain heft and grunt to the SRH440 bass that I find highly enjoyable.
     
    -MIDRANGE-
     
    Decently transparent and clear, and neither recessed nor forward. Guitars and vocals have a nice, crisp presentation, and the timbre is very natural. If I had to find a very slight fault it's that the upper mids on rare occasions can be a little shouty, but I honestly can't remember definitively the last time I experienced this. Mostly it's just an energetic, poised presentation that reminds me a lot of a nice pair of mini-monitors.
     
    -TREBLE & EQ-
     
    Definitely tipped up a little in overall volume, the treble is nonetheless impressively free of grain for being so prominent. Like the midrange, it carries a lot of energy and never leaves me wanting for sparkle. It also helps highlight detail without being excessive. All this said, EQ'ing out my resonance peak (6 dB at 7.6kHz), shelving down everything above 10kHz by 3 dB, and addressing a few shallow peaks at around 5.4kHz and 14kHz satisfies the perfectionist in me and achieves, to my ears, a wonderfully smooth response. Even without EQ the treble is acceptable, but it has a tendency to be edgy.
     

    Presentation - Macro

     
    As ever, we'll discuss soundstage, imaging, and transparency. Soundstage is one area where the SRH440 is a noticeable step down from the DT880 (since their tonal balances are quite similar). It's not horrible in absolute terms, but it's that typical "tubular" soundstage common to closed headphones: decent width, anemic depth, and no real sense of height. The effect of switching between my DT880 and SRH440 is akin to taking off your current prescription glasses and putting on the ones you used to wear one prescription ago--everything is still mostly there in the same proportions, but there's the sense that something's subtly wrong, which goes away once you've spent a little while adjusting.
     
    Imaging is similarly very slightly lacking compared to the DT880, perhaps merely because the SRH440 has less raw space in which to distribute sonic elements. Directional cues are still obvious, but layering is noticeably less sophisticated and there's this unshakable feeling that the edges of elements are slightly blurry, compared to the razor sharp delineations the DT880 produces. Overall it's not a deal breaking step back, but it's obvious in direct comparison.
     
    Transparency continues in the same mold. Direct comparison reveals a slight lack of refinement on the part of the SRH440 when compared with the DT880, but it's not noticeable in isolation. The SRH440 is still impressively transparent for a sub-$100 closed headphone. Veil of any kind is nonexistent.
     

    Presentation - Micro

     
    Detail and texture are well appointed in the SRH440. In fact, I'd say the SRH440 gets the upper hand on the DT880 here in one respect--it manages to texture its entire range, whereas the DT880 loses some texture as you descend through its bass extension. Bass in particular is very enjoyable on the SRH440 as a result of this. Detail-wise, the DT880 expectedly wins out, but it's closer than it ought to be. Both render minute artifacts and tiny details well, but the DT880 pulls ahead with its uncanny ability to convey ambiance and space around the instruments. The SRH440, perhaps being a closed design, just can't reproduce this information.
     

    A note about the SRH840 pads

     
    Don't do it. Easy, right? Of course I'm going to tell you why. Very simply, they change the sound quite noticeably, and not for the better, IMO. I'm also confused by the numerous claims that they somehow tame the treble, since for me they do the exact opposite. In fact, they seem to add a 5dB shelf above 5 kHz or so, a bump somewhere between 2.5kHz and 3kHz which makes vocals and guitars barky and shrill, and a mid-to-upper bass bump that muddies up the bass and makes it sound like somebody just turned on the MegaXXXXXXtraBass function on a cheap mini-system. How can pads do all this? Simple. They change the size of the acoustic chamber between the driver and your ear canal, which can have all sorts of nasty effects (see above). The SRH440 was voiced with its own pads in mind, and uncomfortable and impractical as they might be, you should leave them on there. Try the felt mod I mentioned earlier in the review. I swear it works wonders.
     

    Conclusion

     
    Overall, the SRH440 is an often overlooked/overshadowed headphone. Its biggest threat is probably the M50, which monopolizes all the attention whenever reasonably priced closed headphones are discussed. I've owned them both. The M50 got returned. The SRH440 is still here after two years. That doesn't mean, of course, that your preference will fall the same way. But these two headphones both deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and in the same recommendation thread responses. They both do a lot of things right, and they pursue slightly different tonal balances (the M50 being more focused on mid- and sub bass and less focused on midrange than the SRH440). Ultimately, the M50 had too much bass for me. If you've ever felt the same way, but otherwise liked the detail, transparency, and basic presentation of the M50, the SRH440 might be right for you.
      Claritas likes this.
    1. TheSonicTruth
      Insightful review, and proof to the GearSlutz "use your ears!!" crowd that measurements and graphs can correspond to what we hear, despite their protests.


      One caveat: If my Sennheiser HD280 Pros are the uber-vise on my head, the 440s are the polar opposite, LOL! My Sony 7506 are somewhere in between. When producing with the 440s on, it is common for them to slide forward and backward over the top of my head as I'm looking down at my keybd and then up to the screen.

      At one point, they almost fell on my lap & keyboard, something that neither tightening or loosening them seems to eliminate completely from occurring. My hair on top is very thin compared to the sides of my head, which might contribute to this.


      Aside from that, I find them very accurate and smooth for most genres of what I listen to. They are, as you stated, not boomy headphones. Accuracy is their goal, not boom. Beats by Dre is more of what one wants if all they want is bottom.
      TheSonicTruth, Jan 8, 2015
  10. blueangel2323
    Good sounding neutralish headphone for the price, if you can get past a few build quirks
    Written by blueangel2323
    Published Sep 3, 2013
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Close to neutral, energetic sound, exceptional clarity, value
    Cons - Average comfort, creaky build quality, grainy, small soundstage, bass roll-off
    The SRH440 was the first $100+ full-sized headphone that I ever owned, back before I joined Head-Fi. I was looking for an affordable, closed monitoring headphone for home studio use, and I found the SRH440 and SRH840, which had just recently come out, to be more engaging/exciting sounding compared to the studio standard, the Sony MDR-7506, while still maintaining relative neutrality. Another studio staple, the once Head-Fi favourite Audio-Technica M50, sounded slightly better but cost over 50% more. The SRH840, which sounded even better, cost twice as much, so I ended up buying the SRH440.
     
    Build quality and comfort
     
    Build quality feels decent in the hand, if a bit hollow and plasticky. The coiled cable is thick, rubbery, and detachable. The little wires leading from the cups to the headband, while exposed, are reasonably thick compared to the dismally thin ones on the basshead favourite M-Audio Q40, for example, and should hold up fine with many years normal use. The pleather underside of the headband, however, tends to crack and peel after a while.
     
    Once on the head, the creaky structure becomes obvious. The hinges and swivel mechanisms are not smooth at all, and the slightest head movement will cause loud creaks, which is annoying when you’re trying to listen to the music. The ear pads are similarly noisy when rubbing against your jaw, skull, or worse, glasses.
     
    The SRH440 is my go-to benchmark for “average” comfort. Headphones that are less comfortable than the SRH440 (e.g., M-Audio Q40, AKG K81DJ, Sennheiser HD25) are below average in comfort; headphones that are more comfortable than the SRH440 (e.g., Denon D600, Sony MDR-1R, Sennheiser HD600) are above average in comfort. What does this mean? Weight is slightly heavy but not too heavy; pads are reasonably thick but not nearly as soft as the SRH840 pads; the driver grills touch your ears but not in a very bothersome way. Notwithstanding the creaking and your ears getting sweaty inside the pads, they are perfectly tolerable for short listening sessions.
     
    Bass
     
    Bass is very punchy and visceral despite being modest in quantity. In fact, the SRH440 have the sharpest bass impact of any headphone I’ve tried due to its speed. There is a mild mid-bass hump but the bass remains tight, controlled, and textured at all times. However, the low end gradually rolls off below 90Hz. That’s not to say that these headphones can’t produce the lowest sub-bass, which they can. It’s just quieter than the rest of the frequency spectrum and a bit of EQ can improve bass extension without distortion or compromising bass control.
     
    Mids
     
    Clarity is exceptional on these headphones. No matter what music you play or how much you mess with extreme EQ settings, nothing will make them sound muddy or veiled. Timbre is not always ultra-realistic like on an HD600, but everything sounds nice and crisp, and for the price it’s hard to fault. Acoustic guitars in particular are just magical on these headphones due to the slightly forward upper mids. There’s a slight tilt towards the upper mids but the overall midrange presentation is smooth with no obvious peaks or dips. Of particular importance is the fact that I hear no shoutiness at 2 kHz that ruins vocals on many headphones in this price range.
     
    Treble
     
    There’s a large mid-treble peak that’s quite obvious without any burn-in. This initially gave instruments a “shimmery” quality that was quite engaging if not technically accurate. It worked quite well for adding “air” around a few specific instruments, but once the mix got busy all that “shimmery air” became crowded together and turned “cloudy” instead.
     
    In any case, after a hundred hours or so, that peak became less noticeable and the upper treble opened up. Now the treble is just wonderfully energetic and extended. It’s still slightly emphasized, giving the overall sound signature a slight tendency towards brightness, and given the quantity there is a bit of grain, but it’s also never harsh or sibilant.
     
    Soundstage and presentation
     
    The SRH440 remains impressively detailed across the whole spectrum, thanks to the treble extension, midrange clarity, and bass speed. Presentation is pretty forward and in-your-face so soundstage is about average for a closed headphone in this price range; decent, but nothing to write home about. Imaging is again quite decent for the price range. You can pick out individual instruments, but there isn’t a whole lot of space between them. Coming from a higher end, open-back headphone like the HD600, the presentation of the SRH440 sounds downright claustrophobic, but still 3D and immersive. It's almost like you're on stage, with the entire band is playing in a semi circle all around you, but each band member is only a couple feet away.
     
    Conclusion
     
    The Shure SRH440 is one of the best sounding neutral headphones at around $100 and a great buy despite some build quality and comfort issues, most notably the tendency towards creakiness. It’s a better value than the slightly better sounding Audio-Technica M50, as the latter has gone up significantly price as a result of its popularity, and as a bonus the Shure doesn’t have the midrange shout at 2 kHz that the M50 does. Admittedly I haven’t heard the supposedly excellent alternatives from Superlux and Fischer, but of the $100 headphones I’ve heard, only the Sony V6/7506 come close. Recommended.