SRH840 or ATH-M50 or AH-D1001? It all depends really... Let's look
Jul 25, 2010 at 7:38 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 27


Chaser of Ghosts
Sep 20, 2008
Hi everyone,

So for giggles I finally have gathered three of the most recommended closed cans under $200 ($150 street prices). The Shure SRH840, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and the Denon AH-D1001. I wanted to hear what they all sound like and see if there is a definitive answer to the question "What closed headphones should I get under $150?".

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a simple answer? The thing is, there isn't a stock one-phone-fits-all answer. The three don't strictly need to be used solely for portable use. Of course they can be used out of a DAP for exercising, commuting and airplanes. Either is a good alternative to IEMs for those who have an aversion to sticking objects into their ear canals. The three, however, are also good enough that they can be used at home for those who need a closed headphone.

Each headphone has it's strengths and weaknesses though. Making each of them useful for slightly different tasks. Also, each are also not as good at other tasks. What I'll try to do is show what each does better and what each does not as well. I'll try to help illuminate which one to pick for differing needs.

I won't mention how they do with an amp as all three improve when an amp is used. Truthfully, the trio do almost as equally well from each other out of a DAP and are easily enough to be driven.

I've also decided to not talk about soundstage because these are closed headphones and to be honest, they sound like closed headphones. So the soundstage isn't really that expansive. The Shure is the best of the three but only by a small degree and it must be taken into perspective.

All three are really are actually quite nice. There isn't a dud in the group. So here's my take on them:

Shure $199.99 new (under $150 street prices):

These are billed as monitor headphones. Of the three I think they sound the best overall. They are the most balanced and clear sounding. The do have a Shure family sound with nice mids and slightly, to me, rolled off highs. The highs, even if somewhat rolled are the most refined of the group. They have the most controlled bass even if they aren't as impactful as the Denon and especially the AT.

They are the heaviest and by a slight margin over the M50, the bulkiest. They get the warmest on your ears and can get a little sweaty. Especially in hot weather. If I had to pick, the Shure is the least comfortable to me.

Even though looks are subjective, the Shure and the M50 have a similar Aesthetic. Strangely though the 840 has the left and right wires sticking out where the gimbals and height adjuster are. I don't care for that myself.

They fold up very similar to the M50. Neither one, though, is exactly the most portable. The 840 is the most isolating of the trio. By a noticeable margin. The next best M50 lets in more noise.

If I had to pick one for strictly home use I'd pick the Shure 840. It's the best of the lot in terms of sound quality, balance and neutrality. They just sound better than the other two. If sound isolation is the most important than these are the pick also.

They are the most expensive street priced between the three though. If portability, comfort or bulk is more important than the sound than these also might not be the first choice.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 $199.99 (well under $150 street prices):

If you're a basshead stop here, look no further, you've found your headphone. I could probably just end there and move on but the M50 is more than just a simple bass monster. The bass isn't as controlled or as textures as the Shure but the bass is very powerful and can be felt. For me personally, the bass is too much.

Although the mids aren't as sweet nor as clear as the 840, they're still impressive at this price level for a closed headphone. The highs don't have the refinement of the 840 but they are pretty good and don't have any harshness at moderate and somewhat higher volume levels.

They have a similar look to the Shure so I don't see this as being a deal breaker or maker. The M50 is a bit on the bulky side. They're also not the ultimate in comfort. They don't get as hot as the 840 but still can get warm and might need to be taken off from time to time for some relief. They aren't the most comfortable.

Isolation may fall short of the Shure, but is still isolates nicely. This can be an advantage if totally isolation can't be used or would be dangerous.

If you're into bass and you wear a T-Shirt that says "I'm a proud basshead" then the M50 is the easy choice. They're typically found a little cheaper than the Shure so if budget issues are a concern then these are worth a look. The sound quality is pretty close in the mids and highs. The M50 is not, by any stretch a balanced headphone and if you want a balanced closed 'phone move to the Shure.

Denon AH-D1001 $149.00 new (under $100 street prices)

If there are budget needs and still want bass this Denon might be the one to look at. The bass on the Denon is more bloated. It has that mid bass hump the is evident more so than the other two.

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Jul 25, 2010 at 7:40 PM Post #2 of 27
The mids are also more veiled. This might be because of some of the bleed over from the bass and it also might just be inherent in the 'phone. The highs are good but not stellar.

The 1001 is the least bulky and lightest of the three even though they don't fold. They are easily more comfortable than the 840 or the M50. They can be worn for hours on end and don't make your ears sweat as much. I find the best exercise.

The Denon isolates the least of the others. This might come in handy if you need some isolation but still want/need to hear some of what's going around you. The isolation is still good enough for outside use and commuting unless total isolation is what one seeks.

If someone wants the most comfortable and lightest headphone of the choices this is it. If price is the most important, the 1001 is usually found cheapest of the three. If you need some isolation but not seclusion then the Denon should be looked at. All that and they still sound pretty good and have the bass that bassheads want.

Should someone be in the market for a relatively cheap high quality closed headphone the Shure SRH840, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and the Denon AH-D1001 are all good options for separate reasons. It just depends on what you need and want. I can't say there is a clear winner as each of them go about their business in a different way. If you priority is the best sound, the most bass or better comfort there is one to choose from. Either way you'll end up with a great can.

As usual I offer everyone a grain of sand. .

Thanks for reading.

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Jul 26, 2010 at 2:13 AM Post #3 of 27
Great 3x review / comparison.
It's great when someone posts impressions of cans I know well and the observations both match and diametrically oppose mine... 

I have not heard the Denon, so let's just forget that for now.
The SRH840 is... yeah, more neutral and for the money a great monitor HP. They do isolate better than the M50, and they are out-of-the box more smooth and 'natural'.
I wish I could have kept them, but their weight just killed the top of my head. I also found that they had little bass, and a slight upper-bass hump, with mildly rolled-off highs. Nonetheless, very good cans.
The M50's are outstanding for the money, and fit my head perfectly. No discomfort and no sweaty ears. My glasses might assist w/ ventilation. 

As for the sound... when I first got them, I thought they were short-timers, but the bass bloat severely calmed down and are now quite good in that department. It was almost D5000 intense and now it's wonderful. The mids are a bit recessed and the highs are certainly not silky smooth, but they are very passable and clarity is very good. I also think these are very trans-'portable' when folded up into the carry bag. All-in-all a real great HP for $100... and maybe even for a lot more.
Back to the highs of the M50. Source is very important in keeping these in check. If your source shows signs of sibilance or raspy highs, these will reproduce that effect in all it's glory. These are not good for 'poorly' compressed files or bad recordings.
Jul 26, 2010 at 2:45 AM Post #4 of 27
Nice write-up! I pretty much had the same experience with all three. The Shure was just too uncomfortable for me to buy. The Denons were VERY comfortable, but I found the bass to be too bloated, so the M50 was the middle ground for both worlds.
Jul 26, 2010 at 3:36 PM Post #5 of 27

Jul 26, 2010 at 9:36 PM Post #7 of 27
Sounds like you just answered your own question, LOL.

Jul 26, 2010 at 9:39 PM Post #8 of 27
Originally Posted by blackzarg
Nice write-up! I pretty much had the same experience with all three. The Shure was just too uncomfortable for me to buy. The Denons were VERY comfortable, but I found the bass to be too bloated, so the M50 was the middle ground for both worlds.
The paddings on the 840 are thicker than the M50. So they are bound to be pretty comfy unlike the younger brother 440, which has hideously small padding and just does not click with people with elf ears like myself. Have you tried the padding on the D2k's? they are so much more comfortable.
pardon me but what does it mean when people refer headphone by the word "cans" i tried googling.

well "cans" is just another word for headphones around these parts yo!

Jul 26, 2010 at 9:52 PM Post #9 of 27

pardon me but what does it mean when people refer headphone by the word "cans" i tried googling.

Cans are either:


Jul 27, 2010 at 3:47 AM Post #11 of 27
OR a third option, although not nearly as interesting as the second:

Jul 27, 2010 at 9:18 AM Post #14 of 27
I had a listen to both the Q40 and SRH840 over the weekend. I decided on the SRH840's.
The Q40's pushed very hard against my head, even with 5 minutes listening to them, they started to irritate me very much. The bass was louder than the SRH840's, but not as clear. The Q40's earcups also did not quite fit around my ears properly.
Busy with the burn-in pink noise on the SRH840's. After about 10 hours I did notice a very slight increase in bass punch. Will only be able to have a proper opinion by next weekend though.

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