One of the most successful microphone manufacturers – Shure, also knows a thing or two about how to develop great sounding headphones. This week, let’s look at the SRH840, a model that resides in the very crowded €120-150 studio closed back headphone segment.

Pros
  • Impressively neutral frequency response

Pros list with Sonarworks Reference calibration

  • Flattened out the remaining frequency response imperfections
Cons
  • Questionable durability
Use cases Best use case:
Production
Tracking
Mixing
Tech specs Type
Closed back, Over-ear
Impedance
44 Ohm
Frequency response
5 Hz to 25 kHz
Connector
3.5 mm straight jack
Adapter
Screw-on 6.3 mm adapter
Weight
374 g (without cable)
Require headphone amp
No
Cable
3 m coiled, detachable
Build quality

A quick google search will return more than a few reports from users breaking SRH840 within the guarantee period, then receiving a replacement pair and breaking that one as well. They don’t seem that fragile when handled, however the build is almost entirely plastic and does not inspire confidence. Also, it’s not a great design to route the cable from left to right channel externally, making the connection very vulnerable. The headband and ear pads feel adequate, but are nothing exceptional.

Sound

Sound is the department where SRH840 shines – Shure sure knows how to develop neutral sounding headphones! For this exact pair the mid range is remarkably flat, although for others we measured it’s a bit elevated, the overall shape of the curve remains very smooth with no distinct spikes or dips, which is always a good thing. The resonance at about 8 kHz is relatively unobtrusive when compared to how other headphones can make the high range ear-piercingly bright. The subtle bass boost can be a few dB’s more pronounced than for the pair pictured here, but it’s still remarkably neutral.

Channel balance

There’s a recurring trend of low end imbalance among our sample pool, from about 200 Hz down, some pairs show imbalance up to 3 dB. In the most severe cases, this is enough of a difference to be audible. However, this range almost always will be mono, so it shouldn’t interfere with your panning decisions.

Comfort

When it comes to long listening session comfort, the opinions among testers were more divided than usual. People with larger heads and ears got annoyed with wearing them after 30 or so minutes while people with medium and smaller head size loved them. Also glasses wearers rated comfort as above average. It’s always best to try out headphones for a longer period before purchase to check how well they fit you, and with SRH840 this is especially true.

Value

It’s tricky to rate the value of SRH840 due to the many reports of the model breaking too easily. Sound is among top closed backs though. Through our testing period SRH840 showed no signs of potential failure, it’s entirely possible that if you don’t transport them and handle them carefully, you’ll have a great sounding monitoring tool for many years.

Observations on how headphones perform after applying Sonarworks Reference calibration Total Harmonic Distortion

THD is composed of 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion in almost equal amounts and the overall figure is low enough to grant transparent sound with no audible artefacts. For recent drivers it’s pretty common to have low harmonic distortion, yet there are rivals that perform worse.

How accurate and consistent is the correction effect among different listeners?

Listeners with smaller heads might perceive less bass. Rest of the spectrum is delivered consistently regardless of the listener’s physical properties.

How much do they differ pair to pair in terms of frequency response?

In the low end we’ve measured about +/- 3 dB spread among the eleven pairs measured. Two out of eleven showed about 3 db increase from 400 Hz – 2 kHz. Other than that, tolerances are quite tight.

Rating

6.8 / 7.9 / 8.6

Sound rating is a weighted average of Frequency Response, Adaptiveness, Harmonic Distortion and Channel Balance scores, with Frequency Response and Adaptiveness having the greatest influence.

6 / 9 / 10

The flatter the frequency response – the higher the score. When evaluating the frequency response score with the Average calibration profile, the pair to pair consistency of the given model is taken into account – if we have measured a considerable frequency response inconsistency among multiple pairs of the given model, the score drops, as the profile loses accuracy. Individual calibration will grant perfectly flat frequency response.

7

Adaptiveness shows how capable these headphones are at delivering the same perceived frequency response to any listener. Headphones with high score will sound nearly identical to everyone.

7

Harmonic distortion – the lower the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) figure, the higher the score. Headphones with prominent 3rd harmonic distortion above 100 Hz will score lower.

8 / 10

Channel balance – the closer to identical the frequency response of both channels, the higher the score. Individual calibration delivers perfect channel balance.

7

Comfort – shows if headphones can be used for long listening sessions comfortably. Every model is tested by at least a few individuals.

5.5

Build – evaluates how well the headphones are put together, the materials used and indicates the expected longevity. Easily replaceable (and easily available) parts will boost the score. We don’t do any stress tests and very few models are used for longer than a couple of days, so this is a fairly subjective score.

7

Value – indicates the price-performance ratio of the given headphones and how they stack up against the competition. High score means that you won’t find more neutral sounding alternatives for the price.

Conclusion

If you’re the kind of person that’s neat and careful with your equipment, SRH840 are worth your consideration. Just be sure to try them out before taking the leap as fit can be problematic if your head is on the larger side. When it comes to sound though, SRH840 goes against the best closed backs out there, regardless of price!

Final Rating

7.7
With Sonarworks Reference 4
Calibration Enabled
6.8
Without Sonarworks
Calibration

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headphones with Reference 4

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