Shure has been producing quality studio headphones for a number of years now, and has also been popular with the iPod generation, but now the company's pro and consumer lines are crossing paths.
The Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones--one of four new pairs of recently introduced or revamped professional headphones--are affordable and sound surprisingly balanced. The SRH440s are intended for musicians in recording studios, but at $100, there's no reason music lovers who prefer headphones over earbuds can't enjoy them as well.
If you're looking for subtlety and ultraportability, these may not be for you. The SRH440s are full-fledged headphones, and they're a bit bulky. Included is a large vinyl carrying bag and threaded 1/4-inch gold-plated adapter. The construction is decent, but the material flexes quite a bit, and that is where the bargain price shows. Longevity may be an issue, but how much wear and tear is inflicted ultimately depends on the user.
The company's logo is emblazoned in silver on each earpiece and on top of the headband. The replaceable pads are black, oblong-shaped, and primarily made of vinyl, with a cloth interior sewn in. The cups can be flipped out in reverse for when you just need to monitor with one ear. Most people we know tend to just push an earcup behind the ear, but options don't hurt.
The vinyl black headband is lightly padded--too lightly, as discomfort sets in after an hour of continuous use, even though the headband is adjustable. This issue shouldn't arise with a pair of headphones intended for long recording sessions. The rest of the headphones' frame is also black, and made of hard plastic. The hinge allows you to fold the earcups inward for storage. Also, exposed wires, starting from just above the hinge, run along down through the side of the frame and end in each earcup--very old-school and a potential snag magnet.
The Shure SRH440 headphones use a single 10-foot detachable coiled cable cord with 1/8-inch gold-plated adapters on both ends. The cable securely locks into the connection port of the left earcup. The coil is extremely loose--no tension whatsoever for forced recoil--and provides more than enough slack to let you roam from one spot to another. Such a long and coiled cord adds some unnecessary weight, further exasperating the problem we have with the overall design--it looks clunky, a throwback to a headphone design of more than a decade ago. We would've preferred a straight cable, as being much more practical for studio use (a straight cable is available as a separate purchase on Shure's Web site). But the fact that the cable is replaceable is great, especially for those who are always shorting out studio headphone cables by running over them with chairs.