The Shure SRH1440 headphones have an open-back, circumaural design that offers a more "open" and less "canned" profile than closed-back headphones. The SRH1440 certainly succeeds on that score, and while it can be used on-the-go with phones and digital music players, it shines brightest at home with an AV receiver. The $399 SRH1440 is expensive, but it's ruggedly built and a solid investment choice for audiophiles shopping headphones to last a lifetime.
Design and features
The SRH1440s are large, over-the-ear headphones, and they don't collapse or fold flat. They also lack a remote control on the headphone cable, which may limit their appeal for people hoping to pair them with a smartphone outside the house. The padded, black plastic headband and oval earcups have a quality feel, but it's not on par with the $300 more expensive, mostly metal
The SRH1440s' low (37 ohm) impedance and high sensitivity sound great with portable music players and at home, plugged into a receiver or dedicated headphone amplifier. The 40mm drivers, with neodymium magnets, are the same size as the ones in the SRH1840 headphones, though that headphone driver's voice coil and magnet structure are different than the ones in the SRH1440.
The headphones come with two identical sets of 6.9-foot cables that terminate in 3.5mm gold-plated plugs. A screw-on 6.3mm adapter plug is also included with each cable. The part of the cable where the plug joins the wire is heavily reinforced, which should significantly reduce the chances of cable failure.
The cables plug into the headphones' left and right earcups with snug-fitting connectors, but Shure claims the connector isn't proprietary and is now being used on almost all of the company's full-size and in-ear headphones. That's a smart move; since no headphone company can make an unbreakable cable, Shure does the next best thing and offers user-replaceable ones instead. The SRH1440 also comes with an extra set of earpads. One nitpick: the cable lacks an integrated microphone for cell calls.
I noticed a strong plastic smell when I first unboxed the SRH1440, but the odor dissipated over a few days. Soon after, I realized the odor comes from the semi-hard travel case included in the package, so you might want to avoid using that if you're sensitive to chemical odors.
Open-back designs like the SRH1440s' rule out any chance of private listening, so keep in mind that the sound will be audible to anyone within a few feet. On the other hand, they don't seal you off from your surroundings, so you can hear what's going on in your environment. They're extremely comfortable to wear; their light weight and low earpad pressure make the SRH1440s a pleasure to use.
Warranty coverage runs a generous two years (twice as long as average), and Shure's Authorized Distribution Centers handle service and repair for Shure products in the States.
A receipt or proof of purchase is required to make warranty claims, and Shure will still provide service or a heavily discounted price for replacement headphones after the two-year mark.
The SRH1440s have a bright tonal balance that emphasizes detail, but the bass feels a touch lightweight. "The Sounds of Silence" from Paul Simon's recent "Songwriter" album is a live, in-concert recording, and the SRH1440 did a great job distinguishing between the close-up sound of Simon's vocal and guitar, as well as the audience ambiance in the distance.
The ability to reveal more of a recording's spatial landscape is one distinctive advantage to open-back headphones. The SRH1440s' sound was a bit bright, so I compared them with the Hifiman HE-400 open-back headphones, which sounded fuller and richer. The SRH1440s had more detail, but I prefer the HE-400s' warmer sound balance.
I also compared the SRH1440 with Shure's more expensive SRH1840 headphones. The two headphones share the same open, spacious sound, but the SRH1440s have a brighter treble and a less generous bass balance. The SRH1840s sound comparatively laid back next to the SRH1440s, so the SRH1440s are a better choice if you prefer a more immediate- or brighter-sounding set of headphones.
That actually works in your favor, because their MSRP is $300 lower than the SRH1840s', but if you like bass, definitely pick up the SRH1840s. Then again, if you really like bass, I recommend DJ-style headphones like the
The SRH1440s are among the more comfortable full-size headphones I've ever used. Sonically, they're definitely in the bright and clear school, and not ideal for those who want to feel bass massaging their eardrums. The SRH1440s are fairly expensive, but Shure designs its headphones to last a long time and backs up its quality claims with a two-year warranty, with sizable discounts on replacement headphones after the warranty expires. If you're an audiophile shopping for one pair of headphones to last the rest of your life and don't mind spending money to get the best that Shure has to offer, the SRH1440s are a viable option.