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Shure's extensive range of earphones and closed-back full-size headphones have been available for some time, but the new SRH1840 and SRH1440 are the company's first open-back, circumaural (over-ear) headphones. Even before you listen, you can't help but feel how light the SRH1840 headset is, and its velour cushions put hardly any pressure on your ears.
The SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones are designed for stay-at-home or studio use, so they won't play at satisfyingly loud volume levels when used with most portable devices and phones. The SRH1840s are expensive at $699, but their sound quality and high-grade construction materials are commensurate with the lofty MSRP. The sound is beautifully balanced from the deepest bass to the highest treble, and its minimal distortion will surely win the approval of any audiophile willing to make the investment.
Design and features
The Shure SRH1840 headphones feature a lightly padded, steel headband and lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum "yokes" (that's the part where the headband connects to the earcups). The points where the yoke attaches to the cups are also heavily reinforced with stainless-steel grilles for enhanced durability.
If those fail, Shure offers a generous two-year warranty on the SRH1840s -- twice as long as the average for headphones. Shure's Authorized Distribution Centers handles service and repairs in the U.S., but a sales receipt or proof of purchase is required to make warranty claims. Beyond the two-year policy, Shure will still provide service, or offer a heavily discounted price for replacement headphones.
The SRH1840 comes with two identical sets of 6.9-foot cables that terminate in a 3.5mm gold-plated plug. A screw-on 6.3mm adapter plug is included with both sets. The wire is also heavily reinforced at the plug point, which should significantly reduce the chance of failure.
The cables plug into the headphones' left and right earcups with snug-fitting connectors; according to Shure, the connector isn't proprietary and is now used on almost all of company's full-size and in-ear headphones. The SRH1840 also comes with an extra set of earpads.
Unfortunately, the open-back nature of the SRH1840 design rules out any chance of private listening. On the other hand, you're not completely closed off from your surroundings while you're wearing them, so you can pay more attention to the events in your environment.
The SRH1840 headphones' left and right 40mm drivers, with neodymium magnets, are tested and closely matched at the factory. All full-size Shure headphones with model names that end in "40" have 40mm drivers, but the design specifics of the driver and magnet structure, voice coil, and so on vary from one model to the next. Incidentally, the SRH1840 headphones' drivers are Shure's premium type.
The SRH1840 headphones are a medium-impedance (65-ohm) design, but keep in mind that impedance isn't the only factor that makes them unsuitable for use with portable music players -- in fact, the headphones' relatively low sensitivity or efficiency also plays a role.
The SRH1840 headphones' above-average comfort levels make them a pleasure to use for hours at a time. The tonal balance is very accurate, bass isn't exaggerated, and the treble is perfectly balanced so it's not too bright or dull. Wide-open stereo imaging is one of the SRH1840s' best qualities, and you'll never feel like the sound is locked inside your head.
I listened to Apple Lossless files on my Mac Mini computer with the SRH1840s plugged into a Schiit Lyr headphone amplifier, but they will sound fine with an AV receiver, too.
Comparatively, the Beyerdynamic T 70 headphones boast more clarity than the SRH1840s, with crisper percussion and finer details, but the SRH1840s have warmer, more balanced bass and midrange.
So which is better? That's a matter of taste, but the T 70s' superior midrange and treble clarity may appeal to folks who mostly listen to acoustic music, while the SRH1840s' more impactful bass will satisfy rock, rap, and dance music fans.
I also compared the Shure SRH1840 headphones side by side with the company's own SRH1440 model. The two share the same wide-open sound field, but the SRH1440s expose brighter treble and a less generous bass balance. The SRH1840s also sound "laid-back" next to the SRH1440s, so the SRH1440s may be a better choice if you prefer a more immediate or brighter sound.
If you like bass, get the SRH1840s. If you really like bass, don't get either Shure; check out the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre, which have more bass and more prominent treble sizzle, but also sound more closed-in and "canned" than either Shure model.
The SRH1840s' wide-open stereo imaging and smooth frequency response were much appreciated when I watched a few movies. Again, these aren't the sort of headphones that exaggerate bass or treble to make a more "exciting" sound -- they just faithfully communicate what's on the movie's soundtrack.
Shure's SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones are well-rounded performers. Their sturdy construction, high comfort level, and accurate sound should make them easy to live with for a long, long time.