Shure SRH840 Studio Monitor Headphone IRL Review- Wow, two products reviewed today that are not Sony. That’s a big change for me. The Shure SRH840 (840 from this point on) were Shure’s premium flagship headphone in 2009/10 until they were later surpassed by the SRH940, SRH1840 and SRH1540 (flagship changing based off whether its a closed or open headphone). The 840 was actually my first foray into serious headphones. Up until that point, I was using higher end mainstream focused headphones such as the MDR-G74 and MDR-Q33 series. I use that term higher end loosely here, knowing that those were higher end for me compared to stock earphones at the time. Shure had at that point only made in ear headphones and so this was a big surprise for everyone. When the reviews came in, they were very glowing, stating that Shure had made headphones that were punching in the 500 dollar range – i.e. sticking it out with cans like the Sennheisser HD650. After seeing all these reviews and just aching for a jump in audio quality, I managed to hook these on a great sale on Boxing day and haven’t looked back. Maybe a little bit. The following is my IRL review of the 840s.
Design- Wow these are really bland headphones. And that’s a good thing. These were designed solely for monitoring and that’s it. No need for marketing fluff on style. While these are not spartan IMHO, they do lack a bit of pizzaz. I remember debating these with a few other cans. When my bud S grabbed the new Beats by Dre Studio I cried a little. Falling in love with the design of Beats but knowing the Shures would offer so much more audio wise. And you know what? 5 years on, I don’t feel bad about buying the Shures designwise at all. They suit their purpose and they feel timeless. Meanwhile, the original Studios look dated and a little meeeeh. Likely because of being mainstream and so common. That sounds very hipsterish, but I do think it has merit. They look like a serious pair of headphones. I quite like the black with two colored dots indicatng right and left. Its a basic but stark contrast in color. I like them. Compared to other studio monitors I don’t think they are really any different (i.e. ATH-M50x or MDR-7506). Studio monitors are studio monitors for the most part. However, comparing them to my Sony MDR-7520 shows a big difference in design IMHO. The 7520s are studio monitors, but they had a little more heart in their design. I’m a bit wary of the wires hanging outside though- I’m really uncertain why Shure decided to go with the exposed wire on the outside. It adds character for sure, but I’m not convinced it was necessary. I think it would have been safer for long term usage to have it internally, instead of externally where it might snag on something.
Build Quality- Overall good but not mind blowing. They are not built like the Beyerdynamic DT1350 which is like a tank. These are definitely above par most cans and I wouldn’t have an issue if they dropped accidentally. Certainly, they feel much more solid than a basic studio monitor like the Sony MDR-V300DJ (which feels comparatively flimsy and cheap in the joints and plastic used). I do have issue with the pleather at the joints coming out from the hinge though- a look at these after unscrewing shows not a whole lot holding them back and I actually ended up Krazy gluing them on- that’s a design flaw in build quality IMHO. Oter than that, they’ve held on remarkably well over the years and show little sign of wear on any part of the headphone. Every joint still functions as it did when I got them with no looseness added over the ages. Even the pleather cups are still supple. Nice.
Comfort- fantastic- just the right amount of pressure to stay on your head without being fatiguing. No complaints here. The headband and ear pads provide just enough firmness to have support, but suppleness to sink in. Just a good balance overall. I don’t have any issues wearing these for long periods of time.
Noise Isolation– thees are closed headphones with no ports at all. I find that they don’t really isolate all that well- I wouldn’t buy these to wear on a plane for example, or a noisy cafe to study. They do an ok job, but its not a selling point for sure.
Sound Quality- Dun dun dun- the hardest part for me to write and the most important part. These are great. They have a certain meat to them that is thicker than my 7520s. I think I actually prefer the 840s to the 7520s. It just feels like the 7520 is a bit anemic in comparison. There’s a great amount of detail int he 840s that I don’t think I can say is undesirable. I say this because people who use summit headphones often say meh about the 840 and 940 cans, but maybe that’s part of using summit headphones. For me, at the time I had them as my primary cans, they were a massive step up from my typical on ear headphones like the MDR-Q33s. Just great detail all over the place. Honestly, they are great reference cans with a little bit of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with any particular genre, but they do much much much better with higher quality recordings, and anything that’s not pop/hiphop/edm. I guess they don’t do well with those genres, because for me, those genres are betteer served with a fun sounding headphone- these are a bit too linear for me to enjoy those genres. However, they do great with acoustic, and vocals. I quite like them with those.
However nice these sound to me, they can never reach the musical fun factor that my other cans give me, even similarly priced cans like the Sony MDR-1R. I don’t really sink in and get lost with the beat with these. And that perhaps is an issue with being a reference headphone vs. a fun headphone rather than being the SRH840 itself. Compared to other reference headphones though, I think they do stellar in this class- certainly I find more detail in them than the Beyerdynamic DT1350, and at times, the 7520 as well. In fact, as I mentioned prior, I think these have some fun bits added, so much so that they move away from a clinical sound to a fun sound. But just and only just a bit.
Conclusion- Man every time I write a headphone review, its quite polar- either I like them or I don’t like them. I think its pretty clear I am biased to a fun sounding headphone and a studio monitor headphone just is not up my alley. However, as a step up to the audiophile world for their price (I’ve seen them for 149 CDN), I would absolutely recommend these over anything else in the less than 300 dollar range, simply for the detail they pump out and the comfort they provide. They just feel great on the head, and provide lots and lots of detail that any person not used to higher quality sound would appreciate. What you choose to enjoy after getting that extra dose of details is more of a user preference (I prefer a minor U shape EQ) and further headphones will support that. In the meantime, I don’t think its a disservice at all to recommend these. I always see the Audio Technica M40x/M50X mentioned and I would love to hear how these compare, as they are often within similar price brackets with sales and are both considered studio monitors.
TLDR- Pros- Fantastic bang for your buck headphones, great detail and just enough fun past clinical sounding to be enjoyable; Cons- really nothing major- this is a great entry headphone into audiophile level sound