Many Playback readers associate the name Shure with high performance microphones and in-ear headphones, but the Niles, IL-based company has recently entered the market for high-performance over-the-ear headphones with a lineup consisting of three models. Playback was fortunate enough to obtain a sample of the flagship model of the group: the SRH840, which sells for $200.
The basic specifications for the SRH840 seem straightforward enough. It is a mid-weight (318 gram), closed-back, circumaural (over-the-ear) headphone with 40mm dynamic drivers that feature neodymium magnets. Shure says of these drivers that they are designed to deliver “reference-quality frequency response” and are “optimized for studio recording and critical listening.” Earcups are carried on collapsible “arms” that allow the headphones to fold up to fit neatly within their included drawstring carry bag.
Although many consumers would consider $200 headphones “expensive,” the fact is that among very high-performance models the price of SRH840s falls near the lower end of the scale. Knowing this, we were curious to see how the SRH840 would fare in direct comparison not only with like-priced competitors but also when evaluated against the standards set by headphones in the $400+ range (or even beyond). The short answer, we soon discovered, is that Shure’s new top model not only holds its own versus higher priced competitors but also surpasses them in many respects. In short, Shure’s SRH840s offer terrific value for money and are high-end ear-openers, extraordinaire.
Consider this headphone if: you crave the sound of $400+ headphones, but have only about half that amount to spend. For $200, these Shures sound fully competitive with ‘phones in the $400+ class—better than some, not quite as good as others, but always in the hunt. The SRH840 is sensitive, offers a rich and vivid yet well-balanced sound (with perhaps a touch—but only a light and tasteful touch—of mid-bass emphasis), explosive dynamics, and an uncanny ability to sound at once highly detailed, yet smooth.
Look elsewhere if: you want to reach for the absolute heights of sonic openness, transparency, and neutrality. While the SRH840 comes surprisingly close to true top-tier performance, the fact is that, if you are willing to push the envelope (and your wallet) far enough, there are even higher levels of headphone performance to be had at the top end of the scale. But at the $200 level, the SRH840 is a steal, pure and simple. It’s all the headphone many listeners will ever need or want.
Ratings (compared to similarly-priced headphones)
One of the most striking qualities of the Shure SRH840 is that it sounds more sonically refined, revealing, and involving than its price might lead you to expect. Three areas where this is readily apparent involve overall resolution and definition, bass performance, and dynamics. Let’s briefly examine each of these points in turn.