To evaluate the Shure’s bass performance, I played the very demanding third (“Landscape: Lento”) movement of Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia antartica [Bakels, Bournemouth; Naxos], which features tympani, concert bass drums, and a pipe organ. I have heard this recording many times through superb full-range loudspeakers and through systems equipped with world-class subwoofer, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it better rendered than through the SRH840s. Here’s why. The movement presents low frequency instruments played both delicately and vigorously and at high and low volume levels, in the process exposing listeners to a very wide range of bass timbres and pitches. Speakers often have a hard time keeping up with the demands of this track and room interactions can be a problem, too. Through the Shures, however, I had the sense of hearing the bass content of the track as it was meant to sound—low key in some passages and almost overwhelmingly powerful in others, yet always with presented in perfect control with clearly delineated pitches, even on the lowest organ pedal notes. This is how bass was meant to sound.
Finally, to enjoy the dynamic clout of the Shure, I tried an old favorite: the track “You And Your Friend” from Dire Straits’ On Every Street [Warner Bros.]. This track, more than many, shows how dynamically compressed most hi-fi systems sound and, in contrast, how dynamically expressive the SRH840’s can be. Through most systems Mark Knopfler’s guitar sounds smooth and lush on this track, but also a bit subdued relative to the sound of a real electric guitar. Through the Shure’s, however, one has the eerie but very exciting sensation of being “hard-wired” directly into the pickup circuitry on Knopfler’s guitar. Some notes are indeed smooth and creamy-sounding, but on others you can hear Knopfler dig in just a bit, making the leading edges of notes explode with bursts of energy. Similarly, you can hear variations in the way Knopfler bends notes, gently pulling some to higher pitches while sharply tugging others upward in a way that imparts a vigorous howl of expression. The point, I think, is that the Shures offer you extra measures of expressiveness that make dynamic contrasts sound vivid and alive—leaving lesser hi-fi systems and headphones sounding somewhat “faded” or "washed out" by comparison.
The SRH840s feature generously-proportioned, leather-covered earcup pads that help distribute the headphone’s moderate clamping forces for long-term wearer comfort. Another plus is a wide, padded headband that helps distribute the weight of the Shures across a broader area at the top of your head.
The Shures come with a high-quality 9.8-foot extension cord with a bayonet-type locking lug that cinches the cable firmly to the body of the left earpiece. Other accessories include a gold-plated, threaded mini-jack to phone jack adapter, a spare set of earcup pads, and a leatherette drawstring-type carrying bag.
Shure’s SRH840 is a wonderful general purpose headphone that is good, not just “for the money” (though it is certainly that), but also in a broader sense. These headphones set a benchmark in terms of value for money. To do better, you’ll have to spend much, much more.
Shure SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones
Type: Closed-back, over-the-ear (circumaural) headphone
Driver complement: 40mm dynamic driver with neodymium
Accessories: mini-plug to phone jack adapter, 9.8-foot extension cord, spare earcup pads, carrying bag.
Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 25 kHz
Weight: 318 grams
Impedance: 44 ohms
5800 West Touhy Avenue
Niles, IL 60714