But, about twelve seconds into the song, a theme is introduced where a gong sounds a medium-pitched note that stand as a “call” to which a powerful, very low-pitched drum “answers” a few seconds later (this call-and-response theme recurs throughout the song). When this theme comes along, some problems arise. The SRH1840 does a fine job with the vigorous sound of the mid-pitched gong’s call, but it fails to give the low-pitched drum’s response appropriate power and weight. The problem isn’t that the SRH1840 doesn’t go low enough, because in fact it offers excellent bass extension and thus has plenty of low-end reach. Instead, the problem is that, through the SRH1840, the deep bass power and weight of the drum get washed out or underplayed (almost as if you were hearing the performance from far off, rather than from within the interior of the recording space). But please don’t misunderstand us; the Shure doesn’t sound bad and its low-frequency extension is laudable. It’s just that a bit more mid- and low bass weight would make the headphone sound much more satisfying and realistic.
Musical nuance, as you might expect, is pretty much the SRH1840’s strong suit, as you will appreciate if you listen to John Hammond’s very well recorded rendition of “Get Behind the Mule” from Hammond’s solo acoustic blues album Rough and Tough [Chesky, SACD]. The Shure’s have more than enough detail and focus to show you why high-resolution formats such as SACDs really do enjoy an audible advantages vis-à-vis conventional CDs. On the track cited, those audible advantages comprise a wealth of small inflections, point of emphasis and de-emphasis, and tricky note bends as heard in Hammond’s timeless, gritty, and ever-expressive voice. You also get a wonderfully up close presentation of Hammond’s masterful acoustic guitar work and occasional harmonica solos (the Shures show you just how powerful and spine-tingling the howl of a blues harmonica can be at full song).
The one area where we would offer criticisms would be on the SRH1840’s handling of Hammond’s powerful, low- frequency foot stomps, which serve in lieu of a kick drum to help keep time throughout the song. With top-tier headphones you should be able to hear powerful waves of bass energy spreading across the floor of the recording space each time Hammond’s foot comes down. Through the Shures, however, you hear those waves of bass, but without the potent burst of low-frequency energy that ought to be present. Even so, listening to this album through the SRH1840’s is a treat, largely because they do so very many things right through the midrange and treble regions of the music.
Consider this headphone if:
Look further if:
Ratings relative to comparably priced headphones: