Shure SRH-840 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, May 9, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: Shure SRH-840 Stereo Headphone review by Dale - YouTube

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Shure_Srh840_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Shure_Srh840_02.jpg

    Sources: iPhone5 with PA2V2/FiiO E07k/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using the Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the SRH840 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M80 and M100, the Beyerdynamic DT1350 and T51p, the FAD Pandora IV and VI, and notes I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the SRH840 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: For me it's ideal, which was really unexpected given the $189 USD price. Start with neutral and add just enough bass for decent impact and warmth. Make sure the treble is just enough to reveal upper harmonic details, but no more than that. And then eliminate colorations, or reduce them to insignificance. They did it. I even ran several series of test tones to try to find the obvious sudden changes that create colorations, and found nothing.

    In my 80-odd headphone reviews, I've used expressions like "fairly neutral" or "basically neutral" etc., but the number of those that I'd play with no EQ whatever were very few: B&W P7, Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro, FAD Pandora VI, Mad Dog, Sennheiser IE800, and the Shure SRH1840. Compared to those, the SRH840 gets close to the Mad Dog and the IE800, and has a better signature I think than the other four. The Shure SRH440 I reviewed a few weeks ago fit this description as well, but the SRH840 is smoother and more refined-sounding. Caveat: Reviews will often rate the more expensive of a series (i.e. the SRH840 compared to SRH440) as better, and you can almost fill in the blanks with the reasons why. I just wanted to get that on record, since the SRH840 really is better in a number of ways, not just the sound. The most obvious difference in the sound is a little more mid-to-low bass, but not enough to compromise the midrange in any way.

    The SRH840 fit is similar to the SRH440's, and while not the most comfortable I've worn, it's not bad at all - it takes about a minute for the earpads to adjust for best comfort. The SRH840 earpads are better quality and have a deluxe acoustic foam backing. The headphone's exterior finish and build also look better than the SRH440. The coiled cables are identical and both headphones come with a soft plastic carry bag. The difference inside the earcups suggests to me why the SRH840 sounds so much smoother, and that difference is the foam backing on the earpads covering the drivers. I've had experience with that foam in smoothing treble on the SRH1440, and it really works wonders. The SRH840 comes with extra earpads (the SRH440 does not), and for any users who would like to smooth or reduce the treble further, the foam backings on the extra earpads can be cut off and tucked into the earcups just like I show in my SRH1440 earcup mod video.

    There is one other major difference between the SRH840 and SRH440 - my average-size head fits the middle of the SRH440 headband adjustment, but I have to pull the SRH840 earcups out to click stop no.9 (of 10), which leaves almost no room for larger heads with this headphone. Any remaining issues for the SRH840 not described here will be the same as the SRH440, and can be found in the SRH440 review at this same site. The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the SRH840 plays the different music tracks listed here compared to other headphones. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the SRH840 compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Shure SRH-840 review part 2 -music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone with a modest weight, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The SRH840 plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the SRH840.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry with the SRH840.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The SRH840 plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the SRH840.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The SRH840 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The SRH840 reproduces the space and detail convincingly.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the SRH840 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The SRH840 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are detailed but not sharp or edgy.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent and the tambourine sound has better than average tonality.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The SRH840 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The SRH840 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the SRH840 plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has very good detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The SRH840 plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the SRH840. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Human League - Keep Feeling Fascination (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's bass line is very detailed, but the somewhat forward voices don't have quite the "you are there" quality of the Heaven 17 track noted above.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The SRH840 provides excellent detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the SRH840 does those exceptionally well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The SRH840 plays this so clearly that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the SRH840 is an excellent example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle but appreciable with the SRH840.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The SRH840 reproduces those sounds very well.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The SRH840 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a more-or-less neutral headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the SRH840 renders the tones and transients very well.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The SRH840 delivers the impacts with proper weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 are fairly soft, and while the bass isn't very deep, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.
     
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