Shure SRH440 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: Shure SRH-440 Stereo Headphone review by Dale - YouTube

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Shure_Srh440_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Shure_Srh440_02.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Shure_Srh440_03.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 SRH440 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 SRH440 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: It's no coincidence that the SRH440 has such a good soundstage and sense of openness, since those properties are highly dependent on a neutral frequency response that's free of peaks, recesses, and colorations which derive mainly from undamped resonances.

    My first impression of the SRH440 is neutral sound. But it's much better than that. 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 six, the SRH440 gets close to the Mad Dog and the IE800, and has a better signature I think than the other four. In the case of the P7 and Pandora VI, their responses are slightly more 'V'-shaped, but still fine for most genres as is. The Custom One Pro and the SRH1840 are a bit more bland, but also fine for most music genres. The SRH440's (understandable) limitation is its ultimate resolution - the most expensive headphones I've listed here have a subtly clearer sound that's noticeable in direct comparisons, but when the SRH440 is heard on its own, I doubt that very many users would hear the sound as any less than perfect.

    Some concerns I have with low-cost headphones are inconsistencies in matching the sound between the left and right drivers, and matching the sound between different production samples of the same headphone. When there are any such inconsistencies, a customer may experience a very different sound than what they were expecting based on reviews they've read. Although the SRH440 is only $99 USD currently, every indication I have is for a high quality well-made product. The limitations I notice most compared to the more expensive headphones are the fit and finish - the finish is plain and plastic, but elegant in its simplicity. The earcup fit doesn't feel as though it's making a good seal to my head, which is usually critical for proper bass response, but since the bass is just right anyway, the only issue with the fit is that it's not as luxurious as with the pricier headphones. The SRH440 earpads are quite good, and are a huge step up in quality from (for example) the Sennheiser HD280 Pro earpads.

    Earcup rotation is no more than a few degrees horizontally. Vertical rotation is 180 degrees, so from the earcup rotations I'd expect the SRH440 to fit a wide range of head sizes. My average-size head fits with the earcups pulled out to click stop no. 4, allowing a 3/4 inch smaller and 5/4 inch larger adjustment to the headband on each side. The long coiled cable is single-entry to the left earcup, and has a proprietary detachable locking connector with a 2.5 mm stereo plug (same as other Shure headphones). The cable is terminated with a standard 3.5 mm miniplug threaded for a 6.35 mm plug adapter (included). A soft plastic carry bag is also included.

    The comments in the music tracks listed in this review can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the SRH440 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 SRH440 compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440.

    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 SRH440.

    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 SRH440 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 SRH440.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 extremely well with the SRH440. 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 plays this very well.

    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 SRH440 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 SRH440.

    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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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 SRH440 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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