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Shure SRH-940 Headphone Review (Revised 2/19/2012)Posted by dale from Akron Ohio on 2011-08-05
Posted on Shure SRH940
Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Comfortable, excellent sound, usable with iPods etc.
Cons: Somewhat large for portable use.
The SRH-940 compares favorably in several ways to the Sennheiser HD-800, with a few exceptions. Given that the HD-800 costs 5 to 6 times as much, the similarities and differences are of great interest to persons whose budgets don't stretch much beyond the SRH-940. The main exceptions are soundstage and resolution of upper harmonic details. Because of the HD-800's huge earcups, large drivers, and some fancy and costly engineering, the HD-800 has possibly the widest (or best) soundstage of any dynamic headphone that I'm aware of. The harmonic details are not as easy to describe, but if you have a chance to make a direct comparison, the differences are much easier to hear when you go from the HD-800 to the SRH-940 rather than the other way around. Note my comments below relating to harmonics.
It would be easy to assume that the differences I just described are a really big deal, but that depends on your experience and perceptions, and how much of an audio perfectionist you might be. In my case, having access to many top quality headphones from the HD-800 on down, it's not a big deal. The main similarity between the SRH-940 and the HD-800 is the sound signature, i.e. the overall balance of bass, mids, and treble that give the headphone its basic character. Attempts to measure this characteristic are generally expressed as a frequency response. While the signatures of these two headphones are not identical, myself and others have made comparisons with specific music tracks that did not reveal a substantial difference, so where significant differences are reported, look for specific examples if that is important to you.
Summarizing the actual sound of the SRH-940, it is highly detailed and has what is widely regarded as a more-or-less neutral signature over most of its range, with a slight bit of brightness on the high end. Fortunately, whatever extra brightness the SRH-940 may have compared to the average headphone does not contribute to a sibilance problem. I find the 940's soundstage to be above average for a closed-back headphone, and while the bass will not satisfy the so-called bass-heads of the headphone world, I find the bass to be pretty consistent with what I know to be accurate high fidelity reproduction. Again, depending on how accurate you require your bass to be, a decibel or two of variance that's acceptable to some persons might be annoying to others.
Other headphones I compared the SRH-940 to are the Shure SRH-1840 and the B&W P5. The P5 sounds slightly hollow compared to the SRH-940, it sounds somewhat muffled on the high end, and sounds a little bit weak in the deep bass. Given that the P5 and SRH-940 sell for about the same price and that the SRH-940 wins in sound quality on all counts (in my opinion), I'd say that the P5's advantage is smaller size and better portability. Compared to the SRH-1840, the 1840 has less brightness in the "presence" area around 4 to 7 khz and a very slight edge in soundstage and upper harmonic detail.
The SRH-940 will play at reasonable volume levels with portable devices such as most cellphones, iPods and so on. The straight cord feels strong enough to withstand some abuse, and with the earcups pulled all the way down and rotated against my chest, I can have the headphone around my neck all day long without it getting in my way when I'm not listening to it. It also comes with a coiled cord. Neither cord has an angled plug unfortunately. The other good news with the cord is that it's detachable. The other less-than-good news is that the detachable end is partially proprietary. The detachable plug is a standard sub-mini plug (next size smaller than a 1/8 inch mini-plug), but the plastic fitting behind that plug locks into the jack on the earcup in a way that would require DIY'ers to take the earcup apart if they want to use a different cable without the proprietary connector.
The earcups of the SRH-940 completely surround my ears, and it's a close fit. The internal space for ears in each oval earcup measure 2-5/8 by 1-7/8 inches. I find the fit very comfortable, but people with much larger ears may feel very cramped. The carrycase that comes with the SRH-940 is fairly large, and would take up a lot of space in a carry-on bag for airline travel. If this is your situation, I'd recommend carrying the SRH-940 around your neck when boarding, or just wrap it in something thin to place in a suitcase, to give it minimal protection.
The entire headphone seems to be plastic except for the velour earpads, and Made In China means they optimized the SRH-940 for lowest production cost. The good news is that it seems to be very well made, and given the sound quality, a real bargain at the usual prices. Isolation from external sounds is good even when not playing music. When playing music, I can't hear the telephone ring from 3 feet away, and the ringer is the old-fashioned kind - very attention-getting.
People often ask about the headband and comfort issues, and my experience says that the weight of the 940 is light enough that most of it is supported by the earcups and only a small percentage by the headband. In fact, if a user pulls the earcups down just slightly more than needed to fit their ears, that will lighten the headband pressure to the point that the feeling of wearing the headphone will virtually disappear.
In addition to the pop music tracks listed below, which I used mainly for detecting weaknesses or other problems with the sound, I played a wide variety of genres (Jazz, Diana Krall, Bill Evans Trio; Bach organ, Biggs; Beethoven 9th, Solti CSO; Chopin, Moravec; Reggae, Marley, Tosh; Country, Haggard, Yoakam; Verdi, Domingo; Sinatra and Bennett; Punk, Germs, Fear, Sid Vicious, Social Distortion; Medieval, Madrigali, Medieval Babes; Trance, Mylene Farmer, etc.)
The following are some of the music tracks I tested with, and the main features I listened for with those tracks:
Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (piercing guitar sound, handled well).
Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers (guitar string detail and quality, excellent).
Commodores - Night Shift (bass detail, excellent).
Germs - Forming (raw garage sound, good).
Lick The Tins - Can't Help Falling In Love (tin whistle, very clear and clean).
Lou Reed - Walk On The Wild Side (bass impact, good; detail excellent).
REM - Radio Free Europe (drum impact, very good).
Rolling Stones - She's So Cold (bass impact and guitar sound, very good).
U2 - With Or Without You (bass boom/high-pitched instruments/sibilants, handled well).
Van Morrison - Into The Mystic (bass, moderate).
Who - Bargain (voice trailing off: "best I ever had", very good vocal harmonics).
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