Shure SRH840 (left) and Shure SRH440
If you’re wondering how these compare read on. Right now the 840 is available for £110 and the 440 for £60 in the UK. Is the former worth almost twice the price of the latter?
The 440 is brighter sounding than the 840 so picks out and abnormally highlights guitar strings and cymbals. As a consequence of this vocals can sound slightly less present and realistic/natural than they should. The 440 also has less extended bass so bass drum and double bass sound less natural however what bass it does have is more punchy i.e. has a faster attack and decay making it toe-tapping. It has a creaky plastic physical design against the 840’s more solid but also heavier (372g v 311g) design.
The difference in sound is not night and day and on first comparing them the 440 comes across as more lively and appealing because of its brighter frequency response. Overall however, over more extended listening, the 840 is the more emotionally involving and better headphone with more natural vocals (almost Sennheiser HD600 quality) and a more even frequency response. That said, the 840 is noticeably heavier and more uncomfortable on the top of one’s head. The 840 is like a more sensitive (requires a lower volume level setting to achieve the same loudness) but less comfortable HD600 with punchier and deeper bass but slightly less realistic vocals. Overall across genres the 840 sounds better than the HD600 but is much less comfortable (in fact it’s painful). These observations were made with the headphones ‘burnt in’ having had over 50 hours playing time.
I listen to music across a range of genres and my preference is for
- a deep and punchy (a HD600 and HiFiMAN RE0 problem) but not boomy/flabby/loose/resonant (Creative Aurvana Live CAL problem) or exaggerated (Sony MH1C problem) or bleeding-into-mids (Koss Porta Pro problem) bass
- energetic detailed not rolled-off (Porta Pro, MH1C and CAL problem) and not too bright (Superlux 668b problem) or sibilant treble
- clear transparent natural sounding midrange vocals that are not recessed (Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro problem) or abnormally coloured in timbre (a problem with the metallic-sounding Fiio EX1 / Dunu Titan 1 when fitted with incorrect tips).
All this in a comfortable design (Shure SRH840 and Jays v-JAYS problem) that is loud enough straight out of a phone (HD600 problem) and one can go to sleep wearing (SRH840 and HD600 problem).
Left-to-right my headphones in audio quality order from Sony MDR V150 to Sennheiser HD600
In a nutshell I look for sufficient tight punchy bass, uncoloured natural-sounding vocals, and sufficient unsibilant highs i.e. an extended flat frequency response with impact and low level detail without colouration or resonance.
In summary, I find both to be some of the most accurate and enjoyable headphones I’ve listened to. Ignoring the comfort issue the SRH840 is overall better sounding than the 440 across musical genres (especially for genres with deep bass such as electronic) however the 440 is say 90% there for almost half the price. Indeed for some tracks where the strings are subdued in the mix (perhaps the mixing itself was done on upper mid-forward monitors / headphones like the 440 itself) or where you simply prefer to hear more of those string sounds the 440 sounds better. Also at a very low listening volume vocals on the 440 can sound clearer since there is less bass. The 840 is highly rated by Z Reviews and Head-Fi also has mainly very favourable reviews.
Taking comfort into the equation if I had to choose between these two headphones the 440 wins because I couldn’t wear the 840 for more than half an hour. Additionally, since the cups on the 440 are a little slimmer it’s possible to wear them while going to sleep.
Though very good headphones I continue to listen mainly to my
- £30 KZ ZS5 (version 1 with one BA driver in the nozzle) earphones which are overall some of the best sounding ear/headphones I’ve ever heard (though as with any in-ear they can become bothersome over time and need removal/repositioning, especially with their standard tips which sound the best)
- £8 KZ ATE Sport earphones when going to sleep, whose plastic body makes them more comfortable to sleep in than my more accurate but tip-sensitive and sometimes ear-canal irritating Fiio EX1
- £4 Samsung EHS64 earphones with inline microphone and volume control out and about
- £30 Superlux HD562 (Sennheiser HD25 clones) with velour pads when I want to rock out with deep punchy bass without losing too much detail from the rest of the spectrum
- £120 (used) Sennheiser HD600 headphones or £50 Fiio EX1 earphones when I’m after a very revealing ‘audiophile’ experience.
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