Shure SRH1840 Review

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by Ted S.

a member of The Greatest Song Team

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Shure SRH1840 Review: Overview

Shure SRH1840 Headphones

OUR RATING:

4.9

(out of 5)

Specs

  • Impedance: 65 Ω
  • Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm, Neodymium Magnet
  • Frequency range: 10 – 30000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB/mW
  • Weight: 268 grams (9.4 oz)
  • Cable length: 2.1 meters

Pros

  • Refined micro-detail with a neutral frequency response
  • Unique, intricate sound signature with superb dynamics
  • Substantial soundstage with outstanding stereo imaging
  • Bass has a crystal clear presence
  • Lightweight, comfortable and durable
  • Carry case, extra cable and extra ear pads included

Cons

  • In our clinical tests, the lower mids have some harmonic distortion, but it was not noticeable in musical examples.
Shure SRH1840 thumb

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Bottom Line:

These have all the tools you need in reference headphones with a lovely delicate, natural sound signature. Some of the best reference headphones out there.

Introducing the Shure SRH1840 Headphones

The Shure SRH1840 are Shure’s premier headphones, designed for mastering and critical listening.  

The neutral frequency response helps you pinpoint instruments in the soundstage and accurately examine mixes across all frequencies. But these headphones go a step further: they achieve total clarity while still retaining a musical response. 

In the past year or so, competition in the reference headphone market has brought the price of the SRH1840 headphones down to earth.  

Nonetheless, it is still a lot to shell out for headphones. We did some thorough testing to see if they are worth it.

For more about headphones, microphones, and all things audio gear see here.

Alternatives to the Shure SRH1840 Headphones

Open-back

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

It’s impossible to say which is better, the SRH1840s or these. It’s a tie. These have a wider soundstage and more bass presence.

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro thumb

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AKG K702

Best value reference headphones out there. If you don’t want to shell out for the SRH1840, consider these.

AKG K-702 Headphones

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Sennheiser HD 600

Fantastic cans for mixing and mastering. Some find them too analytical sounding.

Sennheiser HD 600

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Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Not as refined in the detail but excellent reference cans nonetheless.

beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones

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Closed-back

Neumann NDH 20

If you need sound isolation and can afford to splurge, these are the best closed-back option.

Neumann NDH 20 headphones

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Who are the SRH1840 Headphones for?

Designed as open-back reference headphones, the Shure SRH1840 headphones are well suited for listeners in the following applications:

  • mixing and mastering
  • critical listening

The open-back design allows the sound to travel past the ear cup, resulting in a more natural resonance. They are best suited to listening at home or in the studio.

Who are the SRH1840 Headphones NOT for?

Due to an open-back design, the SRH1840 headphones are NOT suited for anyone in the market for a pair of headphones with good sound isolation or active noise-canceling.  

The open-back design allows sound in and out. In noisy environments or for applications where you cannot tolerate sound leakage (such as tracking), these are not your cans.  

These are also not consumer headphones. The frequency response is neutral, designed for critical listening.  

Even though the bass on the SRH1840s has punch, it can sound weak in comparison to consumer headphones, which usually have an unnatural bass frequency boost.  

What’s in the box?

Shure SRH1840 accessories
The SRH1840 headphones come with a hard-shell carry case, additional ear pads, and an extra cable.

Unboxing Video

Build

This is a fine set of headphones. Shure supports that idea with the luxurious box they arrive in, the hard, zip-up carry case with extra ear pads and an additional cable.  

The design of the SRH1840 headphones is minimal and durable. Nothing feels like it’s going to snap off anytime soon. The aluminum alloy frame and stainless steel grilles over the drivers feel reliably robust.  

The 2.1-meter cables have gold-plated MMCX connectors that pop in and out of the ear cups without a hitch.

With a sensitivity rating of 96 db/mW and 62 Ω impedance, they are relatively easy to drive while still maintaining loads of headroom.

Comfort

Ideally, your headphones would feel like they’re not even on your head. These are lightweight, weighing in at 268 grams, 10 grams more than the Sennheiser HD 600s.

Although I don’t ever really forget that I’m wearing these (the ideal reaction to a pair of cans), they are very comfortable.

The velour earcups form a tight seal around the ears but the earcups are could be deeper. Of course all heads and ears will have a different fit, but in my case, the inner cup does touch my ear, ever-so-slightly.

The headband is a hard plastic base with soft pleather padding. This padding could be a bit ampler. With extended use, one notices the slight pressure from the headband on the top of the head.  

Most importantly, the SRH1840s would work well for long sessions at the mixing table. Other than the slight pressure from the top headband, nothing presses or pulls on your head.

It is also worth noting that the velour cups work well with glasses.  

Shure SRH1840

Sound

First Impressions

At first glance and listen, the overall design of the Shure SRH1840 and their neutral frequency response reminded me immediately of the Sennheiser HD 600.  

But with further testing, I began to prefer them over the HD 600s. The detail is more refined and the sound signature less clinical. They are not just analytical tools like the HD 600. They are simply more joyful to listen to.

I found myself noticing hearing things I’d never heard before in songs I’ve listened to a thousand times. For example, in David Bowie’s Heroes, with these headphones, for the first time, I noticed the dolphin sounds coming from the synth after he says “I wish I could swim like dolphins can swim.” 

Or in the Beatles Dear Prudence, I noticed that Paul makes a mistake on bass and comes in a measure early (around 1:46 in).

Detail

The SRH1840 headphones have a unique refined, delicate sonic signature. Like other high-end open-back reference headphones, they deliver a neutral frequency response which helps the listener identify individual instruments and possible recording problems with ease.  

For optimal detail retrieval, you need the thinnest, most flexible diaphragms. These are found only in the highest end of headphones where one shells out for real. (Audeze LCD-5, or Hifiman Susvara)

But without question, the SRH1840 headphones deliver next-level micro-detail. In visual terms, it feels like the jump from 1080p to 4k.

They deliver excellent transient response and clarity without sacrificing the overall balance.

Shure SRH1840 Frequency Response Chart

Shure SRH1840 frequency response chart

As you can see in the chart above, these headphones have a very neutral response.

The highs are well defined and never sibilant.

The mid-range comes forward without falling out of balance with the top and bottom. Vocals are brought forward in the soundstage, much more than other headphones in this class.

The bass response is not as heavy-handed as the Sennheiser HD 650 or even the Beyerdynamic DT 1990s. But you can see from the chart above, the roll-off on the sub-bass is very gradual and doesn’t begin until 50 Hz.

In other words, the bass is definitely present but never overpowering. 20 Hz rings clearly. Distinguishing between double bass and a timpani in the same recording, for example, is easy peasy.  

On our THD (total harmonic distortion) clinical tests, in the lower mids, there was some distortion. But it was never obvious in the musical examples.

Headphones stacked on top of each other

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Dynamics: Unique delicate sound signature

The sound signature is more delicate and vulnerable, which is not something I thought I would ever experience with headphones. For example, listening to live recordings of particular voices, there is a palpable sense of vulnerability in the voice.

Listening with these headphones to the EMI recording of ‘E lucevan le stelle’, the tenor aria from Tosca, with Corelli singing, I experience fear that his voice might fall apart on the soft bits, or completely explode with sound at any moment. This kind of ultra-fine dynamic response is usually a live-only experience.

And on a macro level, listening to something like the Beastie Boys Root Down, there’s no lack of dynamic punch. You’re not feeling the subwoofer in your sternum, but I daresay, for reference open-back headphones, you even get some groove in these.  

Soundstage and Stereo Image

The soundstage of the SRH1840s is not as extensive as the Beyerdynamic 1990 or 990, but it is sufficiently large extending way beyond the center of your head.  

With our extensive stereo imaging tests, these cans are as good as any. The 40mm matched drivers deliver a wide, reliable image. Binaural tests (sounds of knocking on doors) feel impossible to distinguish from reality.

They make no attempts to sound like speakers, the left and right channels are isolated. The control and subtlety of the stereo image, however, working in all directions, is its own experience and won’t leave you wanting.  

Conclusion: Are they worth it?

In short, the answer is yes. These give you all the tools you would want in a pair of reference headphones with dynamic punch and musical response to boot.

If you need to mix and master with headphones under $1000, these or the Beyerdynamic 1990s are some of the best options out there. With these cans, you can rest assured that you’re hearing it all.

Shure SRH1840 thumb

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How We Tested and Rated these Headphones

As a reminder, we test everything on this site ourselves.

These headphones were tested under controlled conditions in a sound-treated room and also in a noisy household environment.

Don’t believe any ‘objective’ measurements you see about headphones! The shape of your head and ears alone will have a significant effect on the sound results. Therefore, all headphone reviews are subjective, this one being no exception.

Our comparisons for the SRH1840 headphones were limited primarily to other open-back reference headphones in the same class. Although we did directly compare a few closed-back and consumer headphones just to keep our ears honest.

In addition to testing these headphones on music of all styles, we conduct extensive clinical tests on frequency response, dynamic range, driver matching, harmonic distortion, binaural tests, wiring, and stereo imaging.  

Our rating assumes that you value sound quality above all other factors, followed by comfort/build, then price.

Questions or Comments?

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Author
Ted Schmitz (aka Wanderingted) is both a seasoned tech expert with over 10 years experience in the industry and a working songwriter and performer.

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