A few days back, I overheard some enthusiasts talking about a million-dollar headphones. Now, I know there is some seriously expensive stuff out there, but a million dollar price tag could only mean it’s a one-off, probably gold-plated set exclusively created for Greek Gods (I’m obviously kidding here).
But upon inspection, I discovered that they were actually talking about the Shure SRH440 and the actual price is only $99. Curious and skeptic, I got myself my own Shure SRH440. And after giving it a good try, I think I am ready to share my views.
So, let’s see if it lives up to that gentleman’s claim.
Prelude – The Shure Story
It’s not the first time I tried a Shure. The company has been around for a while, almost a century. It’s quite known for their professional audio electronic products. Most of their earlier products are exuberantly priced and are specifically targeted towards professionals, but now they are expanding their reach to the masses. SRH440 may be their most popular all-rounder product since then.
SRH440 Specs and Features in a Glance
Before we dig into the performance it delivers, let’s take a quick look at the features it offers:
- A closed-back design
- Adjustable headband
- Foldable design
- Field replaceable air cups
- Detachable 9.8 ft. coiled cable
- 10Hz-22kHz Frequency response
- 44 ohms Impedance
- Includes 1/4″ jack adapter
- Weighs 0.6 lbs.
When I was browsing through the pictures of this headphone on the site, my first thought was that it looks very bulky. If you have ever tried a Shure before, you know it is quite typical. They like it big and chunky. And in all fairness, some consumers love it that way.
Once the parcel arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. The box contains the headphones, the cable, a threaded gold-plated adapter, and a vinyl carrying pouch.
Contrary to how it seemed in the photos, the real thing doesn’t look or feel cheap. It is indeed made of plastic, albeit a very high-quality one.
The design is quite classy with no fancy elements. I personally like that kind of simplicity. The headphones don’t weight a lot but feel very sturdy in hands. Definitely seem like a product that can endure years of use.
The only part that doesn’t seem like it can last too long is the ear pads. Both the ear pads and the headband are made of leather, which means factors such as temperature will wear them down. Thankfully, the ear pads are replaceable. Same goes for the cable. I am so glad to see a detachable one on a budget-friendly headphone. It is a simple click and lock mechanism.
So, bonus points for ease of use.
One of my biggest concern after holding this chunky piece of plastic in my hand was the comfort level. Surprisingly, they are reasonably comfortable despite the size. They don’t weight as heavy as they look and that may be a contributing factor behind the unexpectedly comfy wear.
The ear cups have plush padding and large opening. The band is adjustable. If it doesn’t feel right in the first try, adjust it a bit to see how it best fits.
I have had my SRH440 for hours, and it didn’t get too painful. You might feel a slight pressure on the ears. I have seen my fair share of the best and worst when it comes to comfort, and I’d say this one lies somewhere in the middle – may be slightly leaning towards the good, but not exactly the best. I think I will try replacing the ear pads with plushier ones and see if it further improves the comfort level.
Some of you may also despise the coiled cable as it many people are now more comfortable with the straight ones for home studio recording. The good news is that it is replaceable and you can always order the straight one from Shure.
Despite the adjustable band, the headphones don’t fit as perfectly as sports headphones. They do slip off if you move too much. So, if you are considering this one as your next workout buddy, I’d advise against it. To learn more, check out this guide on open back vs. closed back headphones.
Don’t let the size fool you.
Despite being chunky and meaty, this model was designed to be portable! There is a hinge above each cup, which allows you to fold them without hassle.
I like the fact that the pouch also has a bit of padding. It isn’t much but still offers some amount of protection against scratches. I’ve also found that cleaning isn’t much of a problem.
Now, this is what proves my friend’s million-dollar claim.
For a studio headphones under 100 bucks, Shure SRH440 delivers a jaw-dropping sound. In one line, I can describe it as crystal clear sound with incredible bass and balanced mids and highs. This balance makes it a fantastic piece for all kinds of music.
In my personal experience, headphones tend to sound much better after the burn-in period, i.e. around 100 hours of use. If you feel this model sounds cold and boring, give it some time to simmer. The sound gets so much better with time.
For monitor headphone, this one is beautifully balanced in terms of sound.
If you are really into headphones with great bass, this one may not impress you much. Personally, I find the bass neutral but rich enough to satisfy most users, especially the audio purists. So, it is a matter of quantity vs. quality. If you prefer quality, go for it. You can easily hear 20hz tone with these, which is impressive for a product that isn’t too expensive.
I have yet to try a Shure that isn’t great with mids. SRH440 is no exception. Mids are perfectly balanced, and that is the beauty of it. You can hear the sweet details of the voice and most instruments. The balanced mids contribute to the clarity and the crispiness of the sound. However, they do little to improve the quality of poorly recorded sound. These aren’t the expensive gadgets that are meant to alter or change anything. You hear what you record just the way it was recorded.
Highs may not be the best bit about these headphones, but there is still nothing to complain about. There is a noticeable boost in the 10Khz region. The sound isn’t exactly bright but more towards the warmer side. On my first try, I did feel that highs were the weak bit, but after the burn-out period, my brain adjusted to the sound and I started appreciating it.
I still wish the extension was slightly better. That would have made these the most amazing headphones for the price.
Shure SRH440 has a decent harmonic distortion. It is quite low in the treble range, which is very impressive. However, at heavier notes you might notice some distortion in the low mid and high bass range.
Shure SRH440 delivers a good performance when it comes to separation. You get excellent position and clarity, considering that it is a monitor headphone.
Now that we have talked about what we hear, let’s discuss what we don’t.
Since it is a closed back, over-the-ear design, it delivers a reasonable amount of isolation without making the sound too muffled. It can block out most of the ambient sounds in the studio. But it isn’t good enough to be worn in a loud environment.
Personally, I am not a fan of muffled sound so I can deal with a slight lack of isolation.
With around 18 dB of isolation, you will have to turn up the volume to completely block out all the noises. The higher volume, however, does contribute to leaks.
The Brilliant Feature – 40 mm Drivers
I can’t conclude this review without talking about one feature that contributes to the wonderful performance – the dynamic 40 mm drivers. Large drivers seem to be yet another signature feature of Shure headphones. They even have ones with 50 mm drivers.
Large drivers make the bass tones strong and high pitches bright, and that is why the overall sound of these headphones isn’t flat despite being neutral. Thanks to the divers, SRH 440 has a good impedance of 44 ohms.
I think it’s brilliant that Shure goes with large drivers even for their budget-friendly headphones
Fellas! I am impressed.
For the price, I thought this was an excellent find. It works well with almost all kinds of music, but it will do nothing to make a bad recording sound better. Quite unforgiving in this sense – but isn’t that what we all need from a studio monitor headphone!
For a hundred bucks, it easily sounds like something that costs twice as much. Now, I am really looking forward to reviewing some of their higher end models. Do you have any recommendations? Feel free to list them down in the comments section below!