This is a Shure SRH440 review. The black Shure SRH440 professional studio headphones are a compromise between professional quality and a personal, affordable home use. It’s the kind of set that an personal home studio recorder might want. Features are optimized for professional work, and specifications like impedance, sensitivity and power control are calibrated for sound equipment like mixing consoles, headphone amplifiers, and mixing consoles.
The SRH440 will do fine for professional studio work, but it is not a top-of-the-line headphone. Some users say that the frequency response is not quite perfectly neutral across the range. Close, but not quite perfect. Then, on the other hand, it is much more affordable than most professional DJ-style headphones. At the time of this review they cost about $100 on Amazon, which is about $25 off the list price.
These headphones originally came out in September of 2009. They are actually quite popular among owners and reviewers. On Amazon they get a score of about 4.3 stars out of 5. A few other headphones from this family will be mentioned later.
What Are The Specifications
These headphones have qualities which make them suitable for professional studio work and also affordable for private home use. SRH440 specifications are a bit different from other headphones in this family. Some of the most important features are the following:
- 10 hertz – 22,000 hertz frequency range
- 44 ohms of impedance at 1,000 hertz
- 105 dB/mW of sensitivity at 1,000 hertz
- 500 mW maximum input power
- 12 dB – 18 dB of sound isolation
- 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) connecting gold-plated jack plug
- 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) screw-in gold-plated adapter
- 9 ft. 10 in. (3 meters) connecting cable
- 9.6 ounces (272 grams) total weight (without cable)
- 2-year manufacturer’s warranty
What Do They Sound Like?
Most owners like the sound quality of these headphones for both professional and personal use. They don’t quite reach the rank of top-of-the-line professional quality, but they’re pretty good for their price range. It is recommended to allow 100 hours of “burn-in” time to experience their sound at its best.
The highest quality headphones for professional use must have a flat, neutral acoustic response throughout their frequency range. None of the bass tones, mid tones, or high treble pitches should be over emphasized. The SRH440 comes kind of close to that, but not with perfection. High treble pitches get a bit more volume than the bass and mid range tones. Users describe the bass as being a bit “punchy,” though it is certainly not overpowering. The highest pitches are described as being a bit “bright.”
The frequency range reaches from 10 hertz to 22,000 hertz. That is more than adequate for any listener since the best human ears can normally only hear bass tones as low as 12 hertz and can only hear treble pitches as high as 20,000 hertz. There is a good reason for having a frequency response that extends beyond the threshold of human hearing on both the high and low ends. All headphones and sound equipment tend to distort the sound at the limits of their range. When the frequency response extends beyond the limits of human hearing, the human ear cannot hear any distortion that there might be beyond the frequency range.
These headphones can pack a lot of power. 500 mW is strong enough to take them off and use the ear cups as though they were small speakers. It is not recommended to play them at full volume since prolonged exposure at that power level can cause hearing damage.
These have a normal impedance of about 44 ohms. That’s optimized for desk top equipment, but its a bit high for a mobile device. So if you intend to use these headphones with an MP3 player, cell phone, iPhone or iPod, you would probably get better results using a mobile headphone adapter. One veriety of the of the SRH440 comes with a mobile headphone adapter included for a little extra price.
Does It Have Good Sound Isolation?
What you don’t hear with these headphones is almost as important as what you do hear. These headphones have a closed back design and soft, soft circumaural ear cushions which completely enclose the ear. That gives you up to about 18 dB of sound isolation from outside noise. It’s not perfect. Some muffled outisde noise does penetrate, but by the time you crank the volume up to about 40% it will drown out any outside sound. Of course, the isolation keeps your sound from bleeding out to annoy those around you.
Unfortunately, sound isolation always come at a price. For a set of headphones to be sound proof, the ear cups must be close backed. Closed back ear cups always make the sound muffled and less natural. You must decide what’s more important to you – natural sound or noise isolation.
What Are The Important Features?
Features may be considerably between the different varieties of the SRH family of headphones. Most (but not all) use a single-side entry, detachable cable. Most (but not all) have circumqural, closed back ear cups. And most (but not all) have 40 mm drivers. The SHR440 model, which we are covering in this review, uses all of the most common features in this family to optimize these headphones for professional and personal use.
These headphones use 40 mm dynamic drivers with neodymium magnets. 40 mm is unusually large for a set of headphones (though the 50 mm drivers of the SRH5500DJ and the SRH750DJ are even larger). Large drivers are necessary to be able to handle low bass tones well without noticible distortion. These large drivers bring the lower tones down to 10 hertz. Since that is below the threshold of normal hearing, the human ear can not hear any harmonic distortion which might occure at that depth. These headphones are supposed to be neutral and balanced across the frequency range, but the drivers do tend to make the bass tones sound a bit strong, though not overwhelming, and the high treble pitches are a bit bright.
These drivers produce an impedance of about 44 ohms. That’s a bit higher than most. The higher impedance helps improve sound quality, especially in the lower bass tones. However, the high impedance also makes it harder for a small, mobile device like a cell phone or an iPod to power it. You might want to use it with a portable headphone amplifier for best results with small, portable listening devices.
The connecting cable on these headphones includes a length of stretching, coiled wire. The cord is about 9ft. 10 in. (3 metres) long when stretched to full lenth. Extra length can be handy, especially for the profession who may have to move around a lot at his job. But the extra length can also be a pain because it can get tangle or snagged on things like the wheels of an office chair. The stretching coil section extends when you need the extra length, and then the coil retracts to take up the slack so that the cable won’t drag on the floor.
The cable attaches to the left ear cup with a 2.5 mm gold-plated bayonet jack plug. The single-entry cable feature adds the convenience of resisting the tangles that come with a double entry cord. To attach, insert the bayonet plug into the socket under the left ear cup and turn clockwise to lock in to place. The other end of the cable attaches to your listening device with a 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) gold-plated, L-shaped jack plug. The gold plating makes a more perfect plug-in connection with less resistance and static.
Should the connecting cable ever be damaged, it can be replaced without the need to throw away the whole set of headphones. The L-shaped connecting jack plug is a standard 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) for most mobile audio. The headphones also come with a 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) gold plated adapter to use with larger desktop equipment. The adapter is different from most others because it is threaded to screw in over the smaller jack plug.
The SRH440 ear cups use a circumaural design, also known as the “over-ear” or “around-ear” design. This, together with the closed-back construction of the ear cups, make the best combination for sound isolation to block outside noises. The draw back is that closed back headphones do not sound as natural as open back ear cups.
Remember that these are passive sound isolating headphones, which are different from a set of sound cancelling headphones. Sound cancelling headphones, like the Bose Quiet Comfort, cancel noise from the outside with an electronic signal. Passive sound isolation blocks outside noise by using sound proofing materials. The electronic signal of sound cancelling headphones tends to effect the quality of the headphone sound.
In some situations a professional will want good noise isolation so that he can hear only the sounds coming from the headphones. In other situations the professional will want to be able to hear what’s going on around him while he is listening to the headphones. These headphones have a rotating ear cup which allows the user to listen with just one ear when necessary.
These Shure headphones are a bit large, but they are still very portable. They have hinges above each ear cup which allows them to be folded into compact unit and then to fit them into a handy pleather carrying pouch.
Is It Comfortable To Wear?
The Shure SRH440 does have several comfort features. The circumaural ear pads are made of soft memory foam. They look bulky, but they only weigh 9.6 ounces (272 grams) without the cable. The headband is padded underneath, and it has 10 size adjustments on each side to fit virtually any sized head.
However, some users say that the comfort features are not very helpful, especially for long listening sessions. Some users say that the foam padding under the headband is not thick enough to protect the head, and that it also heats up eventually. Some also say that their ears get hot after a while. Hot ear cups is a common problem with most or all closed headphones because air can’t enter to circulate. Several users recommend changing the ear cushions of the SRH440 for a pair of the replacement cushions designed for the SRH840 because they are more comfortable and they have better sound isolation.
What Other Varieties Are There In The Shure SRH Headphone Family?
There are several members of the SRH Headpone family. Each has a different price, and each has different features and specifications. If one variety doesn’t serve your purposes, perhaps another one will.
Shure SRH 145
Shure SRH145 Portable Collapsible Headphones is the cheapest member of the Shure SRH headphone family. On Amazon it costs about $40, and it gets 4.1 stars out of 5 stars for customer satisfaction. Another model of this variety is available called the Shure SRH145m+ which costs about $50 and is equipped with a 3-button remote and microphone which is compatible with all Apple iOS devices. Both models of this variety have a frequency range of 25 hertz to 18,000 hertz. Both have an impedance of 34 ohms, which makes them more closely matched to use with a mobile device like an iPhone or an iPod.
Shure SRH240A Headphone
Shure SRH240A Professional Quality Headphones (Black) costs about $58 on Amazon, which is a discount of about $17.00 off the list price. It earns a score of about 3.9 stars out of 5 for customer satisfaction. This veriety has dual-entry cord, which means that the cable connects to each ear cup. The connecting cable is a 6 ft. 8 in. straight cord. It is also a closed-back, over-ear design which gives some sound isolation. It has 32 ohms of impedance, and it has a frequency range of 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz. Sensitivity is 107 dB/mW.
Shure SRH 550 DJ
Shure SRH550DJ Professional Quality DJ Headphones (Smokey Grey) costs about $100 on Amazon. That’s a discount of about $26 dollars off the list price. These headphones earn a score of 3.9 stars out of 5 for customer satisfaction. It has a closed-back, supra-aural design, so that the ear cups rest on top of the ears. 50 mm dynamic neodymium magnet drivers produce a tremendous 3,000 mW of input power (be careful of your hearing!) with an impedance of just 32 ohms. The headband is adjustable and collapsible for easy portability and storage. It uses a double entry straight cord which is about 6 ft. 10 in long. The frequency range reaches from 5 hertz to 22,000 hertz. Bass tones are enhanced. This model is optimized for DJ mixing as well as personal use.
Shure SRH750DJ Professional Quality DJ Headphones (Gold) on Amazon costs about $137, which is a discount of about $13 off the list price. It earns a score of about 3.8 stars out of 5 for customer satisfaction. It comes with an extra pair of ear cup cushions. These headphones have closed-back, circumaural ear cups for noise isolation. They have an exceptionally wide frequency range of 5 hertz to 30,000 hertz. They use a 50 mm dynamic, neodymium magnet driver which deliver a tremendous 3,000 mW of input power (be careful of your hearing!) with only 32 ohms of impedance. They are just a bit lighter that the SRH440 at about 9 ounces, and they use the same 9 ft. 10 in. (3 metre) connecting cable.
Shure Headphones SRH840
Shure SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones (Black) sell on Amazon for about $200, which is a discount of about $50 off the list price, and reviewers give them a grade of 4.6 stars out of 5. These use the smaller 40 mm dynamic neodymium magnet drivers which have a maximum input power of 1000 mW, which is plenty strong (about twice the power of the SRH440). They also have noise isolation with closed-back, circumaural ear cups. The frequency range reaches from 5 hertz to 25,000 hertz. Like the SRH440, these have an impedance of 44 ohms, so if you use them with a mobile listening device, results may be better with a portable headphone amplifier.
Shure SRH940 Professional Reference Headphones (Silver) get a score of about 3.9 stars out of 5 by reviewers, and they cost about $300 on Amazon, which is a discount of about $76 off of the list price. This variety comes with two replaceable cables: a 9 ft. 10 in. (3 metre) coiled stretching cable, and an 8 ft. 3 in. straight cable. All features are optimized for professional use. A hard carrying case is provided for storage and for travel. It weighs about 11.7 ounces (332 grams), which is little bit heavier than the SRH440. Ear cups are also circumaural and closed-back for good noise isolation. 40 mm dynamic neodymium magnet drivers produce a frequency range of 5 hertz to 30,000 with a maximum input power of 1,000 mW. Impedance is just a bit lower at 42 Ohms.
Shure SRH 1440
Shure SRH1440 Professional Open Back Headphones (Black) costs about $300 on Amazon (a discount of about $200 off the list price), and it earns a score of about 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon. The main difference between this and the other headphones in the SRH family is that it uses open back ear cups instead of closed back. Open back headphones have no noise isolation, but they do have a much more natural sound. These also use a dual entry, detachable cable, unlike most of the others which have a single entry connecting cord. They also use the 40mm dynamic neodymium magnet drivers which give them a frequency range of 15 hertz to 27,000 hertz at a maximum input power of 1,000 mW with an impedance of 37 ohms.
Shure SRH1840 Professional Open Back Headphones (Black) is Shure’s top-of-the-line headphone for professional use. On Amazon you can buy it for about $500 ( a discount of $125 off the list price), and it earns a score of 4.7 stars out of 5 for customer satisfaction. It is also an open-back, circumaural headphone, so it gets more natural sound, but it has no noise isolation. It also uses 40 MM neodymium drivers which give it a frequency range of 10 hertz to 30,000 hertz at an impedance of 65 ohms with a maximum input power of 1,000 mW. It is most suitable for desktop or studio equipment. The high impedance produces a much clearer sound, but you would need a good portable headphone amplifier if you use it with a mobile listening device.
What Do The Reviewers Say?
It is remarkable how different reviews about this product can be. Some reviewers praise it for the same features and qualities that others condemn it for. Sometimes that’s because different users were expecting different things.
Most users and owners like the Shure SRH440 Headphones. They get a score of about 4.3 stars out of 5 on Amazon. But some people have had problems with it. This site recommends that you buy this product from Amazon so that, in case you have any problems right away, you can take advantage of the Amazon 30 day return policy. Sometimes buying from other sites or from local stores can stick the user with a re-stocking fee if he returns the product. Whatever you do, make sure you keep the receipts and the box and all of its contents, and make sure that you register your purchase with the Shure company as soon as you receive your headphones, just in case you need to return them on the 2-year warranty.
The attribute that the SRH440 is most often praised for is the sound quality. Since these are advertized as professional studio headphones, they are expected to provide balanced sound throughout the frequency range. Most who comment on the sound quality say that the highs, mids, and lows are well balanced. To some the bass tones seem to have a bit more power, but nobody says that the bass is overpowering. Some users say that they like sound of these headphones right out of the box, but some say that the sound gets to be its best after about 100 hours of burn in time. Since the impedance is 44 ohms, which is a bit high for mobile devices like iPhones and iPods, some agree that they sound even better with a mobile headphone amplifier.
Another matter that is mentioned in positive reviews is the relation between price and quality. These do not have the same quality as some of the more expensive, top-of-the-line audiophile headphones. However, many positive reviews agree that the SRH440 are the best quality of closed-back, circumaural, noise isolating headphones that you can buy for about $100.
Another feature commonly mentioned in positive reviews is the removable, locking cable which doesn’t pull out accidentally when it catches on something, and it can be replaced if it gets damaged.
Also mentioned in positive reviews are the sound isolation and the comfort. Though not all agree, most say that the headphones are quite comfortable, but the closed-back ear cups can get hot after a while. The sound isolation is not perfect, but plenty good enough for normal use. Several say that both comfort and sound isolation can be improved by replacing the SRH440 ear pads with a set of SRH840 replacement ear pads.
Not everyone agrees that the sound quality of these headphones is so great. Listeners who like an extra strong bass are disappointed with these headphones. Also, some complain that the highest pitches are too strong and “bright.”
Probably the biggest complaint is about the durability. Some complain that they have received defective units which have broken after normal use. Most who complain about breaking say that the weak point where they fracture seems to be on or near the ear cup hinge on either side.
Not everyone agrees that these headphones are comfortable. People seem to feel things differently. Some say that the ear pads are uncomfortable because they are shallow. Some say that the headband is too tight and puts too much pressure on their head. And others say that padding under the headband is too thin, so after a while it hurts the top of their heads.