The Shure SRH-940 compares favorably to the Sennheiser HD-800, which costs five times as much on average as the SRH-940. The differences between the SRH-940 and the HD-800 are subtle at most over the entire spectrum. The HD-800 has a very slight edge in clarity of upper harmonics, and I don’t know if that’s due to superior driver design and manufacture, or whether it could be due to the placement of the larger HD-800 drivers in their large earcups and the sense of extra spaciousness which that creates. Either way it’s not a difference that jumps out at me when switching between the two (each connected to an iPod Touch latest model playing the same tracks, and with the volumes set so they sound equally loud on most tracks) – you have to listen for the difference.

The bass sounds the same to me with each headphone, and I compared them closely with tracks that have heavy, medium, and light bass. Besides the tracks listed below, bass-centric tracks include Donald Fagen – Morph The Cat, Afro-Celt Sound System – Inion Daughter, Medieval Babes – Isabella, and Pink Floyd – Speak To Me.

The midrange differences are also subtle, with the HD-800 sounding slightly more open or airy, but again that may be due to the ambience the HD-800 adds by projecting its sound into those large earcups. My sense of the difference in balance is that the SRH-940 is up approximately 1 to 2 db compared to the HD-800 around 300 to 600 hz (my guess), and down about the same amount around 3 to 7 khz.

Many of the SRH-940 reviews I’ve read talk about it being “analytical”, “bright”, or even sibilant on the high end. It doesn’t sound that way to me. As best I remember the sound of the Sennheiser HD-600 and HD-650 (which I no longer have), the SRH-940 is very similar, very smooth and more-or-less neutral sounding, which may sound bland to people who expect more “punch” or other such things that grab your attention. If you have well-recorded music tracks with concussive bass, punchy mids, sparkly highs or other such qualities in them, the SRH-940 will reproduce those with their proper flavor and proportion. You won’t miss anything.

Shure SRH-940

Shure SRH-940

Caveats: 1) Some of my music tracks have moments of excessive brightness or sibilance with the SRH-940, so rather than try to guess whether it’s the headphones or the music, I rely on comparisons to other headphones that I have to tell me whether the SRH-940 is worse, better, or the same. 2) My experience using the iPod Touch -vs- using various headphone amps is that the amps make a very subtle difference in the sound. People who report large differences are very likely experiencing impedance or phase problems due to any number of factors. If you use a headphone amp or something similar, test it first or make sure you can return it (or the headphones) if it doesn’t work out.

The only other headphone I compared the SRH-940 to (a very brief listen) is 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.

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.

Shure Cup

Shure Cup

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.

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).


64 Responses

  1. Agooh

    Hd 800 is lean, boring, harsh, no emotional .
    dead cell of the headphone world
    I won’t buy for 100$

    • nasra

      When you do, it’ll probably in the condition as you described, so yeah, you’re not wrong.. :)

    • headfonics

      Well I think Dale already commented below his hindsight remarks and this review was done a few years ago so its water under the bridge now.

      nice email address by the way.

      • headfonics

        Now as in 2 years ago, – check the review date and Dale is not a mod on this site, never has been – perhaps you are confusing us with another site?

      • Sukk Meikok

        What hindsight remarks? Dale the mod just tries to discredit other sights cause they think his review is bogus! Nice try Dale! Until Dale admits he was wrong, there ain’t no water under the bridge.

        You gonna drive down to Pittsburgh to buy some BBC speakers Dale?


      lol: With “an iPod Touch” as the source/amp, nothing more is left to say.


  2. Dale Thorn

    It now admit I was horribly wrong about this review. The Sennheiser 880 kills anything from Shure. Forgive me for being stupid…

  3. Brycon Slaughter Casey

    Sorry but i can’t agree with this review. These are quite bad as far as headphones go and $300 is way over priced. Maybe $150 is more fair. Even my m50s outperform these and my shure srh840 blows them out of the way. Don’t get me started on how my $99 Alessandro ms1 also outperforms these.

  4. Amclaussen

    I have been using some Shure products since longer than most people… My first ones were phono pickups as old as the M44 and M55 back in the 70’s (and I still use a well cared V-15 Type IV in my turntable); and more recently, their in-ear monitors, the first one were a pair of E-1’s, which were a revelation at their time.  When the E-1’s cable started to get intermittent after some 6 years of frequent use, I bought the 535’s and found them to be good, but not outstanding, even with custom made ear molds.  I was listening with headphones from Sennheiser (HD-280 pro) and wanted to upgrade after several years, and was contemplating the Shure 840 when they announced the 940’s…  Those were delivered to me three months ago, and I found them very detailed, full and dynamic. Albeit, only good to excellent recordings were more enjoyable than with previous headphones, since those “barely” good recordings that were “acceptable”, tend to sound slightly worse: the 940’s are no doubt, a true “monitor” headphones in the strictest way!…
    Or at least I though that. But two weeks ago, I visited a local Store that sell exclusively Sennheisers, and saw and listened to a Lehmannaudio Black Cube Linear dedicated headphone amplifier… MAN!!!, the Shures sound signature literaly exploded in a colorful, really detailed and beautifully integrated music projection!  Previously I had a hint  about the 940’s requiring some amplification, since results when listening to portable devices without a headphone amplifier suggested something was not working fully well.
    The lady at “Mundo-Sennheiser” store was kind enought to let me listen at lenght both my Shure 940’s and their Sennheiser HD-800 demo unit, both with my newly bought Lehmannaudio.  Results as follows:
    1) The price gap between the SRH-940 and the HD-800 is $299.00 UDS to $1,570.00 USD at my local store, that is about 5 1/4 times!… but the actual sound is surprisingly close between them (a shocking surprise, no doubt).
    2) While the HD-800 undoubtely has (slightly) more spacious sound stage, most other aspects are quite close between the two designs (the surprise is still there).
    3) Tonal balance is quite similar, so that just concentrating on the music itself, the differences tend to vanish after a few seconds of listening.  One has to really try to focus on a very specific aspect, like the impact of a certain piano chord attack, repeatedly listening to the same exact passage, in order to be able to recognize the small differences.
    4) Nobody would ignore the obvious construction materials quality differences, since the Sennheiser HD-800 is a true example in a no-cost cutting materials selection engineering exercise; but the thing still is: How did Shure  to get such a good result by using more conventional materials?  Undeniably, Shure engineers extracted much more performance from their materials selection, or, to say it in other words, the results obtained by Sennheiser with the very best materials at their disposal were, hmmm… very good, but not as magical as the results obtained by the Shure team, at least when comparing them in a cost-to-benefit analysis.
    5) While nobody could validly claim that the Shure 940’s are exactly in the same league as the Sennheiser HD-800’s, the thing is that the 940’s still performs surprinsingly close to them in most respects. The Shures simply DON’T sound like $300… more like at least two to three times more!
    6) Does it make sense to spend as much as $720 USD for a Lehmannaudio BCL amp to be used with a less than $300 USD phones? the answer is a resounding YES!, since this high quality amplifier could be kept to be used later on, as newer and (hopefully better) headphones arrive.  In the meantime, I’m quite happy (to put it mildly) as how my set-up sounds.  The performance of the Shure SRH-940 with the Lehmannaudio BCL amp is so synergistic, that even the owner of the store that sold me the amp was literally shocked when he listened to the combo against its Sennheiser reference HD-800, as he was uncappable of understanding how the hell an american product (made in China), could sound so good and so close to his reference!  He repeated the comparison and listened and re-listaned several times, and even went to use his own recordings in order to realize that he wasn’t having a bad dream (He only sells Sennheiser products. BTW, He tried other mid-price Sennheisers, and quickly found they were no match for the Shure…).
    Recordings used to compare both phones: a) Dave Grusin: Discovered Again Plus CD and Original Direct-to-Disc LP. b) Rosemary Clooney: Brazil, HDCD, c) Arne Domnerus: Jazz At The Pawnshop HDCD, d) Ryuichi Sakamoto: Discord HDCD, e) Getz/Gilberto Remastered CD, f) Several Chesky 128x CD’s., g) some live recordings made with my EDIROL R09HR at 24 bit-96KHz, first generation takes.


      Shure vs. HD-800 -hard to compare? How can that be ?


      How is it that the Hifiman 400S (at half the price) is far more revealing, nuanced and articulate than the way over-fantasized Sennheiser HD-800? In fact, realizing the serious shortcomings (acoustic merit) prompted the HD-800 (S) -while nearly doubling the price in the process.
      Put another way, Hifiman’s HD-400i handily outperforms the HD-800 (in any performance measure) but also including fit & comfort categories.
      I haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate the 800S, nor am I interested in rushing out to discover that which I know can be (likely is) equaled by the 400i and seriously outperforming the 800S by the difference in price given to a headphone amplifier and cabling for the Hifiman 400i’s.

      I could be wrong. I’ll place my bets however.


  5. D_t_h_o_r_n

    Well, we all know the big news, that early 2012 will see Shure’s upgrade to the 940 – the new 1840. We don’t know anything about the sound of course, but one ominous sign is the vetting of the 1840 with persons who were very down on the 940, which is an excellent headphone, especially for the price. I’m writing this in the hope that someone at Shure reads it and double-checks themself on “improvements” to the 940’s sound. The charges that the 940 had a “hole” in the midbass or was too bright or suitable mainly for “girlie” listening would certainly cause concern at Shure HQ, but I hope Shure can see through that and realize that to win long-term at this, they need to have a better headphone, not just “better” colorations. Two miracles of invention within six months of each other (the 940 and 1840) might be too much to expect from a relatively small player in the headphone world, but this is also a critical moment for Shure – step up a notch with another winner in actual sound quality, or go the way of so many others with just another pricy but colored headphone.

  6. D_t_h_o_r_n

    A first-ever event happened today – a user at the Big headphone site was able to test a bass track for the first time, comparing the HD-800 and SRH-940. It sounded the same, based on the test result. I also tried that and got the same result. The particular left-right sounds that the user suggested to listen for were not in the deep bass however – mid bass maybe. I would have thought there would be some difference in the bass range, but maybe more tests are needed to find a difference.

  7. D_t_h_o_r_n

    I think the comments following the review contain a comprehensive iteration of all the different conditions, with and without amps. If not, check the Amazon review where the comments have better density. Although the iPod Touch does not have enough power to drive the HD-800 to full volume with *all* of my tracks, I have not found a single instance where the HD-800 is suffering any obvious distortions or frequency response aberrations etc. with the iPod Touch. I would like to point out also that one user on headfi who requested test examples many times (and who was harshly criticized by the better-known members for doing so) was able to get test examples from two of the less-well-known users there, and those examples clearly demonstrated: 1) That the Sennheiser’s clear advantage over the Shure was in clarity or resolution of some upper harmonics, and: 2) That this advantage was equally clear whether tested on the iPod Touch or a desktop amp, or even a PC or Macbook sound card. So I am ready and willing to take suggestions for any sort of comparisons between these headphones, especially in areas of bass response, since I doubt that we will find a significant difference with actual music examples, other than what I’ve noted.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Majo – do read the comments below also regarding amping where numerous tests have been done – thanks!

  8. D_t_h_o_r_n

    Yesterday I downloaded another old Beatles track, “And I Love Her”. This is another song that will demonstrate how good music can sound on the Shure 940. The instruments sound about as close to acoustic as I can imagine, the soundstage is amazing and real, and the voices (male voices, hint hint) sound like real life.

  9. D_t_h_o_r_n

    I just had an interesting experience.  I just got 3 Beatles tracks I’ve already had – Things We Said Today, I’ll Be Back, and I’ll Follow The Sun.  But these newer ones are in stereo, and what amazing sound quality they have.  But what really surprised me was playing them from the desktop with the Shure 940.  The soundstage is huge, and not gimmicky either.  Many stereo tracks from the early to mid-1960’s have bad stereo or “enhanced” stereo that fakes the soundstage – not these 3 tracks.  The overall sound quality – balance, soundstage, detail, lack of distortion – demonstrates the amazing quality of the 940 headphone in a way that few other tracks I have does.  If you have any doubts about how well the 940 can perform with good quality recordings, these 3 will convince you beyond any doubt.  And I should add to this – if you want the definitive demo of where the desktop amp makes a difference compared to playing from an iPod Touch, these tracks will illustrate that advantage better than most.  The difference is subtle when you’re not accustomed to using the desktop amp a lot, but when you are, the iPod sounds somewhat “flat” by comparison, for lack of a better term.  It’s as though the “air” produced by the ultra high frequencies is missing.  That’s an exaggeration, but noticeable in extended listening.  This does not invalidate the iPod for comparing headphones of course, since you’d get the same results either way, unless one of the headphones had a 40 db per octave drop above 12 khz, which should be obvious outside of any comparisons.

  10. D_t_h_o_r_n

    I appreciate A.E.’s comments, but the problem of course is that the full spectrum of music and sound that these headphones cover is very complex, and finding a clear winner requires a lot of testing when the two headphones sound so similar. In the most recent discussions on the “big” forum previously noted, one member was able to obtain two test results comparing the high end of the 800 and 940, but despite monumental efforts on his or her part, no suggestions for comparing the bass made it through all of that rhetoric. So until someone can suggest a few specific tests for me to perform to compare the bass of the 800 and 940, we have nothing to go on except my original review here.

    • D_t_h_o_r_n

      I did some further review of the opinions at the “big” site, and I see that some of the prominent members are characterizing the Shure 940 as a “girlie” headphone, most suitable for reproducing female vocals. As someone with 37 years of experience in music, high fidelity, and headphone listening, I want to assure everyone reading this that the 940 reproduces male vocals just as vigorously as it does female voices. The Shure 940 is a manly headphone that even Ricardo Montalban would be proud to wear. (RIP Ricardo Montalban.)

  11. Anonymous

    I think if you read the comments you will find he did indeed test it out of an amp.

  12. A.E.

    The SRH-940 is a nice headphone, and if you’re going to run it out of the Ipod then by all means it’ll equal or surpass the HD-800 which was meant to be driven out devices with much larger headroom.  Test these same two headphones with much better accompanying equipment and the HD-800 will blow the SRH-940 away.

    • D_t_h_o_r_n

      The Shure bass and mids are so good you definitely won’t beat that with the Beyers. The other thing, that strong treble on the 940 that has gotten some criticism, is easy to adjust with padding anyone can do. The Beyer limitations would not fix that easy.

      • Donunus

        The Beyers are brighter and have more recessed mids too by the way. Especially the dt990, which is what one headfier calls the rednecked dt880 LOL

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        I sympathize with a lot of people who buy one headphone and they’re disappointed, then they hear about another one or maybe read a review, and they buy that one and are disappointed again. I could never be so good at this to be able to describe a headphone so well that nobody would get it wrong – it’s just too complicated. But I would suggest when someone does have a problem, try to mod the thing anyway you can (and when it’s brightness the easy mod is to just add some cloth or foam in the earcups), instead of just buying a new one hoping for the best.

      • Donunus

        Most of the headphones on my headfi and headphiles profile by the way have been cans I was disappointed with. Only a select few like the dt150 with velours, hd600s, ad900s, and a few others have had pretty good reviews from me :)

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        There’s a discussion now at headfi, on Malveaux’s review I believe, where some of us are talking about absolutes like frequency response, distortion, transparency and so on, and some of us are talking about direct comparisons. A lot of people out there are not in a position to compare different headphones to see what the differences are, so they rely on reviews to fill in some of the blanks. In my case, having made many mistakes in the past, I want to help people get the essential information they need to know to make a purchase, especially for people who aren’t in a position to return their purchases. That affects a lot of people even though you might think it’s always easy to return items. So while I respect the opinions of the expert users at these review sites, I see a more important need to focus on the essentials and not wander off into esoteric spaces like “Headphone ‘x’ has a sweet, liquid-like sound that reminds me of water running in a stream in upstate Wyoming” or something like that. If I can compare a headphone to a couple of known references, both higher and lower in price, and add just enough additional text to identify specific important differences, then I think the prospective buyers would find that useful and save them from expensive mistakes. Even the best information doesn’t cover every possible base, but if I get close enough, and a new purchaser finds their new headphone isn’t exactly as expected, they should be able to tweak it to get what they need.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        We got a little bit closer today at the world’s biggest (but not the best) headphone site.  Today saw more than 50 postings on one Shure 940 thread alone.  There were many statements to the effect that “The 940 sounds nothing like a Senn 800”, so one intrepid member asked for examples of tracks to purchase then and there to compare with, using examples of what to listen for provided by the skeptics.  And there were no replies that addressed that request, even though it was repeated a couple of times.

      • Otto

        I listened to tje Shures and also to the Bose AE2 headphones, which are considerably cheaper. On some songs I found the Shures sound a bit or much better. But on most songs I tried I heard no significant differencez.
        A pro for the BOSE earcups are that they are a bit smaller, prettier and 40% cheaper.

        Did you by any chance compare those two headphones?

        Thnx in advance for your answer.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        I did not try the Bose AE2, but I did try the Bose QC15, and with a little bit of EQ I found it to sound very good, comparable to the Shure 940 even. I used to own a Bose QC2 and really liked the midrange especially, better than most headphones I’ve listened to. So if the AE2 sounds much different than the QC15, I would not know, but if it were tuneable to sound similar, that would be very interesting. I like the idea of saving the extra money when possible.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        Today I got an extended listen to the AE2i (with Apple controls) at the Apple store. The bass was very, very powerful, so I used bass reducer to compensate, and the bass was still strong with that EQ setting. The overall sound then was pretty good, from high to low. The store is kinda noisy, so I can’t be sure I heard everything perfectly, but I didn’t hear any problems like peaks and dips, or sibilant problems and I tested with several of my best test songs. So just with that 20-minute listen, I would judge the AE2 to have good potential sound, in my case using some bass reduction.

      • zorro

        i just listed yesterday to th Shure AE2s. I bought afterall the Shure 940s. Actually, it’s not an easy decision.
        – The Bose’s bass sounds really powerfull, massive, warm, smooth. You definitely wont experience that on the Shure.
        – the bose’s mids/hihgs sounds OK. it’s good for causual music listening, not much for critical music listening or if you like details. here the Bose is really just an average. Shure here is where shines… you cant compare the two in this range – Shure here is hihg-league, where you hear any details , renders amazingly precisely and fast, and sound world-class.
        – the bose is cheaper and absolutely good for travel!

        i was looking for home listening mainly and with a (close)-to world class sound. from this point of view the Shure 940 qualifies, why the Bose definitely not.

        if you are looking for a nice, well-built, ‘goosbumps making’ headphones, strong bass , yet with no precise or detailed/analytical sound, the Bose is a pretty solid choice. (better than Senn hd650, 800 ,etc)

      • dalethorn

        My take on the Bose is that it’s made of extremely cheap materials, then the physical headphone is polished up to have a quality look, and the sound is polished up with some kind of EQ to make it sound like a quality headphone (almost).

  13. Donunus

    Here are my impressions of these cans in chronological order since I got them early today…

    Today at 10:50:51 AM GMT +8

    Oh Lord! The shures are awesome! They do have senn mids! The closest sounding headphone to these I’ve heard are hd600s (I haven’t heard the 800s). They are brighter and slightly less warm and bassy but its basically like a slightly eq’d hd600! I really want one now. They really sound like an open headphone in fact if there were such a thing as an hd700, these would be it! I know I said that the dt48 has a little of the senn mids but the dryness/attack factor is still beyer. These shures however have a sennheiserlike signature from top to bottom. I can understand the k701 comparison but that only goes so far as top to bottom balance in bass to treble volume and thats it. These are not plasticky like the k701s… These sound organic and I hear no beyer dt880/dt990 like sharp peak in the highs either. The brightness here is balanced in the entire region its unbelievable. I still slightly prefer the hd600 to these at the moment but I’m not too confident it will stay that way for long. Heck I’m buying a pair.

    Today at 10:52:33 AM

    Oh by the way, they were nice out of the sansa clip but they are awesome out of the fiio e7/e9. The fiios are really smooth and organic sounding with them. Dale, if your amp doesn’t sound good with these then I tell ya, you have to buy the fiio e7/e9 combo because they are a great match with these at low gain!!!

    Today at 11:31:18 AM

    Also, like the hd600 these are detailed enough to make me have to use J River Media Center instead of foobar. JRiver is just smoother, airier, and less aggressive and I feel to it to be more accurate sounding than foobar. With JRiver/ASIO to the E7/E9 via Belkin gold USB cables, the sound of the shure 940 is organic, smooth, and detailed without being edgy or clinical. Only in a direct comparison to the hd600 do they become slightly bright sounding but it only takes a minute to adjust because of their similar signature. Lets just say these might sound closer to the hd600 than the hd650 to its own brother.

    Today at 11:44:33 AM

    They don’t scale as much powerwise since they are already punchy out of a portable but the sound is detailed enough to not want any dirt added from any amp. Good thing the e7/e9 is smooth and grain free with the shures like they are with the hd600s. Oh and like Dale said, these have great bass extension. once you get past the slightly lean balance or when i use it with my pioneer integrated amp, the low bass is powerful! I tried it with the bass equalizer circuit of the pioneer and its like i added a sub without ruining anything from the upper bass and up. Beautiful!!! Oh, forgot to also mention that comfort is top notch. Maybe slightly loose on the head which I know a lot of people will like. the hd600s definitely have a bit more of a vice grip.

    Today at 11:53:03 AM

    The shure srh940 when driven by my integrated amp with the tone defeat button engaged becomes even more similar sounding to the hd600 out of the e7/e9. In fact, even with a slight degradation in laser sharp precision out of the pioneer/e7 dac combo, I like how the shures sound with this more than the hd600s out of the e7/e9 with lots of songs I am playing now

    Today at 11:59:36 AM

    With New Wave/electronic post punk type of stuff like Bad lieutenant though where mastering is a little bright and thin, The extra warmth that the hd600s give male vocals can’t be touched by the shure  Chick Corea was better on the shures though. These cans have the balls to want to dethrone my hd600 hehehe Bad SHURE BAD! I’m not Kidding, these cans are pure awesomeness!!! Dale is 100% right in getting excited over these. I don’t think Ive ever been this excited over a closed headphone as much. and yah, I like these more than the dt48e… And the wretched he-6 against these? Are you kidding me??? hehehe

    Today at 12:03:13 PM

    In a direct comparison with the hd600s with the music that gets the weaknesses of the shures out, they do have an ever so slightly closed headphone sound but they are at least 50% less than any other headphone I have heard before this.

    Today at 12:13:07 PM

    I think that these shures are like a perfect combination of my beloved denon d1001 sound blended with meatier sennheiser mids. This is what I wanted the d1ks to sound like when driving them with the udac but they never quite got there. These shures are it! 

    There is still an elegance to the hd600 sound that the shure srh940 can’t quite give me but what headphone can? I have yet to hear it. The hd650 gives me that magic that I have with the hd600s but sort of overdoes it too.

    Today at 12:18:06 PM

    Switched back to the hd600 with the e7/e9 combo from the shure/pioneer with bass eq and the senn is now the bass light one LOL. Warmth of the lower mids is still more lifelike on the senns for me though. The shures shine more from the midrange to the highs but like I said, the differences aren’t as big as people would think. 

    NOTE: Low bass is better on the shure I feel once it is slightly boosted on the pioneer. The senns don’t do the low bass as clean when the bass eq is engaged on that amp.

    Today at 12:39:37 PM

    I haven’t analyzed the soundstage much but they are probably one of the things that make them sound so similar to the hd600s. The soundstage of the two are very similar IMO out of my amps. The fiio I’m using is the e7/e9 combo (e7 as pure dac and e9 as the amp). I’ll try it with the e7 straight right now. I suspect this to be good since the e7 as a portable amp sounds a little dark and may be a good match.

    Today at 12:49:27 PM

    Okay this was quick… Forget about the e7 as a dac/amp unit for the shures when used alone. They sound washed out and lacking substance. The e7/e9 combo is a must as a minimum here. Maybe a warm amp with punch and an organic/analog sounding dac like the hrt music streamer could be a great match with these cans if one wants perfection in the lower price points. I also have a feeling that the Burson ha-160D would match nicely with these. The price matching is a little overkill though.

    … To those who were wondering about the shure srh940 vs the old 840… Forget the 840 because it is a low-fi toy compared to these for me.

    Today at 12:59:37 PM

    In a direct switch, the hd600s midbass annoys me a little coming from the shure. Coming from the senns, the shures also bother me with some overall brightness so neither of them are perfect to me yet but both of them are in my range of acceptable long term listening candidates. I’m sure that if a perfectly natural headphone came along, coming from any other headphone won’t reveal anything bad about them. Its just like listening to any headphone reproduce drums and taking it off to compare it to a drummer playing drums 10 feet away. There is just no contest there.

    Today at 01:06:00 PM

    I just analyzed the soundstage of the shure and they are more even than the hd600s to me. The senns are a little wider but less filled in the mid-left and mid-right sections.

    Today at 01:22:05 PM

    When placement on the head is just right where the earcups don’t come loose enough, the shures are putting the smack down on the hd600s. This is now officially my favorite headphone!

    Today at 01:35:24 PM

    For reference type material the shures beat the senns for me. With my new wave music, the senns can’t be beat  I’m keeping the senns there is no question about it but the shures are also a “must buy”

    Today at 01:42:47 PM

    I will try putting in the senn foams in them. As for now I am enjoying the mids too much. It is in the center around 1khz where these shures are better than the hd600s. The senns seem recessed in comparison in that area. Going lower in the mids the senn become warmer.

    Today at 02:22:32 PM

    ahh the senn foams make the shures treble ordinary making me focus on the lack of bass heft. It is not good. Because of this experiment, I got to hear the defoamed hd600 for the first time with the fiio and boy is it good! Now the hd600 remains King in my house LOL

    Today at 02:48:56 PM

    I stuffed the senn foams behind the shure pads underneath the crease where the pads are installed. I prefer them stock. Maybe a different material will work but its not much of an issue for me because the e7/e9 combo is pretty smooth. less bright than the ipod touch.

    The senn foams are an exact fit by the way.

    Today at 06:24:28 PM

    Okay now after all that side by side comparison for checking out the differences between the Shures and the hd600s, I rested a bit then did some long term listening of the cans one by one. I found out that the Shures can’t beat the Senns in the long haul when I want something with good detail combined with long term listening pleasure. The hd600 is just a better allrounder IMO. In fact the senns are the best headphone I’ve heard regardless of price when it comes to combining detail and long term listening pleasure. The defoaming didn’t even last long. It was great in making the playing field even in comparing the shures vs the senns but wasn’t for my long term pleasure in the end. It’s the all stock hd600 for the win. I think I better bring on the he500 and the lcd2 in for competition as an allrounder here. I think the HD600s (newer production) should be candidate for best headphone of all time. I know I’m a fanboy but I can’t help it if my ears and brain have this much fun and tell me it is so 

    • D_t_h_o_r_n

      Instead of de-foaming the 600 or adding foam to the 940, both of which would make large changes in the highs and degrade the sound, I would like to see what the difference is when you put oval cloth strips of varying thickness into the 940’s earcups. I think that would make for a much better comparison, damping the 940’s brightness just slightly to get closer to the 600’s signature.

  14. Chevon James

    thank you “dalethrone” and in your opinion do the srh940’s have 
    1. good instrument separation
    2. are they bass shy
    3. how are the mids

    • Anonymous

      1. Oddly enough, I didn’t find the instrument separation to be as good as the HD-800 – it’s close, but not the same.  I don’t know why – it might be the HD-800’s soundstage or flatter highs that give it an edge, but they are close.  For $300 USD the separation with the 940 is really super.

      2. I found the bass of the 940 to be the most exact comparison to the HD-800 – not bass shy certainly, but based on the tracks you throw at them, if you have a large enough number of tracks that tend to sound thin with the HD-800 or Grado 325 and so on, they will sound thin with the 940.  Maybe I can qualify this better this way: My genres, approx. no. of tracks in each, and comments for each genre:

      Lounge, 50, bass sounds good on average.
      Beatles remasters, 10, bass sounds very good on average.
      Rolling Stones remasters, 50, bass is highly variable – the oldest tracks are usually the best.
      Late 60’s and early 70’s progressive, 100, bass highly variable, the later tracks are the best such as Pink Floyd DSOTM and ELP etc.  And the best are very, very good.
      Early 70’s glam, 25, bass variable – usually not that good.
      Punk, 25, bass usually not that good.
      Disco, 50, bass is usually very good.
      Early-mid 80’s new wave, 100, bass variable, but most are not that great.
      Riot Grrrl, forget about it.
      Jazz, 100, excellent bass on average.
      Classics, 100, excellent bass on average.
      Metal, Hip-Hop, 20, usually excellent bass.

      3. I would make the same general comment about the mids as about the instrument separation.  Good mids really need excellent reproduction of the upper harmonics, to give proper tone color to voices and instruments.  I find that the HD-800 has a tiny edge, exactly how tiny is hard to describe.  The overall mids sound is the same, and generally the quality is the same, but the upper harmonics seem to come through a tiny bit better on the HD-800.  I personally think the 940 is by far the better bargain, but you should hear the HD-800 or something as good for that tiny bit of extra whatever it is.

      Two test examples I can recommend to compare the HD-800 or other top-end headphones to the 940:

      1. The Who, Who’s Next, Bargain: 54 to 56 seconds into the song, where the voice trails off with “best I ever had” – the word ‘had’ gets a slight echo or something when trailing off, and it’s not really a tone decay issue I don’t think – it’s something deliberate in the engineering.  But the gradual fade-out of that word gives you a big window into the upper voice harmonics (even thought the recording isn’t the best quality on the CD’s that are available).

      2. Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman, Morning Has Broken: Where the guitars come in at about 14 seconds into the song, the guitar string sound and harmonics are subtle, but the HD-800 has a slight edge there.  Is it more “real” or more pumped up?  I don’t know, but it’s a good test, especially when comparing other lesser headphones.  The bass is also subtle there, but that’s also a good comparison test.  And the mids as well.  This is probably the best track I have for comparing all-around sound quality.

      • Anonymous

        One additional thought: Assuming Shure hasn’t created the perfect headphone here, I would venture that they’re pushed the state of the art for mid-priced closed ‘phones closer to that ideal than ever before.  So for people who find them just slightly too bright in the very high end on many of their music tracks, there may be a simple solution that needs some experimenters to work out.  I tried a very simple adjustment by cutting out oval sections from a thin paper towel and pressing those into the earcups over top of the existing fabric that covers the drivers.  It damped the extreme highs a tiny amount but didn’t affect anything else that I could tell in my short listen.  Using different types of cloth of various thicknesses over top of the existing fabric may produce better or more satisfactory results.  It’s something anyone can do, the cloth strips fit easily and don’t fall out or move around, and there is no alteration to the headphone – you just pull them out when you want to.  I think that would work better in some cases at least than applying EQ, unless you have a very good equalizer.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        And yet another: I just read the latest hundred posts regarding the SRH-940 on the biggest (and most respected?) headphone site, where I learned that:

        Reviews of the 940 I wrote and posted myself are thought to be SPAM, even though they are on well-known and respected sites and have my name clearly indicated on them.

        Bass on the 940 is considered to be “light” and not comparable to the HD-800, although not one of those people did a direct comparison of the two headphones themselves.

        A better review of the 940 would not make a direct comparison to the HD-800, since the HD-800 is in a different class.

        A much better review would describe the sound qualities at great length with references that are listening impressions only, not direct comparisons.

        I don’t know about all of that, ladies and gentlemen. I think these experts who have thousands of posts each next to their names on such a prestigious site ought to consider themselves to be journalists of a sort – informal, yes, but still journalists who report to their readers. And they ought to reconsider their testing methods.

      • Anonymous

        This is the beauty of the internet, we get introduced to so many opinions all unique and varied in their own way. It is great that this article has evoked passion in what seems to be very entrenched tribes on the said 2 headphones in question. The arguments against this article reminds me of government department mantra – “it just is not possible” theory becoming self-realization and then the de facto norm.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        I like to read opinions when they are opinions.  Then there are these other things that I don’t know how to classify, and here is an example:  An expert with 6,000 posts on a major site says “…More treble and less bass may give the impression of more detail, but in fact … it’s a coloration.  Sadly the SRH-940 suffers from this to a certain extent.”  — Now this person owns an HD-800 but has not listened to or compared the SRH-940 to his HD-800.  Yet he senses the suffering of the SRH-940.  I am not making this up.  I personally feel that the best way to sense the suffering of the SRH-940 is to give it a listen, or even compare it directly to something else.  I just sensed the suffering of my SRH-940 on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon a few minutes ago, and what sweet suffering it was.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        After another long listen to the HD-800 and SRH-940, I believe I have another clue to why many critics have suggested that the 940 is too “bright” in some areas. In an analogy to the Bose 901 and Gordon Holt’s Stereophile review noting that the 901 achieves its great soundstage at the expense of detail, by smearing the sound, particularly the high frequencies by bouncing most of the sound away from the listener, I can hear clearly the same effect with the Sennheiser HD-800. Since the SRH-940 sends the sound to your ears on a more direct path, there is less smearing and more detail, but for those who prefer the softening effects of loudspeakers in a room or headphones that simulate much of that effect, the SRH-940 would sound overly detailed and “bright” (for lack of a better term).

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        I’ve been on vacation for a week and just got back, and I see on the world’s biggest headphone review site where two of the experts have declared that “The Shure SRH-940 and Sennheiser HD-800 sound “nothing alike”.” Wow, I thought – maybe I stepped into an alternate reality where last week’s review no longer applies to the same equipment. So I fired up the stereo and got the 800 and 940 set to the same volume, and proceeded with a few tunes like Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken, Boz Scaggs’ Lowdown, and a couple of Bryan Ferry tunes, for a good mixture of vocals and instrumentals. Also a good mix of bass, midrange, and treble. And wouldn’t you know it, other than the difference in soundstage, they are still very much alike! So I got to thinking, maybe this is like one of those evolution controversy things, where someone says we came from organic molecules, and the other person says we can’t move up the complexity ladder by accident. But maybe I got a sample of the 940 that was way off spec, and accidentally sounds a lot like the HD-800! Wouldn’t that be awesome, to accidentally create such a great sound by being way off spec? Well, whichever it is, I’m still enjoying it very much.

      • Donunus

        Or it could be that their hd800s are driven with amps that transform their sound to something else instead of comparing them side by side on the same source/amp? Something like that maybe? Can you give me a link of this post Dale?

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        To summarize, we investigated those posts and my conclusion was that they were unable to mentally separate the sound effects created by the HD-800’s large earcups and angled drivers from the core high fidelity music sound of the HD-800, which is remarkable in itself.  I think by now it’s been pretty well established that when you have a good amp and music player matchup, the sound quality difference from that to the music player alone (assuming a good music player and sufficient volume to drive the headphone) should be subtle, not dramatic.  Then it gets more complicated, because people have different opinions on what is subtle.  For me, it’s saying that the amp should make a very small difference compared to the typical differences between different headphones.  Also adding to the complications is the fact that some headphone users, especially those who are more experienced with different amps, will actually seek the more dramatic differences in amp-enabled sound, to experiment perhaps, or maybe just to gain some qualities that aren’t available otherwise.  But in spite of all this, and despite what my good hearing tells me with a couple of solid-state amps, you shouldn’t be hearing a dramatic difference between driving an HD-800 from an iPod Touch (at perhaps 90 db volume and assuming the tracks have sufficient volume) or iPod Touch Line Out to headphone amp, except to hear a slightly cleaner sound with more “air” as I have noticed.  Now as to the differences between the HD-800 and SRH-940, yes there are easily audible differences as I have noted in the review and subsequent comments, but those differences (minus the sound effects if you can separate those out) are very small compared to the differences between the HD-800 and probably most other high-end headphones.  If I’m not mistaken, the main critics of this review are mainly splitting hairs about what differences there are and how significant they are, yet most opinion seems to be progressing toward a consensus that the SRH-940 has achieved approximately  the same quality of the HD-800’s sound (minus the sound effects of course) at a fraction of the price, which I think is a remarkable achievement.  We can also think of this as a very democratic (non-elitist) achievement, bringing HD-800 class sound to people who have only an iPod or equivalent and the SRH-940 headphone.

  15. Chevon James

    ive been told that these aren’t ideal for rock music, specifically post hardcore, metal etc which is about 80% of my music library. but i cant shake the feeling that i need these. the look, comfort and over all feel make me want to buy these really bad. so for rock music do these stack up with the HD 25 1 or the GRADO SR80 ? if not then which one of the two should i buy?

    • Anonymous

      This is really what it’s all about – how these sound with your music.  To tell you the truth, about half of the time when I put some rock tunes on they sound somewhat bright, and other times they sound fine.  And when I say bright I don’t mean bright overall so much as I mean that way they can be a bit harsh in some of those areas in the treble.  I don’t have any scientific way to explain that, but I think it has partly to do with what songs I start with – if they’re well recorded they’re going to sound better than I ever heard them, and if the recording is old or lo-fi (and I have a lot of those), it could definitely have a harder edge than what the music calls for.  From what I’ve read of the HD-25-1 they don’t have nearly the fidelity of the 940, but the 940 is a much newer more advanced design.  I haven’t heard the Grado SR-80 but I did have a Grado 325 in 1999, and I liked them.  But they too didn’t have the wide-band fidelity of the Shure 940.  So maybe I didn’t help you much, but I would suggest checking more reviews through a Goodle search (don’t rely on just the “big” headphone sites), and see what people say about how the 940 works with mostly rock, metal and so on.  I did play some new tracks by Enslaved, and they have major, major energy in the highs, but still, nothing irritating.  So that’s good news.

  16. Donunus

    I am very interested in getting one of these now. By the way Dale, The two top pictures make these cans look better than the other pictures I’ve ever seen of them. Nice Work!

    • D_t_h_o_r_n

      I think they do look like a good quality item – look and feel. The outside of the earcups are somewhat shiny in person, and the photos reduced that shine a little. But overall they feel pretty good, and the cords look very good, and tough. Most of the plastic parts besides the outside area on the cups look and feel very similar to the Sennheiser 800, and the earcups and pads look and feel just like the 600 and 650. And given that they are pretty close to that upper-end Sennheiser sound, it sure makes me wonder – did they just clone the 600 and maybe make some incremental changes to the sound, or did they actually subcontract secretly to Sennheiser? Just asking – I don’t know anything – yet.

    • Erwin Anciano

      I love the shot against the flaking paint!

      I think Shure turned over a new leaf with the 750DJ, they’re using that design moving forward. How is the comfort of this? The 750dj was awful on the head, and the cheap plastic snapped at one of our meets.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        The comfort is superb. The headphone is very light and most of the weight is supported by the earcups. When you get the earcups situated just right, you won’t feel the headband or anything else. I can’t be sure what’s under that headband but I would assume spring steel. Even my $49 Beyer DTX300p has a spring steel headband.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        Did you ever pinch yourself when you thought you must be dreaming something, because what you are seeing or hearing just can’t be happening? I’ve done that a lot with the Shure 940, and this morning in another reality check, I once again did a listening compare to the Sennheiser HD-800. Same result as the first day. Bass=same. Mids=same. Treble=same. Clarity and detail=same. Tonal quality and accuracy=same.

      • Anonymous

        What about scaleability Dale? Does the Shure scale as well as the HD800 when injected with power?

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        With my amp, the Cute Beyond, using iPod Line Out (as compared to using just the iPod) I get the sense of a slightly bigger space, for lack of a better term. It could be more high frequency extension, more dynamic room, or other factors. The difference is very subtle since when you make direct comparisons of the bass, mids and treble, for strength and tone, they seem the same. So I would say that for work areas, portable use, or anywhere that’s not a reasonably quiet room where you are relaxing and seriously listening without distractions, the iPod alone would drive the 940 OK. And the 940 isolates well, but in average daily use the noise from all factors tends to cancel out the more subtle details. So for serious audiophiles in that dedicated listening space, the amp will make a difference that you’ll appreciate. And in my case, my amp is considered to be average quality for less than $200 USD. With a better amp you could get some glorious sound, but you should pick wisely, because you don’t want anything that “sharpens up” the high end (again, for lack of a better term) since the 940 is already pretty sharp, and is just OK on sibilants and such. You don’t want to exaggerate those.

      • D_t_h_o_r_n

        I’d like to add to the above that when you’re comparing the 940 or other relatively efficient headphones to (for example) a Sennheiser HD-800, using a low-powered DAP only, you have to be very careful not to compare any dynamic music passages since those will clip very easily with the HD-800. Some of that clipping is subtle enough that it would be mistaken for less-than-stellar performance on those passages, and be misleading. Nonetheless, it was necessary to make those comparisons since the 940 is ideal for DAP-only use, for iPods at least, and comparing the 940 running from iPod to an HD-800 running from a headphone amp would not be fair. And running both from an amp as the sole testing platform would deny an important advantage of the 940, the power efficiency, not to mention the price.

  17. Anonymous

    This review is just an introduction to and first impressions of the Shure SRH-940 based on a couple of days comparison to the Sennheiser HD-800, the B&W P5 and Phiaton MS-400, plus my memory and notes of the Beyer DT-48E and Sennheiser HD-580/600/650 models. After 8 days of use now, I’m inclined to think that the Shure 940 was intended to be more or less a clone of the Sennheiser HD-600, but with the sound quality raised nearly to the level of the HD-800. The review doesn’t go into this in detail, and it’s difficult comparing the sound of a conventional design to the HD-800’s huge earcups and angled driver design, but to the extent that I can separate out the HD-800’s advantage in bigness of ambience and soundstage, I’d say the Shure 940 sounds about as good. And given the price difference, it’s a pretty good deal. My main concern for a product at this price point and level of quality (and the physical quality seems very good) is consistency, so that other people who buy them get the sound that I describe or other reviewers describe.


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