Written and Contributed by Ven Vedam
Ever since the announcement of Shure’s new professional SRH headphones series, I’ve always wanted to purchase one from the line up. I considered the SRH440s at first, but when I had a look at their respective prices, I eventually decided to go for the top-of-the-line SRH840s. During my arduous wait for the new series to show up in the real world, I've been a constant follower of the ‘Leak’ threads over at Head-Fi.org. After reading a few impressions, I finalised my purchase of the Shure SRH840 at the expense of parting my Sennheiser HD 600s off to another responsible owner.
The Way They Make Me Feel:
These things aren’t eye-catchers or head-turners when you first look at them. They don’t look as cool as the Ultrasone HFI-780s either. To be honest, they reminded me of the Sennheiser HD280 Pros I used to own in appearance (Nowhere near the SQ wise though). As far as the comfort goes these things feel quite heavy compared to the 780s. At first, I felt as if I had an evenly distributed dense weight over my head and I even felt a bit dizzy. However, soon that feeling disappeared. The earpads are sort of super comfy compared to the 780s or any other closed headphones I’ve had experience with, apart from Denons and Bose Triports. The spare ear pads and detachable cable are a real nice touch and I’ve always wanted my 780s to have the same. The only ‘Con’ I can think of in terms of build and design is the strange, yet fragile, cable on top of each ear cup that goes into the headband.
I have done all the testing with my Sony D-171 PCDP and a bit through the iPod just for source comparison sake. To start with, the source has been loaded with a beautifully re-mastered compilation CD of Neil Young’s Greatest Hits. What a start that would be to audition a nice and balanced sounding rig! The first audtioned track was ‘Down By The River,’ which starts with a bit of noisy background with the strings strumming in such a way that your mind will wobble and will start to appreciate how good a guitar can sound. The SRH840s have a great prowess in delivering the nuances that are associated with the string strum whereas the Ultrasone HFI-780s had the similar sort of authority but looked a bit of out of balance. Following was the track ‘Old Man,’ which can be used to test the actual balance of the entire spectrum. The vocals (mids) started to pick up along with the opening of those great guitar strums. I felt the SRH840s had a great tonal balance compared to the HFI-780s when rendering the string-laid vocals.
To test the full potential of any pair of headphones you’ve got to test them across all genres:
To achieve this I have loaded my player with Bill Evans’ ‘Waltz For Debby’ and boy wasn’t I surprised over these cans' ability to deliver. This particular CD sounds as if it’s been recorded in binaural! The Shure have delivered each and every participle of this particular recording in a superbly refined manner. While the HFI-780s sound great with Jazz, the SRH840s have shown more versatility in handling this particular master-at-work kind of recording. The SRH840s proved themselves that they got the upper hand in delivering the detail with a sort of rich tonal balance compared to the HFI-780s. People chirping, talking, and coughing in the background, for example, are all handled in a more outstanding way to the HFI-780s.
Afterwards, I decided to reload my source with Rock and this time it’s ‘The Mothership’ - Led Zeppelin’s compilation of their greatest hits. The first track I played was ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and this particular track starts with a lot of bang and strum, while the vocals will start to pickup straight after the grand opening. The thrash of cymbals has got more texture compared to the slightly harsh and eardrum piercing texture of the HFI-780s. That doesn’t mean that 780s aren’t enjoyable, they have got their own slam and pace attack, but SRH840s have got better pace and is superior in the way of controlling & defining things.
Well, after this much of intensive comparison, I decided to load the source with Diana Krall and Alison Krauss to have a measure at these cans capability of handling female vocals. I wasn’t disappointed at all! They made me so excited over the great reproduction of female vocals that I had goose bumps all over in more than one instance. With regards to vocals, the 840s deliver them in such a way that each and every word becomes more audible. I’ve never seen this phenomenon of details with any other cans I’ve heard so far. This could be because of the SRH840s' outstanding tonal balance.
To finish off this exhausting assignment, I finally decided to load some random mixture of genres including trance, hip-hip, techno and electronica. The underlying string bass-line reproduction is outstanding with the Shure 840s. For instance, if you have ever listened to Tony Toni Tone’s ‘Let’s Get Down,’ the part that is played throughout the track in the background will sound much more evident. With the 840s, you don’t have to search for the details whereas the HFI-780s would make you run for them.
Conclusion ( 9 /10)
If I have to give a single line of description for both of these cans, I would say:
HFI-780: ‘Come and get me to get served.’
SRH840: ‘Stay here and I’ll serve everything!’
The Shure SRH840 Headphones have been highly recommended by the author.
Written and Contributed by Ven Vedam