Whether you are a DJ, casual listener, or studio professional, a solid set of closed-back headphones is an essential bit of gear. In this hands-on review, we take a close look at the top-of-the-line Shure SRH1540. A powerful and professional set of headphones with a lot to offer but also some minor issues that hold it back from greatness.
The Shure SRH1540 delivers in several areas, but it isn’t without fault. As a premium set of headphones with a matching premium price tag, my expectations are always high. For the most part, the Shure SRH1540 met those expectations after going through my extensive testing, but I also came to realize these headphones won’t be for everyone.
The Shure SRH1540 is the highest-priced offering in the SRH line from Shure and are very good headphones for music production. Below, I’ll take a deep dive to see how they stack up against the competition, which tests the SRH1540 passed with flying colors, and which ones it fell short on.
For headphones in this price range, I expect exceptional performance. Thankfully, the Shure SRH1540 is up to the challenge. The sound profile of these headphones is fantastic, with a sound signature that is ideally suited for studio work thanks to the balanced frequency response.
The Shure SRH1540 headphones offer premium sound quality.
The highs and mids are the real standouts. Highs are tight and crisp with plenty of definition. Likewise, the mids are full and warm. The lows are well-rounded but a little lacking. But this is where it depends on what you’re after from headphones.
These are very neutral. They maintain a consistent response across the full frequency range. This is excellent for an analytical listening experience. It’s also ideal for professionals in the studio. But, for DJs and lovers of bass, they may not be as satisfying as other headphones. With a frequency response of 5Hz-25kHz, they have plenty of room in both directions to deliver satisfying performance.
Another highlight is the soundstage. Closed-back headphones can sound a little cramped. But these perform as well as some open-back headphones I’ve used. Spacious and generous. Excellent for mixing and mastering but equally engaging when casually listening to music.
If you need or prefer a neutral response, these headphones are a solid choice with enough definition and precision to give you confidence in your decision-making process in the studio. But if you prefer a bit more colorization and oomph in the low end these are not ideal.
The Shure SRH1540 offers a very comfortable fit. The plush ear pads cover the large 40mm neodymium drivers. These ear pads are low-density and offer slow-recovery foam. The result is a pleasant and inviting fit that covers your ears. They also come with a spare set, which is a thoughtful inclusion.
Heat build-up is always going to be an issue with closed-back headphones, but the SRH1540 is not as bad as some other options. After multiple full days with these on my head, I never encountered heat build-up that would prove problematic, even in warmer conditions.
The headband also offers some padding, but there isn’t much there, so when this padding inevitably wears out (more on that later), I can see the comfort level dropping.
You also can’t swivel the earcups, so you might find that they sit awkwardly depending on your head shape. I didn’t find any issues, and the relatively relaxed clamping force allowed the headphones to adjust to my head shape easily.
Appearance-wise, the Shure SRH1540 offers a refined and sharp approach. These are professional headphones that do not aim to make a huge statement. The aircraft-grade aluminum alloy adds to the appeal, offering a sleek and lightweight profile.
The detachable cable is also a welcome sight with dual-exit connection points. A replacement cable is also included. No exposed wires are another tick in the good design column. But the cable itself is a bit stiff compared to other headphones I’ve tested. Not a dealbreaker by any means, and I’m sure it will relax in time, but my initial impressions were not great.
But, the Shure SRH1540 isn’t without some drawbacks. The headphones are not foldable, making them not an ideal choice for compact transportation. They are, however, exceptionally lightweight, so it isn’t all bad news for the traveling listener.
Modern and stylish design with lightweight materials.
My only other gripe is the length of the cable. I would have loved for Shure to include a longer cable as an alternative. At 6ft, it’s a little short for some applications, and if you happen to have a larger work area, I can foresee this proving to be a decent annoyance.
Despite lacking a couple of features and the odd choice for the cable length, the Shure SRH1540 is an attractive and professional set of headphones that will not look out of place in a professional setting or in a home studio. If anything the Shure SRH1540 is among the most attractive headphones in this price range.
The Shure SRH1540 offers solid build quality, but there are a couple of glaring issues that hold it back from scoring top marks in my testing. To be fair, I am always extra critical of headphones within this price range. It’s not a small amount of money to be spending, so I expect longevity and top-quality components.
For the most part, the Shure SRH1540 is pretty good. The ear cups are solid, the padding is superb, and the aluminum yoke inspires confidence. But while initially impressive, the devil is in the details. In particular, I have an issue with the adjustable headband and the padding on the headband.
The headband padding is exceptionally thin, and while it is enough to ensure a comfortable fit, I can tell that this padding won’t be able to stand the test of time. Looking at other reports online seems to highlight that my concerns are valid, as I’ve found some reports of this padding wearing out sooner rather than later.
The other potential issue is adjusting mechanism, or should I say lack thereof. It’s a simple glide without any distinct trigger points. While this does result in my flexibility to choose the correct fit, once this loosens over time, it will likely not hold its place as well.
This combination of excellent cups and yoke but lackluster headband padding and slide mechanism makes it difficult for me to gauge this part of my testing. Some parts I like, others not so much. And while my gripes are relatively minor, I expect a little more from headphones in this price range.
This is one area where it is difficult to judge the Shure SRH1540 headphones. On the one hand, they are expensive and not a small investment. But they also offer an exceptional sound profile that makes them an excellent choice for studio-centric tasks. In many ways, you can’t put a price on that. But as you begin to explore other options in this price range there are some enticing alternatives.
I’ll admit the included accessories add a lot to the value proposition. The super tough plastic case is outstanding. And when I say tough, I mean it. It is one of the most robust cases I’ve ever seen, included with a pair of headphones.
Spare pads and a replacement cable are another great inclusion, but I would have loved to see a longer alternate cable for some variety. The threaded gold-plated adapter is also a nice addition.
So while there is no denying that these headphones are not cheap they also live up to what I expect from studio headphones.
The vast majority of people love the Shure SRH1540. The exceptional sound quality and included extras are often the top features people mention, but a few people do mention the lackluster headband padding. Still, with an average score of 4.5 out of 5 stars, this is a well-regarded set of studio headphones.
The Power Of Replaceable Parts
We live in a wasteful world. There was a time when you bought something once. Then, if something went wrong, you would get it repaired. Unfortunately, there has been a shift to lower-quality products over the last few decades. Products that fail early and offer no option for repair.
Save money with replaceable parts so you can spend more on other studio gear.
But in the headphone space, there are still some excellent options available that buck this trend. Companies like Shure and Sennheiser, to name a few, offer replaceable components. This attention to durability will save you money in the long term.
Instead of having to throw out your headphones, you can simply buy the relevant parts. You also don’t need a great deal of technical knowledge to make those replacements.
So, the next time you are looking at headphones, consider if they offer replaceable components. Not only will you save money down the road, but you’ll also help to ensure there is less rubbish in landfills, which is a growing problem worldwide.
If you are looking to buy studio headphones, there are plenty of excellent options available. Here is a small selection of contenders worth considering.
AKG K712 Pro Review
The AKG K712 Pro is another superb set of studio headphones. Perfectly suited to serious studio work, they are a workhorse pair of headphones that won’t let you down.
- Fantastic build quality. Dependable and durable headphones from a legendary manufacturer.
- Precise audio delivery that is detailed and neutral. Great for picking out details in your mix.
- The high neutrality also results in a slightly bright top end.
AKG K712 Pro
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Review
If you want something that is more budget-orientated, the ATH-M40x from Audio-Technica is a reasonable choice. While not as refined as the SRH1540, it offers excellent value for money.
- A distinct low-end response that is rich, thumpy, and satisfying.
- You’ll have the choice of two cables. Both offer a secure locking mechanism.
- The sound profile is not as balanced as the SRH1540.
Shure SRH840A Review
Shure also offers a cheaper set of headphones in their range. The SRH840A is lower in price but still maintains a lot of the great features of the SRH1540.
- High level of sound quality with excellent balance across frequencies.
- The foldable design makes these a more appealing option for transporting.
- Not as balanced as the SRH1540.
Should You Buy?
The Shure SRH1540 is an impressive set of closed-back headphones. Are they perfect? Far from it. But I’ll be honest few headphones are flawless, so it comes down to weighing up what is most important to you when handing over your hard-earned money.
The sound quality is the true stand-out feature. If you care about precision or need it for work, I can readily recommend these headphones. The sleek and modern design is easy on the eyes, and the comfort level is ideal for long studio sessions. So, while perhaps not my first choice, I can see why these have proven to be a popular choice.