Shure continues revamping the SRH line of headphones with the SRH840A. Sitting close to the top of the lineup, it is the most refined offering yet. In this review, we look closely at this updated pair of cans and see where they have improved.
The Shure SRH840A is an excellent all-rounder that has something for everyone. Great sound that is equally appropriate for studio work while retaining plenty of life for casual listening. Check out the highlights before we dive into the full review.
The SRH840A is a fantastic re-imagining of a popular set of cans. Shure has strived to make critical improvements in many areas, and in most cases, they have executed these changes perfectly. Offering a high level of isolation makes them some of the best headphones for voice recording. Let’s check them out in more detail.
Let’s start with the most essential part. How good do these sound? The answer will depend on what you expect from these headphones. But thankfully, there is something here for everyone.
The first thing to highlight is the difference between this version and the original. It still offers up a large dose of clear and relatively neutral sound. But this new model does come across as a little warmer. Not overly hyped but certainly more generous in the lows and mids.
The low-end provides plenty of punch and kick, thanks to the 40mm drivers. Bass tones are rich and warm without any boominess or overt colorization. The rumble is palpable yet restrained enough to present clarity and definition.
Easy to drive and a wide frequency range.
Speaking of clarity, the mid-range is fantastic. Lively and pronounced, it performs exceptionally. An ideal set of cans for tracking and monitoring. But equally detailed enough for accurate assessments in this critical frequency range.
The highs are potentially the weakest. There is a noticeable bump in the upper regions. It’s not overbearing but doesn’t match the precision found in the mids and lows. Thankfully these are not ear-piercingly bright, just not as tight as some may want.
The range of 5Hz-25kHz highlights how low these reach, along with the additional room in the top-end.
Another highlight is the overall presence and soundstage of the audio. These are a big step up from the cheaper SRH440A. It’s roomier and well fleshed out. But it is worth keeping in mind these are closed-back headphones, so you can’t expect an expansive soundstage.
The change to the sound profile is a shift in a positive direction. Studio headphones can come across as dry and brittle due to the emphasis on neutral delivery. But these strike an excellent balance between accuracy, fidelity, and enjoyment.
The previous edition of these headphones had a reputation for a tight fit. And while there have been some improvements here, they are still very snug.
The main issue is the relatively narrow and inflexible headband. It grips your head and doesn’t let go. On the one hand, that lends favorably to isolation and stability. But on the other hand, this force can be uncomfortable across longer sessions. This is especially the case if you have a larger-than-average noggin.
The dense padding provides a tight seal.
Alleviating some of these issues is the impressive padding. The headband features a generous amount that prevents a sharp contact point on the tip of your scalp. At 0.6 lbs. (272 grams), these are not the lightest pair of headphones but equally not cumbersome.
The ear cup padding is also up to the task and surprisingly breathable. This is one area that stood out. Closed-back headphones are notorious for heat build-up, even more so if they offer high isolation levels like these. But even after a long session, these won’t make your ears sweat.
While there have been strides in the right direction, these are still a little tight for my liking. How much of an issue this will be for you will largely depend on your head shape and size. But in all other comfort areas, Shure has hit the nail on the head.
By far, the refreshed design is the most significant improvement from the previous model. I’m not one to judge a pair of cans on their appearance, but the previous SRH840 even made me wince.
Gone is the plain black and dated appearance, and the tacky left and right indicators are also gone. In its place is a modern and sophisticated design that will not look out of place in even the classiest studio.
The gold trim is aesthetically pleasing and used with restraint. The addition of gold-colored stitching to the headband is also a nice touch. In all respects, these are a massive leap from the last generation. Superb execution.
The updated appearance is a huge improvement.
There are other noteworthy changes to the design as well. The wires no longer protrude and are now safely tucked into the frame.
Shure has also opted to go with a straight cable this time. At 9.8 ft. (3 m), it is long and durable. The secure bayonet-style locking mechanism also ensures they stay plugged in at all times.
One step backward is the lack of full collapsibility. You can still rotate the cups to lay flat but transporting these is not as easy as what the previous model offered. But I do see the logic behind this move. These are not for out-and-about use; their home is in a studio setting.
The low impedance of 40 ohms will also be appealing to those that don’t have a headphone amp. Easy to drive and plenty of power at 97dB.
The firm grip and tight seal also offer a high level of isolation. With low sound bleed, these are ideally suited for recording sessions.
I’m always happy to see a company take on feedback and improve. The Shure SRH840A is an excellent example of that. Top marks in this category and a massive turnaround from the previous model.
Another area of notable improvement is the overall build quality of these cans. While not top-shelf material, they retain an approachable price without a massive compromise in quality.
The bulk of the frame is plastic with just a hint of aluminum for the disc that covers the earcups. But despite the plastic build, these are pretty hardy and durable. The plastic is thick and doesn’t creak aggressively.
An impressive balance between price and quality.
The previous generation did suffer from some issues at the connection point of the earcup and headband. But this rejuvenated design appears to have rectified the problem. But only time will tell how these stand up over frequent use, but the early signs appear very promising.
The quality of the ear padding and headband padding is also fantastic. Replaceable ear pads are available, and it’s an easy switch-out process.
Straight vs. coiled cables is an endless debate, so I won’t touch on it here. Everyone has their preferred style, but more important is that the cable doesn’t feel cheap and is high quality. No complaints here.
The SRH range of headphones from Shure runs the whole gamut of price points. From the super budget SRH240A to the mid-tier SRH440A to the near top-of-the-line SRH840A. But even at the upper end, these are still affordable headphones. The balance between performance and quality is excellent.
The included pouch does a good job of keeping dust away from your headphones.
On the accessory front, these do come with a pouch. Considering these don’t collapse, I would have preferred a hardshell case. But it is hard to ask for too much at this price point. Also notable is the original did come with a spare pair of pads which are noticeably absent here. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but worth highlighting.
While there are cheaper cans out there, the Shure SRH840A combines the best of the Shure SRH series and delivers excellent value for money.
Most customers who have tried these out have highlighted the impressive sound quality and slick design. But the aggressive clamping force is a common grievance. As for professional reviews, the overwhelming majority agree these offer great value and performance.
Balancing Isolation With Comfort
High isolation is a critical feature for many people. Recording studios need to ensure that there is no bleed into their recordings. Likewise, artists need to be able to focus distinctly on their performances without the distractions of other performers.
Producers need to be able to block out external noise from co-workers. If you work from home, it could be your roommates or your family that you need isolation from. DJs also demand high isolation to line up their transitions in loud nightclubs or festivals.
Isolation is a critical feature for recording sessions.
There are two ways to achieve excellent isolation. Active noise cancellation is a good option but often comes at the expense of clarity and precision. Passive isolation is often the go-to method since it doesn’t sacrifice neutrality to deliver isolation.
For maximum passive isolation, you need thick and dense earcup padding. But that padding must also adapt to your head shape to provide a tight seal. Combining this with a firm level of clamping force often produces the best results.
Unfortunately, these features can lead to some discomfort over longer sessions. Balancing these demands is not an easy task. If high isolation is essential to you, keep an eye out for headphones that manage to strike this delicate balance. And in this case, the SRH840A is an excellent example of straddling this fine line between comfort and isolation.
The headphone market is perhaps one of the most saturated audio equipment markets out there. As a result, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Below are some other notable cans worth exploring.
Shure SRH240A Review
Keeping within the Shure ecosystem, the SRH240A is a budget-friendly choice for those that don’t want to spend an arm and a leg kitting out their studio. Not as refined, but still worth considering.
- Satisfying sound profile that retains a good level of accuracy.
- Clamping force is a lot more relaxed for a higher comfort level.
- Not as stylish with too much shiny plastic.
KRK KNS 8402 Review
If supreme accuracy is unimportant, the KNS 8402 from KRK is a good choice. Restrained design (surprising for KRK!) combines with a familiar sound profile.
- Warm and generous tonality that is inviting and fun.
- A versatile cable that includes an attachment cable with in-line volume control.
- These are not the most accurate and not ideal for critical listening.
KRK KNS 8402
Mackie MC-350 Review
Stepping up in price point is the MC-350 from Mackie. Despite the higher price, these headphones offer superb value and sound along with excellent build quality.
- A punchy sound profile that retains neutrality for studio work.
- Superb range of included accessories. Hardshell case, cable case, and lots of cables.
- The clamping force is a little tight. These are also heavier than the SRH840A.
Should You Buy?
I’m impressed with what Shure has accomplished with the SRH refresh. The SRH440A was a significant update, but the SRH840A went even further and exceeded my expectations. These are fantastic headphones with a lot to offer and at a very attractive price.
The modernized design combines well with a capable sound profile. These are ideal for a wide range of applications. Monitoring, tracking, recording, and casual listening. Improvements to build quality and design are also all steps in a positive direction. If you want an affordable set of studio headphones, the SRH840A is worth adding to your shortlist of options.