Shure SRH440 Headphone Review: An alternate studio headphone that’s built like a Brick Wall
Shure has an almost 100 year history of making audio equipment. They’re particularly well-known for their high quality micrphones.
However, they didn’t release their first around-ear headphones till 2009.
The ~$90 Shure SRH440 seems squarely pointed at the Sony MDR-7506 and the original Audio-Technica M50. It feels like some people at Shure were looking at those two best-selling headphones back in ‘08 or so and thought: “We could do that! But better! And more!”
They beat Audio-Technica’s revised M50X to market in having a removable cable on their studio monitor. The build of of the SRH440 is immediately impressive and chunky in the hands. The sound profile is definitely suited to the same kinds of use cases as the classic 7506.
But it has some issues.
I’ve been trying to do sound first, but it must be said: the comfort of the SRH440 is average, at the very best. Its absurdly solid construction translates to a clunky feel on the head. But not for lack of trying. The ear cup pads are large and reasonably plush. They feel comparable to the pads on the M50X, but with larger openings.
But the actual fit of the pads around your head is adequate. It’s boring. It’s not “disappear-on-your-head” softness. It’s more like “Welp. I’m wearing a chunky plastic cup with a leatherette and foam pad on my head.” It’s slightly distracting, but not to the point of extreme fatigue.
The headband has the same problem. It’s a solid affair, with a very small amount of padding. It feels like it has some metal reinforcement, but I didn’t rip it open to find out. It has about as much padding as Audio-Technica’s M40X, and more padding than the 7506. The 7506 is a much lighter headphone though. Once again, the solid build of the SRH440 translates to a noticeable, chunky, unimpressive fit on the head.
The fit might become fatiguing for users over time. I’ve spent a couple of longer sessions with them, and I didn’t have any lingering pain…but pretty much every competing headphone is more comfy. The Sony MDR 7506/V6 is much lighter and more pleasant on the head, in spite of its lesser padding. The M50X feels a bit tighter, but also less bulky. Its padding is softer where it counts. The recently-released Sennheiser 598Cs stomps all over the 440 in terms of comfort.
Again, the fit here is not aggressively awful…but it’s really noticeable on the head and not super ideal for long sessions. If plush comfort is an absolute must, odds are good you won’t love these. I hear that the higher-priced models in Shure’s range offer better comfort, but I haven’t tested any of those. Yet.
Fortunately, aside from the iffy fit, these are great.
The sound signature here reminds me of the MDR 7506, in a good way. The mids and highs are rendered with plenty of detail and a nice natural, realistic tone. The mids don’t sound hollow or tinny, and the highs are not so bright as to be fatiguing. The bass is gently rolled off…a common trait in “neutral” studio headphones in this price range. You can still hear the bass, but it’s not prominent at all.
Soundstage is better than both the 7506 and the M50X, but not quite on the level of the DT770 Pro, as closed-back headphones in this price range go. It’s still got good enough imaging for both consumer and pro use.
I’d wager the average consumer will find this to be a bass-light pair on first listen. The more you appreciate mid-range and treble detail, the more you’ll like this headphone. Your brain will eventually adjust to the rolled-off bass if you give it a shot, and extension is decent, though not on the level of the M50X or DT770. The M50X has a more aggressive bass response, and the DT770 has more noticeable sub bass extension.
I really enjoy the sound of these overall, and if they were a little more comfy, they’d supplant the MDR7506/V6 in my collection. They’re not quite as harsh, which makes them a little better for everyday listening. And they’re still detailed enough for sound work.
Isolation is totally serviceable for loud environments, and the non-ported design means sound leak should be at a minimum for all but the highest volumes.
I wasn’t expecting much from these $90 headphones as far as build goes.
Turns out build quality is their best asset.
Every time Shure had a choice between thick/meaty and small/svelte, they went with MEATY. In spite of a mostly-plastic design, this has a really solid feel in the hand. The ear cups are thick. The headband is thick. The included cable is thick and rubbery, with big thick plug ends.
The backs of the ear cups are metal, which is cool to the touch. I don’t know what kind of metal it is, probably aluminum? But I like it. They have a shiny Shure logo on them. This design touch reminds me a lot of the metal ear cups on the Sony MDR 7506. I think more closed-backs should have metal cups. It helps with resonance and it’s just a cool durable touch.
Overall design is very “studio headphone.” The wires going between the ear cups are exposed, and held in place by little clips. The look on the head is utilitarian and not all that stylish. The ear cup rotation adjustments are metal-reinforced. The headband has a bright white Shure logo on the top of it, so you know who made your headphones when you take them out of your bag. They fold down “football style,” but you have to extend the adjustment arms fully to do this. So when they’re folded down they’re still kind of thick, meaty, and huge. Perfect for the recurring theme here.
Everything about the design and build of these headphones screams “chunky pro gear built to last.” And I love that.
But these are not stylish at all. If you ever looked at the build of the 7506 and said “I want this, but done with more bigger everything,” well here you go.
It’s an acquired taste that speaks to me.
Shure includes a bag. It’s a wide, tough, leatherette bag, and it’s kind of thick and meaty. Just like the headphones.
The detachable coiled cord stretches to ten feet. It’s tipped with a 3.5mm plug and has a screw-on 6.3mm adapter. Shure also sells a straight eight foot cable for about twenty bucks. The cables work on most of their studio around-ear headphones, so that’s nice.
The pads are detachable and replaceable. Some folks like to put SRH840 pads on these for better comfort, but they change the sound. You can see in the above photo of the ear cup that the foam covering the driver isn’t very thick, which means they trust the tuning of the drivers. They’re confident enough that the treble won’t kill your ears that they didn’t put a ton of foam in front of the little speakers.
You shouldn’t need a special amp for these. They’re quite sensitive, and I’ve powered them just fine with a phone and laptop.
The Shure SRH440 is a really well-built pair of headphones for the $90 or so they cost. I like the thick detachable cable. I like the solid feel of the construction. I like the sound signature. The comfort is…about what you’d expect from putting a little brick wall on top of your head.
If you want something kind of like the 7506 but with a detachable cable, or kind of like the M50X but with a smoother sound profile, here you go. They’re worth the price they cost, but they’re not going to fit everyone as comfortably as they should.
The build is comically over-done for the price, and the result is a chunky headphone with good clean audio reproduction. I’m curious to check out the more expensive models in this lineup.