Review: Shure SRH840A Professional Studio Headphones
Lyrics by Fergus Nash
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There’s no shortage of headphones being marketed to professional sound engineers around the world, and whether you’re a rising or established professional, the choices are bound to be dizzying. Even if you’re just a music listener walking the audiophile path, there are dozens of headphones clamoring for your attention. So, with options paralysis in place, how does the Shure SRH840A Professional Studio Headphones compare yourself to others?
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The first point to make is that these are a “nice” pair of headphones. What I mean by that probably requires a comparison to studio monitors for context, since it’s common for recording studios to have multiple sets of speakers through which to test various mixing decisions . One pair might be as flat as possible to give an authentic and unbiased reproduction of what was captured, while another might have a slightly boosted upper midrange to represent some lower quality speakers the average household might use. The less popular option is a set of speakers that tend to take out the midrange a bit, which almost always sounds fantastic to the end consumer, but it can be a dishonest representation in a studio environment that can lead to poor surprises when you go to listen to your new song on a car radio.
The SRH840A headphones are actually extremely flat in the mid-range from around 200Hz to 2kHz, but have pronounced bumps at 80-100Hz and 6kHz, and a subtle drop-off at 3.5kHz, making it makes an impressive monitoring headphone in the tracking sense and the subtle 3.5kHz dropout also makes it a great headphone for everyday listening. The result is a pair of headphones that are both extremely useful in a professional sense and provide satisfying listening in mission-critical applications.
Frequency figures aside, the sound from the headphones can be described as powerful. Bass response is remarkably punchy and spacious for a closed-back design, and the vibrations through your head pads are truly immersive. The mids are so smooth it’s almost hard to describe. The highs are airy and present, precisely what one would hope for in a studio monitoring scenario. Given that the quoted frequency response tops out at 25kHz, there’s definitely plenty of sharpness to be had, which really lets you get into a notoriously tricky high-end sculpting exercise like bringing out the excitement room into a ceiling or dial in just the right amount of sizzle pop on a vocal. They are also a great headset for checking sibilance, which is a very practical point of view for anyone prone to fashionable mixtures.
As mentioned earlier, these headphones are halfway between great sound and accurate sound, but that doesn’t necessarily take them away from a professional conversation. The detail offered by the 40mm drivers is honestly quite phenomenal. I’ve been using monitor headphones for about eight years, and listening to some of my favorite albums through these headphones revealed details I hadn’t noticed before. This kind of anecdotal evidence should be taken with a grain of salt given that I actively listen to the differences, but I was certainly impressed with its depth.
Another of the SRH840A’s strong points comes in the form of its incredible isolation. The closed, circumaural design sits comfortably on the ears and keeps background noise and spillage to an absolute minimum. Even with the headphones pushed in while picking up vocals up close, I still found the lack of spillage to be rather remarkable, even with the compression engaged.
The Shure SRH840As are actually a recently revamped version of the SRH840 pair, taking some consumer feedback into account and also giving them a black and gold makeover. Visually, they look awesome, a feature that will no doubt come in handy for the on-camera content creation crowd.
While the original SRH840s were mostly well-reviewed, for many the only major criticism was the headband. It’s good to see that Shure has addressed this issue with the new SRH840A update and the headband design feels much sturdier and more comfortable than previous incarnations, with thick molded plastic and strong screws holding the swivels in place. Only time will tell if they will stand up to the regular abuse of a gigging musician, but for this type of studio use they definitely look and feel great.
Comes with an additional detachable straight cable, along with a carrying bag and a high quality 1/4″ (6.3mm) threaded gold plated adapter, it definitely lends itself to professional use, while the two year warranty ans provides exactly the kind of peace of mind you’d want in a helmet at this price.
In the context of professional headphones, reliability really is half the battle and without a doubt Shure’s new SRH840A has it in spades. This reliability is manifested both in the quality of manufacture and in the consistency of its sound reproduction.
Overall, the Shure SRH840A professional studio headphones sound great, but not without some limitations. The ideal person for these headphones would most likely be someone getting into audio engineering and wanting to get the most bang for their buck, which means a pair of headphones that can be good for mixing as well as casual listening rather than needing two pairs with two separate agendas.