Shure describes the SRH1440 as a "professional" set of headphones designed for "mastering and critical listening". This puts them right at the other end of the sonic spectrum to bass-heavy "DJ" headphones.
We're not surprised, then, that the 40mm neodymium drivers focus on providing insight and balance rather than sledgehammer-like bass slam. Crisp and well-defined, the top-end detail here is a particular highlight, matched with lean-but-muscular bass and an up-front mid-range. They also benefit from the airy presentation of good open-back cans. Their satisfying and challenging signature is comparable to that of the AKG Q701 - a real audiophile tone, in other words.
If you're averse to bright-sounding headphones, you may find the SRH1440 a little intense. They're particularly adept at revealing the granular texture of vocals. Technically it's impressive, but some will prefer a warmer, smoother take. However, they are fully capable of handling harsher sounds, disarming any true sibilance before it reaches your ears.
They may make us think of the Sennheiser HD 650 in design, but the sound is actually very different - and a comparison is pertinent when they are two top picks in this field. Where the Sennys are smooth and dark, the Shure SRH1440 are much more revealing, if a little less relaxing.
These are serious headphones that strive for accuracy rather than comically-over-egged impact. The bass is taut and fast, but if you're after occasional "in da club" antics, you may be disappointed with the relative paucity of the stuff here. We're not, though - there's enough warmth and bass presence here to let the SRH1440 take on casual listening duties as well as the hard stuff, in our opinion. And another flexibility bonus, they don't particularly need an amp, being quite happy running off a portable music player.
The particular mid-range headphone club the Shure SRH1440 are part of is a strange one. They supposedly retail for £406, but can be had for under £250, just like the AKG Q701. At the lower price, they're a very attractive option. Cheaper than their closest-sounding Sennheiser rival, the old HD 600, and a little warmer than the Q701, there's a lot to like about these headphones.
The Shure SRH1440 are excellent headphones. Revealing, comfortable and versatile - as long as you keep them indoors - they perform at the level of the top dogs in their class. Some may prefer a relaxed listen, but these are among the best sub-£250 headphones around.