Shure has been one of the kings of in-ear headphones for years, but it's a relative newcomer to high-quality studio headphones. The Shure SRH840 are one rung down from the top-end SRH940 closed-back headphones, and sell for around £130. Designed for professionals rather than kids bopping along the road, will they sound as dull as elevator music for the sake of accuracy? In a word - no.
The Shure SRH840 are over-ears headphones that encase your earlobes with foam-filled fake leather pads. Although they sound great plugged into a simple MP3 player - with 42Ohm impedance they're not particularly difficult to drive - they are not intended for use out and about. They want to be kept indoors, preferably in a room where a mixing board packed with a dizzying array of knobs and faders lives.
How come? There are several reasons. They are not particularly light and, despite a fairly tight-clasping headband, will work their way off your head if you move around too quickly. The Shure SRH840 are also large. A traditional, non-bulbous design doesn't make it immediately apparent, but they stick out a way from your head. Although by no means bad-looking headphones within their field, they will not make you look cool.
To add to the outdoors inconvenience, they use a tightly-coiled cable - it hangs a little heavily and is really meant for studio use rather than when you're sat at home, plugged into a home cinema. Less trailing cable means less likelihood of tripping and taking a £1k compressor down with you.
Viewed from the perspective of a studio engineer, they're much more attractive. The SRH840 fold up across a plastic hinge at the top of each earcup, and the cups also swivel around 180 degrees, letting you easily listen to a single channel without the other interfering.
The cable is removable too, using a 2.5mm stereo connection and a twist-to-lock mechanism to stop them from being yanked-out accidentally. De-concertina the coiled cable and it stretches to 3m, and it features a screw-on 3.5mm to 6.35mm jack converter for maximum flexibility. Straight 3m replacement cables are available for under £20.
There's one part of the SRH840 that seems curiously vulnerable for headphones that are otherwise heady-duty. Thin cables poke out of the earcup and snakes around into the headband on the outside. We assume this is to let the folding mechanism move freely without risking the cable, but it does leave you worried that a sharp snag could leave you with a useless pair of cans.
The one other hardware niggle is that the headband does apply slightly uneven pressure, with most of it on the very top of your head. As the part that makes contact is padded mesh rather than plastic - like some broadcaster headphones - it's not downright uncomfortable, but is worth considering if you're fussy about such things.
Like a home-worker typing out important emails in their pyjamas, a few aesthetic points clearly value function over form. Stickers on the headband indicating the left and right sides started to slip off during testing (and didn't look great in the first place), and we're not sure the red and blue indicators just above were really necessary either. With a single cable coming out of the left side - entirely standard for single-sided leads - it's immediately obvious which side is which.
Alongside the headphones, cable and jack converter, Shure provides a basic plastic-leather case and a pair of extra slimline earpads that slightly reduce how far the headphones stick out from your head.