The Shure SRH840 are closed-back headphones, hugely reducing the amount of noise let in and let out - many pairs of "studio-grade" headphones use this design as it's beneficial for monitoring. It's not just this that helps block sound out, though. The material used in the pads is also very important.
Using velour pads is often preferable for comfort, reducing how much your ears are heated-up and getting rid of the slightly sticky feel of some fake leather. But they leak much more sound than the material here. The SRH840 do heat your ears up a tad, but the pads' surfaces are soft, well-padded and comfortable.
Striving for accuracy and detail, the Shure SRH840 are very clear-sounding, slightly bright-leaning headphones. They have a great top-end, which is both insightful and a little unforgiving at times. After a short burn-in, we found that it's well-executed enough to avoid adding any extra sibilance to recordings.
There is plenty of bass - slightly more than offered by an entirely neutral set - but it's a little laid-back, lacking some of the impact of the last studio headphones tested, the GermanMAESTRO GMP 8.35. However, there's a certain smoothness and openness to the SRH840 that makes them convincing as leisure headphones - for movies and music outside the home studio - rather than just monitors.
It's the mid-range warmth, which characterises most of Shure's SE IEMs, that makes them much more fun to listen to than many analytical headphones. It does step on the toes of the top-end transparency a little, but it's a worthy trade when there's plenty of open-ness to the top-end for analytical ears to grab onto. The soundstage is also good for a closed pair, although we imagine not a patch on the new open-back Shure SRH 1440.
The SRH840 are headphones with the requisite neutrality of a studio headphone and the smoother qualities of a home Hi-Fi headphone. They are the best of both worlds, but if you want a set simply for monitoring and zero "fun" applications, you might be better off without the tasty candy coating of warmth that the SRH840 provide. However, we know which type we'd rather live with.
Available for around £120 if you shop hard enough, the Shure SRH840 are excellent value, competing well with sub-£200 sets from Beyerdynamic, and in particular offering much more enjoyable sound than the classic £120 DT100. The folding, swivel-cup design also makes them significantly more versatile than many pairs of this size. We have some quibbles about a few design elements, but these are simply brilliant headphones for the money.
The Shure SRH840 are excellent all-round home headphones that are superb value at £120-odd. Well-made, and with sound lets them switch between roles as a monitoring tool and more relaxed listening buddy with ease, they're highly flexible as long as you keep them indoors - they're just a bit too big for portable use in our book.