- Revealing, detailed sound
- Removable cable
- Not quite as comfy as Sennheiser rivals
- May be a tad bright for some
- Review Price: £239.00
- 40mm neodymium driver
- Open-back design
- Removable cable
- 3.5mm jack with 6.3mm converter
- Velour pads
Upon first opening up the oversized case of the Shure SRH1440, we couldn’t help but notice how close in design these headphones are to those of Sennheiser’s open-back HD range. The Sennheiser HD 650 have become a standardbearer for headphones of this type, and Shure seems to have its sights set on the same audience.
However, the Shure SRH1440 have an ever-so-slightly less attractive design. Its chunky plastic arms joining the cups to the headband have a whiff of the practical “studio” headphone rather than the more carefully-styled home-bound type. There’s not a great deal in it, though, and in our book comfort and sound quality should always be top concerns in an open set like this.
The Shure SRH1440 are constructed using a surprisingly wide variety of materials. Most of the outer is tough black plastic, at the heart of the headband is a flexible strip of metal, the driver grilles are black-painted metal, the headband padding topped with synthetic leather and the earcup padding is covered in velour. There’s just one part here that’s just for show, which is the band of silver that rings around the speaker grille.
Although not bowled over by the Shure SRH1440 looks, build quality is excellent. The synthetic leather used in the headband is so soft and convincing that we had to check with Shure whether it was the real deal, the headphones are feel sturdy and the tension of the headband is well-judged – low-to-mid, for home use.
They are a little heavier than Sennheiser’s models, at 325g, and the earcup padding doesn’t quite feel so luxurious. Hence, no, they’re not quite as comfortable as the HD 598, but it’s a little like comparing various brands of sports car – we’d happily wear these headphones all day long. Their open backs make them much cooler on your ears than a closed pair and the velour doesn’t stick to your skin like some synthetic leather cups do.
The drawbacks of an open pair like this are that they leak sound readily and they barely block out any external noise. If you want a pair of headphones to give you brief respite from screaming kids, these are not they. And it goes without saying that they’re utterly useless for on noisy streets, buses and so on.
This is no knock on the Shure SRH1440, just the reality of what open-back headphones are all about. Within the field, these headphones make no big mistakes. An important bonus, the 2m cable is fully removable, with a simple gold-plated pull-to-release mechanism at the bottom of each earcup.
Opting for flexibility rather than flouncy audio cred, the jack is a 3.5mm jobbie threaded to accept a 6.3mm converter, included in the box. A large, well-padded case is included too.
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.
Score in detail
Design & Features 8
Sound Quality 9