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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Audiophile Headphone Review!
Shure SRH1540 Closed-Back HP:
“More Bass, Maximum Comfort”

Price: $499
Likes: comfy fit, controlled bass boost
Dislikes: not much noise isolation
Wow Factor: "good bass-boost HP"
More info: Shure SRH1540

by John Gatski
  Since 2009, Shure has been making really good headphones for the hi-fi and professional recording niches. In fact, I use the SRH1840 as one of my reference headphones for accuracy and detail. The ‘1840‘s bass response rolls off naturally below 60 Hz, but it has a gorgeous top end. Recently, Shure sent me its new closed-back headphone that sits just under the $699 SRH1840 in price, the SRH1540. This new headphone offers a nice, open, detailed top end and a bit of mid-bass boost for those who like a slightly fatter tone.

  Priced at $499, the SRH1540 features 40-mm neodymium drivers and uses an APTIV™ film diaphragm and a steel driver frame — with vented center pole piece — said to improve linearity and lessen internal resonance for consistent performance at all listening levels with lower THD (total harmonic distortion).
  The closed-back drivers are rated for 10 Hz to 25 kHz frequency response, with no tolerances listed. (Although you need special mics and a dummy head to precisely measure headphone frequency response, I did run some bass tones and measured through an AudioControl RTA to see how the headphone performed in the low end. I measured ample bass down to 60 Hz, with reference to a 1 kHz tone).

  I enjoyed the SRH1540‘s sonics, listening to several pop recordings such as the HD Tracks-delivered, hi-res versions of Chicago Transit Authority and Linda Ronstadt - Heart Like a Wheel. The extra oomph in the bass filled out the golden oldies just fine. On jazz music, the enhanced mid/upper bass added weight to numerous recordings. 

  Though closed back, the circumaural design is comfortable and lightweight (10.1 ounces), thanks to its design elements, such as aircraft-grade aluminum-alloy yoke, dual-frame, padded headband and carbon fiber cap. The closed-back ear cups help to reinforce the bass response, and they isolate, to a moderate degree, the sound from outside noise. However, the isolation is not as good as pro headphones designed for that task. The SRH1540 should be used where noise is at a minimum.
  The SRH1540 comes with a 12-ft. OFC cable with a kevlar-reinforced strain relief jacket. And it’s all housed in a hard, zippered case and includes a pair of replacement ear pads and a 1/8th-to-1/4th inch adapter.
  The headphones are lightweight and cushy — very comfortable on my ears, as I wear glasses. The light weight contributes to that comfy feel. Versus its big brother, the SRH1840, the ‘1540 was slightly more comfortable; the same ear pads seem softer.
  As opposed to the SRH1840's extended top end and naturally rolled-off bass response, the ‘1540 gives you a generous portion of the more-expensive Shure HP’s upper-end response, but has more mid and upper bass energy (50 Hz to 200 Hz). Few headphones have significant under 40-Hz bass because of the limited driver size and lack of a larger enclosure. Thus, most HP bass response is mid bass. and headphones are often tuned to pump up the bass in those frequencies. The SRH1540 is no exception.

The setup
  I listened to the Shure SRH1540 through several headphone amp/DACs, as well as two portable players. The various devices included a Benchmark DAC2 D, Mytek Stereo192-DSD and the new Oppo HA-1 — all hi-res headphone DACS. The Sony PCM-D100 and TASCAM DR100 Mk II portable player/recorders also got their turn with the ‘1540. Non-DAC headphone amps included the classy Bryston BHA-1, one of the best solo headphone amps on the market. Rack players included Oppo BDP-105 and the TASCAM DA-3000.
  After listening to numerous bits of hi-res music from all genres, the SRH1540 has a similar midrange and top end of the SRH1840, but as previously mentioned, there was more mid and upper bass. Those who find the natural roll-off of the ‘1840 to be bass shy will like the ‘1540. It’s a plumper bass that is not overly exaggerated.
as long as the recorded bass tones were not too hot. The Grant GreenGreen Streets SACD, and Flim and The BB’sTricycle SACD were relayed with much of the precision of other high-end headphones - but with that added bass boost.

SRH1540 is a fine mate for the TASCAM DR-100 Mk II 

  On bass heavy, Hip-Hop, the extra bass could be a bit over the top to my ears. But some younger listeners, who tried the SRH1540, said they liked the extra low-end. Everyone has an opinion. With an iPod, I just used the bass reduce EQ mode, if I found the bass too hot — usually with pop music.
  From a sensitivity and efficiency standpoint, I found the SRH1540 easy to drive. All of my portables had no problem driving the headphones. Speaking of portables, the SRH1540 is a great match with the TASCAM DR100 Mk II and the Sony PCM-D100 recorder/players. Musician and home recordists can use the Shure as a reasonably-priced monitor headphone that delivers quite a bit of accuracy along with bass assist.
  Although I have talked a lot about its bass delivery, the SRH1540‘s high-end is also quite good with an airiness and detailed separation in the layers of instruments — as long as bass is balanced in the recording. I still like the top end of the flagship SRH1840, but I do like the balance of the ‘1540. Overall, though, the balance is reasonable for a bass-emphasized headphone.
  I give the SRH1540 high marks for comfort. They could be worn for extended periods of listening — without any discomfort. As an eyeglass wearer, the ‘1540 did not apply any painful force against the glasses ear pieces. And there was no clamping pressure on my head during long listening sessions. This is an easy-to-wear headphone.

The verdict 
  As with the other Shure headphones I recently reviewed, the SRH1540 is a quality, closed-back headphone that is real comfy and gives audible bass additional weight. The high-end is reasonably detailed, smooth and the midrange clearly delineated. As much as I like the SRH1840’s sonics; there are times some extra headphone bass can come in handy. The Shure SRH1540 nicely fills that niche. It most certainly gets the EAN Stellar Sound Award

John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

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