Upon the release of the wired over-ear Shure SRH1540 headphones in 2013, the US manufacturer hailed their “superior acoustic performance, comfort and durability to professional engineers, musicians and audiophiles alike”. But hey, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a pair purely for music-listening. Should you, though? Ten years on from their launch, I put them through their paces to see if they can still go toe-to-toe with the newer kids on the block.
Shure SRH1540 review: Design
I would never admit to salivating over a pair of headphones, but I certainly cooed a little when I first set eyes on the Shure SRH1540. With their black and silver colour scheme and sleek, modern styling, they’re one of the most attractive sets of headphones I've seen in a long time. Constructed primarily from aircraft-grade aluminium alloy, they’re also pretty lightweight. However, flimsy they’re not, and never once did I feel that these Shure SRH1540 headphones would come apart in my hands.
Looking at those Alcantara and memory foam ear pads, I couldn’t wait to try the headphones on – and I wasn't disappointed. Big enough to envelope even the largest of lugholes, the low-density pads are so soft and squishy I could practically feel my ears sinking into them as the first bars of my music kicked in. I've found with memory foam mattresses that they can get very hot after a while, but these pads are covered by a breathable fabric, meaning my ears didn't sweat during long listening sessions. And don’t worry too much about wearing them out, as Shure very generously supplies a spare pair in the box.
There are a few minor down points though. The Shure SRH1540 aren’t foldable, meaning you’ll struggle to squeeze them into your coat pocket and the ear cups don’t swivel. It’s also worth noting the two supplied cables are only six feet long – a potential issue for those planning to use the headphones for studio work.
Shure SRH1540 review: Features
If I was reviewing a pair of wireless headphones I would normally comment on subjects such as battery life, range and voice activation in this section. But since these headphones aren’t Bluetooth-enabled, they don’t come with any such features.
What you will get is some pretty serious audio technology including a set of 40mm neodymium drivers, a diaphragm developed with APTIV film for what Shure describes as “improved linearity and lower THD - total harmonic distortion”, along with a steel driver frame with a vented centre pole piece. According to the manufacturer, this last bit of kit “eliminates internal resonance for consistent performance at all listening levels” – but, as ever, I'll put that claim to the test in the following section.
Shure SRH1540 review: Sound
Shure’s proclamations, coupled with the hefty price of these headphones, raised my expectations that the Shure SRH1540 would sound top-drawer – and they did. Lining up some classic Eagles, I was instantly struck by the level of detail. On slower tracks such as Desperado, the plucked acoustic and yearning vocals sounded so real and raw, you’d think Don Henley was playing it on your living room.
And the Shure SRH1540 headphones proved equally capable when playing rowdier tracks. On Life In The Fast Lane, the soundstage was gloriously spacious, with no clutter or distortion to spoil the party. The balance was just right, too: while bass lines packed plenty of beef, they never once over-powered the higher frequencies, which were also given room to express themselves without being allowed to steal the limelight.
With sound quality this exquisite, the Shure SRH1540 headphones would undoubtedly suit studio work. If you’re not a musician or producer and simply want something to play your favourite tunes on, the SHR1540’s price tag makes them a bit of a luxury option. But hey, treat yourself!
Shure SRH1540 review: The alternatives
If you’d rather have wireless headphones, then you’ll struggle to find better than the Sony WH-1000XM5. Offering best-in-class noise cancelling, 30-hour battery life and awesome sound quality, these over-ear headphones are the real deal – and they’re also cheaper than the Shure SRH1540.
Prefer to stick with wired headphones? Well, we’re also big fans of the Beyerdynamic Amiron, a set of over-ears that look and sound the business. They’re even more expensive than the Shure headphones but the German manufacturer’s reputation speaks for itself.