Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hardware Review: Audio Technica ATH M50 vs. Shure SRH 840

This is the first hardware review on this blog and I write it because of popular request. I wrote the allmost same text yesterday as a status message on Facebook, and some thought it would be a good idea to write the whole thing in this, recently completely neglected, blog.

Occasion of this review is the failure of my Audio Technica ATH M50 Studio Headphones. After less than 2 years of use of the right stereo channel was gone, which I attribute to a cable damage. Some time ago, the spring, which normally protects the cable from breakinge slipped out of the connector and could not be reattached. But first things first:

Not even 2 years ago I bought a pair of Audio Technica ATH M50. These are some kind of the standard studio headphones these days. Since my Sennheiser DT770 (with permanently attached ear pads) due to dirt, after 5 years of use constituted an epidemic threat, a replacement was urgently needed. Of course, it should be closed headphones, at work I like to be shielded from all "outside noise". I already knew that the Audio Technica ATH M50 constitute the de facto standard in the area of ​​studio headphones and so I didn't listen to the few warnings from some colleagues. The most commonly used argument was the attachment of the cable and the weak way it was done. Yes, allready when buying the headphones I sceptically looked at this spring, which is attached to the plug to prevent excessive tensile load and cable damage. This spring cried out "I am the first thing to break" ... what finally happened after all. The next downside, I was warned about, did not become apparent until, when I had worn the headphones worn for about 1 1/2 hours: The ear cups of the ATH M50 are of so small that I seriously wonder, whose ears had served here as a reference measure. For sure not those of an an adult man. The ears are squashed into the ear cups. The material of the ear pads is also quite stiff, so the ears hurt after a while. I had described to the guy at the musical instrument shop really in detail, what kind of music I produce. BASS is important, and actually the ATH M50 provided a bass that impressed me very much. These headphones delivered the bass frequencies extremely good. I did, frankly, not really recognize back then, that the other frequencies were far less well presented. But to set things clear: No, the efect is not so serious that one therefore should refrain from buying the ATH M50. It's just, in my opinion, not a correct representation of the overall frequency range.

Well yesterday I was forced, due to the faillure the ATH M50, to acquire some new studio headphones. And I almost bought the Audio Technica ATH M50 again. Generally, I was in fact happy with the product itself. It really did a great job. But fortunately, I tried then one or the other model, and the one that immediately impressed me was a pair of Shure SRH 840. The sound was powerful and dynamic. While the bass was not quite as brilliant as delivered by the ATH M50, the entire frequency range appeared complete and balanced. The second plus point I came across immediately was the wearing comfort. I had never a tool, giving me a feeling of "you can use that forever." The ear pads should accommodate even the largest ears. The soft material of the ear pads provides extra comfort. The same applies to the headband of the Shure SRH 840, which is padded with cloth on the lower side. This also minimizes the sweating under the headband. Last night I wore the Shure SRH 840 for 4 hours and the wearing comfort was top notch. The biggest plus point compared to the ATH M50 represents for me that the cable of the SRH 840 is removable. This protects the cable from damage during transport and makes it easily replaceable if damaged, rather than throw away the entire headphones or in case of warranty to send it to the manufacturer. The experts will agree with me when I say that damage to connectors and cables are the main cause of failure for headphones in continuous use. Conveniently you find a spare cable and a pair of spare ear pads in the delivery package of the Shure SRH 840. Thus, one is well supplied with spare parts for a good time and prepared for some surprises. The cable with a flexible plastic protection at the jack looks much more durable than the weak spring on the ATH M50. What, however, gives me a little headache at the SRH 840, is the plug connection between the cable and headphones. It is a small jack, which is fixed by a screw cap to prevent slipping. This attachment seems to be predestined for defects caused by material fatigue. The thin cable connections that significantly protrude between the headband and ear cups could be easily damaged. Otherwise, the Shure SRH 840 makes a solid impression.

In conclusion I can only say that the Shure SRH 840 for me is the clear favorite among the studio headphones in the price range of 150 euros. Comfort and sound quality are top notch, the whole product looks overall solid and durable. The delivery package includes all spare parts you need for a period of time.

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