I was in one of the Aurem meets a couple of weeks ago when my buddy Ace Estaniel piped up flashing this very nice looking can from Shure, the SRH1540. At a glance, it did look lovely: the carbon fibre design on the cup gave it a premium design. Couple it with the tough looking headband and the mesmerizing looks of the Alcantara pads does scream of an unyielding quality. But does it justify the $499 pricetag?
The SRH1540 has quite an excellent packaging, with the cans seated in a well built square box. It is a bit big but is definitely nice, with the interior lined with felt that ensures that the cans together with the accessories are housed without worries of scratch. Moulds are properly designed to enclose the cans snugly, while the cables are sheathed in cloth bags (MMCX and 3.5mm jack) to avoid scratching the luscious looking cans. Shure could have done a better job on the box by adding a strap for portability. Without one, it is a burden carrying the box around.
For the cans, as mentioned, the build is quite impressive for something so lightweight. Cups looked slim and sturdy while the Alcantara foams are nothing short of the expectations: plush and comfy. I particularly liked the dotted design making the SRH1540 looked really one of a kind. Headband seems to be built quite well and can withstand pressure if you happen to have a huge noggin’. Clamping force seems to be average and wearing the entire thing is not a burden at all.
One thing I am quite curious about Shure is their affinity to MMCX termination with their cables. While the included cables looked quite stable enough, it might be an issue if one would look for a custom cable given that some that I have seen quite have bigger diameter compared to the ones in the Shure cables. If you are planning to keep the cans for a longer time, I would suggest that you get extra cables from Shure to avoid issues. This, however, throws the idea of a custom wire out of the window as some cable rollers would opt for their choice wire material. I haven’t really come across an MMCX termination that should match that of the SRH1540.
Overall, I am happy with the build quality. Seems Shure knew what they were doing when they planned the SRH1540 on the blueprint.
Now on to the sound. I used my ever trusty Onkyo DP-X1 without stacking either an amp or DAC to see better how the can handles the signature sound of the DAP:
Megadeth (Symphony Of Destruction)
SRH1540 managed to exploit the crunchy guitar riffs by Marty Friedman in this track. Bass was tight and punchy, albeit being hygienic. David Ellefson’s bass lines were riveting with such smooth strokes. One thing that is evident using the can is how Dave Mustaine’s voice seems to float over the frequencies. It doesn’t really sound forward, it just sounded a bit apart from the rest of the frequencies.
The Secret Sisters (Tomorrow Will Be Kinder)
This track exploited the can’s capability to let the mids shine, particularly the voice. Laura and Lydia Rogers’ voices seems to have been exhibited in such harmony yet laid out in good distinction from each other. The cello also sounded smooth and fluid but not overpowering.
Sarah Bareilles (Basket Case)
The guitar strums blended well with the harmonica on this piece, but still allowed the voice of Sarah Bareilles to shine over any other frequencies. I felt the details of the guitars so well, even down to the guitar quirks like the squeaks when doing a slide on the fretboard. Imaging still was excellent on this track. It sounded clean, yet you can pick up the small imperfections that makes the sound unfeigned.
Sarah Bareilles (Let The Rain)
I decided to give the SRH1540 a fourth helping with the next track in the album Kaleidoscope as it felt it deserved to be described using Let The Rain. In this track, the can was able to display a wider range of frequencies and was able to show me a bit of sample of what it can do on the upper frequencies. Bass is still tight, mids still an A but the track exhibited how well SRH1540 can play the highs on a track. I would say it is sufficient or maybe even has a healthy dose between 6khz-12khz range. Me as a treblehead think that it can be more, but for a more conventional usage for a more conventional audience, I think the dosage is meritorious.
Taking the SRH1540 on a commute is something that I really won’t suggest. Yes, the can is lightweight and can sustain the asperity of a daily commute, but the pads won’t offer a superb or even sufficient isolation. It sure was comfortable, but allows noise to come in and out of the can.
So, is the $499 pricetag reasonable for the SRH1540? I would say it is. With the sound it can produce, the SRH1540 can easily appeal majority of the consumers given it’s highly adaptable sound and resplendent build.