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Taron & Andrew Lissimore

A Review of Four ~$100 Sealed Headphones: Denon AH-D1001, Sennheiser HD 448, Shure SRH440, and Sony MDR-V6 - Part 2.

In part two of this review, we carry on with the Shure SRH440 and Sony MDR-V6; and summarize. The Shure SRH440
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="The Shure SRH440 is an excellent low-cost headphone for audio professionals"]The Shure SRH440 is an excellent low-cost headphone for audio professionals[/caption] Right in the middle of their recently released line of full size sealed headphones, the Shure SRH440 is a real winner for headphone enthusiast and audio professional alike.
While quite similar tonally to the Sennheiser HD 448 with slightly tame bass and good balance otherwise, the SRH440 somehow manages to bring more coherence and bounce into the picture, with the Sennheisers a bit more neutral and dry in comparison. On the other hand, the Shures can get a little strident and aggressive sounding, with complex music dense with highs.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Very coherent sound, with a surprisingly tasty peak in the highs."]Very coherent sound, with a surprisingly tasty peak in the highs.[/caption]I suppose it has to do with that bump up around 10kHz, which in most material brings out details with a very pleasant sparkling clarity, but with some music gets a little too much. None the less, for recording professionals this level of resolution is usually not available with anywhere near this competence at this price point, and will be welcome when listening for chirps and artifacts deep in the mix. These headphones are almost as efficient as the Denon AH-D1001S and could easily be driven by portable players, though they are a little bulky for regular portable use ... and a bit heavy, too. But in Pro applications durability is a big plus, and their ability to fold up into a fairly compact size for storage and transport is a very good thing.
The Sony MDR-V6
[caption id="attachment_498" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The venerable MDR-V6 ... yes, it sounds pretty good. "]    The venerable MDR-V6 ... yes, it sounds pretty good.  This headphone has been around since the 1980's in various incarnations. I liked the origional version which was superseded by the MDR-V7506 on the pro side, and the MDR-V600 on the consumer side, neither of which I liked as much. Fortunately, the MDR-V6 has reappeared as a consumer product, and sounds pretty darn good.[/caption] This headphone has been around since the 1980's in various incarnations. I liked the original version which was superseded by the MDR-V7506 on the pro side, and the MDR-V600 on the consumer side, neither of which I liked as much. Fortunately, the MDR-V6 has reappeared as a consumer product, and sounds pretty darn good. (Even though it says "for Digital" on the side, I used an analog signal to drive it. Sheesh, sometimes marketing speak makes me crazy. )
I have to admit, I really wasn't expecting to like these headphones; I thought the MDR-V700 was a pretty poor showing and didn't expect the V6 to do any better. Boy, was I wrong, these little cans are pretty good.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Well extended bass, and flat response is quite remarkable."]Well extended bass, and flat response is quite remarkable.[/caption]As you can see from the frequency response, these small sealed headphones have a solid bass response, and are remarkably flat to about 5kHz. My experience is the headphones need a slight upward curvature to sound properly rich through the mids (see Shure SRH440 graph above as an example), and the flatness of the V6 does indeed bring a slight boxy or hollow sound through the mids ... but it is slight. Trebel response is good, with a minor tendency toward harshness. Overall, the sound quality is quite good, almost up to the level of the Shure and Sennheiser above, but with superior tight and dynamic bass.Though we display these headphones as full size, the ear cups are not very deep, and your ears will be squished a little by the earpieces, though likely not uncomfortably so. The build quality and folding features of these cans is very good, and they appear to be quite durable. These headphones would be perfectly adequate for non-critical professional and studio applications, and are likely ideal for a college student looking for a headphone with good bass and the ability to carry in a backpack.
Summary I'm going to wrap this up without declaring a clear winner. I mentioned at the top that I felt all four of these cans were quite good, and all four have some slight weaknesses. But I will try to steer you just a bit here depending on your tastes and applications. Sound Quality If you're a bass lover, you should be looking at the Denon and the Sony. The Sony's bass is a bit tighter, but it's also a bit too bright, and may get a little strident for some. On the other hand, the Denon is slightly loose in the bass, and slightly too laid back and may not have enough detail for some folks. If you don't mind a slightly under-emphasized bass, the Sennheiser will deliver a more neutral presentation than the cans above, and the Shure will deliver a bit more bouncy and coherent mid-range though it does tend towards being a bit strident with complex music.  Ergonomics I would consider all the sonic differences between these cans to be fairly modest, and it certainly makes sense to select one based largely on your application. For portable use, I suggest the Denon and the Sony. Both are quite efficient and have good bass response, and they will deliver quite satisfactory sound with iPods, iPhones, and other portable players. For professional and studio use, I'd suggest the Shure for the more critical applications as they render detail very well and the mids are nicely balanced; be careful not to add too much bass in to compensate for their lack, though. In the studio, artists will get a good seal and hear clearly with the Sony, and they'll also fold up and survive a half court hookshot into a milk crate. Students should dash directly to the Sony as well for their solid bass, efficiency with portables, and ability to fold small for transport in a backpack. Folks looking for general purpose cans for around the home will like both the Sennheiser and the Denon, but if doing double duty as a portable headphone the Denon is more efficient.  
  The Good Stuff Not So Good Stuff
Denon AH-D1001
  • Good Sound
  • Efficient for Portables
  • Very Comfortable
  • Slightly Lacking Punch
  • Usually More Expensive
  • Sennheiser HD 448
  • Very Neutral Sound
  • Detailed Without Harshness
  • Very Secure Fit
  • Slightly Small Earcups
  • Slighty Weak Bass
  • Shure SRH440
  • Coherent with Good Bounce
  • Very Good Resolution
  • Durable and Folds
  • A Little Heavy
  • Slightly Strident at Times
  • Sony MDR-V6
  • Dynamic, Solid Bass
  • Folds to Small Size
  • Great College Student Can
  • Slightly Hollow Mids
  • Shallow Ear Cups

  • 1 comment

    • Jeff Slater

      As a poor college student, I tore through cheap headphones like a pig through pizza scraps. Tired of poor sound and I saved my ducats and bought a pair of Sony MDR-V6s. Um, that was 13 years ago and I still use them just as much, daily. Great “all-round” headphones- music, gaming, movies, audio editing – like it’s been told over and over, they are accurate, well built, and not fatiguing.

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