I used last weekend to make a little dogfight between the new and closed full-size Shure SRH 940 top of the line studio monitor and the open, laidback sounding classic Sennheiser HD 650. The Shure is an 42 Ohm can, which means it´s more easy to drive on your Ipod, than the 300 Ohm Sennheiser, that needs a good amplifier to sing the best. They both cost around 300 euro in my region.
Shure SRH 940 comes in a suitcase generously equipped with accessories and I would call it a very flexible headphone. You get an extra set of velour pads, 2 different cables to chose from, adapter jack and SRH 940 can be folded together. The Sennheiser HD 650 only comes with an adapter for minijack and can not be folded. I think that other headphone manufacturers can learn a lot from Shure, when they bring out new cans in that pricerange. You feel like Shure cares about your needs and not just want to rip of your wallet.
The test between Shure SRH 940 and Sennheiser HD 650 was exciting to make and has clearly changed my view on what an analytic closed headphone has to offer. With the Shure SRH 940, you get a great, honest and revealing headphone. The downside is that it exposes any weakness in your music or system. If there is noise or compression in the music, SRH 940 will show it to you. My setup did certainly not pass that test with flying colors, because my Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P headamplifier is kind of noisy, which I was not aware. I live happily in the dark with HD 650, but on the other hand, I´m missing out on details and vocal delights in the music. If you consider the Shure SRH 940, you must ask yourself, can my system bare the naked truth. It´s not a huge problem when the music plays, but could be a disappointment for those, who don´t know to hole deal, when they buy the SRH 940.
I was not nearly as surprised by the beautiful vocal presentation on the Shure SRH 940, as on the fact that the soundstage on both headphones were pretty close. I would have guessed that the open back Sennheiser had a bigger advantage here. The Shure SRH 940 gives you a quick, clear and clean sound, that helps on giving a precise presentation with lots of nuances, especially in the vocal apartment. Music on the SRH 940 is upfront without being treble harsh, however, bad or compressed recordings are not to prefer on the SRH 940. The HD 650 is much more tolerant and forgiving, but slower and some would say it has a darker approach. The bass on the Shure SRH 940 is slim, tight and precise, while the bass on HD 650 has a larger and more flappy character. I can´t say I prefer one headphone over the other, it depends on my mood, time of day and the music. SRH 940 gives you lot of information from the music and is in some ways a better headphone than the Sennheiser, but it comes at a price, as I described. The HD 650 is also known to scale up very well, so plug it on a 1200 euro headamplifier and it will sing like no tomorrow. So in some ways my test is inclusive, but the basic differences still stands.
To sum it all up, with the Sennheiser HD 650 you get a smooth and laid back brother, while you with Shure SRH 940 gets the feeling of sitting in the studio and help producing the music. Both things are good and my recommendation is that you buy, at least two different types of headphones to switch between. And I say at least.