Playback was suitably impressed when we reviewed Shure’s SRH840 headphones last year. The 840s set a benchmark for under $250 headphone performance, though of course Grado ‘phones, for very different sonic reasons, also hold a warm spot in our value-oriented hearts. When Shure recently introduced the even lower priced SRH440, at half the price of the 840s ($125), we wanted to get them into the lab as soon as we could.
The 440s are difficult to distinguish from the big brother 840s, since they have the same look, same driver size, same impedance and the same magnet technology. The 440s are a bit more sensitive at 105db/mW (vs. 102dB for the 840s). This means that they should work with some portable devices that have limited output. The 440s have closed backs, though the fit is loose enough that these might not be ideal if isolation from external sounds is what you want.
In any event, Shure doesn’t go overboard in hyping the 840s or the 440s, perhaps because they let the products do the talking?