Best known for leveraging its microphone expertise to craft top-ranking premium headphones, Shure has deigned to dig down into the budget segment recently, and with good results. The company’s new SE112, for instance, are some of the best budget in-ear headphones on the market.
The latest model in Shure’s bargain basement, the SRH145 ($39), are a closed-back pair of on-ear headphones that partner with the new open-back SRH144 (also $39) to hold down the lowest rung in Shure’s storied headphone lineup. To be frank, most headphones at this price point just plain suck. The SRH145 don’t, and that alone makes them worthy of consideration for those looking for decent sound on a thin dime.
Out of the box
It’s no surprise that the SRH145’s packaging is frill free, composed of only a small orange box with a plastic mold tucked beneath the lid. Inside, the SRH145 come folded in on themselves to save space, and even with thick cushions on the ear pieces the hinges are able to collapse into a pretty compact package.
We aren’t wild about the extra razzledazzle of the gleaming, faux-metal coating.
The frame of the headphones is very light and feels a little cheaper than it looks in Shure’s glamour shots. We’re also not wild about the extra razzledazzle of the gleaming, faux-metal coating around the exterior, which gives the headphones a slightly toyish tone and is also a good canvas for scuff marks. We do like the soft leatherette on the pads, however, and the orange beneath the perforated openings offer a welcome touch of originality.
Accessories in the box include … well, there are no accessories in the box. But hey, 40 bucks.
Features and design
There’s no doubt Shure is aiming for a specific style with the SRH145. Often referred to as “urban,” the style could just as easily be called “Beats-esque” thanks to the indelible mark the popular brand has left on the industry at large. The design will catch some eyes, and depending upon which side of the aisle you sit (we’re classicists on this issue), it may or may not appeal. If the silver is too brash, the jet black color of the SRH144 is a good alternative, though their open-back earpiece design offers very little in the way of noise isolation.
While the SRH145’s exterior leans a bit towards gaudy, the grey underbelly offers a more elegant aesthetic, running along the entire interior, from the plastic base of the band to the ample strip of padding along the top and along the earpieces. The earpieces are set on rotating points to conform to your ears, and also adjust to fit along sliding tracks on the vertical axis. Beneath their cushy ear pads, the SRH145 boast 36mm dynamic drivers, which reach a claimed frequency response of 25Hz to 18kHz, and a top SPL of 100 dB.
As mentioned, the earpieces fold down on hinges for better portability, which is further assisted by the SRH145’s slim weight of only 5.28 ounces. The fixed headphone cable is a generous five feet in length, terminating with a right-angled jack. There’s no mic control piece on board — something users have come to expect on headphones at all levels — but the feature is available for an extra 10 spot.
While fit is always subjective, you’ll have a hard time finding a more comfy pair of cans on the market at this price point.
We’ve ribbed the SRH145 for feeling a little cheap, but part of that might be by design, as their light-weight frame barely makes an impact up top, able to be worn without aggravation for extended listening sessions. Just as impressive as the comfort is the passive noise isolation, which is excellent for an on-ear headphone. In other words, these cans block out the nonsense around you pretty effectively at moderate volume.
While not without its weak points, there’s plenty to like about the SRH145’s sound, which is rich and powerful down low, and smoothed-over up top for easy listening. We’d hoped the ‘phones would offer a rockstar performance to rival their pricier cousin, the SE112 but they didn’t quite reach those ambitious heights when it came to accuracy or clarity. Still, with balance, power, and affordability, they hold their own as a prime choice in the budget sector.
The languid upper register is smoothed over with high-grit sandpaper.
What the SRH145 may do best is to stay out of the danger zone at both ends of the frequency spectrum. Bass is punchy and full, providing a healthy pulse for electronic and hip-hop tracks, while treading judiciously when it comes to lighter acoustic tracks. The biggest hits can be a little heavy at times, but the headphones do a good job holding down the foundation without clouding up the midrange like so many bass bumpers at this price level, such as JVC’s similarly priced XXL.
The languid upper register is smoothed over with high-grit sandpaper, while still allowing some sparkle to slip through at the top of the spectrum from cymbal strikes, rim shots and synth effects. The softer sound design helps to keep at bay the steely bite in the upper mids, another common issue found in budget cans, especially from brands like Skullcandy, and other airport specials.
The downside to the SRH145’s lackadaisical approach to the top end is a lack of excitement and clarity when it comes to details like the attack of snare and tom drums. We also really missed the clean bite to plucked strings from banjo and mandolin, as well as the crunchier textures of distortion in some of our favorite electric guitar licks.
Still, Shure being Shure, there were some gorgeous moments that popped up unexpectedly as we traversed our catalog with the SRH145. The smoother sound signature did a great job of shoring up the thin clip to brighter tracks, like our MP3 copy of REM’s Reckoning album. And occasional swells of grandeur, such as the B3 organ in “July, July” by the Decemberists, or the textured resonance from the collage of percussion in Paul Simon’s “Pigs, Sheeps, and Wolves” make these headphones well worth the ride.
With a judicious blend of power and poise, the SRH145 provide an affordable ride that’s worthy of the Shure name. If you’re looking for a solid set of on-ear cans for a tiny chunk of change, Shure’s new SRH145 should be penciled in at the top of your list.
- Rich, powerful bass
Smooth, balanced upper register
Light, comfortable design
Good passive noise isolation
- Glossy midrange lacks excitement at the attack
Exterior design looks a bit chintzy