It’s Tuesday, so it’s time for the Headphone Showdown!
Today, I’ve got two studio headphones that both cost around $90.
The MDR-V6 is an iconic headphone. In production for 30 years, it has stood the test of time as a great, budget-minded jack-of-all-trades headphone. It has a signature that’s tuned for production work, but will also work for home listening. It also has a design that looks 30 years old.
Shure entered the headphone game about 7 years ago…and I’m pretty sure the V6 was the goalpost they were trying to hit. The SRH440 is very similar in a number of aspects, but with a more modern design and a removable cable. But can it dethrone the legend?
Both of these headphones have a signature that will sound bright and treble-focused to most listeners in their first session. The V6 has a punchy hump in the mid-bass, which lends a little more oomph to bass notes. The V6 also has a more pronounced upper mid region, which is better for detecting hiss in recordings, and other flaws.
That’s not to say the SRH440 isn’t tuned for pro work. It’s got a more-even response, but you will still be able to hear issues in your live sessions. The more even nature of the sound means that it’s probably a better choice, in terms of sound, for casual/home listening.
I really like the V6’s slightly unnatural, production-tuned sound. But for most consumers, the SRH440 will sound a bit more pleasing.
Winner: SRH440, by a hair. It’s better for non-pro use cases. But it may be bass light at first if you’re used to other headphones.
Sigh. The V6 wins here. Rather easily.
It’s a shame, too. I don’t know how Shure got this part wrong.
The V6 has cool hybrid ear pads, mixing the best features of on-ear and over-ear designs. It’s very lightweight, and exerts little pressure on the head. The fit is pleasant, and totally fine for long sessions.
Shure really tried to make the SRH440 comfy, but instead it’s just slightly awkward. The ear pads are nice and big, with plenty of room and decently cushy padding. The headband is decently wide and adjustable. But the solid build and somewhat-tight clamp leads to a fit that’s constantly noticeable. It improves a little bit with time…but the back of your mind will always be aware of the headphones. The ear cups aren’t terribly deep either, and the padding inside is much thinner than the plush foam inside the V6 cups. So if you don’t like your ears touching things, you won’t like the SRH440 much at all.
Apparently the other Shure headphones are more comfy. The SRH440 is frustratingly short of comfy, and although it’s still totally wearable, the comfort is also the most disappointing thing about it.
Winner: Sony MDR-V6. I’m still not sure why more manufacturers haven’t copied its pad concept.
The MDR-V6 was clearly designed in the 1980’s. It has silver STUDIO MONITOR text on the top. It has bright red stickers on the side. It has metal ear capsules that are sturdy. It has some exposed wires. The cable is a big coiled affair that doesn’t detach.
Shure’s headphone seems like it’s cut from the same cloth…but designed more recently. The lines and colors are much closer to what you’d find in other modern headphones. The ear capsules are still metal, but they mesh better with the overall design. The wires are still exposed, but they don’t stand out as much. The cable is coiled…but it detaches! Yay! And there’s a straight cable available too.
Winner: Shure SRH440. It looks more modern and subtle. I personally really like the design of the V6 though. It scratches a very specific itch.
Both of these headphones are built for studios and live recording, so they’re pretty darn tough. The V6 has metal ear cups and adjustment arms. The SRH440 has metal ear cups, and plastic that feels like a brick wall.
The SRH440 feels more substantial in the hand, but that feel also leads to some of its comfort issues. It’s an absurdly meaty headphone. I trust the build of both of these. Both have replaceable ear pads. If you really want to, you can even disassemble and user-service every single part on the V6.
Both headphones come with a bag. Shure’s bag is nicer. Both headphones fold down, “football” style. The Shure cable is detachable, with a nice twist-locking mechanism. The SRH440 wins due to its removable cable and nicer bag.
And here we see the flaw of this particular “headphone showdown” system. The SRH440 is the overall winner…but I’d still probably recommend the V6 for most people. I’m just not sure that everyone will want to deal with the comfort issues on the 440, even though the design is better, the sound is a little more even, and the cable detaches.
Both are great, versatile headphones for under $100. But the V6 is more comfy. I’ve thought about trying to weight the categories based on my own preferences/what I think is the most important, but your preferences might be different. So, if you need the absolute best comfort and these are your two options, the V6 is still a better choice despite its slight flaws in other areas. Otherwise, it’s the SRH440 all the way.