- Review Date: 12/07/2011
- Bottom line:
A strong budget headphone choice for DJs and home studios, the Shure SRH550DJ offers an accurate, unexaggerated frequency response.
Flat, non-exaggerated response geared towards DJs, home studios, and musicians. No distortion at high volumes when used with mobile devices, laptops. DJ-friendly design with flip-up ear cups.
Can be uncomfortable for long listening periods. Will distort slightly at high volumes when used in studio or live gig scenarios with more powerful amplification.
Intended for disc jockeys and home studio engineers, Shure's SRH550DJ is an affordable entry-level headphone pair. At $125 (list), the SRH550DJ is less expensive than some more-hyped DJ-oriented models, like the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre From Monster ($449.95, 4 stars). The SRH550DJ is quite similar to Shure's less expensive headphone pair, the SRH440 ($99.99, 4 stars)—the primary difference being earcups that easily twist away from the ear, and a slightly deeper bass response. If you're in search of deep bass, however, you're looking in the wrong place—the SRH550DJ manages to represent seriously low frequencies without ever boosting them dramatically. Unfortunately, the headphones can be a little uncomfortable on long listening sessions and they will distort slightly in high volume studio/live gig scenarios. For the price, however, they are a great deal.
The black and gray design of the Shure SRH550DJ is all chunky plastic with little flare—the Shure logo graces the top of the headband and the circumarual (around-the-ear) earcups, along with the model name. The ear cushions are black and nicely padded, but most usefully, they are removable and replaceable—without coming off easily during standard use. The ear cushions protect a 50mm dynamic neodymium magnet driver in each ear. It would have been nice to see Shure incorporate a detachable cable into the SRH550DJ's design, like Monster did with the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre and Shure itself did with its in-ear SE215 ($119, 4 stars), but since that's not really a standard feature with most studio headphones, we'll let it slide. As the name implies, however, the SRH550DJ is not just meant for the studio, it's aimed at DJs. Part of the DJ-friendly design is flip-out earcups that make it easy to monitor the room with one ear and what's in your console mix in the other—another feature the Beats Pro also has. Aside from that, however, the design is fairly barebones. A drawstring protective carrying pouch comes with the headphones, as well as ¼-inch gold threaded adapter for larger headphone jacks.
If you're using the SRH550DJ with a mobile device like the iPhone, it won't get super-loud at maximum volume—which is a good thing. It still gets as loud as any reasonable listener would need, but its higher-than-standard-earphone impedance (32 Ohms) keeps it from drilling your eardrums. This also keeps it from distorting, even at maximum volume on deep bass tracks like The Knife's "Silent Shout" or Thom Yorke's "Cymbal Rush." For use as studio monitors at home, I experienced some distortion at maximum volume using the Digi003's more powerful headphone output to monitor a Moog Taurus III (a synth capable of insanely deep bass tones) at very high volumes. It should be noted that at comfortable listening levels or even louder-than-comfortable levels, I experienced almost no distortion. However, compared with my standby studio pair, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($149.95 4.5 stars), they offer less clarity in the low frequencies and distort more easily at high volumes.
On modern classical tracks, like John Adams' "The Chairman Dances," the SRH550DJ sounds a tad bright, with the higher register instruments in the orchestra occasionally sounding a bit harsh when monitoring at higher volumes. Since the bass response is more restrained, the lower register instruments are not exaggerated like they are on a lot of modern headphones pairs, like the aforementioned Beats pair. Don't be mistaken—the bass response sounds fantastic, and for studio and DJ applications, a flatter response is ideal.
It's important to remember that, despite the lower price, these headphones are intended for pro (or amateur) uses first, leisurely listening on an iPhone second. The distinction is important, as those seeking thunderous low-end to listen to modern deep bass mixes will definitely be disappointed. The headphones are for evaluating a mix, both in live scenarios at a studio and for DJ gigs. The need for a clear, bright response that can cut through, say, crowd noise, is significant at a DJ gig. The need for unexaggerated bass in a recording studio application is necessary so musicians and engineers can have an accurate sense of what they're recording. Thus, the sound is more clinical than musical or mind-blowing. If you can afford to spend a tad more on studio monitors (and won't be using them for DJ gigs), check out the tried-and-true Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($149.95, 4.5 stars). The aforementioned Monster Beats DJ headphones are a steep step up in price, but if you want to hear that subwoofer sound in your headphone mix, the Beats surely provide it. For DJs and home studio engineers on a budget, the SRH550DJ is well worth the reasonable price.
This review is in partnership with Ziff Davis Media.