If you’re in the tech game, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Shure. The first time I came across the professional audio brand was back in my band days where we had some SM58s rocking around for band practice. Best microphone by the way. Not sure if they’re still used today, but they were a staple. Your band’s singer needed an SM58 to look legitimate, that was just how it was. That was a good 15 years ago now, though Shure is now around 100 years old, so they’ve had some decent experience with audio equipment, and for this video, we’re taking a look at their brand new Aonic 40 over-ear headphones, which promise to bring studio-quality audio to your everyday music.
The Shure Aonic 40s offer a very sleek and almost understated design, with its standout feature being the silver section snaking from the headband and around the rear of the earcup. The majority is covered in a soft but premium feeling plastic which has been moulded to shape the earcups, and are unfortunately a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Each earcup has been branded with the Shure name quite tastefully, and don’t stand out proud. They’re sleek and have an aura of elegance about them.
A metal band runs through the headband to give it a bit of stability up top and flex is pretty decent albeit a small creaking sound when the headband adjustment has been used. They fold down to store away in the carrying case, yet don’t snap into place when extended, leaving the Aonic 40s to feel very floppy when moving them around. The cushioned ear cups are covered in faux leather material, while the underside of the headband feels a little tougher, like a silicon though both areas offer a decent amount of comfort while in use. I only felt a slight bit of tension up top across the crown after prolonged use, which isn’t the greatest feeling if you’re using them in the office eight hours a day. The entire earcup encapsulates my ears, but not by much. It was a bit of a squish for me so your mileage may vary here. My ears were not squashed enough to cause the Aonic 40s to be uncomfortable though.
The left earcup is pretty much free from clutter, as it only houses the power and Bluetooth connect button, of which activates Bluetooth 5.0. On the right earcup though you can find buttons for play and pausing music, volume up and down and the button that switches between ambient and noise cancellation modes. I couldn’t find a skip track feature, no matter how many times I tried on my set here. Multiple presses just turned my music up and down.
However, most of this stuff can be controlled inside of the partner app – ShurePlay. ShurePlay I must say is one of the best-implemented apps I’ve seen for a while for Bluetooth headphone offerings. There’s so much to this app that’s completely customisable that you can really dial your settings in. After all, this is what Shure is really going for with their studio accurate sound quality. The device page, as well as showing you your battery level of which you have around 24 hours and firmware updates, allows you to adjust the levels of the noise cancellation and environmental modes, aka ambient sound through a fader. For active noise cancelling I settled on low, as the medium and high setting introduced a faint hiss to my ears. It’s not off-putting by any means, but it can be noticeable during quieter audio. The environmental mode or ambient sound I kept whacked right up to the top in case someone needed to get my attention in the office.
Now, it’s a shame to say that I wasn’t hugely impressed with the active noise cancellation on offer here. It’s an odd one and really punishes your audio senses. Shure is being clever by implementing a reactive ANC, meaning ANC could be stronger in a single ear if it detects that more noise is coming from that direction. So for example, if you’ve got a crowd of people on your left, the Aonic 40s will try harder to block off the audio in the left ear than on the right. And if you turn around, the crowd will then be more blocked in the right ear than the left. I would have preferred just a blanket ANC across both ears, no matter what is detected by each microphone. It’s definitely clever don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think this kind of thing is really needed, and I think Bose with their QC range and the Sony XM4s peak above Shure’s offering.
You’ve also got the chance to choose when the headphones signal you with a tone, like powering on and off or connecting with Bluetooth. I kept these as default, a USB audio mode for conferencing to lower the audio quality in favour of using the built-in microphone and a busy light, which is a small red light to indicate to others while you’re on a call, though this feature seems a bit dumb, as most people would associate a red flashing light as low battery and will probably interrupt you anyway.
The standout feature on ShurePlay though is definitely the EQ, where you can set your audio quality using presets like a bass-cut, treble-cut, a boost to the vocals and so on, but you’ve also got a really in-depth custom EQ you can switch on that allows you adjust your gain, bandwidth, and frequency. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know what all of those do, and it took me a bit of experimenting to really find a sound I was pleased with, but the layout and how easy the app looks and performs is amazing for people with the lack of knowledge to hone in on their preferences right from the word go. Once you’ve found a manual EQ setting you like, you can save it as a preset inside of the app to return to at a later time. So you can really mix and match it with the genre of music you’re listening to.
The audio quality though with the headphones, despite what I’ve just mentioned about the ANC here is flawless. These headphones sound literally so good and accept a number of codecs like aptX™, aptX™ HD, AAC, and SBC. Shure did say they were going for accuracy, and despite not being in the room with 100% of my music library artists while they made their songs, I can say that I never once felt as if something was off. Bass levels, even during moments where the bass was a little heavier or dirtier never felt as if they were overpowering my music, and mids and highs cut through with precision. Vocal clarity was absolutely on point, and in some instances felt really alive, like during Sinatra’s New York. The reverb heard in Sinatra’s voice was amazing to hear. There was a HUGE amount of detail to be heard in the Aonic 40s, and even now with more well-known tracks of mine, I felt I was hearing new things within them for the first time. And there was something about the drums, especially in more electronic processed music. Their punchiness and attack throughout the backline of music were just stellar. I cannot praise these headphones more, I mean they’re definitely some of the best sounding cans I have on my shelf right now that’s for sure.
Call quality also follows in the footsteps of music, and what I heard was very good and clear and even the built-in microphones on the Shure Aonic 40s was decent too. You can even connect them to a desktop or laptop using the USB-C cable for taking conference calls and the like if you’re in the office. Just take a listen to the sound quality. It’s not as full sounding as you might like, but for a call, it’s definitely above adequate.
The Shure Aonic 40s can be found online for around £249, which is going to sound like an expensive offering, but when you consider you’ve got Sony and Bose throwing into the mix at a higher price point than this, they’re extremely competitive, and definitely a set that should be considered if you’re after a fancy set of cans for your music. It’s such a shame about the quirky ANC and the rubberised silicon headband that Shure has gone with as this lets the side down somewhat, though the sound quality more than makes up for the small pitfalls I think. They’re a cracking set of headphones that not only look super elegant, but they also sound amazing too, and to undercut the likes of Sony and Bose with their pricing is a bonus in my eyes.