KEF M500 On-ear Headphones
(4.0 star rating)
British hi-fi speaker manufacturer KEF has entered the consumer headphone market with its first pair of headphones, the M500, which retail for $299.99. They seem to have entered with a solid bang, with accolades and positive reviews from numerous professional sources. I was excited to get a chance to gets my ears on them to see what all the buzz was about and to share my findings with you.
Design & Look and Feel
The design of the M500 is a real winner. They are made of synthetic black leather. The copper-clad aluminum wire voice coil is half the weight of regular copper wire. They feature an ultra lightweight aluminum frame, giving the headphones a luxurious and premium feel. The frame simply molds to your head with what is known as their “smart hinge” technology and they simply look good sitting on top of your noggin. The design is so impressive that KEF is already the recipient of a Red Dot designer award for 2013.
An added bonus is the memory foam ear pads, which are not only sweat resistant but breathable, which makes them that much more comfortable. Two connectors that fit in the back of the left head piece are included: a 2.5mm and a 3.5mm with a detachable tangle-free cable as well as a 6.3mm converter.
The KEF M500 headphones incorporate an integrated remote control and in-line microphone for the iPhone and other Apple products, allowing users to freely switch between calls and music or operate the play functions as desired. This is a very handy feature.
Arguably the best part of the design is that, thanks to the smart hinge, the headphones fold up very compactly. The sleek matching hard carry case adds an elegant touch for the storage of your headphones when you are not actively using them.
One of the biggest pluses for me is that KEF game them an understated classy look without a gaudy rainbow of colors.
In the box- The M500 Hi-Fi Headphones themselves
- Flat cable (1.3m) that's tangle-free with a gold plated connector
- Microphone and 3-button remote
- Flight adapter
- Hard protective case
- Extra tangle-free flat cable (1.3m) with gold plated connector
- 6.3mm converter
Specifications- Drivers: 40mm
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Sensitivity: 103 dB±4dB (IEC-318 at 1KHz)
- Impedance: 32 ohm
Considering that KEF is a major hi-fi speaker manufacturer, you would likely assume that they have got the sound quality part down. As expected, they do live up to their expectation reputation and then some. Low frequencies are strong with a solid kick, and vocals get the proper treatment without being drowned out by any hint of muddy bass. The headphones are even made to fulfill the CENELEC standard EN60065/A12 which provides protection against extreme sound pressure.
These premium headphones produce a rich, full-bodied smooth sound with a strong spatial image. As a closed-back set these do an even better job of representing a wide and open soundstage than the recently reviewed Sennheiser Momentum.
Highs are clear and sharp-sounding without coming across as harsh. These are not a particularly bright or energetic sounding set of headphones, but rather produce an inoffensive treble all the way up to the limits of comfortable listening levels.
I was pleased that out of the box, without any EQ'ing neeeded, the sound was very good straight from my phone. I have to be honest and admit that amping makes the sound even better, of course, but it is certainly not necessary. Overall I was impressed with the great bass and balance of the KEF M500.
Comfort / Ease of Use
The M500 is very comfortable, even for someone like me who occasionally wears glasses while listening to music. The foam ear pads fit perfectly to the shape of your ear and are really quite comfortable. They do an above average job of keeping your ears dry even on a hot and humid day. The earpieces rotate 90 degrees and swivel up about 135 degrees, ensuring a perfect fit. They also easily fold to a compact size.
As I stated before, the smart hinge does a great job of molding to the shape of your head, which allows for a perfect fit each time. Because they are so lightweight, at times you likely won’t even notice them on the top of your head while listening to your music or audiobooks. They are even comfortable for walking or taking a bike ride.
I did find the controls on the in-line mic a little small and found myself pressing with the tip of my fingernail, rather than the fingertip itself.
For a closed-back set, the M500 headphones are definitely low leakage and relatively low isolation. The foam ear pads do a fair job at muffling external noises so that they do not disrupt audio listening. The acoustic sealing ring does work well to minimize potential interferences.
KEF M500 On-Ear Headphones
The solid design as well the excellent sound quality of the M500 headphones makes them a good choice for the selective music connoisseur. While they don't offer the razer-flat frequency response of other high-end sets, they have a luxurious build that simply looks the part of premium headphones.
In addition the M500 offers all around great comfort. Even if you wear glasses or if you’re on the go, you can wear them without problems. The smart hinge design and ear pads, both which mold to the shape of your head, provide maximum comfort and a perfect fit.
The KEF 500 headphones prove that KEF is here to stay in the consumer headphone market, and they make a great choice for those seeking style, comfort and great sound.
Pros: Comfortable; nice sounding; fold flat for easy transport
Cons: Not as balanced of sound signature as other high-end sets
Rating: 4.0 out of 5