KEF impresses with style and great quality, but on the other side of the medal, KEF tends to get attention in a more negative way as their pricetag is offen the factor not to invest in their products. Anyway, KEF's history shows us that the company mainly coveted the premium market for audio solutions. They have done a great deal to find out how close they can get to perfection, the result of this pursuit were premium speakers only to be bought by the somewhat richer consumer.
KEF however, recently decided to enter more vibrant markets, like for example the wireless speaker "MUO" we reviewed some time ago and the newly introduced headphone series. The company is still very new in those environments, in fact, these are KEF's first headphones they ever made. Let's see how they score with the topdog of their headphone series, the KEF M500.
Looking at the KEF M500 won't give you some kind of déjà vu. The design is totally different from other headphones. If only you look at those earpads, where did you ever see something like that? It may look weird at first, but that's just your image of how a normal headphone should look.
Let's start with our compliments for those magestic earpads. They must have come straight from heaven, such softness that adjusts itself to your ear's roundings. The wearing comfort of the M500 is definitely top shelve, you can listen to your music/videos/games for hours without even the slightest discomfort. Not only are these leather earpads really soft and breathable, they also contain some sort of 'memory foam' that allows the pads to wrap itself around your ears like water. Another win is the rectangle shape instead of those far too popular donut-shaped earpads.
With the leather earpads, comes the leather headband which is made of the same soft material and again, won't give any discomfort in a rather long carrying period. However, make sure you adjust the lenght of the headband to the earpads by sliding the provided extra range out both sides of the headband. This to prevent any specific pressure points on your ears. The headphone is absolute lightweight and you might even have the feeling of wearing nothing after a while.
A great amount of points goes to the comfortability of these headphones. The problem with on ear headphones is the limited size of the earpads. KEF effectively solved this one by using those really soft, ear-adjusting leather earcups. Ambient noise reduces very effectively when you try them on. The headphone may not have active noise-cancelling, it surely has some profound passive noise-cancelling.
Like you can see in the above, KEF engineered its newest headphone to fold inwards as well as a little bit to the side. By doing so, you can easily store your headphone in the included carrying box. I might want to add that doing so, the 2 frames around the earpads do touch eachother which can damage the color of those touching points. Once inside the box, they should not be able rub against eachother.
The frame is solidly built with luxurious aluminium with a sprayed and brushed touch. Elegant and smooth lines give it a rather timeless premium look. A design that can easily be worn with any outfit.
This is an exploded picture of the design inside. As you can see it's showing the simplicity of the structure which holds the components together. A sturdy design which can relate to a very long durability of the product.
In terms of noise cancelling, the M500 allows more noise to come through than comparable on-ear headphones in this category. Anyway, that doesn't mean you'll hear everything around you, it still has decent passive noise cancelling. The leakage to the outside however, does a great job. It's easy to turn them on so hard, that you're suprised no one reacts on your volume level. You might notice that this feels like some kind of compensation for the slightly less effective noise cancelling. It does great in silent spaces like when you're working on your desk, lying in bed/couch, the library while studying, ... When the move, something more active than wandering can cause some really disturbing audio experience. Most on-ear headphones share this problem. Other than actively moving, you can also relate to trains, plane rides, bus rides and car travel. For these, the M500 delivers the wanted performance.
How about its audio quality? In which aspects does it shine and where does it lack some detail? Well, one thing for sure, the KEF M500 has no negative points to perceive on audio experience. Where the M500 really shines is the extreme range of highs and lows. They put so much detail in high frequencies and its dynamic and cheerful bass. Midrange is slightly less focused as it loses some detail over there. Anyway, the overall audio experience is overwhelming, especially when trying out some high res audio music which you can buy online. For audioholics like me, I gladly pay extra for this extra detail. You can feel the grief in sensitive audio pieces, it's easy to feel goosflesh rise up, but not only in sad parts, also excited tracks can leave you captivated time after time. Aside from High-Res Audio, you'll also enjoy the fantastic performance the headphones deliver on standard audio files.
The KEF M500 has a weighty bass which subtly joins the play with rather a dynamic feeling and creates a spacious audio experience. This combined with detailed highs leaves you floating on clouds of music and empathy. There's an excellent balance of warmth and detail present.
The full package of elegance, comfort, style and sound performance is present in KEF's first flagship headphone. For an on-ear headphone, you might be scared of the high pricing of the KEF M500, being one of the more expensive at a price point of 300 Euro. Anyway, the luxurious looks, quality materials, extremely satisfying comfort and the overwhelming audio experience in either detail, space and warmth makes up for that big time. Their first headphone was a direct hit in the on-ear department and is definitely worth its price even though they'd have reached alot more consumers with a slightly lower pricetag. For Audioholics like me, you won't be dissapointed with this headphone, it's the perfect match of dynamic bass and detailed highs.
+ Great Balance
+ Excellent Detail In The Extreme Highs/Lows
+ Unrivalled Comfort
+ Spacious Sound, Dynamic Expressions, Warmth
+ Elegance, Style, Quality Materials, Solid Engineering
- Premium Price Tag
- Midrange Loses Some Detail
- Passive Noise Cancelling Rather Moderate
Just like this, KEF earns its second Gold award, keeping up the trend.
More Information about our awards and High resolution versions can be found here