Pros: Very clear, clean sound, removable cable, impressive imaging and sound stage
Cons: Little to no clamping force, ear pad material could be improved.
After briefly owning and eventually selling the Audio Technica ATH - M50, there were quite a few things that I still desired in a closed headphone. I wanted something more comfortable with larger ear cups, a more neutral sound, and a removable cable. And a price in the $100 ballpark would be a homerun. After seeing the KAM HP1 come up on Head Fi, I was intrigued. Although KAM Instruments is not a well known company, I wanted to take a chance on a unique headphone with impressive specs and comfortable looking design. I saw an auction on eBay, and scored a pair for $65 directly from the manufacture, KAM Instruments. The MSRP is $135, but I have seen pairs up for auction and B-stock sold for $100 at the time of this review.
Comfort and Design 8/10
Comfort is very good on the HP1. The design is "around-the-ear", and yes, the ear cups do fit completely around my ears. The ear cups aren't as deep as something like the Sennheiser HD598, which I would give a 10 for comfort, but your ears fit nicely inside and aren't pinched by the ear cups. Much, much more comfortable than the ATH-M50 in my opinion. The headband is self adjusting, so the headphones quickly fit onto your head. However, the clamping force is not very strong, so you may have to adjust the headphones on your head a bit to get a good fit and seal. The self adjusting headband is slightly loose, but once the headphones settle on your head, the seal is good and there is very little sound leakage. The headband on top is an extremely light soft plastic that you can barely feel and quickly forget about. In order to provide a nice seal, like most closed headphones, these have plastic/pleather ear cups. The ear cups can get a bit hot after a while, but nothing too unbearable. The pads also remove quickly for easy replacement.
The cable is a 10 foot cable with mini xlr connection into the headphone. The cable terminates in a standard 3.5mm plug and comes with a 1/4 inch adapter. The mini xlr to 3.5mm cable may limit your replacement options, but there are definitely replacements available. I just ended up wrangling the included cable together with a rubber band to make it shorter.The KAM HP1 also comes with a pair of soft ear pad inserts, which are said to "reduce high frequency response by about 2.5 db".
Build quality is nothing earth shattering, but the lightweight plastic helps make these headphones light on your head. The head band is much like the AKG design, with flexible wire and slim plastic head rest. They don't really fold but I doubt you are purchasing these to be used as portable headphones. Replacement parts are available on the KAM Instruments website, but I think you would really have to throw these around for anything to break. The KAM HP1 probably won't win in the looks department, but these are very utilitarian headphones with a durable design.
These are neutral headphones. Right on the box they describe how they are designed for recording, mixing, and mastering. And that they are intended for audio engineers, musicians, and audiophiles. I have done some very light producing, but I would put myself in the third category as a budding audiophile. These are very detailed headphones that sound slightly bright with a nice smooth and present low end. The bass can really handle its own for a neutral headphone on bass heavier genres like electronic, trap, and hip hop. But these are by no means basshead cans. I love bass, and the controlled, balanced tone of the bass on the KAM HP1 is pleasing. These headphones are very clear sounding, although the treble may be a bit bright for genres like metal or rap with lots of snare. This is likely why they included the optional ear pad inserts to "reduce the high frequencies by 2.5db".
The most impressive aspect of the KAM HP1 sound is the soundstage and imaging. The stereo field is really opened up with these headphones. You can hear sounds entering high, low, up, down, and all over into your ears. Much more so with other headphones I have used. Much like having a tiny surround sound setup with unlimited speakers inside your headphones. This makes it very easy to pick out individual layers and instruments in your music. And although these are closed headphones, they have a nice soundstage, much like the HD598. This was a very pleasing upgrade coming from the ATH-M50. The wide soundstage may be a bit cavernous for some, which can lead to the mids sounding recessed. The sound signature is thin in general.
Overall, the sound of the KAM HP1 is Clear, with impressive soundstage and imaging. You can really tell why these are meant to be studio headphones.
The KAM HP1 should be right in the competition as an underdog for great closed, neutral headphones under $150. I found these to have a neutral, slightly bright sound with clean bass. They are lightweight with big ear cups, a design I found much more comfortable than the Audio Technica ATH-M50. Although the ear cups could be a bit deeper, and the self adjusting headband can slide around if the headphones don't settle on your head.The clamp force also could be improved to help fit. The removable cable option is a plus that every headphone should offer. So, if you want a closed headphone with a more neutral, clear, and sometimes revealing sound, I would consider the KAM HP1 for critical use. If you are looking for something exclusively for simply enjoying music of all genres, I might consider something else. An especially great deal if these can be found for under $100.