Pros: Comfort - very light, Design - original, Sound Quality - good soundstage and very detailed
I purchased these earphones a couple of weeks ago and have had the urge to write a review. However, I needed too make sure that they were fully "burned" and used in different environments to see how they performed before taking the plunge.
This is my first ever headphone review, so please bear with me - I can't say that I know all the right terms or generate scientific diagrams and charts, but what you will read is an honest account.
I hope you enjoy it...
My musical tastes are quite eclectic, ranging from Jazz, Electronic, Classical, Rock and Soul music (classic rock being my preferred genre).
I have owned many headphones / earphones over the years including Grado SR80i's, Bower Wilkins P5 and P3 as well as Monster Beats, AKG, Sennheiser, Shure SE series (110, 115 and 215), Bang & Olufsen A8 and Creative Aurvana AIR and Live.
Media and Source
OK, first of all just a bit background about the media I used for my tests. I use my iPod Classic 160GB linked up to a FIIO headphone amp using a line out dock cable.
All my music is burned from lossless files to AAC high quality VBR using dbpoweramp. I have a number of different FIIO Amps: E6, E11, E12 and E17.
I conducted tests using each one but found the E6 to be the best fit (I think the E11, E12 and E17 are better suited to a headphone with a higher impedance).
The music I have been listening to on these earphones thus far are The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beach Boys, Queens Of The Stone Age, Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye.
Out of the box
The earphones come in a nice sized box, with a flap that opens at the front making it easy to access the earphones and carry case.
The earphones come with a very nice sized and sturdy headphone case. Within the headphone case there is a travel adapter and 2 extra pairs of silicon ear tips (large and small).
The earphones already come with a medium sized pair of ear tips.
The earphones do look bulky, but not in an unattractive way. However, the main concern was how they would stay in place in the ear based on their size.
This was quickly alleviated when picking the earphones up, they are extremely light, I would even go as far to say they are "feather" light.
Ergonomics, Design and Fit
The problem with most over in-ear hook earphones is comfort, particularly when wearing glasses.
The Bang Olufsen A8 are a prime example where they become discomfortable over short periods, and can be incredibly frustrating to get a good fit.
In fact, i would say this the case with most earphones of these type.
The first feature that sets the KEF M200s apart from any competition is the fact the hooks are made from a very light and flexible rubber material.
Whilst this may sound rather tacky, I actually think it is actually one of its strengths.
This is essential for listening to music over long periods, the flexibility allows you to make adjustments whilst on the move without compromising your listening experience.
I would even go as far to say this design is revolutionary in terms of earphone ergonomics, a very simple yet effective way of designing an in-ear earphone that caters for different ear sizes and shapes (something that most headphone manufacturers do not always take into consideration).
To insert the earphones you have to use a swivel motion, fairly straightforward.
Of course, you need to do some slight tweaking to get the best fit, which may involve changing the silicon tips for a different size.
But I didn't find this laborious compared with other earphones where you are constantly having to readjust to get a decent fit.
Once the earphones are in you ear you realise just how light they are.
Along with comfort and fit, in my opinion the sound quality is the most important aspect of the listening experience.
The real test is wearing the earphones for prolonged periods within different environments.
My initial impressions was that I couldn't believe something so small could generate such a wide, detailed sound.
The bass wasn't thumping or distorted and the treble wasn't too recessed. Everything appeared to be in right place.
The great thing about these earphones is that after a while, you forget you are wearing them.
In fact, the sound takes over, it is easily to get lost inside the music.
This to me is a testament to the design of these earphones.
After a couple of days of use, i didn't notice much change in the sound, although it did feel a bit "looser".
This may have been due to my ears getting used to the sound of these earphones as opposed to anything else, but that was because I found myself listening to these for really extended periods, a lot more compared to previous earphones I have owned.
One of the key factors when listening to any type of headphone is sound quality.
If the source is poor then you will not derive a decent sound. This is why it has taken me years to get to a level where I can comfortably say they are getting the most out of my music.
As mentioned previously, all my music is original burned from source to lossless (either FLAC or Apple Lossless).
For the sake of size on my iPod, i then convert them to AAC High VBR using dbpoweramp, which is as near as lossless quality you can get with a compressed, lossy format.
The reason I mention this is because I think it is important to point this out, because if you are listening to music which is sourced at the lower end of the spectrum (MP3 or AAC 128kbps) then you will not get the same sound experience.
This is also the case I found with other reference / high quality headphones.
The sound coming out of these is truly immense - the combination of a 10mm LF driver and 5.5mm neodymium MF/HF driver is the key to the detailed, natural sound across a diversifying frequency range.
This makes it pretty faultless when listening to different music genres.
For example, some earphones struggle when there is a lot of detail going on, making difficult to pick out the individual musical elements.
Some manufacturers try and rectify this by increasing the bass and recessing the treble, creating a very unnatural sound.
However, with the KEF design I would go as far to say that they are incredibly natural sounding to the point where you can pick out different song elements (listening to the "Dark Side Of The Moon" album by Pink Floyd was a great example, an album that I am extremely familiar with.
The song flow from "On The Run" and "Time" was absolutely amazing, especially when the clock chimes come in at the beginning of "Time", the chimes were extremely precise and pristine). When I listened to John Coltrane's "Love Supreme" album, I felt I was in the room, his sax was cutting right into me. Absolutely amazing!
On The Move...
So came the real test, how would these earphones fair when on the move?
When on the street hanging with the kids, I found the earphones sufficient enough to drown out their screaming.
I wouldn't say they are 100% sound isolated, there are moments within songs where outside noise will interfere, although I didn't find it terribly off putting. I found on some occasion adjust the rubber hook and moving the earphone a little bit ensure most external noise was eliminated.
The real test of any headphone / earphone is the dreaded commute on the London Underground and the constant rabble of rush hour traffic.
On my journey into London, which took over an hour, i didn't encounter any external interference, I was totally immersed in my music and didn't even notice the ticket inspector asking to see my ticket.
Upon walking along the London streets, again the constant buzz of traffic and busting crowds didn't cause any interference.
There is obviously a downside to this, as I found when I was nearly mowed down by a cyclists - by blocking out the external noise and entranced by the overall listening experience makes you immersed to what is going on around you, therefore there were times when I had to either turn down the volume on my FIIO Amp or taking a break from the music.
Mesmerising and quite simply stunning, best earphone I have ever possessed or listened to.
You will have to pay in the region of £150 to acquire these, which some may quibble at.
Making comparisons to the other players in this very competitive market, I would say these earphones fair a lot better.
The ergonomic design and sound truly set these earphones apart from their rivals.
I have not heard of KEF before, I know they are renowned for producing high quality speakers.
To my knowledge, this is their first foray into the headphone market and boy have they arrived.
Therefore, I would not hesitate at recommending this like minded music lovers, who wish to maximise their listening experience whilst on the move.
Go and try them yourself, you will not be disappointed!