KEF M500 Review

A Review On: KEF M500 Hi-Fi On-Ear Headphones, Aluminum/Black

KEF M500 Hi-Fi On-Ear Headphones, Aluminum/Black

Rated # 15 in On-Ear
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Pros: Excellent sound in all genres, very comfortable even with glasses, very efficient (no need for amp), build quality, foldable with hardcase

Cons: Slippery headband (not suitable for other active use than walking), isolation is a little below average (leakage is low though)

The search is over smily_headphones1.gif

For a long time I've been looking for a foldable closed headphones that sounds fantastic and is easy to carry around for my travels.
The KEF M500 has everything I need. First of all, it sounds great in all genres. I've tried pop, rock, classic, jazz, heavy metal, opera, and it handles everything well. The sound is much more open and natural than other closed headphones I have tested, it's quite neutral with a little tilt up in the upper bass and a little down in the upper treble, just enough to make it sound bigger than it is, and avoid any harshness of any kinds in the treble. There's a great "room feel" in the sound, to make it sound like floorstanding speakers, they almost rival my PSB Synchrony Two in sound quality.

Here's a list of closed headphones (not all foldable) I've had or heard in my search before purchasing the KEF M500:

Sony MDR-1R
Sennheiser Momentum
AKG K167
AKG K267
Logitech UE6000
B&O H6
Beyerdynamic DT770 (32/80 Ohm)
Focal Spirit One
B&W P5
Denon AH-D600
Martin Logan Mikros 90

My old reference are the Denon AH-D2000, which I own for a couple of years. The KEF M500 are first of all much more smooth than the Denons. Songs that have a tendency to sound harsh in the treble are smooth in the KEF M500. The bass which is one of the strong points in the Denons, is no match to the much faster and precise bass of the KEF M500, the Denons bass sounds boomy in comparison.


The KEF M500 are not perfect, but they are the closest thing to perfect in my ears I have heard so far. Combining that with excellent comfort and a nice small foldable design (including case) with excellent build quality, the search is over...

PS: An iPod Touch fit in the case together with the headphones + cables.

Any questions, just ask below:


How do they sound compared to the Momentums?
In my ears they sound better, specially the treble is more refined detailed and smooth compared to the momentum, and the comfort is much better. The momentum does not fit well on my ears, which makes them uncomfortable after just a short while.
How is the soundstage and imaging? And is it as clean sounding as the momentums in the mids?
Yeah the momentum are for people with smaller and average size ears so if you are above average in the ear department no dice for you.
Very good soundstage, definately among the best I've heard in closed headphones, mids are clean, it's a neutral performer. The pressure of the momentum is just too much compared to the M500, there are no comparison regarding comfort.
Pressure is a double edged sword. I think the Momentum strikes a good balance between comfort and staying put snugly on the head when moving about. You also get better isolation with a little clamping, and nothing beats isolation when you want to improve SQ in noisy environment.
I would however use IEM's instead of closed backs in such circumstances.
Well, headphone comfort is highly subjective, if you like the momentum, do keep them, for me M500 is a much better choice.
Thank you for the review. Are the M500 earpads and headband covered in leather or in a synthetic material?
It really looks and feels like leather, but from the smell of it, I think it's synthetic.
Hope you won't mind a noob review but I've just bought these cans pretty much on an impulse having finally had enough of a long line of very good in ear buds (Shure EC3, Klipsch Image S4i and Ultimate Ears 700's). I had shortlisted Scoshe RH1060, UE 9000, Parrot Ziks etc to look but then saw these at a local KEF dealer, tried them and I have to say I'm astonished at how good these are. At first use the mids and highs did seem a little "muffled" by comparison to my last "in ears" but after a few days use the mids and highs seem to have become opened up, although that might be just because I'm becoming used to the sound rather than the cans running in. The low frequencies are on another level compared to the in ears (not surprisingly perhaps) and altogether the M500's produce an extremely balanced sound with tremendous sonic and spatial detail. As for comfort - I've had these on for over two hours wearing glasses (and living in Hong Kong I'm very pleased that sweating is not a major issue) and have so far not suffered any discomfort. The noise isolation is more than adequate given they are not noise cancelling and extraneous noise - who cares!! To sum up I have to say this is the without any doubt the best money I've spent on audio for a long time.
Would you consider them sealed enough that others can't hear leakage, especially at night in bed when ambient noise is low?
Hard to say. Wore them in a lift, which is about as quiet as you can get in a public place, and no one was staring at me in disgust, and in Hong Kong they would!!
The only criticism I would make is with the cable (but not the fault of KEF) - I bent down to pick something off a low shelf and the rubber type cable caught over my knee so that when I stood up the cans got ripped off my head because the rubber coating is very grippy! And the length of the cable makes it easy to snag on passers by or other things so care is needed when wearing them especially if you're short!!
What Hi-Fi gave these cans 4 stars but gave the Beyer Dynamic T50P 5 stars. I've just listened to the BD DT1350 pro monitors (very similar to the T50's but a much wider frequency response) side by side with the KEF's (which I've had for about three weeks now) and the difference was very noticeable - I wouldn't exchange the KEF's for anything!!
How do they compare to k267? is there a big difference between those? coz I just bought the k267 about a month ago, the soundstage of those is not really that satisfying to me. I feels "Welcome to Head-Fi, sorry about your wallet" is already happening to me XD
Coming from beats studio and them being an over-ear headphone, how do the KEFs sound on planes? I'm so used to an over-ear style and am wondering if these do a good job in the loud noise areas like a plane? Leakage as well? Thanks!!
Yes I'd like to know more on isolation and leakage? The new beats studio are some of the most comfy I have tried, but at the same price the build quality of these has me intrigued. Love the fold up design and case. My only concern is comfort and leakage. Could you detail that so e more for me? Thanks.
I found a case I like far better:  post #912