Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Kanen KM 92 Review (Budget woody IEM)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Kanen KM 92 Review (Budget woody IEM)

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
A few weeks ago I was hunting around for a budget IEM when my SoundMAGIC PL12s gave up the ghost. A little thread caught my interest, where supposedly the Kanen KM52 sounded almost exactly the same as the much touted SoundMAGIC PL30. So when searching for the KM52, I also found the KM92, which appears to be Kanen's 'flagship' model. It features a wooden casing (I have no idea if this affects the sound or not!) and sells for a budget friendly $12USD (£8GDP) delivered from houseofdap.com (also selling the KM52)

Also a bunch of Kanen products are available on DealX, but not the KM52 or KM92...

more info here: Kanen

Well, onto the review!






(note above I took the clip from my PL12s)



Preamble

Well after burning these in for about 30 hours, I decided to mod these a little by putting a very small hole in the nozzle filter with a pin. To my ears it makes a reasonable difference. But I will explain the mod throughout the review. So the review will include both pre and post mod impressions, but that said, the differences are subtle so don't sweat the differences too much.

Also I've pretty much listened to these exclusively on a Sansa Clip with no EQ. Mostly MP3s or OGGs minimum 224kbit quality. I haven't really bothered to amp them yet, I may post additional impressions of such things when they have a few more hours burn in.

Packaging / Looks / Fit / Isolation- or - Is that a woody in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Sorry I don't have any pictures of the packaging at the moment, but its a pretty standard fair, the kind of simple slim packaging that any budget earphone comes in, similar to a CX300 or EP630 type deal.

Now on to my biggest gripe: the included tips. They provide what seems a pretty standard 3 tip selection, however two are the same size and they are all different colours. So you get 2 medium blue tips, two medium black tips and 2 pink small tips. Why they did this is beyond me completely. Firstly the coloured tips look really tacky against the wood finish, and guys with small ears will not be wanting to wear those pink tips!

That said, I've been using the black medium tips and they seem to fit my normal sized ears just fine. However if you have particularly large or small ears you may want to be wary of the crappy tip selection.

The actual size of the earphones are smaller than they look in photos. I was worried that they were going to look big and tacky, but (with the black tips) they actually look pretty nice, and not as conspicuous as I thought. The driver is quite large at 10mm, and after coming from the very small Phonak PFE nozzle, they felt a bit strange. With the standard tips they sit quite shallow in the ear. For the purposes of this review I used only the standard tips, however my old UE biflanges fit perfectly and did improve the sound slightly. But I doubt many people with a $12 budget will have a lot of spare tips lying around, so it seemed unfair to review it with better tips than the ones included. Comfort is okay, the big drivers may irritate some people, but for me they are fine. Oh and for you joggers out there, they can easily be worn looped over the ear.

Despite the shallow insertion and semi-open back design, they isolate better than I expected. I took a walk down to my local supermarket located on a busy main street and then down to a noisy record store, and they attenuated outside noise just fine for my needs. They would probably hold their own on normal public transport, but perhaps not quite good enough for regularly airplane use.

Unlike my old SoundMAGICs they come with no extras such as a carry case or cord winder. However the tips at least fit very securely and don't come off in my ears, which is more than I can say for the PL12s... The cord is the cheap rubbery kind which has some microphonics issues, but honestly once the music is playing I never notice it...

Sound Quality - Or - Champagne sound on a beer budget?

When I first pulled them out of the packet and plugged them in, I cranked up Radiohead's Paranoid Android and was instantly impressed. The bass was fat and bloated, but the sound was very 'big' and even without burn in they sounded like they could handle the detail.

30 hours later...

Bass
Whats interesting about these earphones is that they appear to feature a very thick foamy filter over the wide nozzle, which I assume attenuates the highs and boosts the bass. Consequently the bass is big and bloated. Midbass dominates (ala CX300 / EP630) and even after burn in I was a bit disappointed with the over-bloated bass sound. Some people will really like the stock bass, but I am used to a more balanced sound. Brighter tracks such as Ryan Adams Note to self, Don't die sounded pretty good bass wise, while darker bassier tracks such as Radioheads All I Need the bass was overdone and dominated the track too much.

Never one to adopt the 'if it ain't broke' philosophy, I pulled out a pin and struck a very small hole in the middle of the filter. The actual filter is a very soft meshy foam thing, so don't push to hard, and keep it small.

This mod really tightens up the bass a lot. There is still plenty of it, but the bloat is greatly reduced. To my ears now it sounds about right. This mod seems to help 'speed up' the earphones - I think they stock filter was creating some reflections (despite the semi-open back design) and now everything sounds tighter. Naturally if you like the bass levels the way they are, leave them, but if like me you want the sound to be a little more balanced, try out the mod.

Mids
The mids are one thing these suckers really get right, especially at this price point. Some people may say they are slightly recessed, but to me they sound about right, not to forward, not too recessed. After the mod they come forward slightly, but not by a huge amount. These also feature very impressive sibilance control: even heavily sibilant tracks such as Weezer's Dope Nose were free of the dreaded Essss sounds. Good show!

The actual quality of the mids is decent, but naturally $12 doesn't buy you super natural, highly detailed mids. Tom Waits and Better Midlers vocals on I never talk to strangers sound very pleasant, not exactly natural, but not coloured either. You can pick out minor inflections in their vocals, minor quivers in their voice and such, and they are quite smooth despite the earphones relatively aggressive lows and highs. The mids certainly don't dominate, but they don't take a back seat. At this price point, I don't think you could do much better.

Highs
One thing that disappointed me with the SoundMAGIC PL12s were the heavily rolled off treble. The KM92 earphones certainly don't possess the treble sparkle of the KSC75s, thats for sure. After the mod they come out a little more. The highs don't extend particularly high, and there seems to be a slight peak in the lower treble, which occasionally sounds too harsh, such as the string section in Manic Street Preachers Everlasting. However the highs definitely knock the socks of the CX300s, EP630s and SoundMAGIC Pl12s. After modding there is just enough to quench my treble thirst, but ideally I would have liked a little more.

On Ryan Adams Two Hearts the cymbals and high hats sound alright, a little rough and metallic when you really pick them out with your ears, but generally they sound good enough.

Soundstage
Despite the shallow insertion and semi-open back design, soundstage is not really anything special, nor is it bad. Its about the standard IEM fair. Slightly wider than the Phonak PFEs but of course less precise. But few IEMs really offer great soundstage, so they definitely do it as good as any sub $50 earphone.



Overall Sound - or - Damn it get to the point!
Probably the first thing you'll notice is how 'big' the sound is. The overall tone is quite aggressive, but the aggresiveness seems to be mellowed by what seem to be very thick filters. They also have a veiled quality to them too, a bit Sennheiser. Surprisingly the Phonak PFEs offer a similar idea, without filters they are very aggressive and peaky, but with the filters they sound oh so good! After the mod they sound quite fast, just fast enough for heavy metal tracks such as Protest The Hero's Bloodmeat but metal probably aren't their forte. In fact they sounded best on pop tracks such as Michael Jackson Thriller - but that said I guess all cheaper earphones sound best with simpler pop tracks than complicated songs. But these earphones can handle big tracks just fine, you won't hear any amazing detail, but they don't jar up with too much detail. Joni Mitchels acoustic track All I Want come through well thanks to the strong mids, but the somewhat veiled sound depletes from the intimacy more expensive earphones provide.

The general sound signature has a hint of warmth and a hint of colour. I would have liked the sound to be tad more neutral, but I'm probably nitpicking a bit too much at this price point.



IMHO I can safely say, pre or post mod, these are the best sub £20 IEMs I have heard. I don't think they beat the KSC75s or my old Super.Fi 3s (purely on sound quality) but they are a heck of lot cheaper and look nicer than the SF3s and naturally the KSC75s don't isolate at all. That said, they give the aforementioned 'phones a good run for their money, and I have no hesitation in stating that these beat the CX300s, EP630s & SoundMAGIC PL12s...

My main gripe is the terrible tip selection and the fact these may not be suitable for people with particularly small or big ears. If you have a set of biflanges lying around, you can get a more comfortable fit and a somewhat tighter sound. UE biflanges are a perfect fit.
post #2 of 39
Thank you for this detailed review. Focusing a little on cheap IEMs is refreshing.

I would be very surprised if Kanen KM-92 were better than SoundMAGIC PL20, but since they are cheaper, I am now curious about them.

Until now, the only Kanen earphones which got good reports (notably in that thread) were the MD-52 metallic earphones.
post #3 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bombyx View Post
Thank you for this detailed review. Focusing a little on cheap IEMs is refreshing.

I would be very surprised if Kanen KM-92 were better than SoundMAGIC PL20, but since they are cheaper, I am now curious about them.

Until now, the only Kanen earphones which got good reports (notably in that thread) were the MD-52 metallic earphones.
Right you are, I got the MD and KM mixed up. Kanen produce an absolutely huge array of headphones, most of which I presume have the same drivers but feature different casings...

IMO these beat the PL12s but unfortunately I haven't heard the Pl20 or 30s...
post #4 of 39
Hi, I saw one which more resembles the KM928 packaging (different from KM92 package) at a retail outlet here in Singapore and wonder what is the difference between the 2 models as they look similar on this following link page: å¡èƒ½

Not sure whether to get it as my first woody just for its low price?? Wonder will it respond well to amping with each of my amps?

Btw, the Kanen KM880 full-size Woody cups sure looks cool on the Kanen site to me but wonder how good are the SQ?

Cheers.

I was wrong, the packaging is the KM-92, they do not stock the KM-928 at all. There were a few non-woodie ear bud models which looked the way the 928 was packaged though. (update)
post #5 of 39
Finally got the KM-92 from a local bookshop, my first woody! (Note: I did not buy online but from my local shop, the links below are for the physical description of the in-ear models only.)

Answering my own queries in my earlier posts, it is different from the KM-928 which I did not see at the shop. Perhaps the links to actfind.com will show the difference better in the wooden barrel shape of the 928 as compared to the shorter body of the 92.

KM-92: buy wholesale in-ear earphone - direct from China manufacturer

KM-928: buy wholesale in-ear earphone - direct from China manufacturer

Anyway, I only had a couple of hours on it and felt much the same as TS. But the bass and SQ is alright to me so I would probably not do the pinhole mod. I felt my KM-92 is responding well to amping from my predator now. (Actually it runs loud enough directly from my 2GB Clip no problem). Frankly it looks quite good and I am hoping its SQ gets even better with burn-in.

For the price I paid for it (no brainer, < 20SGD), I think I can have no complaints for the rather good SQ it is delivering, just hope the build will last me for a while. Thanks! TS, I am happy to have got mine after reading your review.
post #6 of 39
Nice review! Out of curiosity, I checked out their website and linked from there to www.kanen.cc and found this:

http://www.kanen.cc/index.php/Chinese/ProList/pid/94

Apparently they make knock-off Shure, Bose, Sennheiser, Sony, JBL, Apple and others? Not sure because I can't read Chinese but this looks like a whole page of fakes...
post #7 of 39
Yup this is fake heaven and quality just satisfying price level. It's always been that unfortunately.
I see they even made an IE7 clone now. shame on you.
Mostly wise don't deal with it but like KM-92 you might be able to find a few ones (fake) that actually doing okay.
Mostly forgot to say thanks for this review!
The pics just tend to disappear. Only when I copy the address in my browser they show up.
post #8 of 39
Hey guys,

I bought a pair of Kanen KM-92 from popbuying.com for only about $5. I previously owned the MD-52 which crapped out after maybe around a year, and was satisfied with those- I liked the sound and the price. Delivery took awhile to the USA, but that's to be expected.

My quick impressions of the KM-91 is that I like it better than the MD-52, even disregarding the ridiculous price. Warmer with strong bass but not muddy IMO. The bass is a bit bloated like robjrock says, but again the overall sound is not muddy so it still sounds good to me. I'll listen to it as is for awhile, before deciding whether to try the mod he suggested.

I very much a mid-fi listener, so obviously YMMV. But these definitely sound MUCH better than most of the crappy throwaways that you'll spend $4 on at DealExtreme, and sound better than the stock Apple buds too (which I know is not saying much.) I also have some Koss KSC-75 which I really like, but these are more convenient for me at night when everyone in my family is asleep.

I am going to buy another pair for backup, and because they cost only $5.
post #9 of 39
Amazon.com: Sentry Woodies Digital Earbuds In-Ear - HO470: Electronics

the sentry woodies look pretty much the same, except for the y split molding, angled plug, and a metal grill/mesh instead of foam mesh screen. they're available at some big lots stores for $5.
post #10 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by dcpoor View Post
Amazon.com: Sentry Woodies Digital Earbuds In-Ear - HO470: Electronics

the sentry woodies look pretty much the same, except for the y split molding, angled plug, and a metal grill/mesh instead of foam mesh screen. they're available at some big lots stores for $5.
Ha - it's funny, I just saw them tonight at Big Lots. But had no desire to buy them - Sentry's a notoriously bad brand.
post #11 of 39
I do believe that I will be grabbing the sentry woodies and these kanens. Better be worth it >=(
post #12 of 39
Also, do these look like they can be kramer modded?

Here's a pic of the packaging: http://www.kanen.net.cn/imageLib/prdd/1255881470.jpg
post #13 of 39
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stonyboys View Post
Also, do these look like they can be kramer modded?

Here's a pic of the packaging: http://www.kanen.net.cn/imageLib/prdd/1255881470.jpg
By Kramer mod do you mean take out the filters and replace them with foam? If so, yes, I eventually did exactly that (before I broke em) and thought there was a small increase in quality. They sounded weird with no filters at all.
post #14 of 39
Wait, they broke on you within a week? lol...
post #15 of 39
These are the same as the sentry iems going for 5 bucks at big lots.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Kanen KM 92 Review (Budget woody IEM)