Hey guys this is my first time do a review for my headphone. It would be great if you guys can give me some feedbacks about the review and how the grading system works (Does the point system really necessary..etc). Otherwise, ENJOY : )
KrK monitors have always been my favorite, and they are my go-to studio monitors for a long time in my music studio because I love how Krk monitors menifest the high frequency in a way that reveals all the details in the sounds. However, since now I live in a college dorm, I'm no longer able to use my KrK monitors as much as before. My needs for headphones have increased dramatically. I’m used to rely on AKG250 and Grados when it comes to headphone monitoring, but I always miss the super sensitive highs on the KrK monitors, so I decide to give KNS8400 a shot.
My first impression of the construction is "cheap" when I saw it hanging on the Guitar Center’s headphone booth due to its primary plastic exteriors. However, after I opened a brand new KNS8400 and felt it with my hands, I was wrong; KNS8400 is certainly built to last and heavy-duty; the plastic actually have a nice robust finishing touch and its plastic is too thick to be broken easily. The leather pads on both the headband and ear cups are extremely soft. The metal inside of the headband is reinforced with another strip of thick plastic.
Detachable cable design is certainly a nice touch as well. The logo and metal ring at the front give KNS8400 a very nice appearance for the ear cups. Although this is mainly build for studio use, nevertheless, it will be great if it has a foldable design for using it on the go. This is not a big deal for me, but it maybe a factor for people whom like to use this size of headphone on the go.
The cables seem durable and decently built, and the volume control is very smooth and nice for control volume in a very micro amount. It also comes with a nice 1/8” to 1/4” screw-in adapter. However, it will be great if they include another cable that is a bit shorter. The included cable is 2.5m (8.2ft) without the volume extension, which is kind of long. But for studio use (such as vocal tracking and band recording, etc), long cable comes in handy. The poach bag is nice but could be made in better quality. (maybe real leather anyone :P?) If the bag has a spot to store the cables will be another nice touch, too.
Personally, KNS 8400 is really comfortable to me. The ear pads are nicely placed around my ears and its overall plastic design actually makes KNS8400 feel extremely light on my head. However, although I would agree with many other reviewers on the net, saying that the headband might get a bit uncomfortable on the head after hours of usage, I have a habit of reposition my headphones once in awhile (approximately around 15-30 minutes). Therefore, this is not an issue for me at all, but again, it maybe for some people. Also if you have big ears and using it in a hot environment (exp. In your bedroom during the summer with no AC), you might realize that wearing KNS8400 make your ears sweat a bit and feel a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this issue does happen frequently for most headphones that cover your ears.
Generally, KNS 8400 has a pretty decent isolation, considering it doesn't use any kinds of noise cancelation technology. It isolates human voices and subway/traffic noises pretty well even when there is no music playing, but I can still hear some extreme high and lows noises (exp. police car siren). Although I haven’t used it on the plane yet, I think most likely KNS8400 won’t completely isolate the noise from the plane engine, but the noise will certainly be tamed by a huge amount, especially if you listen it at a moderate to loud volume. On the other hand, the leakage of the headphone is quite little as well. KNS 8400 may seem as a closed headphone, but in fact it does have tiny sound holes hiding above the ear cups. However, they don’t really leak out that much sounds. When I play music (moderate to loud volume) with the headphones being placed on the table, I can hear what’s playing from a pretty far distance away, however if the ear cups are closed, or is being used (on my head, per se) there is no significant leakage at all. Most likely, you won’t have problems using KNS8400 in the library and certainly won’t disturb the people around you unless you blast music from it without putting it on your head. When it comes to doing recording session, minimal leakage is also a huge plus.
For a closed (semi-closed) headphone, KNS 8400 surprisingly has a wonderful soundstage. Its soundstage is wide, engaging, detailed, and has great depth. I played some of my favorite symphonic orchestra recordings, and immediately I hear the nuances of the orchestra (the attack/pluckings of the strings, the breaths of the winds, etc…) The separation of the instruments are very clear as well. Same things apply to any busy pop/electronic music, but the difference is particularly clear when it comes to orchestral music.
Sound Quality (total of 50):
The high on KNS 8400 can be described, as airy, crisp, shimmering, and revealing, exactly like the KRK monitors. However, because of its revealing high, some recordings with vocals that have strong sibilance, particularly rap, might sound a little bit harsh. On the other hand, low quality music files such as mp3 in 128kbs will suffer as well; the extreme high might feel cut-off, harsh, and unmusical. Nevertheless, with a well-mastered, good quality recordings, you will hear the breath of the vocalist, the nuances of Mile’s trumpet playing, the details in the orchestra, and the shimmering cymbals and crashes. To me, the harshness is mainly due to the poor mixing or sound quality of the recordings or when the amplifier is not able to drive KNS8400 completely (more on this in the Musicality/Versatility section). Thus, since the problem does not cause by the headphone itself, I give its highs the full score.
The mids on KNS8400 are present and clear. To me, it sounds quite neutral comparing to its highs, but it still forward enough to keep up the energy of the music. However, when I first started using KNS8400, I felt immediately overwhelmed by KNS8400 forward sound signature when I put it on the first time, especially its shimmering highs just make KNS8400 sound like knife-stabbing-to-my-ears harsh, but most likely it was because I was so used to the sound signature of AKG, which is the warmth that is being brought out by a low-mid bump. Nevertheless, this stabbing feeling goes away after a week of frequent usage. Perhaps it is because my KNS8400 has burn-in a bit or it was just simply my ears get used to it. Forward Mids make electric guitar’s distortion sounds particularly vivid; tracks by Linkin Park or Rage Against Machine sound really nice on KNS8400.
Low-mids are my least favourite part of the KNS8400. Compared to my AKG 240 and other bass-oriented headphones, KNS8400 really lacks any kinds of warmth. However, I can understand the reason why KrK decides to do this is because low-mids are often the spot of the frequency spectrum where it muddles up the overall sound of the music. KNS 8400 is built for analytical uses; therefore, too much low-mid frequency “coloring” certainly is not a good thing, since it might give you “false” information what you mix really sounds like. Yet, personally I think a little bit of warmth (like about 2 db more) will dramatically help “gluing” everything together and give KNS8400 just enough warmth. In terms of using KNS8400 as a reference headphone, I realize I have to be careful not to mix my music too warm, because if my mix sounds warm on KNS8400, it will sound wayyy too warm when I playback my mix on a warmer sets of speakers or headphones. However, constantly switching back and forward between KNS8400 andAKG 240, I realize this is no longer an issue.
The lows of KNS8400 are good but not jaw dropping. Based on specs, it extends to 5hz. However, based on critical listening, I feel anything lower than 40hz, the sound distorts a bit. Yes, you will be able to hear all the lows on KNS8400, but they are certainly not powerful. If you are a bass-head, KNS8400 is probably not for you. Same as low-mids, a moderate bump on lows will probably help warm up the sound a bit and give the bass and the kicks in dance/hip-hop tracks a little more oomph without overpowering any other parts of the frequency spectrum.
(This is how I usually use KNS8400 on the go (volume control+akg Q460 detachable cable that uses the same adapter as KNS8400 +
FiiO L8 Line Out Cable) This set-up has much shorter wire length, more portable)
To me, KNS8400 sounds more analytical than musical, which is not a bad thing at all because it is designed as a reference headphone at the first place anyway. With that said, unlike many reference cans, KNS8400 is actually quite easy to drive. If you directly plug it into your Smartphone or your iPod, you will probably be able to enjoy your music more than any AKG, Grado cans, since these cans most of the time require more powerful amps than the built-in iPod amp.
However, amplification does make KNS8400 sound wider, make the bass extends lower, and improve the separations between the instruments as well. I have tried them on my arrow 3G, Practical Devices XM6, Digi 003, and mbox 3. Both arrow 3G and Mbox 3 extends the depth and the sound stage that KNS8400 is capable of, but XM6 does more than that. When its bass boost function is turned on, XM6 gives KNS8400 just the right amount of warmth, right amount of oomph for the kicks. And XM6 does a good job to smooth out the harshness of the highs that KNS8400 sometimes has without making KNS8400 muddy. (Note that arrow 3G also has the bass boost function but pairing with KNS8400 just doesn’t sound as good as XM 6 in my opinion.) KNS8400 with XM6 is almost a perfect pairing for my taste.
Overall, KRK does a fantastic good job emulating their monitor’s sound signature into KNS 8400, and it is definitely one of my go-to headphones for studio monitoring, and for casual listening when it pairs with XM6. Although it is not perfect (particularly the lack of warmth), I love using it along side with my AKG 240K. With these two cans, I am able to focus all the different details in the specific frequency spectrum when I do mixing and mastering (KNS is more sensitive and emphasized high, whereas AKG240 has more low-mid emphasis). The wide sound stage, shimmering highs, nice isolation, durable construction, minimum leakage, and easily driven are certainly the fortes of KNS8400, and these elements certainly make the headphone worth its price (around 150$). However, if you only care about the big fat bass and the gluey warmth when you listen to music, KNS8400 will not be your favourite cans, and you might even hate it. But besides that, I totally recommend you to give KNS8400 a shot. Merely trying at guitar center’s headphone booth won’t give its justice though. Get it or borrow a pair from your friends and listen to it for a week to see its full potential. Need a pair of reference headphones and loves the sound of shimmering highs and breathy vocals? KNS8400 is for you.