Pros: Detachable cable, comfort is above average, lightweight, clean sound, good frequency extension, great imaging, good isolation.
Cons: Positioning on head makes a big difference to the sound, microphonics, internal noises amplified (think of eating while wearing IEMs).
Preferred Genres: Classic rock, jazz, post-rock
Amp: Not necessary but the low-end lacks a bit without one
Listening Set-up: Musicbee (WASAPI) -> O2 -> ODAC
There’s not much to say about the packaging as of now. The HP1 come in a white cardboard box with a page sized sticker on the front that is simply white and black with a picture of the headphones and some information with similar on both sides of the box, one side features the other specs. Kam of KAM says that this is the first production batch and that the future packaging will be more attractive.
Inside the box the HP1 are packaged with a 1/4’’ stereo adaptor, detachable cable and a set of dampening pads. The dampening pads are designed to reduce the frequency response by ~2dB above the 8k region.
Build Quality and Design
The KAM HP1 are built of lightweight plastic with a design AKG users will find similar and a feel that an owner of the Samson SR850 will be at home with. The HP1 are made from cheap materials, but that shouldn’t be a concern for durability since their primary use should be at home. The cups are closed with HP1 stamped on the right side and the entry for the mini XLR cable on the left ear. The headband is of a fake leather, I presume, and is auto adjusting like the Samson SR850, in-fact the fit and feel is very similar to them. The ear pads are made of fake leather as well and while they aren’t the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn they do sit light on the head with comfort good enough to wear for hours. The ear pads form a good enough seal, even brand new, to provide good isolation. In-fact the isolation on these is as good as many IEMs I’ve used and they don’t leak much noise at all. The problem with the isolation though is that microponics are heard and internal noises, such as, breathing or chewing, are amplified which is new to me for an over ear headphone.
I’ve given the KAM HP-1 roughly 100 hours of burn-in time and about 50 hours of listening time. The KAM HP-1 benefit from burn-in greatly in the bass regions. I’ve kept a listening log for my test tracks with notes that can be read here.
The HP-1 are excellent headphones sonically and I find it hard to find any fault in the sound, especially at the price. The HP-1 are very clean sounding headphones with good extension in the lows and highs with a neutral sound that leans just a touch bright. Detail retrieval is on par with headphones like the Ad900 and while these are revealing of bad recordings the faults aren’t glaring as to make the recordings unlistenable, just enough to expose faults. Instrument separation and imaging are top notch, the best I’ve heard at this price. The only fault I can find with the HP1 is the lack of deep low end presence.
With the damping pads the sound becomes a bit warmer, but loses depth in the soundstage taking away some of the dynamics from the song. I prefer them without the pads.
When I first received these the bass seemed thin and lacking in punch, after initial burn-in I realized the drivers needed some time to stretch out. The bass is clean with good mid-bass punch and decent extension in the sub-bass regions though there isn’t much weight behind it. For songs that don’t emphasize bass I feel that the HP1 provides a nice punch giving kick drums a nice presence and bass guitars have nice presence in the mix. When listening to songs that demand heavy, deep, bass I felt that the HP1 lacked. The HP1 make even the deepest bass regions audible, but there’s no rumble. That’s to be expected though, the HP1 aren’t basshead headphones and those who are bassheads won’t likely consider these anyway. I can’t really ask for much more, the bass is quick, is clear, and extends nicely.
The mids are clean, full, slightly forward, and in the upper regions they tend to lean a bit bright. The mids are well done here, they certainly excel with vocal oriented music as I found vocals were pushed to the front more often than not. Guitars come off slightly forward with great clarity, certainly suiting the rock genre nicely as does the various stringed and woodwind instruments I experienced. There are little signs of added sibilance, though the HP1 heighten the sibilance in poorly mastered recordings. In recordings with good mastering the HP1 add no extra sibilance. The mids are done well, the vocals are a tad pushy, but these are clean and balanced nicely.
The highs extend nicely with only slight grain and a touch of brightness with no fatigue. Trumpets, saxophones and high pitched guitar notes are crisp with a great presence to them, but I never found them fatiguing except in the case of poor recordings with a bright sound to them already. These are fantastic highs and suit brass instruments very nicely.
This is where I am most impressed. The sound of the HP1 are similar to my other favorite closed headphone the Brainwavz HM5. They are wide with a feeling of being open, despite isolating well. The HP1 go a step further though with it’s excellent imaging. At times I felt as if I were transported to the middle of an intimate concert with the music coming from all directions. The width and depth are only above average, but the instrument separation and imaging are fantastic. The sound is presented slightly forward, in an intimate matter, with no congestion period. The soundstage is great here.
The closest competitor to the HP1 would be the Brainwavz HM5/NVX XPT100. The HM5/XPT100 excel in the build quality, comfort and bass response, but the HP1 surpasses them when it comes to clarity and overall audio quality, especially in the imaging department. The HP1 are very capable headphones and my only faults with the HP1 are superficial. The HP1 are the best sounding closed headphone I’ve heard under $150 with the HM5, XPT100, Audio Technica M50, Shure SRH840, and Koss Pro DJ100 for comparison. The HP1 should be on everyone’s wishlist who wants a slightly bright neutral closed headphone with excellent imaging, a logical upgrade from the Sony MDR-V6 in my opinion.
Come see more pictures here.