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Over-Ear item created by nightmancometh, Oct 18, 2011
Pros - Clear low, mids, highs; VERY detailed for the price and has a nice extended range
Cons - A little low on bass, very nuetral and has a flat sound, Small soundstage
First off, let me say that if you value clarity and like the details in your music, this is for you. I can't stand skullcandy headphones with its booming bass and muddy mids and highs. This is really one of most detailed headphones for the price, and there is a truly nice extension on really part of the music that is playing; whether it be a cello, guitar, piano, edm, or something in between. This headphone reveals details I never knew existed in the music. As I said, if you like details, and lots of them, the KRK KNS 8400 is the best match for you. Not to mention this is THE clearest headphone I got for the price (at $85) and even going up to... really anything besides for the ath-m50's, which for sure don't have the level of detail this does.
Remember that the 8400's are monitoring headphones - they are neutral and flat sounding. Keep in mind that nothing will jump out at you with a level of lively attack, for lack of better words. That being said, SINCE there are no sharp peaks anywhere in the sound chart, you could listen to these for hours on end without feeling fatigued. From previous headphones where I couldn't listen for more than 45 min. at a time, my first time with these I listened for 8 hours straight on a plane without ear fatigue. And it only got better from there. Definitely a huge plus if your an avid listener.
Don't think though that these will suck the musical part outta the music and make it boring. On the contrary, I like "feeling" the music and getting into it - these definitely are good for casual listening too.
Isolation is quite amazing from what I'm experiencing - I can't hear people when I have them on. And these don't even have active noise canceling.
Comfort is great - besides for being able to listen to these for 8 hours straight, the earpad comfort has been great from the start and just got better over time. Keep in mind the top of the headband can get a bit stiff - maybe you might want to replace that with something a bit more comfortable. Earpads are memory foam and a barely feel it when it's on my head.
These are amazing; definitely an audiophiliac sound on a low budget. Keep in mind though the flat-ish sound, the soundstage being a bit small, and the 8-foot cable.
If you enjoy and appreciate your music, ignore what everybody else says and get these. I've listened to a lot of headphones and this one takes the cake.
Oh, and make sure give it some burn-in. LOTS of burn-in.
You cannot fool these headphones. If it's a lousy recording, you will hear it. A lot. If it's a great performance though, well, you'll hear that too.
Enjoy the KRK!
Pros - Detailed, Accurate and a Fantastic Bass Response
Cons - Could be more isolating
Just a quick review of the KRK KNS 8400 headphones.
For listening and mixing i use a combination of the KRK KNS 8400's, AKG K702's and the Sennheiser HD 650's and these headphones really do hold their own.
To my ears these headphones are brilliant for listening to punk / rock / metal etc and i don't believe them to be as cold and analytical as some may say and really bring tracks to life such as Bring Me The Horizons latest album 'Sempiternal' producing a very well balanced sound with just the right amount of bass.
For my preference i don't like their to be a boost in the bass frequencies so their sound is exactly what i'm looking for and i even use them for music listening out and about. The only thing i will note is that sat on a Bus they don't isolate as well as i would like, letting a little too much rumble in. Other than that i can't complain.
When mixing late at night (when speakers aren't really an option) they really can show me the flaws of a song and later the headphone will translate well to speakers.
These headphones are primarily designed for studio use and for that they work excellently and i have used them for tracking vocals for the artist, tracking drums when on location for myself and as previously mentioned late night mixing and they have never let me down.
Obviously not as great as my beloved HD 650's but they aren't too far off the mark in comparison.
I run them from an Apogee one which powers them just fine and they work almost as well directly out of an iPhone 4.
I use these headphones with the shorter cable which are hard to find in the UK but their is one company that imports them in for under £30 which makes cable complications non existent.
For the price they are a brilliant set of over ear headphones.
Pros - Replaceable cord, very detailed, lightweight, many wearable positions
Cons - Incompatible with glasses, small soundstage, bass light
These are my first pair of headphones (ever), so take this review with a grain of salt. I never used headphones before because I didn't see why I ever need a pair. My speakers were fine and I don't listen to music seriously when I'm outside of my house, so it would have been a waste of money to me. I did however use a cheap, poor quality pair only for some brainwave entrainment experiements. I never used those for anything else in fear of becoming accustomed to bad frequency response. The reason why I'm trying headphones again now is because my speakers lack in subbass, they disturb others if turned up too loud, and I wanted to a more detailed way to view music. My review probably won't be relevant for most of this site, BUT it may help other first time headphone buyers if they are interested in the 8400 being their first higher end headphones as well. I only have the Creative X-FI Go Pro so that's the only amp I can do this review with (yeah, I know it's not high end at all - limited funds means I need a bare bones solution). My ears prefer colored, fun sounds, but my brain prefers accuracy and would rather bite the bullet until it sounds pleasing. These KRKs were cheap (in terms of headphones), somewhat newly introduced, aiming for neutrality and maximum details, have a minimalist design, and feature a replaceable cable and memory foam so they looked like the perfect no frills all-in-one solution.
Personally, I don't care about packing. It could be sold in a plain white box with a simple text label on it. However, mine had the clear plastic shell it came in (there may be variations based on the holding piece inside).
I must be in a minority on head-fi or such, since plastic, "gaudy", or "less sophisticated" headphones appeal to me. Anything with wood or an older design turns me off. Anyways, to me, these headphones look like inexpensive matte plastic, and I like that. I like their minimalist, just the basics, look too. They don't look cheap, but they don't look expensive.
They are surprisingly lightweight. They are made from impact resistant materials throughout and thank god too. Before I had a chance to tie the headphone's cord up, they fell to the floor over a dozen times from a little over 2 feet. However, they are fine and sound the same. Another big reason I chose then is due to the replaceable cord. It is only a matter of time until I step on it and that's that. At least then I will be able to replace just the cord. It's really easy to snap in and out of the socket too.
Depending on the position, they have a bit of a clamp to a little less. They aren't going to fall of my head but it I can tell they are there. The memory foam on the ear pieces feel pretty invisible to me (I don't really notice them), but the headband material is a little firmer and has sometimes become slightly painful/uncomfortable after long sessions. Overall, they fit ok. The reason why I'm only saying ok vs great/good/etc, is because they fit in A LOT of positions. Exactly where/how I should be wearing them? I'm serious. I read on the forums that other headphone manufacturers try to dictate where they sit, but the 8400s are completely the opposite. I can wear them from 0-4 notches down, in a middle, forward, or back positions as well. It isn't a perfect 12 positions, but it's quite a bit.
These block a surprisingly amount of sound both in and out. I don't have any really formal ways to test it, but if I play at a comfortable volume and stick them on a wig head, I have to concentrate to make out leakage.
Lean, controlled, and bit shy. It's enough to be there, but it doesn't have any real presence. Midbass is ok and present, but the subbass is buried. You can tell if you take it away, and in test tones it shows up, but in general use it's a bit hidden. I would prefer more, but depending on the mix, it's ok. Some say they have a bit of midbass bump and I can't tell if I hear it or not (am I hearing a midbass distortion that's contained in the song or actual frequency difference?)
There's nothing that stands out about the mids to me, maybe they lean a tiny bit bright. I read there was a bit of 2.5k bump. For the most part, this is not noticeable. But on songs like Marina and the Diamonds – “Primadonna”, the vocal enters piercing territory.
I don't think its fatiguing, or that there is an emphasis on it, but the fact that the bass is not as impactful and the mids don't have anything to draw my attention (like a huge flaw), I feel it kinda highlights the treble spectrum at times. Some songs I've heard before, I don't remember their snares having being that sharp and having so much punch. The treble can go into the "too much" category if I wear them forward too, almost like that "false detail" sound that sounds ok at first but can't be sustained for long periods of time.
Speaking of detail, since it's my first pair of headphones, I can't really judge what is too much/too little, detail, but I can say I am definitely hearing new things so these things seem really detailed. Off the bat, I can hear echo decays easier and longer. From there it goes from simply hearing vocals and vocal treatments deeper (like backing vocals or overdubs), to extremely minute details (a very faint midtone buzz from the right channel in the the beginning of Rihanna - "Love Without Tragedy"), to stuff I just don't want to hear (television). The first non-music thing I used these on was the TV show Castle on my computer and it shocked me. The characters were where they usually were (their police precinct), but it's like I could more easily hear room they were in, like the ambiance/echo/shape of the room. It's not something I wanted to hear and was quite ugly.
I knew coming into headphones, especially closed headphones, that soundstage would shrink, but THIS MUCH? Really? It sounds like when you turn the volume too high and it becomes hard to discern individual tracks and parts. For a couple months, my KRKs were quite "unfocused" sounding, like I could hear what was going on, but there was a "grasp" on what I was hearing that was missing. It's like I would need to strain or try harder to hear everything as effortlessly as speakers. It is still somewhat present but not as much. I went to the glossary looking for adjectives: Here's what I came up with: not airy, no ambiance... closed is a really good description ("Closed-in sound lacking in openness, delicacy, air"), as well as forward ("forced upon the listener"). If the music is narrow to begin in (aka most mainstream music that's poorly mastered), the KRKs can push it over the edge. Having the detail I described before this is almost a punishment then, because it ends up a small space and is a bit overwhelming. It's like 2D vs 3D. All of these details are shoved together between two panes of of glass (2D), instead of having room to exist (3D). Maybe I'm just not used to the lack of air or closed-ness, but I feel really sensitive to air and openness. I can just hear the lack of air and space missing. It almost sounds "sucked out". On horribly mastered loud music, it's amplified even more. One Direction's "Live While We're Young”s is a good example. It's already quite loud and compact in the chorus, but the KRKs make it sound extra compact.
The tiniest difference in either horizontal or vertical direction changes the sound noticeably. For me, I really hate this aspect because I can put the headphones on all those different ways (that I described above) and end up with a slightly different sound each time. If I have them centered and at neutral level (0-1, sometimes 2 notches), they sound a bit forced upon me and with that "unfocused" quality I described. Move them back a little and they come into focus while sounding denser yet narrower (don't ask me how), more bass impact. Move them forward and they sound less forced, but also sound more detailed, but it can be too much too handle or even more unfocused sounding. Treble emphasis. Simply drop them down to 3, and they open up, sounding less "forceful", and if dropped to 4, they even more so, but then they sound like they are coming from too distant and they feel like they are sitting too low on my head without more dramatic adjusting. I noticed the positional stuff in the beginning of Man Without Country - "Puppets", about the first 30 seconds. It has gone down over time (not sure if it's me or the headphones), but at one point it was simply ridiculous. I could not believe how much the tiniest change made.
Not glasses compatible. They feel fine, but sound wise, there is a huge difference! This was brought up by somebody else on head fi so I decided to investigate it myself. My original conclusion was that there was a minor, yet noticeable difference. I removed the plastic tips on my glasses (they still fit fine) and then it was almost undetectable. Recently I got a new pair of glasses though, ones that had a plastic temple at the end again. Tried the headphones with these again and now I can confirm that they just don't work. The temple ends are not big at all and there is nothing about them that stands out as unusual, so I'm ruling them out. Two examples are Sky Ferreira - "One (Bar9 Remix)" at 3:52-4:04, Gorrilaz - "Feel Good Inc." The former doesn't have a huge bass beat or anything, but just enough bass to be present. With glasses on, it disappears entirely. The latter has a heavier bass beat, but when wearing glasses, it lacks impact and substance. Part of it just disappears. The entire sound in general while wearing glasses is extra bass light, emphases on the high end, and more open. It sounds exactly like if you put headphones on (with no glasses) and then slightly open the front of the, so there isn’t a full seal. And It is extremely noticeable. For me, I can kiss all the subbass goodbye with glasses on.
They cannot be driven with cannot be driven by Realtek Integrated Audio (if you really want specs, it's some 5.1 model from 2009 that I don't think I need to be digging up). Max volume was nowhere near loud or max sounding. I tried the line out, which sounded cleaner, yet lacking in bass, and the headphone jack in the front (which are usually of lower quality, hence why I didn't want to use them). I don't use the inline volume cable provided either. It just adds extra length and is another volume control to mess with (I have Windows for that).
I wanted to love these headphones but I was pretty disappointed for a while. They feel pretty sensitive to start. I would like my headphones to just snap into one spot, like "This is it! The perfect position that feels the most natural and sounds the best." vs having a ton of a positions that feel good but all come with a slightly different sound. And I don't know if it's because I'm extra sensitive to a closed sound or not, but it doesn’t come easily to my ears/brain. By now, I am more used to it and it's not a huge problem, but the soundstage combined with the details and "forcedness" still kinda kills me. I know these headphones aren't supposed to make music sound better than it is, but I didn't expect things to sound this bad. Sometimes they are very easy to enjoy and at other times sound like their only purpose is to induce fatigue as fast as possible. It's not as easy to listen to music for extended periods of time because everything feels very squashed then. It amplifies the 'everything sounds like it's at the same volume' effect of the loudness war. The way I listen to music also involves a lot of movement and analysis. Sometimes I'll jump from section to section, trying to isolate things and block everything else out (kind of like the PS2 game Frequency where you play one part when switch to another one), other times I’ll focus on the entire sound it was created as one big chunk, and other times it'll be completely different, like focusing on rhyming sounds or passages, or the level of different things and just how things sound, like trying to hear all the detail. The fact that the soundstage is small and closed makes this harder. And then throw the glasses issue in. If I am to be honest, I have to give them low ratings given these experiences. I still have them, and only use them without glasses, but unless I use them a lot, things don't sound "right" or natural to me. They are quite unforgiving.
Pros - Mids, details, comfort, price, neutrality
Cons - Soft pouch instead of hard case, cable is pretty naff
Comfort and build quality:
The KNS8400 comes with wonderfully soft memory foam pleather ear and headband pads. They can get hot after several hours use, but that's expected for closed pleather. They clamp fairly well, not too tight, not too low, I can have a moderate headbang and these headphones won't budge.
The cable is detachable and about 8ft long(as measured with a 15cm ruler). It's not great since it's very long and prone to tangling itself and trying to coil itself back into whatever way it was last stored. There is an additional 1ft extension cable that includes an inline volume control. The cable attaches the the headphones via a twist and lock 2.5mm jack and terminates in a 3.5mm jack with a screw on 6.3mm adaptor.
The headphones themselves are made of fairly durable industrial plastic with a metal reinforced headband.
I tested this out of my Schiit Asgard amp with a Xonar DX as my source, then out of a Fiio E5 with a Sansa Clip+ and finally out of the Asgard with the Sansa Clip+. All music was in either 320kbs MP3 or FLAC 16/44 with the occasional FLAC 24/96 tune.
One thing to note is that these headphones are resolving enough to tell if the source was the Clip+ or the DX. If your source sucks, these are going to let you know. These have some serious detail, for instance in a FLAC 24/96 recording of Beethovens Poco Adagio, I could clearly hear every sniffle made by a member of the orchestra.
These are kept under control quite impressively and are fairly laid back. This makes it easier to listen to the KNS8400 for extended periods than my Shure SRH840s, which I find quite fatiguing after a couple hours. The laid back sound does mean the highs are less detailed than the Shures. However, the highs are quite sibilant and piercing until the headphones are burned in.
The mids are neutral, bordering on a slight emphasis. There is nothing really wrong about the mids, the KNS8400 does mids very, very well. Vocals sound fantastic and are very clear. Listening to Marina & the Diamonds was a treat on these headphones, although I would say these headphones do male vocals better than female vocals.
The bass is present, but not forward. It exists and turns up when needed, the detail is there but not the impact. It is capable of being punchy, but not of the low subbass rumble or slam you get from speakers or from my Denon D2ks. Good for dance, trance and certain dubstep, but not well suited to techno or jazz. The bass needs to be faster to play well with jazz. In comparison to my SRH840s, they have more punch, but less detail and extension.
It's never going to be amazing with closed headphones and as such the soundstage is fairly average. Classical music in particular sounds slightly congested, but the soundstage is wide enough for anything else. Nothing to complain about, but not great either.
Isolation is pretty average for a closed headphone and the headphones are easy to drive at 36Ω. However they do benefit from some amplification, which helps to bring out the bass and details. Even a lowly E5 does a decent job at amplifying them, but a higher end amp like the Asgard provides better results.
In short these headphones have no real weakness, but at the same time no outstanding strengths other than its detail retrieval and low price.
Pros - Neutral sound,detail,isolation
Cons - Comfort?Cable?
Studio recording and mixing ain't child's play.There's no place for cheap tricks,because standarts(see some AKG K240 or Beyerdynamic DT150) have been already there for decades,and newcomers are overlooked with some suspicion.
KRK Systems have been into studio business for more than 20 years,and their distinctive yellow-black monitors are well known to anybody in studio recording.What's new here is their new headphone line,the KNS-6400 and KNS-8400.
The KNS-8400 is a closed professional headphone intended for studio and monitor use.It's street price is around 150$,and it's claimed to sound as close as possible to KRK studio monitors,which are,by the way,quite linear and neutral sounding.
The headphone comes in a nice box,in witch you'll also find a nice carrying pouch,cleaning cloth and a volume control extension cable.While looking somewhat clumsy and heavy on picture,the headphone is much nicer to look at in person.Careful engineering is present,and the KNS-8400 is surprisingly light and well-made.They're nothing of fancy or extraordinary design,just durability and usability.I know you guys love pics,so here they are:
The cable is detachable,very light and quite unmanageable.It just loves to tangle around.
The cushions are made of soft memory foam with synthetic leather:
And the gold-plated jack:
You can screw on the provided 6.3 mm adapter.
Comfort is a rather personal thing,and I find the headphone somewhere in the middle for me.The headband pushes the top of my head a little bit harder,but it's not annoying.
Just to clarify,I'm not the "how-it-sounds"poet,and I cannot describe sound with funny adjectives.I just like it or not.Nevertheless,I will try my best to explain the KNS-8400.
The setup is M-Audio Audiophile 2496 and a DIY headphone amp(something like pimeta,system THD is lower than 0,001%).
What jumps at you right out of the box are the highs,especially the 10 kHz region.After some burn-in they get tamed,but nevertheless they high frequencies of this headphone are very clear.You can hear the drummer hit the cymbals and any little click or clap.Be warned as this headphone is very unforgiving.You can hear the musicians breathe.You can hear artifacts or accidental noises in the studio or concert hall.If your tracks have some hiss,it will be very apparent.Older tunes(e.g. vinyl rips) may become impossible to listen to.Overall,detail goes to extreme levels.
Mids sound very close and detailed.Vocals are clear and,well,not exactly forward,but just where they should be.Completely natural tone.Overall,very pleasing.
Lows are not rolled off as the community opinions states.They are just laid back and very relaxed,not hitting very hard,but you hear the constant rumble with all it's texture,not just hard hits.That's my opinion with this headphone,I have no complaints with bass here.
Overall the sound is very pleasing to me.The result of the above is realistic vocals,much of detail and true bass.Some may find this boring though.Decide for yourself whether you like balanced neutral or HiFi sound.
The isolation is great,nothing I hear,and nobody hears me at normal levels.The clamping force of the headband is absolutely normal.
At 36 ohms impedance,the headphone can be driven from almost any source,including things with batteries.Amping proves beneficial,but it's not completely necessary.
If you already bought it,I hope you enjoy your purchase like I do.Personally I'm very pleased with the sound and feel of KNS-8400,and I'll keep it.
Pros - Lightweight, Comfortable, Easy to Drive, Balanced midrange
Cons - Extension could be better
As per standard, I will give a bit of a background to premise this review. I do this before all of my reviews just to give the reader an idea of my experiences. This allows the potential consumer to best judge my opinions and ultimately decide what kind of bearing my words have with them. My reviews aim to express my thoughts with the main intention being to arm the reader with the knowledge to make the best purchasing decisions. Knowledge is power, and I say power should go to the consumer in any market!
I come from a family of audio hobbyists/philes/enthusiasts/whatever. Hi-fi has been part of my experience from the time of a child, and thus my standards for audio reproduction are naturally higher than that of your average individual or consumer. I’m not making the “golden ears” argument, I am saying I have been around many different niches and types of hi-fi reproduction and my ears have received some training in the process. My first exposure involved home fidelity, but I first started becoming adventurous in the car audio department when my teen years hit (naturally). I found myself buying, selling, demoing, and modding consistently until I eventually completed a final project of building an entire audio system from the battery up. I haven’t had to touch it for years, and probably won’t for a long time. From car audio I moved back into the home theater/hifi scene and did some projects of my own, once again. I have recently found my audio nirvana in the home, and don’t plan to touch that for awhile either after much testing/tweaking. Naturally, my next move was the headphone world. I’m currently diving into cans, learning as much as I can until I find my “heaven” in this realm too. It is helpful reviews that help pave the way for those who want that ultimate experience, so I plan to contribute and pay back in the process. I hope you find the following review of the KRK KNS-8400 helpful.
Comfort: The fit of these headphones is certainly above average to me. It was one of the first things I noticed when swapping from other headphones of similar class like the Shure SRH-840, SRH-440, Sennheiser HD-25 I-II, HD280, HD380, HD448… even against higher tier models like the SRH-940, Beyer DT-770, Senn HD-650, CharterOak SP-1. These headphones are comfortable overall because of the soft memory pad filled leather-esque pads utilized on both the headband and ear pads. Even with this super padding, they are very light. The clamping force is enough to be considered secure, but at the same time the soft pads do not apply much force around the ear. I usually rate comfort on a secure fit to a loose pillow fit spectrum, and let the reader judge how “good” the comfort is based on what they prefer. These fall in the middle of this spectrum somewhere; they have enough clamping force for you to move your head around without fear of slipping but do not have zero pressure at the ears. I really find the balance fit to be quite nice, and certainly one of the nicer ergonomic designs around. They won’t be as comfy to me as my SP-1 or HD-448, but they certainly will fit more securely which is almost a must for a portable. I feel like whether you’re a pillow fit or secure fit person, these can’t let you down in the very least. They’re just fine for multihour listening sessions and actually don’t warm your ears up a ton for being a closed back model. Solid job, KRK.
Durability: Since I feel like these fit best in the portable niche, I’m force to elicit a higher standard. The durability is fine. They certainly won’t fall apart in your hands or crumble in your backpack, but they might have a weak point or two. Anytime there is a swivel joint, a chance of weakness is introduced. I’ve seen swivel models implemented in poor fashion and in nearly indestructible fashion. These KRKs fall somewhere in the middle again. The swivel joint in the headband that allow them to fold flat is pretty solid and protected in all direction. The screw isn’t visibly exposed from any angle, which is a good thing. It also doesn’t utilize a spring to snap back into place like I’ve seen before, which could be a good thing from a durability standpoint, as it is well known that springs can wear out. The joints at the ear cups that allow the cups to tilt would be more prone to breaking that the aforementioned joints. Honestly though, the only way I could see that happening is if there was a downward pressure pushing the cup further from its yielding point and causing it to snap (I could see this potentially happening at the bottom of a backpack, for instance). The cable seems durable, yet still small enough for convenient portable use. It is indeed detachable, although the locking design isn’t the slickest. Once it is locked in I don’t think it is going anywhere as it utilizes a turn-to-lock system, AFTER being snapped into place (semi-forcefully too, I should add). Could this mechanism wear out? It wouldn’t particularly surprise me either way. I’m probably splitting hairs in this section, but I think it is well to consider everything. On the plus side, the headband is reinforced with lightweight metal and a plastic beam, and the pads are mounted really well on the headband. It even seems as though this may be replaceable by unscrewing a panel and swapping. I’ve certainly seen less durable portables, so I think these will hold up just fine through the battles of travel with just a little care and caution. Don’t be stupid and they shouldn’t break.
Sound Quality: The comfort and durability may be the bread, but we all know it is what is in between that makes or breaks the sandwich – even if the bread is essential. Just so you can get an idea just what kind of sandwich this is, I will break the sound up into the three logical categories of high, mids, and lows. I will comment on each, likely referencing each within my comments to help you get an idea of how it all blends together. I spend a lot of time before writing this section of the review, and it is always done separately from the rest of the review. I listen to many tracks from many different genres and report my SUM experience here. If you want an idea of the types of tracks I used, feel free to PM me or something and I can tell you some of my favorite evaluation tracks. I will preface this section of the review by reminding you of my background in audio (see intro if you wish). My honesty can come off a bit harsh sometimes, but I will attempt to help you understand my subjective experience to the best of my language abilities.
Highs: This certainly isn’t an emphasized aspect of the spectrum. Cymbals in rock tracks that are notorious for getting out of control seem reasonably sustained. The level of control in the highs is quite nice actually, and it is my guess that this control is what makes the sound of these headphones not so fatiguing. Cymbals seem to have more of a “sss” sound rather than a “shhhapp” or “shhhh” sound, if that makes any sense or is helpful at all. I guess the highs sound thin, in a sense… but not in a negative way necessarily. While this does wonders for avoiding a fatiguing nature, it also means that high string notes are a little duller than I prefer. Detail retrievable is a bit hindered in the highs because of this. The sparkle that should be there on certain tracks can be a little laid back (for sparkle that resides in the highs, at least). I will say that I do find the highs (8-10kHz and up) to be quite linear in sound, even if masked a little bit by their laid back nature… and maybe even a bit rolled off. The roll off is actually a bit disappointing considering their potential as a monitor due to this linear presentation in the highs. If someone came up to me and said “the highs are a little veiled in this headphone” I couldn’t really disagree with them. I don’t think the highs are veiled in the sense that they are dark, I think they are veiled in the sense that they lack some sparkle and detail (not suggesting sparkle = detail). Listening for details and separation is always more challenging in the highs anyways, so this potential handicap really doesn’t take away from the sound of these headphones too much… I just don’t think they are the best for doing tracking in the highs. If that’s something you need, look elsewhere because these are not honest/revealing enough up top.
Mids: When compared to the highs you could say the mids are emphasized, but I certainly don’t think there are emphases within the mids themselves. It is common to hear a midbass emphasis in a closed set of headphones just because of the inherent design of the sealed enclosure. These do a good job at taming that potential by producing a pretty neutral midrange. I know it seems like everyone and their mother is reporting this and that as “flat” recently, but I honestly think the mids here sound quite unemphasized and neutral. From my experience neutral presentations are much more rare in the headphone world than in the loudspeaker world, and this makes sense because of the design. Compared to the loudspeakers I’ve had the pleasure of spending decent time with that are neutral sounding, these KRKs do sound neutral to me in the midrange. I don’t get a sense of “cold” or “warm”, and I don’t notice any part of the midrange shouting at me for attention. This makes it easy for me to choose part of the midrange sound and focus on it, and even easier for switching from one instrument or sound to the other within the midrange to focus on. To me, this is indicative of little to no emphasis on any particular section within the mids and therefore a subjectively perceived flat sound in the mids. Notice my careful language here. I find the highs a bit recessed, so I can’t say the overall sound is flat, but I can say the mids do sound neutral. The flatter response certainly favors detail retrieval in this part of the spectrum when you’re looking for it. I don’t find anything to jump out at me, but I do find it easy to find any part of the music in the midrange when needed. This seems super useful for monitoring/tracking purposes. The mids are true, and I really like that about this set.
Lows: Bass always suffers it seems like. It is like the sauce, you better pick the right one to compliment the rest of the sandwich or it could ruin it all. Getting a sauce right adds texture to the sandwich. A dry sandwich is better than one with the wrong sauce, yet everyone generally sauces their sandwich because without it, it just isn’t the same. A well liked, but conservative sauce was used here… something far from mustard or hot sauce and closer to something like mayo or bbq. I have hardly any complaints about the bass. My only real complaint is that is it unspectacular, which is kind of a cheap shot in itself. The bass is really shed in a similar light as the mids are to me. There is no midbass punch, no grumble, and no real low growl. The bass lacks significant in-class emphasis. Just like the highs though, I wish the extension was just a little better. The bass is a pretty linear to my ears but once it gets to the 60Hz and below region it seems to start rolling off a bit. Usually the trade off in bass is impact versus texture, and once again I find the KRKs to fall somewhere in the middle. The impact isn’t bland, and the texture isn’t muddy. I can hear tonal changes in the bass fairly coherently, and I hear some punch when the track calls for it. The bass isn’t as fast as I’d like; the recovery could certainly be better. That being said, I don’t think the speed in the bass is bad… just average. A good fusion band like Chicago which utilizes electronic and string bass will show you what I am talking about. The slick string bass responds pretty well, but isn’t as swift as it could be. Usually bass that can keep up with strings like that lack some impact properties, so I guess that is just one extreme example of what I mean when I say bass texture. Overall, you put this sauce on my sandwich and I’ll rarely complain. I won’t go home thinking it was the best sandwich I’ve had either.
Additional Notes: The isolation is just fine. Nothing to ride home about but it won’t disappoint (I feel like this sentence has been the theme of this review). It appears that parts like the pads, headpad, and cable are all replaceable and purchasable. The headphones are easy to drive, although modestly enjoy even a simple amplifier like the FiiO e7. It comes with a threaded 6.3mm jack that is removable to be a 3.5mm mini. The headphones do fold flat, but do not come with a hardcase but rather a drawstring pouch for portable storage. These also come with a removable inline volume control, which is cool if you’re listening out of a shared source and the other user isn’t using a volume you prefer, or for a fast kill switch.
Nutshell: These headphones lack a glaring weakness sonically and are ergonomically very friendly. The asking price is quite reasonable (I got mine for 120, and it was going at that price in many places at the time of this review). I think these headphones would be most useful for tracking/monitoring in the midranges. In fact, these wouldn’t do horribly as a monitor at all considering their fairly neutral overall presentation and their especially neutral midrange. For music listening purposes, I feel like these are a great well rounded set. I don’t they will be spectacular in any specific genre, but I also don’t think they could disappoint either, and that versatility has to mean something. This set is like a turkey melt; a safe go-to sandwich that is hard to mess up, guaranteed to taste fine no matter the time of day. It almost seems like the perfect entry level headphone for a new comer to hi-fi, yet could be easily enjoyed by the audio veteran. Kudos KRK, for a great value and well-rounded “plug and play” set!