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KEF M500 Hi-Fi Headphones Review

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KEF M500 Hi-Fi Headphones

KEF M500 Hi-Fi Headphones

Across the sound spectrum

The KEF M500 delivers a dramatic, clean and smooth sound. These headphones grab my attention every time I listen to music with them. They are close to neutral in tone and thus more accurate than other headphones I’ve auditioned in this price class, with one exception. In this price range, most of the other headphones have a bump or dip somewhere in the frequency range.

They are vivid and lively sounding but not bright, as in excessive treble prominence. Cymbals and triangles are reproduced accurately on good recordings. While the treble is extended there is a lack of stridency which many listeners cannot tolerate. My Sony MDR-7506 is also close to neutral but sounds relatively flat and dull, after listening to the M500’s more exciting performance. The two models have different design philosophies, with the MDR-7506 more suited in the recording studio. But I like the Sony for the purpose of comparative reviewing, specifically for its neutrality.

The KEF M500’s mid-range is clean and clear, much like KEF loudspeakers. Vocals have great presence and are prominent without being “in your face” forward. Every vocal inflection and nuance of Diane Birch’s singing on “Fire Escape” (Bible Belt album) is delivered in full glory. Instruments are produced with good texture and body, but are not as full sounding as I prefer.

Bass notes are clean, deep, punchy and with excellent definition. These bass qualities are evident on Percy Heath’s “Django,” which the M500 faithfully reproduces. Heath is a good jazz bassist, and gets down and dirty on the album, A Love Song. The M500’s bass presentation is the opposite of boom and bloat, the kind of overly prominent bass like that of a very popular brand that rhymes with meats and smells like dirty feet, thus sounding not too neat.

Timbre and harmonics – There’s no contest, with the M500 winning hands down over the Sony. For example, harmonic tones are closer to realistic on guitars and drums with the M500 on Cracker’s cover of the Carpenter’s “Rainy Days and Monday” from If I Were A Carpenter. My only criticism is that I prefer a slightly warmer and fuller sound in this regard.

There is very good resolution of detail which is about equal with the MDR-7506, but the M500 excels at transparency and is much better in this regard than the Sony. With the M500 I was easily able to hear the differences in recording technique and mastering processes. Not quite as open sounding as planar/electrostatic headphones but I prefer this presentation as I find some planar cans tiring after a while. The M500 is also able to pick up low level detail easily. There is crowd noise from the audience at the beginning of The Frames “Fitzcarraldo” which every headphone is able to pick up, but the M500 does a better job by allowing me to hear the venue. In contrast, my MDR-7506 delivers a quieter crowd without the ambience.

If you like headphones that follow both form and function, with a heavy dollop of excellent sound quality and comfort thrown in, then the KEF M500 might be just your ticket to inner sonic bliss. I have heard a couple of pricier headphones which I like better, but the few fuller sounding headphones in this price range had other deficiencies which I could not live with happily. Of the approximately one dozen headphones I’ve auditioned in this price range, the M500 and the Sennheiser Momentum (msrp $350) are the two best sounding of the lot. You may prefer the Momentum because of its superior accuracy or the M500 because of its involving ability.

With quite a few headphones priced in the four figure range nowadays, the KEF M500 retails for $299.99 and I think they are worth every penny, thus making them an excellent value. I highly recommend the KEF M500 for audition if one is looking for headphones in this price range. Until next time, I wish you happy listening.

7 Responses to KEF M500 Hi-Fi Headphones Review


  1. Bill says:

    Yes it figures that a great speaker manufacturer makes a great headphone. Thanx for the review Paul being a headphone freak I may just pick up a pair of these. By the way what shape is your head?
    Bill P.

  2. Paul Mah says:

    Hi Bill,

    My head is irregular, just like my body size. Lol.

    Paul

  3. Dave says:

    I too own the M500 and powered as well by the iDSD Micro via an iphone and now using the TIDAL app. I recently heard the Oppo PM-2 the other day..

    The form factor of both sets of cans is amazingly similar with their designs. I think the M500 holds its own quite well. A good buy

    • Paul Mah says:

      Hi Dave,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the M500. Although I haven’t audition the PM-2 yet, I have listened to the more expensive PM-1 briefly. I thought the PM-1 sounded good, but was expecting even better sound given the cost. How do you like the TIDAL app?

      Happy Holidays!
      Paul

  4. Dave says:

    TIDAL is fantastic! I’m exploring the music of artists like never before. I am also running TIDAL on my Squeezebox Touch as well via the Ickstream third-party app.

    Also like the offline feature on my iPhone to listen on the go. Sound quality is great.

    • PaulMah says:

      Hi Dave,

      You haven’t experienced any dropouts or stutters like some other users I’ve read? The sound quality and choice of music are two reasons why I’m planning to get TIDAL to work with my iPad, but I’m going to wait a while until the company stabilizes the platform.

      Cheers,
      Paul

  5. ro says:

    In this format (i.e. on-ears foldable headphones, without any battery that could eventually fail), and in regard of sound quality, the two bests headphones currently available are the KEF M500 and the Thinksound On2 (both sell for roughly 100 bucks by now)

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