As seems to be the trend, high-end British speaker manufacturer KEF has made a move into the world of headphones with its new M500 over-the-ear model. The hi-fi M500 is something of a leap into the mainstream for KEF, and the model has all the accoutrements necessary for the modern digital music listener, such as an integrated inline remote and microphone. For the company’s first set of cans, they’re pretty damn good.
Surprisingly, KEF has aced one aspect of headphone design, for which it had essentially no prior experience: namely, comfort. These are easily some of the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones money can buy; memory foam is built into the earpads, which rest nicely on the ears, sealing off just enough ambient noise, while still allowing your head to breathe. The memory foam helps the headphones conform to the shape of your noggin, and the lightweight aluminum frame helps seal the deal. These are good headphones for long listening sessions.
Less surprising? As is the case with KEF’s speakers, these headphones also sound very good. The M500’s speakers deliver a warm sound with plenty of bass (though at the expense of some midrange detail). The overall effect is a balanced, unbroken sound, which is versatile enough to suit pretty much any kind of music you can throw at it. It’s easy on the ears, just as the fit is.
KEF’s multidirectional Smart Hinge lets you swivel the ear cups to fold them up into the included carrying case – roughly the size of a very large sunglasses case – or lay them flat in a bag or on a table. The headphones come with two detachable cords, one of which has an integrated remote and microphone for making calls (it should be noted that the remote is iPhone-centric, and Android users’ mileage may vary). Each of the cords is flat, which makes for less tangling, and some smart design choices let the cord detach if it catches and pulls too hard on something (it plugs into the back of the headphones).
Aesthetically, the M500s are somewhat nontraditional, but they’re still understated – Beats by Dre these are not. The silver and black details are classy; the lines are modern without being overtly futuristic. Combined with good sound and premium comfort, these good looks help make the M500 an excellent choice for everyday headphones.