KEF M500 headphones: they sound good, and their heads are in control

Image headphones are very numerous these days – many companies enter this segment of the market burning at heart with the desire to repeat the commercial success of the great and terrible Beats. Up to now nobody has managed to do it even close – but does it matter for simple users? Of course not. But the fact that the market is actively filled with interesting models – beautiful and good sounding – undoubtedly has. Well-known manufacturer of loudspeakers – British company KEF – recently expressed a desire to “take a bite out of the pie” and presented the world a couple of their variations on the theme of image headphones – plug-in model KEF M200, and overhead – M500. In this review we will dedicate to the overhead model – let’s see how well it came out.

Audio equipment

Package, delivery set

KEF M500 is packed like usual – in good quality cardboard box with magnetic cover inside a casing decorated with headphones photos. The package includes a plastic pouch for storing and carrying the headphones, a pair of detachable cables – with and without remote control, instructions and warranty card.

Appearance, design

It goes without saying that image headphones should have an interesting and attractive design. Virtually any headphone in this segment is beautiful, elegant and unconventional..

But there’s more to the KEF M500. At the first sight their design “catches”, causing sincere delight, perhaps, of anyone for whom the aesthetics of High-Tech is not alien. And this excitement only increases when you pick up the headphones. They are really cool: the build quality is excellent, aluminum and high quality leatherette are everywhere in the construction – no plastic!

“Adjustment” of KEF M500 to the listener’s head size is made with sliding brackets smoothly extending from the headband. The cup holders are attached to these brackets with hinges, which allow them to bend to the inside of the headband and rotate 90 degrees, which makes the headphones more comfortable to carry.

The two cables that come with the KEF M500 are both ‘noodle cables’. This shape prevents them from tangling and helps reduce the microphone effect. Cables are the same length, at 1.2m. The cable jack is on the left cup.

The remote control that is on one of the cables, has three buttons – answer/reject and volume control – and a microphone. They have a palpable stroke and are easy to feel when you are blind. The remote works seamlessly with Apple and the lion’s share of Android devices.

Audio equipment


KEF M500 headphones are very compact. For a model that claims to be portable it’s a big plus, not only from the point of view of carrying comfort, but from the point of view of how the headphones look on your head. Not everyone looks great with these overly large headphones, but KEF M500 looks nice and neat even on small heads.

For its size however KEF M500 is very heavy – it’s a lot of metal in the construction. It doesn’t cause any discomfort – only that the headphones may not stay in place if you suddenly move your head – despite the very strong grip of the cups.

Outstanding isolation from external noise from the KEF M500 should not be expected – the ability to effectively cut off external noise is a rarity for headphones in the overhead form factor. In noisy places like the subway, the user of KEF M500 will have to turn up the volume a lot to hear the music playing in the headphones. In quieter, less noisy environments, fortunately we don’t have to resort to such measures – for listening to music on the street or in ground transport, the isolation provided by KEF M500 is quite sufficient.

KEF M500 sits comfortably on your head, it doesn’t weigh too much, you can wear them for many hours without feeling any discomfort.


The sound

Summing up his personal experience of “communicating” with image headphones and with “nonimage” models as well the author of this review can honestly say that it is very rare that image headphones really please you with their sound quality. This does not mean, of course, that almost all of these headphones sound bad.

No, most of them produce the sound of quite decent quality – but at the same time, you can find “non-image” models of headphones with the same sound quality, but with two times cheaper prices. At the same time, for the money they ask for trendy headphones, it is not difficult to find “nonimaging” ones, but with notably better sound quality. Image models, that can meet the price-quality ratio, typical for “nonimage” headphones, unfortunately, are very few.

And the KEF M500 is just one of those units. They not only please you with the sound quality – they are much better by this parameter than many competing models and however pathosy and, frankly speaking, “naive-advertising” they sound.

The KEF M500’s superiority is expressed primarily in its resolving power – you can hear the subtleties of the sound environment – the overtones, reverberation, various soft sounds – that other models in the same class often completely obscure. Together, these subtleties have a strong effect on the realism of the sound: the naturalness of the timbres, the precise positioning of the imaginary sources of sound in an imaginary scene. The KEF M500 doesn’t provide the widest and most expansive soundstage, but you can almost feel the position of each instrument and see exactly where it’s coming from.

Tonal balance of KEF M500 is smooth enough, with a small tilt towards the middle and high frequencies. Usually it is the other way round in this kind of headphones: there is a lot of bass and it, due to its power, sets the whole sound character, while the middle and high frequencies are sidelined. There isn’t much bass in the sound of KEF M500 quite enough, but it will seem not enough for bass-heads , it doesn’t block the mid and high frequencies and allows them to open in all their glory. “The “middle part” is perfectly balanced – the AFC in this area is not critical to the ear “dips” or “rises.

There is neither mutedness, nor excessive “brightness” – voices and instruments sound realistic. In the high frequencies there is a slight “synthetic” sound, what should sound like metal sometimes sounds somewhat different. For a fine musical ear “sparkling” sound of cymbals in most songs remains a hint. This, however, does not mean that the high frequencies here are useless. Their light synthetic character in no way disturbs the perception of electronic music, and in the sound of many pop and rock songs it is not particularly noticeable. And if your hearing is different from conservative, no problem at all…



It is not often behind a pretty exterior is something more… This phrase, alas, quite accurately describes the state of the market of image headphones these days from the point of view of the consumer. KEF M500, however, does not fall under these canons. Attractive design meets a very decent sound quality. A rare and welcome exception to the rule.

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