KRK Systems KNS-8400 Closed Back Studio Monitor Headphones Long-Term Review @ ModSynergy.com
For nine-years that ModSynergy has been on the Internet, our audio review segment has grown from babyhood to adulthood. We've reviewed and seen many different items throughout the years, starting back to when the MP3 player was starting to take off. Just looking back at some of the early reviews that were done, and to see the progression that was made, perspectives change on thoughts that were once held. Some of the stuff that were thought to be good back in the day, isn't exactly the case in present mid 2012. Audio products and audio preference is like that. Audio is like a fine wine because with age, it gets better, and with age our taste begins to change.
KRK Systems is a company that caters to musicians and audio professionals through such items as the Studio Monitor, Subwoofers, Headphones, and Enhanced Room Geometry Optimization system. I’ve been lucky to have reviewed the M-Audio AV40’s and it was the one that introduced me to a out of the ordinary breed of speakers, in this case called ‘monitors’. If you haven’t read the review of these little wonders, please check it out.
About KRK Systems
Great sound doesn't start with the studio, the microphone or the latest wiz-bang sampling device. It starts in the heart, and it starts with the truth...the very essence of the KRK design philosophy. This is why we come to work every day. To deliver products that are true to the legacy that KRK was founded on.
When we design a studio monitor we always start with the question "what does the customer really want from their monitor?" The usual terms get thrown around like accuracy, reliability, precision, and many more marketing buzzwords. Important words about what the product should be...but not necessarily speaking to what users really need. A product they can trust! Engineers and Artists need products they can put their faith in. Ones that deliver a true acoustic interpretation of the mix. Sounds Simple...but it isn't so simple when it comes to these complex designs.
At KRK we take design and performance very seriously. If it's not right...it won't go to market...period! That is the kind dedication we pour into every product. And we do that because we know our customers have come to trust us for that. We know they are dedicated to their music and the products they use deserve the same design dedication. This "design first" mentality is what the company was founded on and has helped KRK become an industry leader in this highly specialized market.
KRK Systems KNS-8400 Product Overview
RECORD. MIX. MONITOR. ENJOY.
Headphones for Educated Ears.
KRK Systems KNS-8400 Product Features
KRK Systems KNS-8400 Product Specifications
The KRK Systems KNS-8400 that I am reviewing today was ordered directly from KRK Systems themselves and represents the retail look you would be able to locate in stores. A plastic tab is slotted on top of the box to have it easily hang on store shelves.
The KNS-8400 comes packaged in a very stylish corrugated box. I love the color scheme KRK decided to choose for their headphone (it resembles the colors chosen for ModSynergy), the black and yellow color just pop out on the smooth feeling package. The whole design of the package and the way its laid out is classy and professional. Kudos to the folks who contributed to the package, I think they have done a great job.
The front of the box contains an image of the headphone along with two key features mentioning the volume control that is included with the package and that the KNS-8400 can offer listeners up to 30 decibels of noise isolation from ambient noise.
The rear of the box contains the overview and product features of the KNS-8400, while the side contains a list of specifications regarding the headphones and contents that are included.
Purchasing the KRK Systems KNS-8400 headphones, you get a very nice bundle for around $150CDN. Aside from the headphones, you are given a screw-on gold plated 1/8" to 1/4" stereo adapter that has been fitted onto the detachable/replaceable connection cable, you get cleaning cloth (looks the same ones you get with monitors, looks microfiber), a nice looking protective soft bag embossed with the KRK logo that will protect the KNS-8400 from dust and the elements while travelling or when not in use, and a user manual.
What type of applications will the KRK Systems KNS-8400 be used for?
The KNS series headphones are designed for critical listening and monitoring in the following situations:
As of this written piece, the KRK Systems KNS-8400 can be found for $150 Canadian and $135.79 American through Amazon.com, which makes it an attractive and affordable solution for portable headgear.
The differentiating factor with the KNS-8400 is that it has many parts that can be replaced over its lifetime. Items such as the detachable cord, in-line volume control, head, and ear cushions can be replaced. What this means is that because parts are replaceable, the KNS-8400 can have a longer product life than normal headphones, so in like 5 years if a cord goes bad, you can just replace it with a new one instead of going out and having buy new pair of headphones.
The KRK Systems KNS-8400 is touted as portable studio monitors for your ears and is capable of folding 90-degrees assisting with its portability. They are full size headphones that completely surround the ear. The headphone is also adjustable for comfort on all sizes and shapes of heads they will be on because comfort is taken care of on the KNS-8400 with its utilization of acoustic memory foam cushions for your ears and for the headband.
The KNS-8400 comes exclusively in black matte, no other color choices are available. The KNS-8400 doesn't choose to be a standout like the 'hyped' Beats by Dre branded products, but it feels natural in its own skin. The headphones are surprisingly lightweight coming in at 0.5 Lbs and doesn't give much added weight to your head.
The KRK Systems KNS-8400 comes in closed back form meaning sound isn't able to leak out from the acoustic memory foam earcups and have others around you be annoyed. With this configuration it is possible to have up to 30 dbA of ambient noise blocked once you've put the KNS-8400 on. Generally speaking, closed back headphones that are sealed like the KNS-8400 usually gives you the impression of the sound coming from within the head and may have a smaller soundstage compared to their open-back counterparts. A good position that closed-back headphones provide is that they bring you closer to your music, since they are being reflected back into your ears.
We'll see how KRK decided to put present you reference quality sound meant for mixing and recording. But we've already heard about their design philosophy being engineered and tuned to offer a sound that is flat as possible so that what you hear represents the true nature of the audio material without coloration or enhancement.
The KNS-8400 is constructed mostly out of hard plastic but it feels solid in all the right areas. Hidden in the headband area is an adjustable sprung steel skeleton that allows you to adjust the headphone to the size of your head. Headband pressure is rated at 4 N based on the average sized head. I don't have a particularly big head, so for me the clamping force doesn't feel like a problem for my ears nor my head, the force isn't super tight, but it could be a little tighter. There is some compromise to be a one size fits all headphone and for me, the KNS-8400 is comfortable for the most part, but there are times when the headband shifts forward or backward if I cock my head back and forth with the music.
The KNS-8400 comes with a super long straight cord that measures 2.5 meters (or 8.2 ft.) and at times it becomes an annoyance because it flops around and tangles. It's good for studio use when your source is at a distance, like when you are recording, but becomes a little dangly if the source is close by, it's better to wrap them up in this scenario. An optional coiled cable can be ordered if you prefer it over the straight cord that is included with the bundle. The cord is replaceable and detachable. Connecting to the KNS-8400 is simple and is very secure when in place because there is a lock mechanism in place. Place it into the socket and turn clockwise to secure the cable, and counter-clockwise to release the cable from the headphone. The in-line volume control module is basic and attaches to the end of the cable cord and offers a simple min/max setting.
The KNS-8400 offers a 40mm neodymium driver. The enclosure is covered and there is the KRK logo and model number inside of the circular chrome ring. I like the styling of the KNS-8400. A color coded label differentiates left and right drivers. On top of the headband, another KRK logo is embossed to give it more style.
Enough talk. How do they sound?
I've had the KRK Systems KNS-8400 for just about over a full year so I have long-term experience with them. I'm happy to say that the KNS-8400 has had no issues and everything is still intact with the headphones as they were from the first day. Cushions have not fallen off (unlike some cheap headphones I've used in the past), the cord is still good after all the stress they've been through, and the clamping force is still the same.
The KNS-8400 are very comfortable headphones. The memory foam cushions make it easy your on head and ears and while they do get a little greasy at times, they wipe off easily with the provided cloth. The earcups very much help in reducing sound leakage and providing noise isolation, the KNS-8400 does a very good job at this aspect, but not better than in-ears.
The KNS-8400 really does offer a very flat and natural frequency response and they are definitely a good choice for mixing. This is my first KRK product that I've tested so I had to get used to the different sound signature. The clarity is very bright, clear and vibrant, there's a more musical feeling to these. The brightness takes a bit of getting used to. Soundstage is surprisingly wide and has great depth. In general the details were given at a high level.
Music felt engaging and after a couple of hours, my ears did not get tired. I noticed a difference when I broke-in the KNS-8400 for a couple of days. Initially the high's were a bit too harsh, but that went away and what you're left with is something that felt crisp, airy, and a hint of directness. You can hear the little nuances in the music that you never thought was there. I find these perform well in music without much bass because the bass is a little lacking. Mids were great and it provided a sound that was clear and more neutral compared to the highs. There could be more warmth but I guess this is the KRK signature.
The only complaint I have with the KNS-8400's is that they lack the bottom end, the bass is a bit weaker than I expected, and it shows after you've mixed and heard a something different with the bottom end when played back on your stereo and in the car. There's not enough of it and you may think you need more bass when laying down some tracks but in actuality you need a bit less because once you play it back on a different system, you find out the bass is a little more than you expected. I wish there was a bass boost type of setting with the in-line volume control. That would have been a welcome addition and possible solution. But with that said, the bass is tight and punchy when you're able to hear it on specific bass heavy songs. I guess this aspect always comes down to personal preference.
The KNS-8400 is harder to drive than some other headphones/in-ears because of the lower impedance. While they don't really need to be driven with an amplifier, I would recommend it because on some of my devices, the volume isn't loud enough without an amp, but it depends on what you're using though.
The KRK Systems KNS-8400 represents an attractive value proposition for those who want to hear accurate sound because of the price point. For around $150 I think the KNS-8400 is very well worth the consideration and I think you would be hard pressed to find a better product for the price.
The performance coming from the KNS-8400 is something to be heard and is a top contender because of the details across the range. From mid to high, the detail is very good, and even though I feel that the low end is lacking, I think it helps reveal the clarity of the mids and highs. The KNS-8400 are comfortable for longer periods of time, though you might have to readjust the headband every so often. The KNS-8400 misses out on our Editor's Choice Award, but it's not too far off. I can easily recommend the KRK Systems KNS-8400.