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KEF M200 in-ear headphones review: Iffy fit, but impressive sound

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The Good The KEF M200 Hi-Fi Earphones deliver very clean, well-balanced sound and feature impressive build quality with aluminum housings and a flexible arm to keep the earphones securely in place. They also have an Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone and come with a nice carrying case.

The Bad Because the housing is so large, some people will have trouble getting a tight seal and comfortable fit with the included eartips. Not getting a tight seal will seriously impact sound quality.

The Bottom Line The KEF M200s sound excellent, with clean, accurate sound, but they just won't fit some ears.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Sound 9
  • Value 7

In case you've never heard of KEF, it's a British company that makes premium speakers that generally sound really good. Those speakers tend to be a bit pricey -- and some are very pricey -- but now the company has made a foray into the headphone market with two new models, the $200 M200 Hi-Fi Earphones reviewed here and the $300 M500, an on-ear model.

Frankly, I had a bit of a hard time reviewing these headphones. As you can see, they have a pretty unique design. They're large for an in-ear model and that's because they have two drivers jammed into their aluminum housings.

The larger, 10mm driver is dedicated to low frequencies and the smaller, 5.5mm driver is dedicated to highs and mids. That's all great -- and the headphones sound impressive, with accurate, detailed sound. They really are an audiophile headphone and in terms of sound they can hold their own against most in-ear models in this price class.

The M200s have large housings with two drivers inside and flexible arms to help you get a secure fit. Sarah Tew/CNET

But the fit was a problem for me. I have somewhat smaller ears and the housing just wouldn't get past certain parts of my ear, so I couldn't jam any of the included eartips -- you get three sizes -- far enough into my ears to get a tight seal. While the bendable arm keeps the headphones on -- and in -- your ears, it doesn't help you achieve a tighter seal. And when you don't get a tight seal, you end up losing a lot of bass, and the headphones quickly go from sounding great to sounding not-so-great.

I had a few other quibbles. This is an Apple-friendly headphone that has an inline remote and microphone for making cell phone calls (call quality was decent, though when I was outside, callers said I sounded better when I held the microphone closer to my mouth). Some or all of the remote features may not work with non-Apple devices and the buttons on the remote were a little small. When I used the headphones outside, the wind seemed to reverberate through the aluminum housings more than for your typical, smallish in-ear headphones, which tend to hide inside your ear more and perhaps find a little more shelter from the wind.

A nice carrying case is included along with three sets of eartips (small, medium, and large) and an airplane adapter. Sarah Tew/CNET

But the headphones' fit was my real gripe and I'm not sure why companies spend all this time designing special drivers and housings and then neglect to get the eartips right. Sure, some people will be able to get a good fit with the included tips, but I tried these out on a few other people, and they all, including CNET contributor and audio guru Steve Guttenberg, had a hard time getting a tight seal.

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