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KEF M400 review: A classy looking on-ear headphone with good sound

KEF's M-400 may not be an exceptional on-ear headphone for the money, but it's certainly competent and attractively designed.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read

Like Bower's and Wilkins, KEF is a British company that was known for its loudspeakers before entering the consumer headphones arena. We were pretty impressed by its first on-ear headphone, the somewhat pricey M500, and also like the model reviewed here, the M400, which may not sound quite as good but costs a little less at $250 (£200 UK, AU$300).

The Good

The KEF M400 have metal parts and a sturdy design and are relatively comfortable for an on-ear . They come in a few different eye-catching colors, offer good sound and include a detachable cord with an integrated Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone for smartphone use. They fold up to fit into an included protective carrying case.

The Bad

Somewhat expensive; somewhat bass heavy (which may please some and not others).

The Bottom Line

KEF's M-400 may not be an exceptional on-ear headphone for the money, but it's certainly competent and attractively designed.

With its metal chassis and sturdy headband, the build quality offers little to complain about, and the headphones fold up to fit in a nice neoprene carrying case. That case comes with a small V-shaped free-floating divider to keep the headphones finish from getting scratched up (the M400 comes in blue, orange, black and white), which is a bit awkward and easy to lose. The headphone cord is detachable and comes with an Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone.

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The headphone folded. Sarah Tew/CNET

Overall, we liked the sound (I also had CNET editor Ty Pendelbury and CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg have a listen). The bass will perhaps be a little too prominent for some listeners -- you can really hear how much of it there is on Nine Inch Nails tracks, for instance -- but the treble and midrange were pleasing and the headphone comes across on the warm side. It's fairly forgiving -- it works well with all types of music -- and in many ways has a similar sound profile to Bowers and Wilkins' P5 Series 2, but it isn't quite as comfortable or quite as swanky. But it's close.

In the end, the M400 one of those headphones that's quite likable, particularly for an on-ear, but doesn't necessarily blow you away for the money. It's also doesn't cost that much less than the step-up M500. In other words, this should be a $200 headphone to provide a little more delta between the two models.

7.4

KEF M400

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 7Value 7