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KRK KNS 8400 Headphones Review

krk kns8400 review

Review Preface:

Regarded for their unsurpassable quality against price reputation, KRK Systems is a brand with a signature 'Rokit' monitor speaker range that appears as the focal point in many a project or professional studio environment. However, in recent years, KRK has sought to translate the same sonic quality that their users have come to love from the Rokit 'RP6' and 'RP8' monitors into a professional monitor headphone range. A number of months ago now we reviewed the KNS 6400's that were based on the sonic signature of the RP6's and they were given a respectable 4/5 rating  but now we have acquired a pair of their bigger brothers: the KNS 8400's.


Based on the sonic signature of the KRK RP8 monitor range, the KNS 8400's are certainly an interesting entrant and supposedly the cream of what KRK have to offer in the monitor headphone market. Sensibly priced at a street price of £129, the KNS 8400's are in price point that is at the stretch of what keen project studio owners are prepared to pay for a pair of reliable cans but first lets address the unboxing.


Unboxing:

Arriving in your hands you will be warmed with a box thats colour scheme matches the signature yellow kevlar driver cones associated with KRK products and, as far as cans go, its contents are fairly standard. Opening the lid of the box reveals your brand new shiny headphones that are safe and secure in a plastic vacuum moulded holder that adequately protects them from the stresses of transit. Pulling the plastic out gives you access to the end of the straight cable and the 'portable standard' 3.5mm jack is connected to a 1/4inch adapter so the headphones can be used in a variety of situation. Also surprisingly included is a optional in-line volume control with a smooth drawer-slide action, black faux leather carry case, small ear-cup polishing cloth and a warranty information slip. Immediately noticeable with this unboxing is that the KNS 8400 package is that it has been carefully put together to allow the product to be used in a wide variety of settings and should be worn with pride.


Build Quality:

Immediately when discussing the build quality I do have to comment that I am slightly undecided about a number of aspects and this shall all be explained below. Sometimes this confusion is justified so I have to make known that it should be summarised subjectively. Whilst almost much every headphone manufacturer out there makes their driver housings from one type plastic or another it is safe to say that KRK is no devil, but KRK have used this material to craft a headphone with an extremely lightweight design. Whilst in the respect that this could help make the product a much more comfortable footprint on the head, when in the hand it makes them feel a bit insubstantial with regards to their structural integrity in comparison to headphones made by Audio Technica or Beyerdynamic. Moving on to some of the aesthetics, KRK have decided that the left and right headphone markers on the KNS 8400's should be two small depressed stickers that have a dated 90's appearance.  Although there is no aesthetic conformity as to how the left and right ear-cups should be labelled, my thoughts are that they do not match the design at all and could easily peel off leaving the users either confused if they aren't familiar with where 'that wire' is meant to be or at a loss so take a guess and change panning in their DAW to find out. However, the colour choice that KRK used could be deliberate so that you can tell which earpiece goes where in low-light conditions but I would imagine that a tactile moulded 'Left' and 'Right' indicator would be more fitting and appropriate.


As one of the most important aspects of design, I would like to say that the two memory foam pads at the top of the head-band are excellent. Most headphone manufacturers have an apparent 'cushioned' band but KRK have hit the nail right on the head with the memory foam because this head-cushion design performs exceptionally in maintaining overall scalp comfort. However, and there is another however, the ear pads on the KNS 8400's are supposed to have the same 'memory foam' padding but, as I have had access to an older pair as well, I can report that the memory foam looses its structural integrity after a number of months and the sad thing is that these ear pads are not user replaceable. It is certainly nice that both the head-band and ear-cups are made of a very silky soft and supple material because it compliments the reactive skin on the ears very well. Also it is important to note that I really am not too sure on the internal structure of the headband as I am undecided if the flimsy feel that is intended or may cause other stresses to the driver which is slave to the main.


It is a common instance for any ear/headphones that the point where the cable enters the driver housing is one of the weakest links that can link to premature stress on the solder points. It is certainly nice to see that the KNS 8400's have a detachable and replaceable cable but unfortunately the package only comes with a straight cable and I know that many music producers out there would far rather prefer a coiled cable. Anyway, the design that KRK have opted for is a 2.5mm stereo jack point that enters the housing with ease and locks with a clockwise twist and although the cable is not of the highest quality, at least it is replaceable! Finally, the fact that the divers can swivel on the x-axis by 90° and 180° on the y-axis this is a particularly great feature for  DJ's as they have freedom to do what they want to perform their role.


Sound Quality:

Before discussing the sound quality we should highlight the mechanism of these headphones; they are a closed back monitor design which crucial for when you are in the studio because you firstly do not want to leak that much sound as it may go into the recording when tracking and you don't want the external environment to frustrate your critical listening. Naturally the KNS 8400's perform well at both blocking incoming or outgoing sounds (when worn) and I should say that they perform slightly above average in this department.


Moving on to the soundstage of the KNS 8400's, they perform impressively. Your stereo field is wide and clear but has moderately natural appearance. When critically listening to more toned down un-compressed genres you do hear the smaller details and nuances such as reverb tails are defined with a greater than average appearance. With regards to the sound quality you just have to imagine a pair of RP8's. The difference between the RP6's and the RP8's is a 2" driver diameter increase and a slightly more pronounced bass presence - in my opinion they also appear less articulated than the RP6's but lets summarise the KNS 8400's. In terms of the high frequencies, they appear very revealing and present but the KNS 8400's can occasionally accent too much sibilance in vocal lines making it for a harsh listening experience and leading to premature listening fatigue. On the other end of the spectrum the bass is also quite notably present, it doesn't massively jump out at you but is definitely there and it is likely that these headphones work slightly better with producers of electronic genres. I would really like to say that the bass a low-mid frequencies are well controlled but there is noticeable distortion, not the most accurate imaging and you just don't get the fast attack bass of a kick or well articulated bass line. Unlike what KRK currently advertise the KNS 8400's as 'natural' I have to disagree, the sonic signature appears to me to sound warmed. Anyway, moving to the mid to upper-mid frequencies this is the best sonic replication, they sound smooth and well presented where the tone of an enraged guitarist sounds sweet and clearly makes mixing in the mid a joy, however, if only the top and bottom frequencies were a little more controlled it would have made for a much better overall impression.


Review Conclusion:

KRK's KNS 8400 monitor headphones are a comfortable experience in terms of how well they feel when wearing and perhaps other manufacturers should take note of using memory foam in their constructions. I do strongly feel that the KNS 8400's are certainly in tune with the sonic character of KRK's Rokit 8 (RP8) monitor speakers so if you are looking for excellent translation between your RP8's and your headphones then you will undoubtedly be looking at the 8400's. Unfortunately, I did not feel that the sonic signature was quite as good as some other headphones in the same price range and there is a couple of minor concerns with the build quality. The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the KRK KNS 8400's a 3.5 out of 5.


Edd Harris

Edd Harris - 7th April 2013

US RRP: $199.00 | UK RRP: £129.00

Editors Rating:

Three and a Half Star Rating
KRK KNS8400
3.5/5 stars
KRK\'s KNS 8400 monitor headphones are a comfortable experience in terms of how well they feel when wearing and perhaps other manufacturers should take note of using memory foam in their constructions. I do strongly feel that the KNS 8400\'s are certainly in tune with the sonic character of KRK\'s Rokit 8 (RP8) monitor speakers so if you are looking for excellent translation between your RP8\'s and your headphones then you will undoubtedly be looking at the 8400\'s. Unfortunately, I did not feel that the sonic signature was quite as good as some other headphones in the same price range and there is a couple of minor concerns with the build quality. The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the KRK KNS 8400\'s a 3.5 out of 5.