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August 2014
Issue: October 1, 2011

Review: KRK KNS-8400 headphones

By: Luke Harper
PRODUCT: KRK KNS-8400

WEBSITE: www.krksys.com

PRICE: $149.99
- wide sonic field
- honest bass response
- straight and rugged cord


So I’ve never been a KRK guy. Which is not to say that they don’t have worthy and excellent products, I’ve just never spent a lot of time in studios that feature them. But they have a great reputation and are used by some of the best in the business.

And this is why I grabbed a pair of new KRK KNS-8400 headphones out of a colleague’s hands recently. You see, we all have our sub-$200 headphones that we love. Being human, we typically find a pair that’s really appeal, then settle for, and then die defending. Like a lot of folks in our industry, my pair was the venerable Sony MDR-7506. I love these headphones. They gots the mad low-end, the reasonable mids, the slightly bitey highs and, arguably most importantly, the longevity. Plus, they’re comfortable. So basically they sound predictable and great while taking a lot of abuse, which is about as high a praise phrase as there is in the world of headphones. 

Because we typically don’t finish on headphones — be us music, master or post engineers — we may refer to, enjoy on, or mess around with headphone mixes. But, we don’t start to finish on them. Why? Because physics don’t favor the results. Tiny super-focused drivers do not a generally well-defined finished product make. We pride ourselves on the results of our far mains, our mid-mains, our near-fields and our “bass-challenged real-world systems.” We’ve done our sonic homework dammit, here’s your mix. Take it, love it, live it, thanks!

All of which is to say, I wanted a new mirror mirror on the wall, and the KRK KNS-8400s fell into my lap. So here’s what happened: They’re great. Seriously. Go drop the suggested $150 and then call me up and yell at me to complain that you hated them. My number is 612-337-5697. I’m not super worried about it.

Why am I so blasé about random-stranger phone-calls bitching about headphones? Because the KRKs, as previously mentioned, are great. Being that they weren’t thrust at me as an obvious review, I haven’t even read any of the sales material as of this writing. 

They could be claiming them as the new inner-peace of headphones, it doesn’t matter. The basic fact is they do what headphones should.



WHY I LIKE THEM

So being a longtime recording engineer, I look at $100+ headphones immediately by scoping out the left ear: that’s where the wires come in. Is it solid? Are these gonna lose an ear in a week after four VOs and a mandolin player? Well... no. The KRKs have a distinct feel, and it isn’t cheap at all. Frankly, it’s thick and firm. Yeah. So there that is. I don’t think these are gonna drop or wuss out in the first six months of abuse. So the money has been well spent in the first place.

But, how do they sound? Fantastic. Seriously. They sound great. The spatial aspect is as good as any headphones I’ve ever heard under $800 (Grado, AKG, Sennheiser, Sony) and the bass is just right. 

So let’s break that down… Spatial: these headphones offer a wider sonic field than I am used to in headys. I mix on Focal mids, which are notorious/glorious for huge spatial ranges. These headphones did not make me feel sad and/or mono-ish. They are just as wide as they need to be without feeling like they are trying to pull some weird phase/shift aural magic.

Bass: It’s fun to bitch at headphones for being bass-wussy. Physics is immutable, though. The KRKs put out without being gimmicky on the subject. What should have been there was, and what would have been a lie was not. That is to say, they were perfectly fine on the mixes I put them through. 
Mid/High: The mids were fine. The high-end didn’t try to eviscerate my ears in an attempt to prove a point. Everything worked in concert to reinforce the aforementioned spatial accuracy.

So there’s the nuts, and the bolts. I will happily post a six- and 12-month follow-up note to report on the longevity of the phones if my charming and brilliant editor is cool with it. Editor’s note: she is. For now, I have to stand by my control pair of Sony 7506s, which average a good nine months of actual, real use/abuse. A principal difference in design though is the cord: Whereas the Sonys have the classic curled cord, the KRKs have a straight and tough feeling cord. The tip is 1/8-inch with a 1/4-inch screw, so... pretty standard, and pretty damned convenient if you lose an adapter. Because I know that you probably have a 1/4-inch within reaching distance right now.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I was not given these to review. I didn’t actually know that KRK had headphones. But they do and they are great on all fronts, which is why I bought a pair, full price, and am enjoying them as we speak.