Kanen KM-880 Review

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Brief: The KM-880 are undoubtedly a unique-looking offering in the land of budget-fi. After extensive listening, however, it is clear that their true value, if any, lies in using them as donor shells for more capable drivers.

MSRP: est. $21
Current Price: $21 from focalprice.com

Build Quality (5.5/10): Yes, the wood is real. The woodwork on the cups is actually quite impressive and very polished. However, all goes downhill from there. Though the mounts on the cups are metal, the faux hinges and entire headband are plastic. And not the nice kind, either – this is the sort of plastic that belongs in a Happy Meal. The long (1.9m) plastic cord is fairly thick and terminates in a well-relieved L-plug. The strain reliefs on the cup side, however, don’t seem to be attached to the wood very well

Comfort (5/10): The wooden cups are fairly light but the pleather pads aren’t very soft and there is little flex in the structure, resulting in a fit that totally lacks adjustability. They also get quite warm if worn for prolonged periods.

Isolation: (5.5/10): If a good seal is attained despite the lack of adjustability, the KM-880 can actually attenuate some external noise. I found it difficult to do this as the cups don’t really pivot to conform to the shape of my head.

Sound (3.5/10): The sound is why the KM-880 is not deserving of a recommendation. Unlike their $5 brethren, the KM-95, the KM-880 are priced in the realm of the sublime Koss KSC75 and JVC Flats. But they fall flat, quite literally. The low-end is flat-sounding and muddy. Distortion is present at high volumes and the midrange lacks clarity quite badly. Vocals can literally get drowned out by instruments. Treble reproduction is no better – they do produce high frequencies but with zero authority and a good amount of harshness even after several hundred hours. The soundstage is okay in width but lacks depth, resulting in a congested sound. Overall the sound is pretty warm and not unpleasant at low volumes but tends to be uninvolving and not well-suited for serious listening.

Value (5/10): The true value of the KM-880 lies not in their sound but in the possibility of using their unique wooden housings for some more deserving drivers. Raising their value a bit is the included standalone microphone, though voice quality is nowhere near as good as with my Zalman ZM-MIC1. For those purely after sound quality there are far better options to be had for the price and without the 3-week wait usually associated with overseas purchases.

Manufacturer Specs:
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Sensitivity: 106 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 6.23ft (1.9m); Angled Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: N/A


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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