We've seen so many pairs of great headphones it takes a lot to grab out attention, but the Kef M500s offer the promise of sublime sound quality
With the recent launch of the Onkyo ES-HF300s and the on-going success of the B&W P5s (and B&W P3) it looks as if old school hi-fi brands are finally taking headphones seriously and with the £250 KEF M500 (and £150 in-ear M200) the brand's first foray looks set to impress both audiophiles and fashionistas.
Kef M500: Size and build
The Kef M500s are stunning. The combination of black leather-effect and precision-milled brushed aluminium puts them a class apart and leave even the drool-worthy B&W P5 looking a little down-at-heel. Already a Red Dot 2013 Design award winner, we fully expect these modern-retro cans to grace the pages, and models in many a fashion magazine.
Build quality is also spot on, and for once we can understand the £250 price point. They just secrete style and despite all the finely crafted metal at 208g they're light enough to wear for long periods.
The 1.3m flat cable - with in-line Apple remote - is also mercifully tangle resistant. But they are big. Amazingly this bulbous-headed reviewer didn't need to adjust the headband more than a few millimetres so anyone with a narrow noggin may be swamped.
Kef M500: Comfort
With deliciously soft memory foam ear pads, lightweight build and adjustable headband, the Kef M500 feel great, but the real secret to comfort comes with the multi-directional 'Smart hinge' that conforms to the shape of your ears relieving pressure - especially appreciated if you wear glasses.
The hinge also allows the headphones to fold up small and fit neatly away in their own carry case.
Sat at our desk we've not enjoyed many more comfortable headphones, but out and about the silky headband did have a tendency to slip if we moved about too quickly. It isn't a deal breaker, but if you have a particularly glossy mane you may get frustrated.
Kef M500: Durability
We're not sure they'd appreciate being chucked about - the leather effect cover feels like the most obvious weak point - but if looked after properly (for £250 we assume you'll use the case?) they should have decent life expectancy.
As a bonus the brushed aluminium and black finishes don't easily pick up fingerprints or smears from over-waxed hair so they will stay looking box fresh longer than most.
Kef M500: Sound quality
At £250 anything less than superb would have been scandalous. Thankfully the M500's 40mm drivers deliver a rich rewarding sound across the board. Classic Hip Hop beats from The Pharcyde (Passing Me By) had real thump without overpowering, while at the other end of the spectrum Neil Young's guitar on Ambulance Blues, usually lost in the sludge with bass and fiddle, sounded terrific.
As for sound leakage, the M500s are surprisingly polite. The closed-back on-ear design does a good job of keeping out commuter chaos and shouldn't make you a figure of hate on the bus unless you really crank up the volume.
Kef M500: Verdict
The Kef M500 headphones are good, really good. The combination of high class looks, luxury build and sensational audio performance has us sold. £250 is steep considering the lack of noise cancelling and wireless wizardry, but if you want a hi-fi quality commute you'll not find much better.
Sure, sizing may be an issue for a few unfortunate souls, and the slippery headband may frustrate at times, but after listening to the M500s we can't think of many more enjoyable reasons to walk slower to work.
Kef M500 release date: Out now
Kef M500 price: £250