I really admire KEF. The firm is a British hi-fi legend: it's been making remarkable audio kit since 1961 and has created some of the most interesting, strange-looking and amazing-sounding speakers you can buy. And while most of its products aren't so much out of my price range as on a different planet to my bank balance, it also makes some affordable high-end headphones. We reviewed its true wireless earbuds, the KEF Mu3, last year, and now they have an over-ear sibling in the form of the KEF Mu7.
KEF says (opens in new tab) they're "an exercise in both engineering and aesthetic excellence". Me, I say they're a really interesting rival to Sony's WH-1000XM5, our current number one in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide.
KEF Mu7 noise cancelling headphones: what to expect
KEF promises serious sound quality from these headphones. They have full range 40mm dynamic drivers, support for 24-bit/48kHz hi-res audio via Qualcomm aptX HD and a 3.5mm connection for when you want your audio wired; battery life is a whopping 40 hours from a single charge and 8 hours from a 15-minute fast charge.
I have no doubt that the Mu7 are going to sound great; we described their earbud siblings' sound as like taking a warm bath. But the big question here is how good the noise cancelling is. KEF says its Smart Active Noise Cancellation "monitors surroundings and eliminates external noise", but that's just a description of what any ANC does; we felt that the noise cancelling in the Mu3s was "ho-hum", but the ANC in Sony's headphones is absolutely superb.
As we said in our Sony review, "Sony has delivered a pair of headphones that can deal with virtually any external sound short of an HGV moving off from the lights. And it can do so without affecting the audio performance, without leaving any artificiality or impression of counter-signal in its wake, without introducing that ‘cabin pressure’ sensation into the earcups". Sony raised the ANC bar very high with the XM5s, so I can't wait to hear how the KEF Mu7s compare.