The recent surge in higher quality headphone models
hitting the market should come as no surprise; every
new DAW needs at least one pair of cans to go with it.
Thus, KRK has just introduced two headphone models of
its own, the first from the company's new KNS Series. More
similar than different, the KNS-6400 and KNS-8400 models
are unlike many competing models and are priced to be serious
contenders in the burgeoning headphone market.
Both the KNS-6400 and the KNS-8400
are closed-back, circumaural (surrounding
the ear) dynamic headphones with 40mm
neodymium drivers, featuring 2.5-meterlong,
straight cables with oxygen-free
wire that terminate in an 1/8-inch miniplug
with a screw-on 1/4-inch adapter. The
cables, ear and head cushions are all userreplaceable.
What's the difference between the KNS-
6400 and KNS-8400? Well, it's primarily
a difference in foam: the KNS-8400's ear
cushions are made of "acoustic memory
foam," as described by KRK, and covered in
a supple "premium leatherette," reportedly
securing up to 30 dBA in ambient noise
isolation. The KNS-6400's ear cushions
are "acoustic cellular foam" and standard
leatherette with 26 dBA noise reduction.
Also, per KRK's specs, the KNS-8400 provide
slightly deeper bass response, slightly
higher treble response and 2 dB greater
efficiency at 97 dB SPL @1 mW (at 36
Compared to my varied stable of six
different headphone models, both KRK
models kept up with the pack, excelling in
areas of high-end clarity, lack of distortion
and accurate transient reproduction. As of
late — and following our Session Trial
Premium Headphones — I
divide headphone evaluation into four
application categories: tracking, overdubbing,
mixing and casual listening.
Here's what I discovered for those
applications, per KRK model:
I found the KNS-8400 to be good for
tracking, offering minimal fatigue on the
top end, slightly scooped out low mids
(around 200 to 400 Hz) and just enough
bottom. In particular,
the lack of high-end hype
is appreciated for long or loud tracking
sessions, and the bottom end is slightly
plump without being too "poofy" or having
"one note bass" syndrome. In direct
comparison, I still think that the Audio-
Technica ATH-M50 provides the deepest
bass response for the insatiable needs
of drummers and bassists, but both the
KNS-8400 and KNS-6400 are lighter in
weight and a bit more comfortable. The
KNS-6400 doesn't provide quite the
same low-end bump, nor the high-end
extension as the KNS-8400 and conversely
had a low-mid emphasis (similar
to my Fostex models), but still had the
same clarity and openness as its pricier
For precisely those characteristics, the KNS-6400 would be
preferred for instrument and vocal overdubbing applications.
Their increased midrange focus and lack of distracting bottomend
thump helps singers and instrumentalists focus on pitch
and melody. I found that performers liked both KRK models
for overdubs (split 50/50 between KNS-6400 and KNS-8400),
and those same performers often preferred the leanness and
mid-definition of the Sony MDR-7509 (except without their
pronounced high-end bump).
I've said it before: I'm not too keen on mixing with headphones.
Even if you get the bottom end right (like the A-T
ATH-M50 may allow you to do) and the high end clear and reasonably
flat (like the AKG K240 may allow you to do), the mids
will be the challenge. On headphones, I've found it's generally
a big guessing game for these most critical of frequencies.
That said, these KNS Series headphones get pretty close to
"mix-worthy." If only I could combine the KNS-8400's deeper
bottom and sweeter top with the un-scooped mids of the KNS-
6400 ... well, actually those mids are a little forward. Split the
difference between the KNS-6400 and KNS-8400 and I'd have
something I could really trust.
For casual listening, I can highly recommend both models.
Their clarity, isolation, low weight, fold-ability and comfortable
ear pads make an ideal headphone experience. The only
question is which model? I'm thinking most folks would prefer
the additional bass response and scooped low-mids of the
KNS-8400, but those really into vocal music or detailed instrumental
music (think classical or bluegrass) might just approve
of the flatter mids on the KNS-6400.
I think that both models in the KNS Series provide adequate
isolation as well as excellent comfort — even when wearing
eyeglasses — aided by their lightweight and ergonomic
design. Compared to my own headphone stable, other models
have deeper bass, more bass definition, more openness, a
clearer top or a plusher fit. But the KNS models were a runnerup
in most categories, making them very utilitarian and versatile.
I must admit how much I like the removable (and replaceable)
cables, and that the KNS-8400's optional inline volume
control is useful and sturdy to "pro-grade" standards.
For studios that need to track, overdub and possibly mix
in the same cans, I would highly recommend the KNS-8400,
especially considering its apparent reparability. Because both
the KNS-8400 and KNS-6400 are available at affordable prices
($149.99 and $99.99 street, respectively), it might be wise to
have both at hand to suit the varied needs of performers.
$199.99 and $129.99 list (KNS-8400 and KNS-6400,
KRK Systems | 954-949-9600 | krksys.com
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC. email@example.com.