Jands | Expect to pay: $149
The good people at KRK Systems have been working hard since 1986 to establish themselves as a household name in affordable, professional-quality monitor speakers. The ubiquitous yellow speaker cones of their legendary Rokit range are synonymous with delicious sound representation the world over, a beacon of reliability for both bedroom and studio producers alike; and now they have made a confident step into the dynamic headphone market with the release of the KNS-6400.
One of the big selling points here, besides the ultra-competitive retail price, is the compatibility of the KNS-6400 with the aforementioned Rokits. Designed to have the same girth frequency response and singular voicing (10 hZ to 22 kHz) as the world’s number one selling monitors, these headphones serve as a sonically analogous, portable alternative to a Rokit setup, perfect for any travelling producer who doesn’t want to miss a beat when they are away from their beloved studio setup. This kind of thinking is a relatively new thing given the leaps and bounds that home recording has taken in recent years, but as far as workflows go, it’s an extremely beneficial one.
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By streamlining your headphone and speaker setups, you have the luxury of optimal efficiency at the listening position, whether in front of the monitors at the studio or in transit, working in the airport departure lounge (if and when that ever happens again). No more wasted hours revising and remixing tracks to account for listening discrepancies across different setups. This is obviously a huge point of appeal for anyone looking to save time and maximise their productivity (who isn’t??). The tasteful black/yellow aesthetic that is consistent across the KRK product range doesn’t hurt the eyes, either.
The closed-back ear cups and snug, high quality acoustic foam cushioning ensure great sound isolation (up to 26 dBA ambient) whilst avoiding being bulky or overweight. Whilst not completely noise-cancelling, they provide more than sufficient isolation and volume for live sound purposes and are well-suited for live mixing and DJing. The 40mm neodymium drivers are smackbang where you would want them to be, size-wise for a monitoring headphone, providing a workable soundstage and reasonably quick recoil for detailed playback.
These are really comfortable headphones too, with well constructed adjustable headbands and rotatable cups that can adapt to fit all manner of skulls. An impact resistant plastic coating and soft travel bag add extra durability points if you ever have to stow them away during a commute, as does the removable 2.5 metre cable that is engineered to detach if it gets yanked (as it inevitably often does!).
It’s worth mentioning here that the KRK Systems monitor range is known for having slightly enhanced low-end: not egregious enough to give a really deceptive mix, but enough to avoid sounding completely flat and sterile like many of their competitors. This approach carries over to the KNS-6400. Is it a totally honest frequency response? Hard to say. But there is much to be said for adding a touch of bassy warmth to the listening experience, and it’s also worth acknowledging that the world is not flat: most home and club systems will likely have enhanced bass frequencies in line with these headphones anyway.
Having headphones that are actually pleasant to the ear is certainly not referencing heresy, but purists should take note that these are not, by design, the absolutely flattest sounding headphones on the market, what they are is an awesome way to parlay your KRK equipped studio meanderings into an awesome on-the-fly workflow.
A handy side effect of this streamlined, 360 approach to monitoring (especially for those working solo between a dedicated control room and live room) is that the KNS6400 serves as an awesome way to place mics in the room, with the consistent voicing found between the KNS6400 and its sister speakers and the relatively good isolation allowing for consistency between the two different monitoring environments. I found this to be particularly useful, especially when using something like Avid Control for Pro Tools or other forms of control protocol from within the live room.
Another handy side-effect of this workflow comes in the form of ear training. By using the KNS6400 as daily headphones, you are constantly listening to reference sound through this perceived lens, inadvertently training your ear to this particular sonic voicing, which is no doubt sure to pay dividends on your mixing ventures moving forward – even just as a controlled variable.
These are altogether an excellent set of headphones for a very agreeable price, with the added appeal of being able to seamlessly integrate with an industry standard monitor brand. We wouldn’t be surprised to see these quickly becoming a dominant feature on the audio production and DJing landscape, only further adding to the esteemed heritage of KRK Systems products.