If you're into studio monitoring, you've probably heard of KRK. They're best known for their speakers, but they also have a great line of studio headphones. KRK KNS8400 is a model that we're going to look at today, and see why it's among the most capable studio headphones under $100.
In terms of aesthetics, KRK KNS8400 is nothing to write home about. This is neither a good nor bad thing, especially considering that KRK followed the industry standard for this price range. However, there are some design solutions that make them different. Let's start with the padding and chassis. Padding might come across as scarce, but it's actually there in all the right places. Ear pads are large and fairly comfortable while the headband sports two large pads.
Chassis is made of plastics with metal reinforcements, as expected. Where KRK took a different approach than most others, is when they added a swivel to both ear cups. In other words, these can function as DJ headphones as well. While it may not be a huge deal, having the option of eliminating one transducers can be pretty helpful depending on what you're doing at the moment.
The hardware KRK installed in KNS8400 is great for the price. Transducers are well tuned and actually just right for this type of headphone. It is worth mentioning that KRK did their best to align the performance of these headphones with that of their studio monitors. We are looking at 40mm drivers which is fine, although KRK could have gone with 50mm units. SPL is set at 97dB while the nominal impedance is rated at 36 Ohms.
Even though the drivers are smaller, you are looking at a frequency response range that goes from 5Hz to 23kHz. Exterior features include a detachable cable that measures some 9 feet in length. There is a little bonus here. KRK delivers these headphones with a removable, cable mounted volume control. That is one feature you definitely won't see too often.
When you plug KRK KNS8400 into your device, there is a couple of things that will immediately stand out. For starters, the range they offer is really wide. Sometimes headphones will claim to have a really wide frequency response range only to exert a noticeable drop somewhere around 100 Hz. That's not the case with KRK KNS8400. There is plenty of transparency, volume and headroom for comfortable monitoring. These definitely allow you to notice even the more subtle details in the mix.
When it comes to comfort, things could have been better. We say that with a bit of caution because KRK KNS8400 are fairly comfortable out of the box. It is the prolonged use that might get to you. However, practice has shown that it is often all about getting used to the padding choice KRK went with.
KRK KNS8400 represent everything KRK is known for. They have basically transplanted the core of what made their studio monitors awesome, into a pair of headphones. Performance is satisfactory and so is the build quality. It is fair to say that there aren't many other affordable headphones that can compare.