Kanen KM 92 Impressions

About a month ago, I bought the Kanen KM 92 IEMs for about $6 with free shipping out of sheer curiosity. When I placed my order, I was quite wary of them, half expecting to want to throw them out the instant I placed them in my ears and started listening to music. Surprisingly, when I did just that, I found that was actually enjoying myself. After allowing these to burn in for 20+ hours by plugging them into my iPod and putting it on shuffle mode when I went to sleep the day I received them and listening to them on and off throughout the days after, I have to say, I’m impressed.

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The KM 92s are very bass-heavy IEMs and are capable of producing some of the deepest bass notes I’ve ever heard. The bass is big and bloated but surprisingly well defined. It doesn’t quite have the refinement or tightness of my M9Ps or the extension of my RE0s but bass is handled surprisingly well. These can produce some teeth-rattling, earth-shaking bass the lower into the low end you go, peaking at around 40 Hz before rolling off quite heavily as you go lower.

Listening to bass-heavy tracks does highlight some weaknesses, such as the tendency of the bass to dominate the presentation and its “bigness”, which can be quite a turn off to some folks. With my tendencies towards hip-hop, R&B and other genres that benefit from big bass, this isn’t really an issue to me but it can be rather fatiguing at times.

The midrange is slightly recessed but well detailed and decently clear. The big bass and its prominent mid-bass hump does creep up on the mids and can make them sound somewhat washed out with some music but even then, it’s still rather decent. It’s very thick and “creamy” sounding to my ears with decent clarity and tonality throughout. Male vocals are especially very rich and full sounding. Treble is smooth, with decent sparkle and resolution, but not quite as clear as I’d like. These are quite forgiving of low bitrate music files because of their lack of resolution in terms of micro level detail, which is to be expected from IEMs in this price range. It’s also worth noting that particularly fast and busy tracks can overwhelm these to an extent and lead to a bit of distortion.

As what is likely an effect of their wooden housings, the sound signature of the KM 92s is quite smooth and lush with an unmistakable feeling of richness throughout. These are very warm and dark with their full-bodied (sometimes too much so) bass, thick mids and tame treble. Soundstage is rather small and intimate, creating an “in your head” sort of experience with decent instrument separation.

I never would’ve expected a $6 (and I’ve seen them go for even less) pair of IEMs to impress me in any respect other than price but the KM 92s have shown me the error of my ways. I’m impressed, not because they’re world beaters or anything, because they aren’t. Instead, I’m impressed that the sound quality is actually good considering their price. I will say that the big bass (and believe me, it’s big) will likely be a turn off to many listeners and I would definitely not recommend these to people who prefer neutral or bass-light sound.

Honestly, I can’t find much fault with them. I enjoy their warm presentation, and deep, powerful bass and I’m quite surprised that I’m writing that, given my preconceived notions. I’d classify these as the type of IEMs that would best appeal to mainstream listeners who love boomy bass and aren’t quite satisfied with the earbuds that came with their MP3 player of choice. I wouldn’t recommend them above the M9Ps, since they’re almost as bass-centric without the bass thoroughly dominating the presentation but the KM 92s aren’t bad at all for the price, as long as you’re prepared to wait about a month to receive them, that is.

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  • alex

    Couldn’t agree more. I picked up 3 pairs for under $14 CDN from DealExtreme shipped as I’d heard good things about these budget IEMs from Head-Fi. They sounded pretty good to me out of the box, and I’m giving these a burn-in to see how they improve. I’m by no means an audiophile of any grade, and I’ve been using budgety IEM offerings from Panasonic and Sony for awhile now, so I’m not exactly a stock iBud user–I’ve never stooped that low. So to my ears these sound very good, and “more than good enough” is usually what I aim for, especially as these’ll be for commutes.

    More people should know about these and pick up a pair (but then the novelty of being the only one on the bus with woody headphones would wear).