After ordering the Kanen KM-92s with an air of skepticism about the company and being impressed with what I’d received, I wanted to try out a couple more items from their extensive earphone catalog. I eventually settled on the Kanen KM-948 earphones, another budget IEM which set me back about $5.50 with free shipping. A few weeks went by and they finally arrived on my doorstep a couple of days ago. I’d heard some good things about these IEMs and was hoping that they would live up to what I’d read.
Taking them out of the large shipping envelope they came packed in, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the packaging. It was very solid in my hands and was aesthetically pleasing with its transparent plastic outer shell and white inner container, holding the IEMs themselves and presenting them in an attractive and eye catching fashion. For a pair of five dollar IEMs, the packaging was very impressive and outclasses that of some IEMs I’ve seen that cost several times the price of the Kanens.
In the box were the IEMs themselves and three pairs of single flange eartips (all the same size) that are somewhat reminiscent of Sony’s hybrid silicone tips that are so highly praised in the IEM community for their comfort and compatibility. Unfortunately, while the stock tips aren’t bad, they aren’t exactly ideal either. Using them, I found these IEMs to be very sensitive to insertion depth. If inserted too deep, they sounded muffled and dull and if inserted too shallowly, they sounded hollow and shrill. I quickly switched out the stock tips with a pair of medium single flanges from my RE0s, which fit the KM-948s perfectly, despite the smaller nozzle on the KM-948s, and found that they were no longer as finicky about insertion depth.
Wearing them straight down was rather uncomfortable to me because of the small protrusion extending out from the nozzle that I imagine is meant to steady the IEMs in your ear. Due to the length of the nozzle, however, it is very easy to wear these over-the-ear style which is very comfortable, if a bit odd looking.
Now, let’s get down to the sound quality. The KM-948s are actually rather impressive, considering their price. The low end is thick and boomy to my ears, much like the KM-92s but not as much so or as big. These aren’t lacking in low end definition but are reasonably unrefined and muddy at times. The bass does have a tendency to creep up on the lower mids on bassier tracks. The midrange is very smooth and flat sounding, which makes it a bit dull. Mids are neither forward nor recessed, even if they may seem that way at times because of the big bass taking center stage. Treble is decently clear and sparkly and rolls off gradually at higher frequencies.
What surprised me the most about these is the airiness of their presentation, which can hang with some of the better sub $20 IEMs I’ve heard. Instrument separation is rather good as well because of this airiness and there is a good sense of space throughout.
The sound signature these put out is very bassy, dark and slightly on the warm side of neutral. Overall, these remind me of the MEElectronics M2s, although they’re not quite as smooth or refined.
At the end of the day, again, Kanen has impressed me. They lived up to my admittedly low expectations and are about as good as any sub $20 earphone I’ve heard. Of course, your mileage may vary and whether or not you enjoy these is dependent on whether or not you enjoy them is dependent on whether or not you enjoy a sound signature that’s defined by the low end but then again, a few seconds with a good graphic equalizer can fix that. All around, these are quite good for the price and if you need a pair of knock around IEMs that won’t break the bank, the KM-948s probably won’t disappoint.