REVIEW: KEF PORSCHE DESIGN MOTION ONE EARPHONES
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KEF Porsche Design
Motion One Wireless Headphones
Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was famously quoted as saying:
If you analyze the function of an object, its form often becomes obvious.
When he designed the first ever Porsche 911, it was clear that he practised what he preached. From its unusually functional aesthetic, down to its rear-engined raw power, to this day the 911 remains one of the most successful competition cars ever produced – and for decades now, a cult favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts.
What many may not know though is that Porsche aren’t just about cars. In 2003 the Porsche Design Group was formed. Porsche took their elegant, high performance, no-nonsense approach to design and applied it to an array of everyday items, including luggage, watches, eyewear, electronics, and more.
And whilst the Germans were busy creating history with the iconic 911 back in the 1960s, equally rich in heritage and performance, KEF were getting to work in the UK, creating beautiful sound systems.
The brainchild of WWII Royal Navy veteran Raymond Cooke, KEF has always been at the forefront of HiFi. Their iconic speaker enclosure design, paired with their incredible amount of acoustic and driver research, allows them to proudly remain one of the most esteemed names in home audio.
Teaming up for a new range of headphones and Bluetooth speakers this year, it’s not the first time they’ve collaborated. Back in 2013, together they produced the over-ear KEF M500 headphones. Whilst reviews were mainly positive for this release, critics did mention that it felt more like a KEF product, with Porsche Design’s style bolted on.
With a more unified collaboration in this new range, there is an obvious and consistent design philosophy driving the collaboration between these two industry giants.
The new line includes three products:
- Over-ear headphones (Space One)
- A portable speaker system (Gravity One)
- The new Bluetooth IEMs (Motion One)
Space, Gravity and Motion … we’re starting to notice a pattern here.
Australian KEF distributors Advance Audio were generous enough to send through one of the first available samples of the Motion One In-Ear Monitors for our review.
Packaging and Materials
Included in the box is:
- Clamshell style hard carrying case
- Smaller semicircle soft case
- Neckband Bluetooth module
- 3.5mm ribbon cable
- A shirt clip
- An airline adapter
- Three different size of ear tips
- USB charging cable
The packaging and presentation of this product is nothing short of exceptional. All the accessories are a sleek shade of matte black and have clearly had consideration put into the consistency of the design.
Everything was so neatly and beautifully presented that I almost felt bad removing it all from the carefully laid out positions in the packaging.
One unspoken rule of what I like to call a “road warrior” IEM, is that it must look the part.
If a product is designed to be used on flights, in the gym and around the office, let’s face it, it will become not only a way of listening to music, but also a fashion accessory.
Luckily in this case, Porsche Design have put an enormous effort into the aesthetic of this release. Not only is each earpiece made of aluminium with a sandblasted anodised titanium finish, but all of the included accessories and parts strictly follow the same colour scheme and design themes.
It all comes together in a very classy and elegant looking package – which is especially impressive considering the IPX5 water resistance certification. In fact, Porsche Design claim you can wash these under a tap!
Each earpiece has an internal magnet at the rear which allow the IEMs to neatly snap together when not in use. Sounds gimmicky, but it’s handy for a tiny product with removable cables; a key factor in not losing them.
They also feature a pivoting rear head with precise markings so that the cable can comfortably be worn either over the ear, or straight in. Considering the insertion angle on these is quite steep, this is quite a useful feature.
The Motion One earphones can be used in either cabled or Bluetooth (wireless) mode. For on-ear and over-ear releases this is becoming a common feature, but it’s quite a rarity for Bluetooth earphones.
To switch between Bluetooth or cabled options, the entire neckband assembly must be detached from the aluminium driver housings via their MMCX type connection, and is easily replaced with the included 3.5mm ribbon-type cable.
This solution is perfect for a portable IEM for a few reasons. Firstly, the user can use any cable they wish, providing it has an MMCX connection. Secondly, this option means that users will never have to worry about battery life affecting their listening session – if it ever runs out on the road or on a long-haul flight, you can simply switch to cabled mode.
Using the headphones
Each earpiece contains a single dynamic 8.6mm Neodymium driver which is rated at a surprisingly low 16 Ohms and has a sensitivity of 95dB. You’ll have no issue driving this to ear-splitting level with the average smartphone.
The wireless neckband has Bluetooth v4.1 with AptX, with a 140mAh battery which is rated to around 10 hours of battery life.
The neckband is incredibly light and flexible. It didn’t cause us any pain or discomfort, even after long periods of use.
No two pairs of ears are the same so it’s always welcome when several different sizes and styles of tips are included with in-ear headphones. In the case of Motion One, I did find the selection to be lacking in this department with only three different size of olive-style tips included.
From my observations, there doesn’t seem to be anything terribly unique about the wide bore of the Motion One IEM, so perhaps some aftermarket tips might fit neatly here.
In any case, once a good fit is established they sat comfortably enough in my ears.
Bluetooth Listening (Pioneer XDP 300R)
I prefer using a dedicated Digital Audio Player for testing Bluetooth earphones as they generally have a lot more volume steps built in when compared to the average smartphone. I also used various smartphones for listening as well though, with no noticeable audible difference.
A robotic voice will speak through the IEMs indicating when they are powering on or off, or when they successfully connect to a source device.
While too often found with Bluetooth headphones, I’m happy to report in this case I couldn’t detect any audible hiss or noise.
Tonally, the sound via AptX and cabled mode was very similar. The usual unavoidable bandwidth drawbacks with Bluetooth are still present, but it’s still a solid and stable connection with no major issues.
Cabled Listening (Chord Mojo)
Whilst not being difficult to drive in cabled mode, the low impedance of these single driver dynamic IEMs does mean that a little care must be taken in selecting the right source.
Whilst the Chord Electronics Mojo headphone amplifier/DAC was a perfect pairing for this device, at this price point it is a little overkill. The good news is a smartphone will do a great job of powering the Motion One earphones in cabled mode.
This is both a clever and intuitive way of switching between wireless and cabled, and our hats go off to both Porsche design and KEF for this.
The Bluetooth neckband contains volume control, play/pause and track skipping Bluetooth buttons. They feel a little soft and spongy but that’s likely due to the IPX5 water resistance rating.
Unfortunately, the battery does not seem to be user replaceable. Rather, an included Micro USB cable charges it.
The bass response is precisely what I love to see in a single driver dynamic IEM: Deep reaching, tight, controlled and punchy. The packaging lists the frequency range as 20hz to 20khz.
The bass feels strong and clean, and not distorted at all. Basslines and kicks alike will jump out and be forward in the mix. With a rise around 30hz to 60hz there’s a distinct sub bass rumble. From there, it’s a linear ride from 60hz to 120hz, where it gets a nice meaty kick until it hits around 160hz or so.
Midbass frequencies don’t bleed into the lower midrange in any intrusive or unpleasant way.
In my listening the midrange is slightly recessed compared to the bass and higher frequencies. It’s not a huge veiling, but it’s enough to make the sound signature more fun rather than neutral. This is also common for a multi-purpose earphone designed to be used on the go.
Despite this mild recession, the midrange still retains a fairly accurate tone, with enough detail present for an earphone at this price point.
Considering the ever so slight V-shaped sound signature, the high frequency range has just a little bite around the 8kHz mark, but not enough to be bothersome.
The soundstage is phenomenal, and I was pleasantly surprised. The imaging was also dead accurate. Both of these properties allow the Motion One to clearly punch above their price point which is no surprise considering KEF are at the helm of the acoustic enclosures.
Considering the Motion One will be used out and about, noise isolation is important. While not ground-breaking in this area they do a respectable job at isolating external noise. This may well improve with some Comply tips fitted, but in overly noisy environments, some outside noise may leak in during quiet moments in your music.
Conversely, there’s not a lot of sound leakage out of the Motion One even at decent volumes, so the person sitting next to you won’t be disturbed.
Summing up the sound signature of the Motion One IEMs, they’re powerful with an ever so slight emphasis on the bass and high frequencies, with terrific imaging and respectable detail.
If you’re looking for an affordable in-ear headphone with a premium yet unusual aesthetic, a fun sound signature, IPX5 water resistance and a stylish brand name, this fits the bill.
Paired with the IPX5 rating the Motion One looks professional yet still highly capable for gym sessions or an active lifestyle.
Considering the overall quality and the big names and technology behind this release, I consider the Motion One earphones from KEF and Porsche Design very well priced and highly recommended.
KEF Porsche Design products are available now from selected KEF dealers.
- Model - MOTION ONE Bluetooth Earphones
- Type - Bluetooth In-ear earphones
- Driver (Headphone) - 8.6mm neodymium driver
- Frequency Response - 20-20kHz
- Bluetooth Version - Bluetooth v4.1 with aptX codec
- Sensitivity - 95 dB±4dB (IEC-318 at 1KHz)
- Impedance - 16±15%Ohm
- Battery Type - 140mAh
- Usage Time - Up to 10 hours (BT)
- Weight - 45g
- Unit Measurement - Piece
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.