Premier audiophile brands owe Doctors Amar Bose and Dre a begrudging thanks for opening the eyes of the public to the value of investing in a set of headphones. Thanks to their savvy marketing and branding, the luxury hi-fi headphone market is exploding as an entire generation of consumers look to replace their bass-blasting, noise-canceling sets with something more refined. Recent efforts from audio pioneers like Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser continue to strike a chord with the modern audiophile, but perhaps the most ready to profit is KEF, the British hi-fi manufacturer best known for selling six-figure sound systems. Their flagship M500 headphones capture the luxury bent of potential buyers and hold up their end of the elite audio bargain, all at a price well below the company's mortgage-your-house standard fare.
The M500's most noticeable facet is its superior build. Precision-machined aluminum and premium leather lend an affluent appeal that holds true to KEF's high-end audio presence and clearly stems from the brand's design-minded hi-fi loudspeakers. The anomalous multi-directional “Smart Hinge” makes the headphones adaptable for most head shapes, and the sweat-resistant memory foam pads keep the ears dry and feel extremely comfortable, persuading listeners to indulge in longer-than-expected jam sessions.
A sleek and sturdy design is one thing; superb audio quality is another. The M500 promotes a cohesive sound stage that most headphones in its class fail to achieve thanks to a full-range 40mm neodymium driver mated to a copper-clad aluminum wire voice coil that's been tuned to perfection by acoustic engineers to ensure minimal sound leakage. The end result is clear output and dynamic response at higher frequencies, generating solid bass and treble that aren't overbearing on the eardrums. Even though the M500 isn’t billed as an ambient-sound killer, its ear cups feature what KEF calls an "acoustic sealing ring" to smother most environmental fracas. By balancing favorable ergonomics, lusty aesthetics and rich audio, the M500 easily earns its spot among elite headphone options -- and its price tag belies its breeding.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers