Space One Wireless

KEF Porsche Design Space One Wireless: Noise-Canceling Headphones for Design Enthusiasts


May 29, 2018 Reviews By Photo by Hunter D. Kelley
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Porsche Design is pretty well-known in the tech space these days. As the luxury-lifestyle subsidiary of Porsche, the automotive goliath, it’s collaborated with many tech companies to bring a premium and design-focused flare to smartphones, laptops, speakers and headphones. The Space One Wireless ($400) are a collaboration with KEF, the British audio company that’s best known for its really high-end loudspeakers, and they mark the second time that Porsche Design and KEF have partnered on a pair of active noise-canceling headphones; the Space One (wired) headphones were released in 2016. The Space One Wireless are a wireless version of those original ANC headphones and they are very much a rival to other active noise-canceling headphones, like Bose’s QC35 II and Sony’s WH-1000XM2. The headphones also won a Red Dot Design Award in 2017.

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The Good: The Space One Wireless sound good and accurate. There’s no distinct sound signature, like the grandiose sound of B&W’s PXs or the bass-heavy of that Bose and Beats have become well known for; midrange and treble are both really strong, too. The bass is definitely there, too, but it’s not overpowering in the same way as other popular headphones. I’m a big fan of the simple-yet-distinct style. The headphones aren’t the lightest ANC over-ear headphones, but they don’t feel heavy and wearing them for long listening sessions is easy. No companion app is required to get the most out of the headphones (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you want).

Who They’re For: Anybody looking for good noise-canceling headphones that are distinct — not the same Sony or Bose headphones that everybody else is wearing. They’re solid for everyday wear, commuting to work and talking on the phone, but because they don’t break down and the carrying case is quite large, they might not be the best for frequent travelers.

Watch Out For: No collapsible design for easy travel. No compatible app to adjust the EQ or ambient noise control. The on/off switch on the right earcup could be better; it’s difficult to switch to switch to just Bluetooth (no ANC) because the switch doesn’t lock in very easily. At $400, the Space One Wireless are more expensive than its Bose and Sony rivals. The active noise-canceling isn’t quite as effective as other ANC headphones.

Alternatives: If you’re looking for best overall sound quality and noise-canceling ability, the two best wireless ANC headphones continue to be Bose’s QC35 II and Sony’s WH-1000XM2. But not by much. These Space One Wireless, along with the Sennheiser HD1 Wireless ($350) and the Bowers & Wilkins PX ($400), are close runners-up.

Review: After testing a lot of over-ear noise-canceling headphones, I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don’t — and the Space One Wireless headphones have a bit of both. As with all over-ear headphones, sound quality is paramount and these headphones sound great. The vocals and instrumentals in songs like “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz, “Wasting My Young Years” by London Grammar and “Bright Lights” by Thirty Seconds to Mars, were accurate, and the bass was never too overpowering. There’s no distinct sound signature. It’s just clear and immersive.

The headphones are simple to use — there’s no companion app to fiddle around with (so you better like the headphone’s natural sound signature) — however, the on-ear buttons gave me more problems that I would like. The primary buttons (play/pause, skip tracks and answer calls) take some learning, but this is true with a lot of over-ear headphones; the real issue is that it’s nearly impossible to switch the headphones to a wireless mode without ANC simply because the on-earcup switch is so difficult to stop on that mode; I had to take the headphones off to find the switch. It’s a little thing but it’s a simple design issue that I feel could’ve been avoided.

KEF’s previous headphones, specifically the M500 and M400 headphones, had all been marketed as luxury headphones for business travelers; they sounded great, looked sophisticated and had a collapsible design they took up minimal space in your carry-on bag. The Space One Wireless headphones are all of those things, except they aren’t collapsible, which is why I feel that although they could work fine as travel headphones, they’re not made for it. Instead these are solid everyday headphones. Walking to and from work, through New York’s Midtown and Chelsea districts, the Space One Wireless’s noise-canceling ability is good but not elite. Sony’s and Bose’s competitors were a little better at blocking out cars and sirens and things of that nature.

Verdict: The KEF and Porshe Design Space One Wireless headphones sound more accurate than their Bose and Sony competitors, which music lovers and audiophiles will like. Yes, they’re also a little more expensive, don’t have the save noise-canceling abilities, and feel a little dated in terms of features (no built-in voice assistant and no companion app to fine-tune sound settings). However, I’m a firm believer that consumer tech you use every day is a reflection of yourself, and if you want to be different than most other people wearing Bose’s and Sony’s headphones, these Space One Wireless are excellent and good looking ANC headphones that you probably won’t see many other people wearing. Which is cool.

What Others Are Saying:

• “This is the first time KEF has incorporated Bluetooth and noise cancelation into a pair of headphones, and it’s a joy. On the train, the underground, and walking around the city, it removed just the right amount of noise, while barely impacting the quality of the music. It was most effective listening to podcasts, where spoken voice is usually drowned out by roar of the London underground.” — Andy Boxall, Digital Trends

• “KEF and Porsche Design have come up with some fine headphones, but I can’t help feeling they’ve come to the market a little late in the game. By now, the same money can get you an excellent-sounding pair of headphones, with remarkable noise cancellation and even some smart features thrown in. However, if you’re a fan of the design, or you want something straightforward, the Space One Wireless won’t disappoint.” — Ced Yuen, Trusted Reviews

Key Specs

Drivers: 40mm
Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
Sensitivity: 94dB
Impedance: 16Ohm
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX
Battery Life: 30 hours with wireless ANC

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