Noise-canceling headphones are one of the greatest things you can enjoy. They drown out the sounds of the daily commute on a noisy train, or the screaming voices of children as you’re walking through a shopping mall. The KEF Porsche Design Space One Wireless headphones are an expertly-styled noise-canceling pair that marry excellent sound with superb design for a very enjoyable listening experience.
Their downfall, however, comes in the form of their price tag, which seems to be tacked on for the design alone, rather than for an impressive list of features.
Price and availability
The KEF Porsche Design Space One Wireless headphones are available now via the company’s website or most major retailers.
They're priced at $399/£349/AED 1,799 (approx AU$541), which puts them above most wireless headphones we’ve looked at. That price tag is a real sticking point, as it really seems that you’re paying the high price for looks alone, when more affordable options already exist.
Build quality and design
You can certainly take the time to appreciate the packaging of the Space One Wireless headphones, which come in a hard carrying case with a few accessories. There’s a 3.5mm cable, micro USB charging cable, and an airline adapter, as well as a small carrying pouch for all of them.
Taking the Space Ones out of their case is your first introduction to how beautifully crafted these things are. They feel sturdy and well-built, and every single surface is softly polished and a dream to hold in your hands. What’s evident is that these headphones aren’t designed to scream for attention – they’re subtle and classy, which is exactly what the brand wants.
The aluminum headband is generously padded and covered in a soft, sweat-resistant, padded leatherette that feels gorgeous to the touch. Adjusting the headband doesn’t feel stiff in any way, and incremental adjustments are smooth and controlled.
The leatherette finish continues with the earcups, which are impeccably soft and really comfortable to touch – until you actually wear them that is: it seems like the Space Ones weren’t designed for larger heads, as if yours falls into that category you’ll definitely notice that they clamp down a bit too firmly on your ears.
The right earcup contains the micro USB charging port as well as the 3.5mm jack for using the headphones in wired mode. There are also buttons to control the volume and pause/resume playback, as well as a switch to turn the headphones on. The first switch setting lets you use the Space Ones in Bluetooth mode with active noise-cancellation turned off, while the second setting turns both Bluetooth and ANC on.
The sticking point here is that the switch is in a really awkward place. While locating the volume and play button will take a bit of practice, the power switch is just hard to reach if you’re trying to turn the ANC on or off after you’ve already put the headphones on. Almost every time we ended up taking off the headphones to locate the switch, and then putting them back on.
What's important, of course, is how good the Space One Wireless headphones actually sound. We started with something easy in the form of the Berlin Philharmonic’s rendition of Adagio for Strings, where the brightness of the violins really shone through. In Fanfare for the Common Man, the space and breath of the piece really shone through, with the drums growling in the background while the trumpets took the lead for an impressive and captivating listening experience.
Norah Jones’ Tragedy showcased the softer side of the Space One Wireless, with vocals coming through crisp and clear. Fifth Harmony's Work from Home revealed a slightly weaker bass level, and with no companion app to adjust the EQ we had to make do with what the Space Ones could muster.
Sure, there are other manufacturers on the market that deliver a much deeper bass, and if that’s what you’re looking for then the Space One Wireless headphones aren't for you. They're better suited to pop music or podcasts, as richer sounds tend to be outclassed by the highs in the audio.
Noise cancellation was surprisingly good, though not as good as the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. However in certain cases, because of the tight fit we didn’t need to even turn ANC on to drown out outside distractions.
Call quality was also acceptable, although some callers did report slightly muffled audio when we were speaking, even though we were able to hear the other party perfectly. You can pick up or end calls using the button on the right earcup, or hold it down to invoke your preferred digital assistant.
A voice will let you know the battery status of your Space Ones when you turn them on, but it’s never anything more specific than ‘High’, ‘Medium’, ‘Low’, or ‘Please charge’. Battery life is actually very good – during a full week of fairly moderate use we never had to once plug them in to recharge. KEF quotes the battery life at around 30 hours with Bluetooth and ANC on, and that’s close to what we experienced.
While the KEF Porsche Design Space One Wireless headphones are a fairly decent set, it’s hard to easily recommend them because of their high price tag. You do get nice audio from them, but you’d get the same experience – or better – from any of the more reasonably-priced headsets already on the market.
There’s also the issue of how snug they can feel for certain people, and the uncomfortable switch placement. If you’ve got the money to burn for some headphones that look good and deliver a decent listening experience, then the Space Ones could well be for you; for everyone else, there are plenty of options out there that are comfortable both on the ears and on your wallet.