on 29 May 2012
There are of a lot of fake versions of these headphones on the market at the moment - and unfortunately I owned a pair. I bought mine through Amazon, from the retailer 'DGS Group'. I don't blame Amazon for this and I'll make that very clear.
The sound quality of the fakes is absolutely awful, in line with some of the negative reviews you may see here. The fakes have a huge boost around the 125hz-500hz range, with the 10Khz+ range heavily rolled off. This means that in order to get the best of those headphones you have to rely heavily on very extreme EQing.
I was so baffled at how a product could be so poor out of the box that I complained to AKG technical support directly. Long story short, we found out that I had obtained a fake copy because the serial number on the back of my box didn't check out.
Please be aware that if your copy of these headphones has a serial number that starts 'FK450' they are fakes. The serial number on the back of my box started with 'FK450', and this was actually obscured by a larger barcode sticker which had been placed over it in an obvious attempt to hide the counterfeit serial.
I am pleased to say that I have since bought the real thing from a retailer recommended by AKG directly. They sound much more in line with the positive reviews you may see here. I'm not an expert audiophile but I was impressed. The real AKGs have a very warm sound. The bass is deep without being overpowering and the highs are subtle - maybe too subtle for some - but very accurate. They are also more comfortable to wear (the leather/pleather on the real K450s is softer and the headband doesn't clamp down on your ears as tightly) and they isolate outside noise much better. The headband expands more smoothly and the hinges feel better quality.
I recommend these headphones whole heartedly - just be very careful where you purchase them from! There are a huge amount of fake AKG K450s on the market at the moment, and the AKG technician I spoke to told me that AKG have had no end of problems with this issue. If you're unsure, contact AKG directly and ask them to forward you a list of approved retailers.
on 19 November 2009
Once the daily headphones I use for my iPhone gave up the ghost, I decided that it was time for a new pair. Previously I have owned numerous high quality headphones from Sennheiser to Audio-Technica, and I was looking to purchase another high quality pair with an excellent design and quality, in a portable format for on-the-go listening. Initially I was looking at the Koss Porta-Pro, which I read had a design which had not changed much since the 80s. There was widespread praise for its value for money and the level of bass it could put out, however I also read complaints of the headband pulling on hair, and a terrible build quality. More importantly, as it's of an open design, and as I do a lot of commuting, reports of excessive sound leak made me decide against it.
There was not a great deal of information about these AKG K450 headphones on the internet, but from the specification on the AKG website and impressions from the information I found, it seemed the right way to go. I purchased and received it three days after ordering by Royal Mail's First Class delivery.
Opening the box itself was a treat - it was extremely well packaged in an attractive and stylish enclosure, and was interested to see the product had the red dot logo on the box from winning a design award. It indeed had an absolutely ingenious design. My first impressions were that it was very sturdy and the ear pads were highly cushioned. I was particularly impressed by the non-captive nature of the cable, and two lengths which were provided. This cable did not have a standard 3.5mm port on the headphone end, however, so replacements would be through AKG and their 2 year warranty. One negative point I can think of is thinness of the cable and the size of the connector, which, when plugged in to my iPhone, protrudes someway from the audio device (it was not as small as they could have made I think), and overall it also seemed rather flimsy.
The headphones arrived with a very strong hard-backed carry case, which was a little bigger than I'd hoped but it was definitely protective, and enclosed the folded-up headphones fine. Once I'd plugged in the headphones I was impressed with the level of bass output, and I can say these are definitely tuned towards the lower ranges. Mid-range and treble did seem slightly muddy due to this, but extremely listenable nonetheless. This probably improves with burn in and as one listens over time they do get better. The headphones can be driven incredibly easily and is capable of outputting an extremely high level of decibels. In fact, the first thing I did was switch my iPhone's volume lock on at a level of 50%, as I didn't want to blow my eardrums inadvertently.
When I'm wearing and walking outdoors with the headphones, the fact that it has only a single cable from one side of the headphones (rather than cables from both sides) is a great benefit, as it doesn't come in the way at all. Sound isolation is also very good; outside sounds are deadened but not silent, mainly due to the thickness of the cushions and the ergonomic fit of the headphones. If you are looking for a pair of sturdy headphones which will last you for years to come, and provide a decent on-the-go audio experience I highly recommend this pair. Hopefully the investment should pay off in the long-run.
These earphones have won the annual award from What Hifi so are definitely worth consideration. I had tried a few closed back portable headphones but these are by far the best balance of form, function and price. Out of the box the sound is great which further improves after burn-in over a couple of days (being dynamic speakers these do need some burn-in). The earphones are comfortable, clearly well made and come with excellent storage and leads. The audio leads plug and lock in, which is an excellent feature. The carry case is excellent and fits in a bag well. The headphones are quite subtle and do not stick out from the head, so don't make the person enjoying their music attract those curious glances of bigger sets.
However these earphones are quite sensitive to their source and need a strong input level to get the best from them. Sadly an iPod/Apple or Archos device probably won't do it as they have relatively low levels of output. A Cowown, Sandisk, Sony, Hifiman type player or decent non-Apple phone such as those from HTC and Samsung with stronger output signals will achieve the better sound with more detail, balance and presence. This is not a fault of the headphones, so those marking it down for having a bassy sound generally aren't driving them properly. It is easy to validate by using the headphones with a decent quality hifi which will generally have a relatively high output level for headphones and get the best from them.
Once driven properly the sound is well reproduced across the spectrum, with decent but not overpowering or wooly bass. There is plenty of detail, the sound has presence and the experience is of an immersive, comfortable listen with extremely low levels of sound leakage to those around you.
So they come highly recommended from me but caution is needed to ensure you get the best from them. Those using sources with lower output levels might benefit from an inexpensive portable headphone amplifier. Once experienced at their best this is a quality, premium product at a highly competitive price (compared for example to the equally splendid Audio Technica ATH-ES55 at double the price).
Incidentally these earphones show the limitations of earphones worn in-ear. I have had dozens of pairs, including dual balanced armature sets at hundreds of pounds and yet these outperform all of them. The detail, presence, depth and separation is better on these and yet they are only £50.
on 7 May 2009
I wanted my next pair of headphones to be good! I wasn't dissapointed with these - my first pair of mini's and first AKG's. Though a bit on the pricey side - I'm ready to pay for good quality if that means getting quality build/style/sound etc. these K450's delivered! I wanted something very portable and comfortable for those bus and train journeys. These are both portable - light and folds down into its own carry case and comfortable - the super soft pads and headband provide excellent grip without giving that "clamping" feeling. Styling and build is excellent. Music quality is excellent for such small headphones, amazingly they don't let too much sound leak in - even in central London!!! I am more than happy with these headphones. My first AKG's - I think a great start!
on 22 August 2013
After reading the negative reviews on these headphones I thought "man, the internet is full of sour grapes". But they were bad enough to make me give these a test before committing to buy. I mean, the views on these are either that they are the best thing ever or that they are absolute garbage. It's a weird situation. But I can now declare with confidence, that there should be more negative reviews for this product rather than positive, and believe most of the happy users of these have some sort of problem with their hearing or just don't care about proper audio reproduction.
So I went to an AKG-approved store that had these and the 451s available for demo, and gave them a whirl with both a headphone test and some music. My comparison point is with the headphones I use all the time and that I wanted to give a rest: a pair of Sennheiser HD25-1 IIs. I love them but I wanted to keep them for my music production/DJing stuff and get something decent just for leisure.
The first thing that stroke me as negative is that they let a lot of sound through. Without even hitting play on my player, I could hear clearly everything around me. They don't block the exterior sound as much as I feel they should. Most people recommend for this to get either noise cancelling headphones or circumaural. That's nonsense, as a proper supra-aural set should be able to provide more insulation than this (like aforementioned HD25-1 IIs).
I decided to play the headphone test first. There's one thing you can say about these headphones: they are LOUD! The sound pressure was, I believe, higher than on my HD25-1 IIs. I believe this is for compensating for the lack of external noise blocking.
The headphones fit well and didn't seem too uncomfortable or that they would pop out of your head as other reviews said. The cable however was really bad quality, too thin and break-prone probably.
The frequency response test went first, giving a normal, tending to short response on the higher but a really big response on the lower end. Dynamic range tests were also ok, but the problem with the outside audio filtering gets in the way of hearing things at lower volumes. These wouldn't work well on an airplane or loud train/tube situation.
Now the next thing I do is to test some music I know and love. And here's where the whole thing fell through completely, both for this and the K451s. It all sounds MUDDY as hell. Too much bass response and very little mids and highs. Yes people, you fgew who gave this a 1 star, you were right. It was painful to hear. The thing about the K451s where they improve over the K450s is on external noise insulation, but they boast the exact same muddy sound as the 450s. Horrible.
Now some people said "yeah you have to play with the EQ to make them sound right" and I strongly disagree with this statement. A good pair of headphones (or speakers, for that case), should be totally NEUTRAL and not colour the sound in any way. If you have to use EQ to make them sound "normal", then they are the wrong set to buy. The EQ is there to colour the sound to your preference, a good pair should play very nicely and averagely well over all frequencies off the box, and these headphones DON'T. I didn't even want to mess with the EQ to see if it would ever be "normal", as this was such a disappointment I had to leave the store right there after asking for the Sennheiser P250X which they didn't have available for demoing.
Believe me, I love AKG headphones, but these are an obvious mistake. Maybe for someone not so sensitive about sound and not bothered about EQing these are very good (specially at such a low price tag), but how did tehse ever become "headphones of the year" on a supposedly respected Hi Fi website, I have no idea.
If you like me want your headphones to be totally neutral and to block as much of the outside noise as possible (without going for noise cancellation), avoid these like the plague. They are really bad. Seriously.
on 23 February 2012
After many months consideration, I decided to treat myself to a new set of headphones. I work on the fringes of the music industry and listen to a huge amount of music, mostly on my phone via Spotify and high quality MP3s - although I am not involved in creating music, so experience it very much as a consumer. I'm a music fan, not an audiophile.
I was looking for some reasonably priced cans, something around the £100 mark, perhaps a little more, if necessary. I had been warned that certain, highly-branded headphones were a bit of a rip-off - lower quality cans in a fancy wrapper- so I decided to look beyond the obvious brands that we all know. I have already used various Sennheiser, Sony, Panasonic and in-pack headphones (the ones that come with the various devices I've acquired over the years) but had never found a set which had delivered excellent sound, with great comfort and convenience - and which didn't fall out of my ears all the time.
Having appraised myself of the difference between open back and closed 'phones, the delights of burning in and various other technical advice, I noticed that the AKG K450s were the What HiFi headphones of the year for 2011 - and £30 cheaper on Amazon than the price quoted in their review. I noted the only criticism of these headphones was the fact that they were relatively bass heavy, but I noted the advice on burning them in, and also considered this to be less of a problem for me as I tend to like my bass "phat" (as the kids say). Besides, for every review noting this as a negative, there seemed to be another 10 reviews singing their praises. And, as we all know, every product will receive "some" negative reviews. It's the way of the world/internet.
So, I ordered them. And I couldn't be happier. Solidly built, delivered in a classy little carry case, with two cables and two different phone plug fittings, I've been playing these for a week now and (having burned them in - basically, I have left them on for three or four hours every night, after getting in from work) they are by far the best sounding headphones I've ever had.
Is there a set of £250 Bose headphones somewhere which would deliver even better sound? Probably. But these are a £70 set and have proved to be simply stunning across a range of musical styles, spanning Bowie/Iggy, Maverick Sabre, Lana Del Rey and Amon Tobin. They do offer a nice strong bass, but with the definition and clarity which has helped me hear things on certain of my albums which I have never previously noticed before.
For someone looking for a decent pair of headphones, which look decent, feel comfortable and immeasurably improve the listening experience - but within a reasonable budget (sub-£200) - I would thoroughly recommend these headphones. They are an absolute treat.
on 18 October 2010
I bought these for use with my iPod as I've never yet found a pair of in-ear headphones that would stay in my ears and the iPod freebies were no exception. I listen mostly to classical but also to pop, rock, latin, folk and easy listening (i.e. most stuff apart from the jungle, drum & bass, rap end of the market). They sound ok, not brilliant but ok if you're not too fussy about purity of sound: they are quite coloured with a lot in the middle and slightly lower, but not much at the top or bottom. They are very comfortable to wear, which is a big plus, and feel secure on my head when walking around, moreover, because they're reasonably small you don't feel like a prat wearing them in the street! They also don't seem to leak too much sound out to those around you, so you're not forcing everyone else on the bus to listen to your music as well!
However, although the build quality of the actual headphones themselves is good, the cable is another story. The cable that came with mine never worked. The replacement cable (the cable is detachable) broke within 4 months. Googling "K450" and "cable" will come up with many, many similar stories. Normal usage with an iPod (i.e. the iPod is in your pocket with the cable plugged into the headphone socket) seems inevitably to result in the cable quickly breaking somewhere around the strain-guard of the jack. They're probably fine if you're using them to listen at home, say plugged into a laptop, but the cable just doesn't stand up to being used with a portable device. Replacement cables are allegedly free for the duration of your warranty, but as I hadn't registered mine I had to buy one: and they're not cheap or easy to come by. No matter how great the headphones, they're useless without the cable. Hence two stars.
on 11 August 2012
The K450's arrived swiftly, one of the only positives you will read in this review! On opening the box I noticed that the longer of the two leads that was meant to come with the K450's was missing. (Which I can only assume the headphones sent to me was a returned item. As I was told by AKG, whom I contacted, that they arrive in a sealed plastic bag! This was not the case for me). I contacted the Amazon Market seller DGS Group and the only replacement they would offer me was an extention lead. This I accepted as they would not replace the long lead (At least with the extention lead I could use it outside along with the short lead, as I could not find a use for the short lead on it's own). What I should have done, is reported DGS Group to the Office of Fair Trading!
On the headphones themselves after 3 months of use the audio quality is no better than the Koss Porta Pro Headphones. The short lead that I have been left with has stopped working in one channel, the Porta Pro's lasted at least six months more with me and cost a lot less! Having worked previously in the music industry AKG was a name associated with quality, this is now in my feelings, questionable!
**** UPDATE!!! AKG replaced the missing lead after speaking to them. They also replaced the headphones as they were faulty all along! Now I can say I'm a lot happier than I was previously and would give a 3.5 to 4 stars for audio quality for the price and they are still going strong nearly a year later! Top marks to AKG for handling my query, no marks to the DGS Group for poor customer service!
on 27 October 2011
I should stress before you read this review that I rarely write critical reviews as I am more than pleased with most of the purchases I make through Amazon and, indeed, this article is in no way critical of Amazon who, as usual, have provided a first class delivery service.
I am a regular user of headphones and own about 5 pairs, my most treasured being a battered but well loved pair of Grado SR60's (which I highly recommend to anyone for home listening use). I decided to purchase the AKG K450 headphones as a result of recommendation by What Hi-Fi in their 2011 Awards edition. My reason for purchase was that the 450's had been rewarded headphone product of the year. This award was based upon them offering great performance at the retail price of 100 quid. Needless to say, seeing them on Amazon for 40 quid was more than enough temptation for me to part with my hard-earned cash. What a mistake.
Firstly, I'll start with the positives. The packaging of the headphones was exemplary arriving in a nicely finished box. The phones themselves look beautifully engineered with good quality materials and top rate finish. Additionally, the inclusion of a nicely finished hard case, two separate lead wire lengths and jack plug converters was more than a pleasant surprise. The engineering of the folding design of the headphones was also excellent. My expectations were high...
...and then I plugged them in to the output jack of my Marantz CD6000OSE (a 300 quid CD player in its day) and tested them with Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto CD. I had listened to the album using my treasured Grado SR60's and noted the quality of the production and so thought the CD would make the AKG K450's shine. My initial impression of the sound was a deep disappointment. With my Grado SR60's, I am used to smooth, well extended, natural bass, balanced mid-range and sparkling high frequencies with minimal sibilance and nice overall tonal balance. The Grado's also excel at revealing hidden detail in the recording. The AKG's produced none of these virtues and gave me bloated uncontrolled bass, muddy midrange and total absence of sparkle in the high frequencies. Additionally, the What Hi-Fi review had raved about the detail that the K450's revealed. Take it from me that this is not the case. So, my initial excitement turned to abject disappointment. I have allowed the headphones to run in for 12 hours now with a slight improvement, but nothing radical. Further research led me to find the frequency response graph for the headphones which show a noticeable reduction in dB above 8 kHz. Why ? The phones claim a frequency range up to 30kHz. Why bother when the output at these higher frequencies is almost non-existent ? A colleague of mine who has spent years in hi-fi assures me that this is an intentional design feature and not a bi-product of the design of the diaphragms. This is the only explanation I can find for the lack of sparkle in the high frequencies. The bloated bass I think is a common feature of closed-back headphone designs. However, I cannot think of any other excuse for the lack of detail than a poorly designed driver.
I have additionally tried driving the K450's with some alternative sources (portable CD player, PC sound card, and smart phone) with varying results. Interestingly, the best performance with high frequencies came from the PC sound card although this is only onboard sound on the motherboard, so nothing clever...perhaps the output of the onboard sound is biased towards the high frequencies, compensating for the below par high frequency performance of the phones.
So overall, beautifully packaged and engineered from an aesthetic point of view...deeply disappointing sound, bloated bass, lack of detail, and lifeless high frequencies. To pay the retail price of 100 quid for these would, in my opinion, amount to daylight robbery. At 40 quid, the K450's are merely adequate.
My final advice...if you're addicted to bass but have nothing but contempt for midrange, high frequencies and detail then these are for you...
Otherwise, please save your money, especially if it's for home use. My recommendation for home use would be keep saving and buy the Grado SR80i headphones for 100 quid...possibly the biggest headphone bargain in hi-fi...
on 31 May 2012
I replaced a set of flimsy seinnheisters (with a failed cable) of similar price with these beauties - I have to say the sound surpasses all my other 15 or so headphones and you get to hear subtilties in your music like no others. They sit on your ears so you'll find them best for out and about or just sitting around (the cable is just of adequate length for a phone or mp3 player but it won't stretch from a hi-fi (and it's replaceable /detachable - unlike my doggy seinnheisters) - they block out background noise and are very comfortable - although they dont work for running or the gym. Definitely worth the investment.