87 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2014
I bought these in spite of - rather than because of - the reviews by other buyers. I admit that What Hi-Fi's award swayed me a lot more - I've found over the years that they have a good idea of what they're talking about.
On first listen, I thought I'd made a mistake. Where was the bass? I should have listened to those reviewers who grumped openly about the lack of bass.
I soon realised, however, that the bass was... exactly where it was meant to be. In the Chemical Brothers, it dropped in where they wanted it - and not where they didn't. Whether it was with Supergrass, Oasis or ELO, the AKG550's were resoundingly faithful to what the bass was supposed to be doing. It makes me realise that so many headphones mask a poor overall performance with thumping bass - and we fall for the superficial impression of quality.
Where these 'phones excel is in spreading the music out into a soundscape you can really feel and hear all around you. Which is how they end up exposing some of the production values on records I thought I knew quite well - too dense in places on Oasis, too plasticky in places on ELO.
I regularly find myself singing songs I've listened to through these headphones, the day after I've listened to them. Because what they really do is involve and engage you in the music. As it was meant to be heard. And that's rewarding.
You need to give these headphones time. Or rather, you need to give yourself time to adjust to these headphones. Because they're modestly much, much better than many rivals. You can get good headphones for half this price. But you can also get a sound that's not noticeably better than this, for four times this price. They're awesome.
156 of 164 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2012
I received these, by request, as a gift this Christmas, bought from Amazon as they are probably the most competitive price on these headphones in the UK. Over the moon at getting what I asked for I immediately opened the classy box to try them on. Greeted by a fowl stench of artificial leather, please note there is no way the ear pads are real leather after that smell! The headphones feel heavy in a solid way to pick up, they look stunning and feel well built, and I am convinced they are. The whole design is a work of art.
First impressions plugged directly into my laptop playing apple lossless files, with the EQ disabled (flat). They sounded so good that I almost started to well up at rehearing my old favourites in all their well deserved detail, they really blew me away that much!
After having 3 days of use out of them I felt I was ready to give my full opinion. I guess they have had less than 10 hours use so far, so are not fully 'broken in' or 'burnt in', regardless of whether you believe in that. However my ears have had time to adjust and get used to them, and I have noticed their traits, and what they are good at / what they are not so good at. So, onto how they sound...
The sound is INCREDIBLY balanced, as in there is very little volume difference between different frequencies, with one slight exception in the high end. Starting at the bottom, the bass is the most well controlled bass I have ever heard! On a frequency sweep from 100Hz - 20Hz there is very little volume change at all, apart from the natural roll off towards the sub bass frequencies. However these headphones do reproduce with ease frequencies right down to 10Hz. This gives an amazingly tight bass that is never out of control and never boomy. However this has a downside, and that is no frequencies in the low end jump out at you, so the bass is smoother and flatter, but much less engaging. There is no large spike around 60Hz that so many speakers tend to suffer from, instead it is completely smooth, so if you are an absolute bass freak then I suggest you go and buy some Monster Beats as they have tons of uncontrolled and unrefined boomy bass. This means there is next to no EQ'ing required for the K550's to achieve a balanced sound. But this does give the effect of a 'calmer' and dare I say it 'quieter' low end. But a studio engineers dream for mixing bass instruments with! By giving all the low frequencies room to be heard bass instruments sound much more detailed then you could ever imagine, as they are not being masked by dominance in one particular area.
The mis are very smooth throughout with little difference in level from 200Hz - 3.5KHz. It is incredibly detailed and has a brilliant wide sound stage, allowing instruments room to 'breath' within the song. It really allows vocals to shine through, and lead guitar work sounds more detailed and fluid than ever.
The downside of the K550's is the presence boost at around 6-9KHz. It is noticeable, and at high volumes can come across as a tad 'harsh' and 'grating' on the ears. However at low-normal listening levels it is much less accentuated and adds to the tremendous level of detail in the sound. From 10KHz onwards the treble is much flatter and smoother, and maintains incredible levels of detail without sound harsh to the ears. Due to this peak in the high mids and low treble ranges it generates the effect of there being a slight lack of low mids. I also particularly favour a healthy amount of low mids in my sound, so it is something I would want to boost slightly on an EQ. Although it is not a necessity for most music.
Listening to "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits the guitar instantly sounds very smooth but also very detailed throughout the song. The slight boost of high mids favours this style of guitar sound, mainly clean, with a hint of break up. The hi-hat and ride cymbal sound crisp and detailed with the slightest bit of decay being audible ringing on throughout the song. The bass guitar and kick drum are also present from the beginning of the track and are perfectly in balance with both them selves, and the rest of the instruments. The kick is really really deep and tight, with little dominance of the high bass. This is where the bass guitar shines, it is very flat in response, so ever note is equally loud, the way it should be heard, with no quiet or boomy spots. This style of music sounds absolutely brilliant on these headphones, and only increase with detail as you turn it up. I also find acoustic guitar sounds really very impressive on the K550's.
Contemporary metal doesn't fare quiet so well. Killswitch Engage's - "My Curse" holds the same high level of detail and wide spatial stereo image, however the detuned heavily distorted guitar thrives of tons of low mids. I felt the K550's let too much of the high mid range to shine through losing some of the 'dark' and 'thick' quality this style of metal is meant to sound like. The bass was still as tight as ever throughout the song, however on the hole could be more dominant.
"Dreaming of You" by indie rock band The Coral starts with a 'raw' uncompressed sounding bass guitar. However despite this it is very smooth and flat throughout the track. No matter what you through at these headphones the bass they deliver is tight and smooth and true down to the last detail. The headphones accentuate the stereo imaging and panning from the main guitar, and other instruments such as sax and keys are much more noticeable than I ever remembered. The drum kit is mixed very quiet and that is where it stays. These headphones produce the sound as the studio engineer intended you to hear it, not how Dr. Dre wants you to hear everything.
Listen to "When We Stand Together" off Nickelbacks latest album at 75% volume, the song starts with a heavily processed but absolutely THUNDERING rumbling bass, you can hear every last rumble the strings would be producing whilst it still being very tight and powerful. This is followed by an nice contrast of an acoustic guitar which is given tremendous detail due to the presence push these headphones seem to have. This leaves a nice hole in the mid range to be filled out by a perfectly smooth vocals. This was the first song I listened to when I tried on these headphones and it still blows me away how good it makes it sound.
Comfort / fit:
These headphones are huge, and I have a very small head. I wear them on the shortest setting, number 1, but they still fit me fine. People say the struggle to get a good seal from the cups which can result in reduced bass response, but they seal perfectly for me and the pads are lovely and soft! In fact, if I push gently on the outside of the cups I can feel the pressure being exerted on my ear drum, not leaking out.
The headband has a very thin layer of padding, I would have thought they could have made it slightly thicker, but saying that it is not uncomfortable at all. In fact I find these headphones incredibly comfy to wear, and after 30 minutes of sitting listening I actually forget they are on my head until I go to move! That is how nicely they sit. Plus the huge cups keep your ears nice and warm!
Well the 3m long cable isn't ideal, I would have much preferred a detachable one but you can't have everything. I braided my cable to shorten its length and it did the job fine. They fold flat to put in a case, however there is particular case designed for them so you will have to find a generic one which fits which isn't ideal either. Despite them being large cans they grip my small head firmly and I can't see them being any issue wearing them out and about, and being closed back they leak very little sound even at high volumes.
I enclose a link to some frequency response graphs and sound test graphs of these headphones if you care to know more about the technical stuff: [...]
Overall I am very pleased with these headphones for the price, and I'm sure I will grow to like them more and more, and they will break in more with time and smooth out a bit more of the presence boost. I highly recommend these headphones to anyone wanting a very balanced and detailed sound, wanting to hear the music how it is meant to be heard, not how you want to hear it (an EQ does that bit!).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2012
This is my first true venture into higher end headphones. I was looking for something that could rival my home cinema system (5.2 Quad L2 Speakers and Twin BK XLS200 subs) in a smaller factor to use at night in bed which I knew would be tough to match. I am not a bass head but rather wanted detailed and controlled music like my system and the AKG sounded right for that.
I paired the AKG Q701 with the Fiio E7 amp for more portability, and use the amp with either a laptop or the nexus 7 for listening to FLAC music. Right off the bat, brand new these headphones are very harsh to listen to and almost headache inducing as they are insanely detailed/layered and takes no prisoners when it comes to exposing weaknesses in your music, far more than my home cinema system. But give them a chance though, I was disappointed at first but gave them their chance to show me what they can do, and after a few days of letting them run in, and psychologically getting used to them I can safely say these headphones are fantastic. The harshness feeling has gone, more than likely due to them running in and myself getting used to them. Here is a quick list of positives and negatives of my experience with them... I have tried the headphones with most genres of music as I like to listen to every genre really. Jazz, classical, Electronic, hip hop, chillout, rock, melodic Death metal etc. ( I have been addicted to the prodigy lately and these headphones are great listening to them)
+ Incredibly detailed, you will hear everything in the music and the spacing and layering is immense. Every instrument feels like it is on a separate layer which you can clearly hear.
+ The bass is controlled, tight, fast and does not intrude but rather compliments. The bass is like having smaller twin subwoofers in the room but a fair distance away from you. You do not feel the bass, but rather they are in harmony with eveything else. It is a little lacking at first, so I bumped the bass up +1 on the amp and it is perfect for me.
+ Very neutral sound
+ Spacing and soundstage is fantastic. The open back design really helps the headphones breath to give a more spacious sound. Huge spacious sound on the left and right axis, good height but is a little lacking in 3d space like the front and back, but it still gives a great 3d sensation with the right recordings. I listened to a Habanera rendition and it was sublime, it honestly sounds like being there live. Truly astounding for classical.
+ Very comfortable, the headphones are very comfortable but I have lightly modified the headband to make it better by using velour velvet wrapped around it. I bought some velvet off ebay, wrapped it around the headband and used some velcro cable ties on each side and it feels very comfortable now to wear for hours.
+ Great design, the self adjusting headband is fantastic and I doubt I would be able to go back to other headphone designs after this.
+ Removable cable is a god send if the cable breaks.
+ Sounds amazing for classical, jazz, light rock, chillout, electronic, vocals etc The clarity is fantastic with softer genres due to the bass being clinical and requiring less impact.
+ / - These are monitoring headphones, you will not get pounding bass with these but rather controlled and accurate bass. It may not have the wow factor that good subwoofers can give but it is very enjoyable, and it does not muddle up and overshadow the other instruments.
+ / - build quality is very good and it feels light to use without too much discomfort but it is not built like a tank. Mostly plastic and feels vulnerable especially with the the elastic strings holding the self adjusting band. I doubt it will survive being stepped on, sat on, stretched too far so be very careful with it. But for general careful use it is built very well for that purpose. The AKG logo on the sides can wear off a little without too much force.
- Headband could be softer. It is a hard leather. But you are free to wrap anything soft around it if needed.
- Heavy Rock / metal sounds a little fatiguing as these headphones are a little too detailed to make it enjoyable over a long period of time.
- Hip hop/ rap etc can be lacking as the bass is clinical and you do not get the grunt/force that good subwoofers give you for this genre obviously. But these are monitoring headphones so that is to be expected.
- These are basically speakers on your head rather then headphones and will leak a lot of sound but if you keep the volume lower, the sound leakage is not too bad at all and is still enjoyable to listen to.
- You will look like a moron wearing them as they are huge, but who cares, they are are awesome to listen to :)
Overall I am very happy with them, it has a few flaws with some genres but I love that they are so controlled as it is great to hear the instruments in a raw form and to be easily distinguishable from one another. It certainly brings a different life to music and to hear eveything the producers wanted into the songs without colouration.
Edit: I have done a listening test comparing my cinema system (in Pro logic 2 music mode) and the headphones a bit more and can safely say these headphones do indeed rival my system which is staggering. These headphones are a 1/4 or a 1/5 of the amount i paid for the cinema system and provide just as much sound quality and detail if not more in some cases. The cinema system obviously wins overall as it is less fatiguing, the bass is better in every genre, the soundstage is better, but i would say the headphones win on detail and seperation and is stunning for classical. So i am very happy to have headphones which rival my system on such a small scale, i was worried about the complaints about the bass on the headphones but honestly the bass is fantastic on them with a tiny boost on it, very accurate with a little punch but not overpowering which only lacks on hip hop /rap genres as it does not have enough grunt/force to the lower end to make it enhoyable for extended listening.
122 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2012
I think AKG are onto a winner with these headphones. The sound quality is excellent and the isolation is first class. I use public transport a lot as I don't have a car and for this the K550s are very well suited. I listen to classical music, often quite quiet music and so the isolation is very important.
I have two other pairs of AKG headphones, my much loved AKG K702s and my K271 MkIIs. I use the K271s mostly for monitoring sound when I am recording video. I used to use them on public transport as they are closed back. The K550s are the preferred choice for this now.
The K550s do not sound like my other AKG headphones. They have a forward and full midband and the treble is softer. The treble is not as detailed as my K702s. I think that the K550s will have a wider appeal that the K702s because they will, probably, sound better with pop/rock. However they do sound excellent with classical. I've been listening a lot to Debussy: Preludes (2CD), Claude Debussy, Alexei Lubimov. I bought this at Amazon actually. The piano sounds really beautiful with the K550s, the notes are full and with lots of expression.
Although these are closed back headphones it is remarkable how open sounding they are. They will present orchestral works with a surprisingly large soundstage.
I do use them with a small portable amplifier plugged into my iPod Touch. However they will play absolutely fine plugged straight into the iPod Touch. These are very sensitive headphones. I use my small amp because it produces a better sound quality than the amp in the iPod Touch. I think that for quality purposes it is a good idea to get a good portable amplifier to add to your portable source. The downside is that the more you have the less portable it is :)
I have one criticism of the K550s which is that the cable is not detachable. I would really like to be able to use a shorter cable when I am using the headphones on public transport. The cable with them is far too long for this and it is a nuisance. I do like the longer cable when I am listening at home, so for me the ideal is to have a detachable cable so I can attach a shorter cable or a longer one depending on situation. This is what I do with my K702s and my K271s.
I will add that there is no sonic disadvantage imho to the captive cable. I do not recommend people spending money on the absurd after-market cables for headphones. The advocates of these claim all kinds of benefits but when they demonstrate this in blind listening tests it will be of interest.
The K550s have an entirely new headband design. Unlike my K702s and my K271s this one does not self-adjust for different head sizes. You have to adjust it yourself. Fortunately this is very simple and the advantage with this headband is that it is much neater and closer to the head all round, so you look less like a cyberman. Another advantage with the K550 design is that the headphones will fold flat-ish. This is very useful for putting them in a briefcase (which is what I do), along with your laptop or what-have-you. However these are pretty large headphones so even flat they are quite a big object, but much easier to deal with in their flattened state.
264 of 282 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2013
After wearing my last pair of ill fitting (and expensive) in ear headphones (used in ear for many years) spent ages looking around for a decent pair of over ear headphones that would not make a man of 50+ look like some rather decrepid DJ. After trying many in store and looking at the net I found a review for these on 'What Hi-fi' which gave them their Product of the Year. At around the £75 mark I decided, after looking at pairs over £300, they were probably worth a shot without finding a pair to try on cost alone and hoped they would be half decent.
Plugged then in Xmas day, chose a suitably testing track and I was hooked. The frequency range of the headphones is what I find amazing - everything is there and with plenty of umph too. Suddenly, new aspects of music become audible for the first time and the songs can be rediscovered in all of their glory.
The headphones are very confortale even after a good few hours of listening, ideal for my smartphone, come with detachable headphone only lead and seperate headphone / phone lead with mic and a great hard case which the headphone fold rather nattily into. 6.3mm adapter included.
Don't usually write reviews but decided I should as I always find they help me in my decision making. I am sure there would be those that prefer other makes and models: all I know is that these are the best headphones I have ever possessed and for a fraction of what I was going to pay!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2014
I have been looking for a pair of good quality closed back headphones and had read reviews of several models from numerous brands. All roads pointed to the AKG K550 and when I saw them for this price (£109) I thought why not.
My decision was influenced by the what hifi review as I have used them in the past when deciding on hifi equipment with good results.
They, and others, were absolutely right. These headphones deliver a clarity of sound that is impossible to match at this price. Others have mentioned a disappointing level of bass but I think this would only be if you were used to certain brands that artificially boost the bass for every song.
I have experimented with music from different genres and all come across equally well, with seamless transition from bass to mids and highs.
In terms of build quality they are faultless, with good quality materials used for each element, a long cable, which is good because let's face it - these are really for indoor use only unless you are auditioning for Doctor Who!!
Comfort is almost as good as my Sennheiser HD558 which is a good recommendation in itself and although I have read about problems getting a good seal, I didn't find it to be a problem as you can adjust them easily enough for the size and shape of your head.
Overall an excellent set of headphones that I would recommend - especially at this price!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2013
After reading just about every review I could find on the internet, I decided these Headphones were the ones for me and took the plunge. Having owned Sennheisers and Beyerdynamics in the past, I felt something of a traitor defecting to AKG. It proved a good move though. I had read of several deficiencies in the sound, comfort and strangely about the sound leakage. More about that later. Also its detractors complained that it was a less than perfect match for the ipod/mp3 as its source. That to me is a strange complaint as it's not really designed for that purpose - think; going to the supermarket to do your weekly shopping in a Ferrari - achievable perhaps, but certainly not wise nor practical.
Most importantly, I'm approaching my late fifties and sadly the hearing range of frequencies I enjoyed in my youth is beginning to suffer. (Remember when you used to be able to hear the 15.6kHz signal carrier frequency of your television? - A long distant memory for me now). What I find I need is a clean and powerful treble which always conveys the soul of the music for me. This I have found in abundance in the Q701s. Mids are generous too and the commonly criticised lack of bass is just not true. It may not be ear-shattering but it's there and it's precise. Certainly not as powerful as the Beyers I've owned, but a booming bass just isn't that important to me anymore. Sound leakage is indeed there, but that is what an open design is, and to that end the music enjoys an openness that is hard to better.
A brilliant sounding headphone without comfort is of course a non-starter. These are truly cleverly designed and comfort around the ear is very good indeed. There has however been a lot of complaint about the ribbed headband, obviously designed to provide some grip to the top of the head, but if like me, you're thinning on top, then this will cause discomfort after a while (1½ hours in my case), leaving small but visible indentations on the top of my head. This I would say is the only design flaw and what the engineers at AKG were thinking about when this was on the drawing board is indeed a mystery to me. Had these ribs been significantly softened, then this whole discomfort issue wouldn't have arisen in the first place. The leather material they have used is just too hard and unforgiving. As it is now, there are a number of people who on the internet, have demonstrated the ease of changing this headband for a soft piece of flat leather, which completely cures the problem. Something I certainly will undertake once the manufacturer's 2 year warranty has expired. As far as value for money goes though, these headphones are an absolute bargain, and make me want to discover my music all over again.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2012
Very impressed with them. Great build quality and comfortable. The sound produced by these cans is simply fantastic.
Just a heads up for new-to-higher-end-headphone buyers:
These headphones help produce fantastic clarity, depth and richness to your music. However, if you are buying these to plug straight into the old iPod or laptop (for example) you will be disappointed. The Q701s' like other high end headphones require (1) a good music source, and (2) something to amplify that source and drive it through the headphones. I am getting great results from these headphones because I am running them through a USB recording device (£60 "TonePort" by Line 6) which is connected to my computer, from which I play MP3s. This humble USB audio device bypasses the crappy sound card in my Mac and serves up much more detail/information to the headphones. These headphones are excellent at transforming this information into clear and dynamic audio. An integrated headphone amp in the USB devise drives the power hungry Q701s'.
I made the mistake in the past of thinking expensive headphones would simply make music sound better. The fact is they do, BUT you need additional equipment and it can be difficult to know what you need/want. In my haste and frustration for example, I was even considering buying the AudioLab M-DAC (at £600). Luckily a friend who owns a recording studio recommended going down the USB audio interface route to drive these puppies - and I would urge newcomers to consider this option. For example, I'm going to be investing in a Roland UA-55 Quad Capture (...). But remember, one of my hobbies is recording music - there are no doubt other options (like the Fiio E7, etc - although I can't vouch for them) if you have no need for recording equipment. The only reason I'm writing this review is because I'd like others to avoid the mistakes I made and know how I get great results from the Q701s'.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2015
As a social listener - I wanted reference level quality for a reasonable price. I just adore the clarity, separation of instruments and sound stage they create. They are powerful and exciting not to mention super comfy and entirely over ear which adds to the longevity I can use them in one session. They are neutral sounding, so no bass preference like other headphones. I prefer to boost the bass when I listen to certain music genres on my player but have neutral headphones for accurate sound reproduction on the majority of my listening. Listen to CD's or a CD quality stream from the likes of TIDAL and these guys come alive. Power them with a DAC like my Creative Sound Blaster E5 (or the E3 for that matter) and they are more powerful and all encompassing yet. Throw Hi-Res music at them too and they show their class. They are great quality and value for all but step up their game with CD quality music or better. The cable is rather long, so I ended up using a cable tie to manage them around the house. Not sure how convenient they are for out of the house use though despite I do from time to time. I would say if you like R&B, Rap or heavy music, then there would probably be headphones that have a sound dynamic bias better suited to your music - but that said I listen to R&B and change settings on my player and I would rather hear a more neutral (as the music was produced) sound anyway. I mainly listen to indie, rock, acoustic, jazz and alternative and wow. Just wow! The balance of the range, the bass control, the clarity of the highs and the liveliness of the sound simply brings a smile to face.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2014
I already owned a set of AKG K550's, after running them in the sound was immaculate. However, I had a newly refurbished music room with a brand new upgraded audio system plus DAC/Headphone Amp. as I was already impressed with AKG I was sure I'd have no trouble finding another quality set. I was undecided, stuck between the K702's and the Q701's, after reading so many reviews I finally opted to trust the What HIFI review, best decision I've ever made!
Again the headphones needed "running in" but, once they were at optimum performance they were incredible, the soundstage is vast, I can listen to a multi channel FLAC file, shut my eyes and I'm in the concert crowd, the bass is flawless, the trebble soars to new heights, vocals are so clear and distinct. I am a massive Cure fan, earlier albums such as Seventeen Seconds rely on acoustic guitars - later albums such as Disintegration were more bassy and angst ridden, I was hearing new sounds from everything, Power, Corruption & Lies had guitar tracks I'd never heard before, The Bends and pablo Honey by Radiohead were just sublime - clear solid bass throughout, the treble complimented this perfectly. The cable comes in two lengths and with two jack sizes, they are very comfortabale to wear and as they are open backed your ears don't overheat!! They do leak music but, I don't care, I use them when nobody else is around.
If you are looking for headphones and can afford theses, get them! I also splashed out for cable upgrade and a decent DAC/Headphone Amp but, you can get a decent FiiO DAC/Headphone Amp for £60 - £100.
Whatever genre music you like, these are the headphones to have, my entire music collection sounds new again, at the current price you can't go wrong!!