Pros: Neutral/flat response, soundstage, design and looks, lightweight, removable wire
Cons: Highs are rolled off, benefits from an amp
Packaging & Accessories: 6/10
Build Quality: 10/10
Design & Look: 10/10
Audio Quality: 9.5/10
My final Rating: 10/10
Review Price: £230
The AKG K545′s also come in four different finishes:
-Black with Turquoise
-Black with Orange
Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)
The packaging that comes with the AKG K545′s is discrete unlike its younger brother the K551′s which was excessively heavy packaging. It is nice to see that AKG thought about resellers here and people carrying boxes from their shopping sprees in the high streets.
My impressions of the K551′s was very disappointing thus I was expecting the worst with the K545′s, however the K545′s really did deliver this time round, although it wasn't perfect it was a vast improvement.
The K545′s come with a 1/4″ adapter in the box and they also come with not one, but two detachable wires for the K545′s to use (more on the wires in the build quality section).
It was nice to see AKG addressing the issue of the mics not working on Android and thus including an Android cable alongside the iPhone one gets a big thumbs up from me.
With that said, I found it a little disappointing not to find a simple pouch, something I had also mentioned in my K551 review. A simple pouch, that costs less than £2 on eBay would do fine. The pouch isn't there to protect the headphones from bumps and falls, but instead is there to prevent food, keys or even a tiny bit of water effecting the headphones. It isn't had to include and is definitely something I was looking for in the K545′s, as it is a set of headphones that can be taken on-the-go with its rotating drivers.
Overall first impressions:
My first impressions of the headphones were very positive, I had already noticed an improvement over the previous K551′s and was very intrigued to see how the headphone did in other aspects, such as its sound quality.
The build quality of the AKG K551′s was outstanding. I was thus expecting something similar type of outcome with the K545′s and wasn't disappointed. The build quality, in my opinion improved, mainly due to the cable design now being removable. One of my main complaints of the K551 was the wire being non-detachable and also being very thin. I could understand the thinness of the wire, due to portability but the fact that it was non-detachable made it very worrying for its longevity. When I opened the K545′s box I was very happy to find those detachable wires included, which really do make a whole lot of difference. Due to them being removable it gives the headphones a longer life span and more so allows that flexibility of going from an Android device to an iDevice without any problems. I think this was an excellent move by AKG. With that said, the wire is still very thin, but due to the nature of the headphone, being portable, it makes sense to have a thin wire over a bulky and long cable, like the one found in the stock Denon AH-D2000′s. The cable is still, unfortunately, terminated by a straight 3.5mm gold plated jack, which would have been nice to see a right angled jack instead.
Regarding the rest of the headphone, the build quality is exceptional as it was in the K551′s. The headband is still as versatile and is very flexible and the headband assembly still has a nice clicking feel to it when adjusting it. Furthermore, the material used for the drivers and the pads is excellent. What I love is the big left and right indicators that can be found within the inner lining of the cups, which allows quick distinction of the channels.
Finally, with the K545′s coming in a few different finishes, I think the build quality and design of them is absolutely excellent. I read a few posts online, of people complaining about AKG focusing on colours and in all honesty I'm a little baffled about that. AKG did a great job here in providing different blend of colours and more so incorporating that all together in an excellent build.
Overall, the build quality is excellent. There were a few points relating to the wire being still a little on the thin side and not being terminated by a right angled jack, but I feel that those are two minor points and shouldn't really detract the overall rating of the build quality, which otherwise is excellent.
Top mark to AKG for incorporating a nice design in a very well built headphone.
Now the overall look, comfort and isolation
The look of the headphones is very sleek. The particular model I got was the black with turquoise finish. I'm not a big fan of the colour, but can appreciate the looks of the headphone and more so the overall attention to detail. The looks of the headphone is thus very nice, I really can't fault it, especially over the K551′s which looked like gigantic earmuffs on your head, the K545′s feel like a more normal sized headphone, whilst still being 50mm driver.
The isolation on these headphones is better than the K551′s but only marginally. I think this came down to the ear pads being different. Even though the pads looked thinner, they felt thicker and felt like they accommodated your ears better. The space that you're given within the ear pads is thus better and leads to increased comfort. Granted the isolation isn't perfect, but for close back headphones that are seemingly portable too, I think they delivered quite well. In short, I feel the pads are what made the difference - the material was a little different and thus aided in the overall isolation of the headphones.
Finally the comfort:
The comfort was also better and again, due to the pads being different. After pro-longed use I didn't feel as if the headphone was digging into my ears, with reading glasses on. Instead I could happily wear the headphones for long periods of time. With that said, it wasn't perfect, as I felt the top of the headband hadn't changed at all. The headphone did dig into the top of your head after several hours of use. This was a noted point in my K551 review and seems to have remained unchanged in the K545, which left me a little disappointed. With that said, the comfort is better and was very good beforehand, especially due to the lightweight design of the headphones.
The sound quality of the K551′s was neutral sounding, with a severe lack of low-end bass. The case wasn't similar in the K545′s, in fact the bass was very pleasant. Not overpowered or bloated, but instead much better extension in the lows, whilst keeping an excellent mid range response. I was very much improved by the sound quality of the K545′s and really felt that it was a step forward for AKG in the sound department, over the previous model.
I should also mention, as I did with the K551′s, that the K545′s really benefited from being amped: "Without an amp, I didn't feel comfortable with my S3 driving them, it felt as if the K551′s needed more power, even though it was rated with a 32ohms impedance, which isn't as high as other headphones out there. Thus it benefitted from an amp, but didn't necessarily need it. I greatly enjoyed listening to the AKG's with an amp and I must say without an amp attached, my impressions of the headphones would have been a little more negative due to their lack of power, especially seeing as these headphones are designed to be used on-the-go."
On another note, it was also interesting to see the frequency response of both the K551′s and the K545′s. Something I normally don't pay attention to, as objective data (especially ones coming from a manufacturer) is not often translated as what a user will hear, but in this case, the K545′s looked in-line with what AKG had stated on their website, especially when compared to the K551′s range.
Frequency range of the K551′s: 12Hz - 28kHz
Frequency range of the K545′s: 10Hz - 25kHz
As you'll be able to read the K551′s seem to not go as low as the K545′s, but yet extend more in the high frequencies. After reading the frequency range, I felt that my opinion was much better justified of the K545′s abilities to drive more bass, but also lose that little bit of sparkle in the high frequencies. It thus matched my subjective opinion of the headphones quite well.
The bass as expressed above was much more impressive. I know a lot of people might be worried about the bass being overwhelming, but this isn't the case. I don't only rate a decent punch, but also a decent extension. The K551′s didn't extend at all, despite having a nice clean and crisp mid-bass, their sub-bass was non-existent and thus got a low 4/10 rating. With the K545′s on the other hand, it was a whole different ball game. The K545′s extended extremely well; granted not as well as my Denon D2K's or the Sony XB700′s, but still very well for headphones that seem completely bass light at first listen. I usually push the abilities of a headphone's capability for bass via my little DigiZoid ZO2 amp, which introduces a huge amount of low end rumble at no real expense of the mid range frequencies (unlike other amps out there in the market which do). The K545′s were reactive and very much responsive to the changes I made in the low end, whereas the K551′s were sitting there saying: "I'm having non of that". Thus it was great to see AKG address this concern that I had and open these headphones up to a larger market. I say this, because previously if someone that enjoyed listening to low-end bass would ask me: "Would you recommend the K551′s?" I would reply with a straight and simple: "No, they're not designed for bass" - whereas now, with the K545′s being able to get that low end rumble, it can now appeal to a lot more people, like myself.
The mids were perfect, just as they were in the K551′s. The following section is taken from my K551 review:
"They sounded very nice and crisp, where I couldn't really ask for more in a pair of £230 set of headphones. I really enjoyed listening to these and using them almost as a reference for mids. That said, having listened to the HD800′s I could tell there was a lot of flaws present, but that sort of comparison, especially given the nature of the price difference is quite ridiculous. Thus I was extremely happy with the mids of the K545′s and couldn't really expect a better sounding headphone at that price range, in relation to the mids only."
As you can read the mids were identical to the K551′s and I was expecting a big hit in the mids, due to the improved bass response they know boasted.
However, that couldn't be said for the highs, as again they did felt a little rolled off. Just like with the K551′s, they didn't really sparkle nor give a lasting impression. Furthermore the K545′s were even more rolled off and this was later confirmed by looking at its frequency range, which was less capable in the high frequencies.
The soundstage of the K551′s was surprising for a set of closed-back headphones, where I thought they were open-back headphones. The K545′s didn't give me that same feeling, although close to the same feeling, it wasn't quite identical. The K551′s gave me a sense of greater space, whereas the K545′s didn't give me that seamless space that I found in their younger brothers. With that said, the soundstage was still incredible for a set of closed back headphones, but not as good as they were. The sound imaging and percussions were still phenomenally pleasing, which was always going to get a big thumbs up from me. Overall, the soundstage was amazing and the reproduction levels were incredibly high.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusions and final thoughts
In conclusion, the K545′s are a natural and exceptionally good step-up to the K551′s. I actively recommended the K551′s due to their low price point but incredible sound they could deliver. The K545′s took the K551′s and stepped up the game in a few departments: Comfort, accessories provided, build quality, design, looks and more importantly low end frequency capabilities. With that said, it did drop a little in the high frequencies and the soundstage, but a very minor hit for an extremely huge gain in other departments. I can't quite emphasise, how impressed I was with the K551′s and now with the K545′s I'm even more impressed and left with a huge smile on my face when I wear them.
As for if they're worth the extra £100 - well that's debatable, as with audio, for tiny steps in improvement you're looking at spending double the amount you initially wanted to spend (ie. having a 3 driver setup in your earphones over a 2 driver one). With that in mind, I do feel the K545′s are very much worth the extra money you put down on the table. The extra £100 gets you quite a lot of things and they're all very much needed.
On that note, I did review these at £230 and within a week, I'm already finding brand-new deals for £200. Sooner or later, I wouldn't be surprised if these were at £180 or even a little lower.
The K551′s come in at £130, thus making it an incredibly small investment to make for much needed extra features added in the K545′s.
I personally would pay £230 for these and would find these an absolute steal at £180. They really do well and are excellent sounding headphones, despite them not fitting my musical tastes as well as my Denon AH-D2000′s I still feel the K545′s deserve a full-blown 10/10 rating!
Hope you enjoyed my review!
What can I say but 'WOW'. These headphones are amazing !!!
On opening the box i was a bit disappointed as they looked cheap and felt very light weight and did not look like £180 pounds worth of headphone ! . There was also no 'pouch' which was disappointing for this price range, and as they are aimed at the portable market and therefore likely to be put through the mill , i.e placed in office drawers or handbags and backpacks etc, when 'on the go' I thought this was mean of AKG but its not a deal breaker.
The cable is thin but being detachable would be easy to replace should the worse happen, but ok these are aimed at the 'portable market' so they needed to be light/portable so i unpacked them ready to give them a try.
If you have got this far reading my negative views you must be wondering 'why did she give them 5 * ?' ..... well all of the above was forgiven when i plugged these into my ipod using my headphone amp. OMG the sound is awesome ..... this is like 'chocolate' for my ears !!! It is like listening to all your music for the first time. The enjoyment is enhanced 10 fold and you hear notes and instruments on tracks you have listened to and know well that you have never heard before in superb audio HD for your ears.
I excitedly started whizzing through various tracks and genres on my ipod to see if my mind ( or should it be ears) was playing tricks on me. But no all of them sounded better..... stunning. This was magic !
I noticed that orchestral instruments that i'd never heard before came through enhancing each genre and I particularly liked hearing the deep rolling resonance of a timpani , drums or trombone came through on tracks as an instrument in its own right rather than having heard it in the 'back ground' before and all the instrument sections were enhanced. Its wonderful !
I'd heard audiophiles bang on about 'soundstage' on other headphone reviews, and didn't really know what they meant and I assumed it meant the placement of the instruments/vocalists within the headphones as you listen,but hadn't really come across it to the extent that these AKG 545's deliver, so if I am right in this assumption, the soundstage is awesome !
On one track something 'whizzed' from one ear to the other but not 'over my head' , but straight though my head to the other ear phone like a racing car just drove between my ears (yeah my husband would say there's nothing in between LOL ) but that aside this was mind blowing.
I then unplugged them and tried them directly with Youtube on my laptop .... the first few tracks i tried were uninspiring and i thought 'oh no these definitely need an amp to get the best out of them, but then I tried a few Vevo tracks and the audio quality was MUCH better, as obviously on Youtube you are governed by the quality of the music by the uploader.
That said, music still sounded better via my ipod/ and the headphone amp, and for those of you who have never thought of spending another £100 or so on a good headphone amp please reconsider. Yes it does mean more expense and more 'bulk' to carry around with you, but i guarantee your music will sound 30% better ... and i am not just talking volume here, its the quality/clarity a headphone amp gives you.
I own a Fiio E12 mont blanc (which i can also recommend) and I have been sooooooooooo spoilt by the sound quality I get on my ipod/phone using an amp that I can hardly bear to listen to music without it, and now with this combo using the AKG 545 its taken my enjoyment to another level again.
Overall I would say these are well worth the money, they are light and comfy and deliver awesome sound, but i do think they benefit from a headphone amp, but if you are spending this sort of money on a set of headphones, I guess you are serious about your music, so treat yourself to a decent headphone amp too (or borrow one or get one secondhand) , but be warned as once you have tried this delicious combination , you will enjoy your music soooooo much more that you will find it hard to take them off !
Well done AKG. I am now terrified to see what you bring out in the future incase they are an improvement and i want those too !!!