Headphone Sessions 5/11/2011

In our latest Headphone Session, our Sales Team auditioned some AKG headphones recently the K830 BT ($249), the K840 KL Wireless ($249) and the K390 NC Black Mamba ($199). We also included the Koss KDE 250 ($249.99) dual driver earbuds that recently arrived in the office.acquired from their consumer division. This included four AKG models; the K272 HD ($349). [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Koss KDE 250"]Koss KDE 250[/caption]  

Koss KDE 250 ($199.99)

Let’s start with the Koss, since I know a review of these has been long awaited by some of you! To our knowledge, this is the only dual-driver earbud on the market. It’s a novel idea since a lot of earbuds tend to have a poor bass response. Like earpad headphones, a Bass Band is required! (See Headphone Sessions 4/20/2011 if you’re not familiar with the Bass Band!) Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to get these to fit correctly......actually we’re not sure we figured out what a “correct” fit is. To get decent sound, they need to sit quite deeply in the ear, which causes a lot of discomfort. The innovative fit system includes a ‘twist to fit’ technique with different earclip sizes and adjustable angle earpieces, but unfortunately none of this seemed to temper the hard plastic earpiece jamming into your ears! We’ve heard the term ‘No Pain, No Gain’, but never associated it with audio! (...Unless of course, we’re talking about the pain our wallet sometimes experiences for the gain of our ears... but we headphone geeks believe that is a much more worthy sacrifice!) After much fiddling and fussing, a decent fit can be achieved with aforementioned discomfort issues. We determined the mids and highs to be fairly detailed and natural sounding, but the bass was lacking definition and authority. While some might have a better experience with these earbuds, we can’t help but think that the Yuin PK2’s (although simpler in design and lacking the Koss Lifetime Warranty) deliver much better sound at a lower price, and are even comfortable to boot! [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="432" caption="AKG K390 NC Black Mamba"]AKG K390 NC Black Mamba[/caption]  

AKG K390 NC Black Mamba ($159)

The K390 is an active noise cancelling in-ear style headphone, designed for the frequent traveller or commuter who likes to travel light. With the built-in mic you can take your calls without removing or switching earpieces. There’s also a handy mute feature that allows you to hear ambient sounds without removing the earphones. The sound was decent with rich bass, but overall the mids and highs seemed a bit thin and artificial with the noise cancellation on. When we turned the noise cancellation off there was a definite increase in clarity with an added fullness to the mids. The noise-cancellation didn’t do much to block out voices in the office, but lower-pitch background hums certainly disappeared, only to reappear when hitting the mute button. One unanimous complaint concerned the length of cable between the earphones and the noise cancellation unit. It’s too short to clip to your belt or pant pocket, so it must be clipped to a shirt, preferably button-down, collared, or a shirt with pockets. We understand cable management is a concern for travel headphones, but another 10” of cable would be helpful. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="432" caption="AKG K840 KL"]AKG K840 KL[/caption]  

AKG K840 KL Wireless ($199)

Speaking of cable management, here’s one solution....no cables! The K840 KL offer a great way to be wireless with any source. The transmitter is small, easily fitting in a pocket with your iPod, giving you KLEER digital audio transmission on the go. Another great application would be at the gym. Really, with the K840, you can turn anything with a headphone jack into a wireless source. Keep in mind, if you’re looking for the best possible sound you may want to consider something besides wireless. We’ve heard some pretty good wireless systems, but no matter how good, there’s always some loss of sound quality. The K840 does a pretty good job, but to the trained ear there are some audible artifacts of the wireless transmission. Overall we feel the K840 is one of the most portable and versatile KLEER Wireless system we’ve come across. They provide a relatively balanced presentation, come with a cable so you can plug directly into a source, and have a handy USB charging cable as well as a wall charging adapter, making them a good value for those looking for a wireless headphone solution. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="432" caption="AKG K830 BT"]AKG K830 BT[/caption]  

AKG K830BT ($189)

Making a good sounding Bluetooth wireless headphone can be a challenge; often they tend to sound distorted and thin yet also muddled. So when we heard the K830 BT’s, we were pleasantly surprised. These earpad headphones manage to maintain good clarity, even when compared to much more expensive Bluetooth models, and even edging out the K840 KL’s. With the exception of active noise cancellation, the K830 has all the bells and whistles of the more expensive competitors, and it sounds better, all for less money. The K830 offers excellent control functions for your phone or iPod/iPad and doubles as a Bluetooth headset for making and taking phone calls. Their ease of use in all aspects including pairing to your phone or bluetooth capable device, controlling your music and volume and making phone calls, along with their comfort and durability, make the K830BT a no-brainer for anyone looking for a bluetooth headphone/headset. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="432" caption="AKG K272 HD"]AKG K272 HD[/caption]  

AKG K272 HD ($249.99)

Finally, from AKG’s consumer line comes the K272 HD, a full-size closed back headphone that definitely requires an amp to reach its potential. The aesthetics lend toward AKG’s signature “retro” feel found in many of their full-size cans, and seems to be pleasing to some but may not be for everyone. Looks aside, we all agreed they fit well and even more importantly, sound great. The upper mid and high frequencies are clear and detailed without getting too shiny. The low mids and upper bass are natural sounding, especially for a sealed headphone. The low bass is tight and detailed, but does lack a real authoritative punch. We compared the K272 HD directly against the K271 MK II and found the K271 slightly superior for its natural mid-range and spacious soundstage, as well as its detachable cable. For more information on any of the headphones discussed, or any headphone for that matter, visit www.headphone.com or call 1-800-828-8184, a headphone geek is standing by.

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