What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 4 Oct 2011, 3:30pm

AKG K540

Tested at £90

We like them, but dedicated portable or dedicated hi-fi cans will get you better sound

Write your own review


  • Serious but stylish design
  • semi-open design lends flexibility
  • reasonably detailed


  • They lack the detail and openness of the best headphones at this price

We rather liked these AKGs the moment we saw them. That concentric arrangement on the ear cups is a stylish touch that means you’ll be confident wearing them out of the house, but they’ve balanced that with some nice traditional flourishes, too.

The semi-open design leaks very little, so if you did want to wear them out and about you’re unlikely to upset anyone.

However, the astonishingly lengthy (3m) lead indicates that these are first and foremost for use with a hi-fi at home, and there’s a 6.3mm adapter in the box for just that.

A halfway house
If the design seems like a halfway house between open and closed, the sound does, too, and unfortunately not in a good way.

Compared with hi-fi cans like the Grado SR80is the K540s lack openness, detail and dynamics, and next to a portable pair such as the Audio-Technica ATH-ES55s they lack attack, crispness and bass weight.

They’re also a tad harsh at the top end.

It’s a shame, because we like the design, and they fit superbly, too. Aside from that bit of brightness they’re also pretty tonally even and detailed in their own right.

But, there’s no getting around it: the K540s seem to try and cater for all tastes, but they don’t entirely satisfy any.

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