AKG K540 review

The stylish AKG K540 look nice but they lack openness, detail and dynamics Tested at £90

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

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


  • +

    Serious but stylish design

  • +

    semi-open design lends flexibility

  • +

    reasonably detailed


  • -

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

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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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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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