I have been saving for some reference headphones, but repairs to cars, roof and the fridge have blown that. So, to make up, I have bought the AKG K44s, the bottom of the range. I got them for £11 off eBay. Elsewhere they range from £19 to £25.
SOUND - I am listening to some jazz. It is clear, detailed and sounds really rather good. I wanted these headphones to sound terrible to justify paying hundreds on the K702s, but I can’t. The bass is deep and a bit muddy from the double bass and I cannot pick out the kick drum, which I can with the K702s. But it is still delightfully musical. The sax and piano midrange is clear and has a nice dynamic. It is bright and forward, which I like. The treble for single cymbal strikes is clear, but using the jazz brush ended drumstick the strikes become very tizzy and have no clarity.
Some one on Amazon gave these one star, saying they were the worst headphones that they had heard. I totally disagree. Switching to my tester tracks and Gomez, Whippin’ Piccadilly and all is super. Clarity is excellent but soundstage is non existent and there is no sense of the music moving around me. New Order, Regret really rocks along and the bass drive is very good. The tambourine is also very clear. I am getting goose bumps, which is how it should be.
The deep muddy bass is shown up with Massive Attack, Angel. It is too much and lacks clarity. The ‘meow’ sound at 42 seconds is there, but distantly.
From itunes as opposed to Spotify I tried Pink Floyd, Summer ‘68. The dynamic shifts as the track moves from one phase to another are not mind blowing. Instead the music is flattened out. Again clarity is there as I can hear the hiss in the background. But my foot is still tapping away. Radiohead, Sail to the Moon has more soundstage than anything else so far and very little distortion . I switched to Ash, Oh Yeah which is a terrible recording and it is flat and dull, or as my wife called it ‘too soft’.
I have always found that the better the headphone and the amp, the wider the sound stage is. I have so far only tried the K44s out of my XCANV8P. So the quality of the amp is showing these headphones can really sound good. At 32ohms and 115dbV they are sensitive and easy to drive. They come with a mini jack and ¼” jack adaptor.
Straight out of an ipod they don’t even need full volume. They is a distinct reduction in dynamics and it is as if there are now curtains hanging between me and the music compared to using them from the X-CANV8P.
Using the FiiO E5 amp the sound takes a massive dynamic lift. There is little difference with bass boost on or off, which is common with sensitive headphones. The bass is again deep and muddy and now it is too dominant. So bass boost goes off to try and take the edge away. But that is me and a dance music fan would find lots to like in that.
What is clear is that these headphones are sensitive to the amp. With the ipods own tiny low powered amp, they are dull. With the FiiO they are very dynamic, but if anything too much and are very in your face. With the high detail and musical X-CANV8P they are detailed and musical.
COMFORT - They sit nicely on your head, AKGs self adjusting design is superb. They are very light. The pads are nice and big and go all round the ear. The leatherette of the pads is not nice and makes for sweaty ears. They isolate well from outside sound and leak very little sound indeed. It is mainly the tizz that is so annoying that leaks. Everything is plastic, but they feel tough and would take being dropped a few times. The cable is fixed and not great. It is about 3 metres long.
OVERALL -I would rate these headphones as better than the Sennheiser HD201/202s which are also bottom of the range, over ear, closed backed. Their weaknesses are small. They also have no massive strengths, but are consistently good through the frequency range. Clarity, which is something evident in spades with the K702s is the best part.