Here at What Hi-Fi?, the arrival of a new pair of AKG Y-series headphones is usually a cause for celebration. The latest addition to the range, the AKG Y400, are closed-back on-ears, and while positive words about the range won’t come as a great surprise to those familiar with the line, will it be fives across the board for this model too?
The new Y400 are slightly smaller than the previous and rather splendid Y500s, but aside from that, things feel reassuringly familiar when we first handle AKG’s newest arrival. However, much has changed too.
There’s a 36mm driver in each earpiece here, which is smaller than the 40mm drivers in the previous model. The newer Y400's closed-back circular earcups are smaller too, and very much on-ear – they rest on, but do not entirely cover your shell-likes.
The Y400 earcups rotate to lie flat and fold up inside the headband for transport, making them even more portable than the older model. They are well-cushioned and, because the extension point is situated lower on the new, thinner headband, the clamping force on the Y400 isn’t too tight and is easy to adjust.
In terms of controls, it’s a familiar set-up, apart from a new USB-C charging port on the left earcup. This sits between the 3.5mm jack (there’s a supplied cable, complete with in-line mic) and play/pause button, which is below the useful volume slider. On the right earcup, there is a power switch and a dedicated Ambient Aware button.
If the Y500 felt demure compared to the funky Y50BT model they superseded, the black version of the Y400 headphones we have on review here is even subtler. There are few accents, just the small white branding on the earcups and a new brushed metal arc across the top of the headband.
The build is durable, light, comfortable, finished in cool metal and resoundingly classy. And if you prefer a splash of colour, the Y400s are available in shimmery pink, green, blue and goldish-yellow finishes.
AKG’s Ambient Aware feature is present again here, and it works well. When activated, a tone is issued and playback is subdued. External noise seeps into our ears, making us aware of our surroundings, such as dogs in the park and passing cars.
Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz
Max power 50mW
Impedance 32 ohms
Bluetooth version 5.0
Battery life 20 hours
The wearer-detection feature, which pauses playback when you remove the headphones from your ears, has been improved and is far more reliable on the Y400 than on older AKG models. This neat battery-saving perk can be switched off by long-pressing the Ambient Aware and play/pause buttons on the earcups simultaneously for five seconds, but we’re not sure why you’d want to.
Bluetooth has been updated to 5.0 status in the Y400 (rather than 4.2 in the Y500) and pairing is effortless and the wireless connection never falters during call-handling or while listening to music. The play/pause button on the left earcup can also be pressed twice to access Bixby or Siri voice assistants.
There’s no app support for the AKG Y400 and therefore no scope for EQ alterations. Active noise cancellation isn’t a feature either, but at this affordable price-point, we wouldn’t necessarily expect such costly extras.
One minor disappointment on the spec-sheet is the battery life, which at a claimed 20 hours, is down from the more impressive 33 hours of the Y500. Of course, this should still outlast even the longest journeys, and the good news is that juicing up from completely empty takes just two hours, rather than two and a half.
We start listening to the Y400 and immediately note that there’s much to like. Despite any reservations we may have regarding the smaller drivers and earcups, it’s an open, layered and zealous presentation. We listen to Bruce Springsteen’s My Hometown and the drums, woodwind and tambourine are pleasingly spacious and three-dimensional, timing nicely around the Boss’s textured and central vocal.
Switching to Viper Woman by Bitchin’ Hour, we are treated to the deft and precise handling of Leonie Wilson’s soulful high belt alongside Beth Chapell’s persistent thunder crack and rumbling stormcloud of drums. It’s an energetic and cohesive mix, with each musical passage given the room to be impactful.
We nod our heads throughout Eric Clapton’s Cocaine as Slowhand’s guitar is driven into our ears with determination and drive across the frequencies, and his lyrics come in centrally with detail and sensitivity. Switching to the Y500 for comparison, we hear marginally greater separation and an extra ounce of sonic detail from the newer model. Considering those Y500 headphones gained a five-star review, that’s no small feat.
We play Stormzy’s Vossi Bop to hear how the AKGs traverse its bass-heavy grime riffs. There’s impeccable timing throughout and the headphones deliver bass weight and power in spades. It's zealous to the point that some might prefer a slightly leaner listen, but in our eyes (and at this level) the Y400 get the balance just about right.
These Y400s represent a top budget wireless buy. They’re supremely comfortable and portable, well built, and have an energetic, expansive sound that sets a new standard at this level.
Despite a reduction in size from the company’s previous on-ears, the cheaper Y400 don’t represent a step down in terms of sound. If that 20 hours of battery life is acceptable, this is a hugely talented and thoroughly recommendable pair of on-ear headphones.
- Sound 5
- Comfort 5
- Build 5
Our round-up of the best headphones you can buy
Read our AKG Y500 Wireless review
Read our AKG Y50BT review