“What you have here is a rare example of headphones that are equally excellent across audio performance, features, design and build quality.” That’s what we said about the AKG Y50BTs back in 2015, the superb wireless on-ears that impressed just as much as its wired AKG Y50 counterpart.
Three years on and its successor, the AKG Y500, is positioned to up the game once more, if our first glimpse - and listen - at IFA 2018 is any indication.
Build and design
The new Y500s remain on-ear designs, with a cushioned, adjustable headphone band and memory foam ear cups that sit comfortably on the ears. The mix of metal and plastic makes the headphones feel sturdy yet lightweight, and the polished metal edges around the ear cups give the cans a touch of class.
Gone is the large-lettered branding on the brightly coloured ear cups; instead, the new Y500s come in shimmery metallic finishes that look incredibly appealing. We love the blue finish seen here, but you can also get them in green, pink and black.
The AKG logo is much smaller and subtler, too - we think it’s a better design than before.
You can also fold up the headphones flat, bundling it up small enough to fit into your bag or a large pocket.
The controls under each ear cup have been redesigned, too. The power switch has a small blue LED to indicate when the Y500s are switched on and Bluetooth-connected to your smartphone. Subtle beeps indicate when your headphones are paired.
There’s also a button for AKG’s "ambient aware" feature, a tech that makes you aware of your surroundings while keeping your headphones on, so you don’t get run over in traffic or miss that train delay announcement.
We tried this on AKG’s stand and a rush of noise – conversations, footsteps, chink of spoon on coffee mugs, music from other speakers – seeps in, slightly amplified than would be natural. We suspect simply pausing your music might be more effective, but it’s something we look forward to testing in the real world.
On the other ear cup you’ll find a small button for playing and pausing music (double-tapping it summons up the voice assistant on your smartphone) and a neat volume switch that you flick up or down. They feel responsive, and it takes mere seconds to get used to using these controls.
The headphones get charged via microUSB (a cable is supplied in the box) and will last a claimed 33 hours. That’s a big jump up from the previous Y50BT’s 20-hour lifespan.
Another cool feature is that the Y500s automatically pause music when you take your headphones off. Put them back on, and music starts playing again.
This also works even after you’ve switched the Y500s off and back on. As long as you’re still paired to your smartphone, your tunes will start playing when you put the headphones on without having to press play on your smartphone.
Even on a busy show floor environment, it’s clear the Y500s have AKG’s trademark energetic presentation. Songs like Dua Lipa’s IDGAF sound punchy, dynamically exciting and there seems to be plenty of detail alongside the upbeat rhythm.
The level of clarity and nuance is something we’ll have to test when we get a sample in for review, but the Y500s sure sound solid and confident. There’s a hint of that excellent balance that impressed us so much with the Y50BTs, too.
They grab your attention right from the start, making you bob along to whatever music you’re listening to.
It goes loud, too, although a tiny hardness will edge in if pushed too high, but that’s the norm for most headphones of this type (and we were admittedly trying to drown out the noisy IFA show surroundings).
Overall, they simply seem great fun to listen to and are well poised to be new favourites in their category.
We’re really impressed with the new AKG Y500s. The updated design and aesthetics are appealing, they have some clever new features and the sound quality seems to be just as good - if not better - than before. Price? A reported £129.
We can’t wait to get a proper sample in and put them through the paces of a full review very soon. Stay tuned…