Best AKG Headphones – How to Choose Yours?
When someone asks on some forum or social media which headphones to buy, chances are someone else will suggest AKG. That makes sense. AKG (now owned by Harman) is one of those rare manufacturers that are equally respectable both in the consumer and in the professional audio industry. Are there any definitely bad among them? Probably they are all good in their own right, so the question is which are the best AKG headphones for certain requirements.
The company was established in Vienna, Austria, in 1947. It’s mostly famous for its microphones and headphones, though it also manufactures, for example, car acoustics and conference systems. But it’s hard to find a serious recording studio that doesn’t have an AKG mic in its booth. As for headphones, they are ubiquitous, found in homes and streets as well as in radio or recording studios.
The company has a long list of headphones models which sell nowadays. Here I’ll try to select eight AKG models that contain options from entry-level to studio-class. My favorites are the AKG Pro Audio K240, the best-balanced pair, but that doesn’t mean the others are bad. I hope you will find yours among these, no matter if you use it for playing music, mixing, DJing, or just listening.
Choosing the Best AKG Headphones – The Top Eight
Most of the models on this list are AKG wired headphones meant for audiophiles, producers, or recording studios. There is only one exception that also can work wirelessly. Of course, the company also makes tons of earbuds, streetwear models, and headsets equipped with mics. But, given the specifics of this site, I decided to focus on over-ear straight-up headphones. Here we go!
1. AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO: The Top Pick
- Professional studio headphones
This over-ear pair is the first to look at, first of all, due to its versatility. These are good enough to monitor live performances, enjoy hi-res recordings, and even do the basic mixing in the studio. The over-ear construction is as solid as can be, and the combination of black and gold is always in style. The original version of them appeared in 1975 (see it on Reddit), and the current one retains most of its features, including the look and the sound.
Calling this model “Studio” may be a bit of an exaggeration, though its sound is even, with no noticeable peaks or valleys. The 30 mm drivers are designed to support a high dynamic range, frequencies from 15 Hz to 25 kHz, making both low and loud sounds well heard. The semi-open back construction is great for studios or indoor use in general; in the street, people will hear the music you listen to, and you will hear the street noise. And forget about using it for recordings: the construction bleeds too much for that.
They are as versatile as can be in terms of connectivity, supporting both wireless and wired modes. The detachable 3 m cable comes with a 3.5 (1/8) connector and an adapter to 6.3 (1/4). (Later, I will use both standards interchangeably, given that AKG is a European company). Still, avoid losing the original cable: it connects to the cup with a Mini XLR connector.
In addition, they feel as fashionably 1980s as Stranger Things or The Weeknd, so I’ll understand if you want to use them in the street just to show off. But I recommend using them with your smartphone in the wireless mode, even if your phone has a 3.5 port, it may be inefficient with the 55 Ohm pair.
- Balanced detailed sound;
- Fantastic design;
- Impedance too high for phones;
- Not for recording, despite being “Studio”.
2. AKG Pro Audio K72 – Runner-Up
- Precisely balanced response provides reference-monitor accuracy
- Professional drivers 40mm drivers for extended 16Hz - 20kHz frequency response
Being about 30% cheaper than K240 Studio, these fresh ones (manufactured since 2017) don’t look that gorgeous, with black paired with gray. Yet K72 feels comfortable when on, with a lightweight headband and plastic over-ear cups. The most important thing is that being more affordable, this one ditches perks but neither the quality nor the comfort.
The real luxury hides inside. These headphones have even bigger 40-mm drivers that are just as efficient at showing the finest nuances of sound, and the closed-back construction provides perfect acoustic noise reduction. The range of 16 Hz to 20 kHz is even wider than most ears can hear. These ones are even more suitable for mixing or recording at your home studio, their isolation level is decent enough for a recording booth.
The cable is non-detachable, and this pair only supports wired mode. At 32 Ohms, it’s compatible with most players, including smartphones and tablets, so for gaming or enjoying the music in your room, these are even better. As for wearing in the street, they are not meant for it at all.
- Great sound quality;
- Comfortable headband and cups;
- Good acoustic isolation;
- Among the most affordable.
- Dull design.
3. AKG K 701 – The Premium Pick
- Revolutionary flat-wire voice
- Extremely accurate and detailed sound with excellent transient response
Metallic white outside, noble gray inside, leather and metal headband – everything looks premium about these headphones. AKG K 701 is dressed to impress. The feel of the foam cups is as soft as pleasant as the appearance.
In terms of sound design, they are planned as audiophile and studio at the same time, showing the slightest nuances of sound: a great stereo base (due to separate elements for both cups where most go with shared), wide dynamic range, well suited for listening to Hi-Res records and for mixing them at the studio. The treble is described as crystal, and the bass is powerful; as for the mids, they are precise.
The engineers came up with exclusive solutions, combining neodymium magnets, flat wire coil, and elaborate shape to make one of the most iconic AKG mixing headphones. The open-back construction also contributes, providing the lowest level of distortion. Obviously, they are designed for situations when you’re all in the music, not being disturbed or bothered about disturbing someone else. The impedance (62 Ohms) was also chosen with stationary sources in mind. Even the native connector is 1/4, hinting at using with studio or hi-end home equipment (though it comes with a 1/8 adapter, of course).
Last but not least: they even come with a soft foam cradle. These headphones are not made to hang in the booth or on the wall but to show off as the best AKG headphones around. Given their price well above $400, it’s logical.
- Fantastic sound;
- Both for producers and audiophiles;
- Impressive design;
- Incredibly comfortable;
- A cradle!
- Non-detachable cable;
- The priciest on the list.
4. AKG K52 – Great Value
- Professional-quality drivers for solid bass and clear highs Over-ear design and lightweight construction provide exceptional comfort for long sessions Closed-back design eliminates audio bleed and maintains privacy Single-sided cable for ease of use
- The AKG K52 over-ear, closed-back headphones provide the perfect combination of sound quality, comfort and durability
If you want to see typical AKG headphones, here they are. Despite their generic appearance, AKG K52 (just like Pro Audio K72) keeps the best inside. The design of cups is typical for AKG, with over-ear cups flat on the outside, the driver section sticking out, and the double flexible headband. The black color is almost undiluted, except for the logo and the model name.
The drivers are where the money went. They are professional class, the only compromise about design being the default 1/8 jack, more usable with home equipment, and, yes, smartphones and laptops. The impedance of 32 Ohms is optimal for this use case. The sound inside, though, is almost as detailed as that in Pro Audio K240, despite a smaller frequency range (your standard 18 Hz to 20 kHz).
As for the comfort level, they don’t feel as weightless as AKG K 701, but neither do they cause serious discomfort. They sat on my head just like… just like a pair of AKG headphones. A non-detachable cable for this price is forgivable.
- More than decent sound;
- High compatibility;
- Cheaper build;
- Basic design.
5. AKG K702 – The New School Studio
- Over-ear design for maximum wearing comfort for long work sessions
- Sophisticated open technology for spacious and airy sound without compromise
This pair back shares a lot with our premium pick K701. K702 has the same open-back construction, the same flat-wire voice coils, Varimotion diaphragms, and soft foam ear pads, which results in a quite precise sound. They are positioned as “reference studio headphones” since their introduction in 2005, and this is much true. I say “true” because the engineers tried to make the sound accurate and even. This pair needs getting used to; otherwise, you may notice that the bass is not as booming as you expected (even if your taste isn’t spoiled with Beats). And this is even with its frequency bandwidth from 10 Hz to 39.8 kHz!
The appearance, though, is way stricter, with dominating black and silver. But if you are not going to use them outside of your record booth, or if you prefer the content over the appearance, you’re likely to adore this pair. If you want AKG studio headphones for mixing or recording control, these are a very good solution, as well as for audiophilia hours.
Some elements are even improved – for example, the cable is now detachable, with the same Mini XLR connector at the cup side. As I’ve said, this type is not very common. Nevertheless, the detachable cable minimized the risk of damaging it.
- Balanced accurate sound;
- Wide frequency range;
- Great soundstage;
- Detachable cable;
- Affordable, given their class.
- Maybe too low bass and accentuated treble.
6. AKG K92 – The Booth Workhorse
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This combination of black and gold looks like a cheaper version of the Pro Audio K240. Being a decent pair in its own right, K92 is still not Pro Audio, and it shows even before you put them on. They are meant rather for home and amateur studios, which is highlighted by using a 1/8 default connector instead of 1/4.
The contents of the box clearly show what these headphones are for: the holder is meant for hanging them on a stand, and the extension cable is necessary for connecting them to a distant source. Ergo, these are meant for the recording booth or for the stage. That’s why they are closed-back: in the booth, isolation is crucial. And the earcups do their job perfectly, preventing any sound from bleeding out. For this purpose, a non-detachable cable is okay.
As for the sound, these provide quite an accurate playback, with a frequency range of 16 Hz to 22 kHz, but there is a strong emphasis on mids – great for voice recording sessions (but for mixing, I’d recommend something more accurate). Still, they are not catastrophically bad at it, so if you want to record and mix your tracks at home or on the road, these AKG noise-canceling headphones are a great budget choice.
- Good sound;
- Great isolation;
- Classic appearance;
- Not accurate enough for mixing.
7. AKG K240 Studio – Boxed
- Bundle Includes: AKG K 240 Studio Professional Semi-Open Stereo Headphones and Hard Shell Headphone Case
- Material: Molded hard body shell with molded zipper pull tabs
The version of our top pick that lacks the “Pro Audio” definition may seem something like K92. Indeed, they share much more with our top pick in terms of both design and sound. It means that K240 Studio is still a good option for studio use, as the name suggests.
Not only does it look like its Pro Audio version, in black and gold. It also has a detachable cable (I wanted to say “replaceable,” but the replacement is harder to find in any musical store). This pair also proudly boasts its 55 Ohms impedance right on the golden plate on the cup (indeed, it’s the same value as that for the Pro Audio model).
So, we can conclude the only significant difference, along with design tweaks, is the box. If you travel often or bring your headphones to the studio (where else would you need a semi-open pair outside your home?), a box is a welcome addition.
- Good design;
- Studio quality sound;
- Detachable cable;
- Reasonable price;
- Come with a hard bag.
- Almost the same as our top pick.
8. AKG N60NC – The Wireless Crow
- Compact, foldable design : Flat and foldable, easily slip them into your bag. Plus, you can take them anywhere, thanks to a compact carrying case.
- Active Noise Cancellation: Whether you’re listening to a book on your commute, catching some sleep on the plane or taking a call in a noisy café, you’ll hear only what you want.
The white crow on our list is purely a consumer model. It’s wireless: that’s already enough to expel it from the club formed by previous headphones. But AKG N60NC is not made for studio or home audiophilia: these are easy riders, traveler’s companions, maybe your two favorite allies for road-trippin’.
It makes no sense to compare AKG N60NC to others here. The sound quality is on par with more expensive rivals (if we take wireless on-ear headphones), and active noise canceling is among the best in the class. There is nothing to discover, and when compared to literally any others from the list, the sound of these headphones is just good, with traditionally raised bass, which is by no means a compliment. Yet it supports both AAC and AptX, unfolding the entire potential of your iPhone, Android, or whatever Bluetooth player. And yes, there is a mic.
The way they look, though, is not just decent like its sound: it’s fantastic, shining blue when on, a bit futuristic. They are foldable, with a case, and the battery lasts for about 30 hours (15 with ANC on). If it dies, you can connect it with a 3.5 cable (or not, if you have a recent smartphone). Not that the sound gets better, but it lets the music play.
- Great design;
- Good battery life;
- Easily foldable;
- Sturdily built;
- It’s the wireless AKG!
- Micro USB charger;
- The sound is just good.
Buyers’ Guide Within One Brand
Even after reading the AKG headphones review, you might wonder what suits your needs best. So, first, decide what are you going to do with your pair. Listen to the music in Hi-Res? Make music? Record voice or instruments? This defines the requirements, so there is no linear comparison. In short:
- For listening indoors. The first seven on our list are all great (though some are greater). None of them is mediocre, but you may prefer to pay the dearest and get the most premium one.
- For listening outdoors. The wireless AKG N60NC are the most comfortable, but any closed-back ones will do unless you find them too bulky to carry.
- For mixing. You’d rather go with AKG open-back headphones as the sound they provide is more accurate. But you can use other types for crap control.
- For recording. AKG closed-back headphones are a frequent and reasonable choice, so you will meet them in many recording boots. Why not in yours?
There are not too many examples of each type on the list. So choosing your perfect pair will be easy enough.
Brief History of AKG Brand
The company was established in Vienna, Austria, in 1947. AKG stands for “Akustische und Kino-Geräte Gesellschaft m.b.H”, and yes, even if you don’t speak German, you got the point. Originally, AKG manufactured cinema equipment, then it expanded and started making car and home accessories and elements that had at least anything to do with sound, from horns to electric doorbells.
The 1950s were the era of the TV, and the radio had been a thing for a long. That’s when AKG came with its legendary D12 cardioid microphone (see? They made D12 great before Eminem was born!), and then the remote-controlled C12. Then the company’s engineers (including its founders) invented lots of things that are widely used today – from wireless microphones to digital studio reverberators. The company developed medical equipment and underwater speakers and mics.
By the way, the first AKG headphones appeared in 1949, named K 120 Dyn. But the first modern-type ones, K 50, were made in 1959, and those were supra-aural, lightweight, and just beautiful (and as the 1960s as can be). Their successor, the K 58 model, is widely used, for example, by commentators on the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck (1964).
In 1969, AKG London is established – just as British rock music takes over the world. And in 1974, AKG presents its K 140, fantastically popular at the time. By the way, the wireless version of K 140 appeared almost immediately – long before Bluetooth! This wasn’t accepted by the market, but the next headphones model was. It was K 240, and working items made in the 1980s are still sold on eBay. That’s where our story bites its tail; the modernized version of K 240 is our top pick.
Why their headphones are so good? Advantages over other brands
The marketers may say whatever they want, but, for me, the greatest thing about AKG was that they managed to bring the professional class attitude into the consumer sector – and, at the same time, sell professional class products for democratic prices. As a result, AKG delivers the perfect balance between quality (in all the meanings) and availability.
As you see, I recommend their headphones to both musicians/producers and audiophiles. Are they better than Sennheiser or Audio-Technica? No, those are also great. But look at the price tags and then put the competing pairs on the difference you see will far exceed the one you hear.
And even after this, there are questions to address. Let’s go.
Are the AKG headphones good?
They are among the best in both the consumer and the professional market. As for the selection you’ve just read, these successfully rival much more expensive models by Sony, Sennheiser, or Beyerdynamic.
Is AKG owned by Harman?
Yes, it is. Now Harman Kardon is, indeed, owned by Samsung, so we may say that so is AKG. Yet it exists as a separate entity, with its own facilities, R&D, and fan base.
Is AKG German?
Nein. It was founded in Vienna in 1947, right after World War II, when Austria had already been reestablished as a sovereign state. Since then, AKG was acquired by Harman (the USA), Harman was bought by Samsung (South Korea), the HQ moved to California, and the facilities are all over the world (from China to Slovakia). So now it’s hard to say where this company resides, but definitely not in Germany. Hope you’re not upset and won’t try fixing it with an Anschluss.
Frankly speaking, I wanted to name this article “Austrian Audio Audition,” but Austrian Audio is a different brand created by former AKG employees. What an alliteration it would be!
Is AKG better than JBL?
In my favorite category (wired over-ear high-quality studio or audiophile headphones), JBL just doesn’t operate at all. JBL and AKG compete in other segments, like TWS, over-ear wireless headphones, or earbuds. In these segments, JBL offers a much wider choice and more attractive features, as AKG models are few, and they look too conservative for being fashionable accessories. As for the sound quality, AKG excels at it, but there is more to usability than that.
Choosing AKG is always wise. But as for exact models, there are options. Though none of them aged as well and stays as top as K 240 Studio, there are other picks, and you may consider one of them the headphones of your dream. As for me, AKG represents the perfect balance of professional and consumer qualities, plus very affordable for its class.
Have you ever had any experience with AKG headphones? (Joke: I know you have). So let’s speak about our favorite models, their pros and cons, and their alternatives in the comments!