The use of good-quality headphones by ordinary folk has exploded in the last few years. These days it’s common see a trendy young thing wearing several hundred pounds’ worth of giant headphone on the train. The AKG K451 offers an altogether more sensible option. They’re not huge, they don’t cost the earth. And, hey, they sound good too – especially if you’re after a good time rather than extreme accuracy.
The AKG K451 are £50-odd on-ear headphones. They’re the most portable type of headphone that doesn’t jam into your ear canal. These are particularly portable in their class too.
Their earcups barely extend beyond your earlobes, they fold up for easier stowing-away and they feature a 3-button remote control for Apple devices. If you think that people look a little ridiculous wearing head-dominating over-ears cans when on the train, the AKG K451 are the sort of headphones you’re after.
They’re good-looking headphones, too. They borrow the design we saw back in 2011 in the AKG Q460, but this time they look much more tasteful. Black and silver rather than lime green, and decked-out with a design of concentric circles that sit on the back of each earcup, we can’t imagine anyone would be embarrassed to wear these headphones.
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The fit of the AKG K451 is likely to put off more people, but that’s as much an issue with this type of headphone as it is this pair in particular. On-ear headphones rest directly on the cartilage of your ears. This is sensitive and prone to irritation, so pairs with anything less than the lightest fit can be problematic.
The AKG K451 use chunky, soft, protein leather-topped foam pads that are well above average in terms of quality and comfort. The cups rotate freely too, making them fit to your head automatically once you’ve ratcheted the headband to fit your bonce.
However, the AKG K451 headphones use a decent amount of headband tension to ensure you can take them out for a jog without them falling into the gutter. As such, they never “disappear” on your head and those prone to ear irritation should probably steer clear. They’re not quite as comfy as the Philips CitiScape Downtown, for example. This is more of a design decision than a design mistake, though.
Like most on-ear pairs, the AKG K451 provide reasonable but not remarkable noise isolation. We tried them on the train and they performed just fine, but they’ll struggle a little against the more severe roar of the London Tube system.
Unlike most headphones at the price, the AKG K451 use a handy single-sided removable cable system, and two cables come bundled – along with a great semi-rigid carry case. One cable has a 3-button remote for iPhones and iPods, and a mic for hands-free calls, the other does not. Rather than using a simple 3.5mm cable, they use a twist-to-release locking mechanism.
It helps secure the cable, but also means the cable housing extends quite a way out of the earcups. It’s an annoyance for wearers of big scarves or high-neck coats, but just about no-one else. In summary – have funny ears or appreciate neck-based couture? The AKG K451 may not be for you. Everyone else – carry on reading.
Let’s start with the good bits. The AKG K451 headphones are great fun. They have full, powerful and bouncy bass response that makes them sound more vibrant than the rival Sennheiser HD238. Chunky bass also helps these headphones cope with ambient noise – delicate and light sound signatures tend to get ruined more easily.
This powerful sound is particularly adept at making electronic music enjoyable. Although not perfect, bass control is solid enough to make synth drum beats sound punchy, rather than bloated. Bass depth is good too at the price.
Although aiming at a similar bassy target as the Monster Beats Solo HD, the AKG K451 avoid the uninspiring “wall of sound” effect that we disliked so much in those ultra-popular headphones. At around half the price, these AKGs blow the beats out of the water for value in our opinion.
There are a few quibbles to address, though. Although treble doesn’t seem veiled and can spar with the bassy bottom-end happily enough, there is a bit of roll-off at the top end of the frequency spectrum. This roll-off limits how sparkly the AKG K451 sound, although it also cuts out almost all sibilance. We didn’t find these headphones tiring at all.
Unsurprising at the price, there’s a slight price to pay for the bouncy exuberance of the AKG K451. The bass does extend a little above its territory, reducing separation of vocals in particular. Separation and sound stage are both unremarkable, but this should only really put off those looking for a critical headphone.
To get a similarly powerful signature with a higher fidelity sound, you’ll have to pay a good deal more. The pair that springs to mind is the Sennheiser Momentum – immeasurably lovely (well, we gave 'em 9/10) but also £260.
There are some groups of people that should avoid the AKG K451, but they offer great sound at a fairly easy-to-stomach price. Versatile, well-made and rearing to dish out good sonic times, they are among the best affordable on-ear headphones. Especially if you like your bass with a bit of clout to it.
The AKG K451 are good-looking, good-sounding on-ear headphones that are perfect for a work commute. With powerful bass, they’ll liven up a dreary morning with ease. They’re not the last word in audio quality if you’re a bonafide audio snob, but they outclass many more expensive style headphones and are more discreet than an over-ear pair.