Home / TVs & Audio / Headphones / AKG K550

AKG K550 review

Andrew Williams

By

Reviewed:

1 of 16

AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550
  • AKG K550

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Huge soundstage
  • Decent-looking

Cons

  • Non-removable cable
  • Cable too long for portable use
  • Slightly flat-sounding

Key Features

  • 50mm driver
  • 3.5 to 6.3MM adapter
  • 305g
  • 12-28,000Hz
  • Manufacturer: AKG
  • Review Price: £152.99

Headphones have become one of the greatest tech successes in recent years. Many more people are willing to splash out for proper headphones like the AKG K550, rather than cheapo pairs. However, AKG hasn’t traditionally been all that great at getting its name out to the masses.

It’s a shame because the K550 are fantastic headphones that give you the sound characteristics of an at-home pair with the portability benefits of a closed. If it wasn’t for the odd design decision or two, they’d be nigh-on perfect.

AKG K550 – Design and Features

Their closed-back design should make the AKG K550 headphones perfect for use out and about, but the sheer size of these cans tells a different story. They’re pretty funky-looking, with a two-tone black/grey look and brushed metal circles on the back of each earpiece, but these things are quite massive. They will dominate your head like a sort of headphone facehugger, demanding no small degree of confidence if you want to wear them on the tube.

AKG K550

The pay-off is that they’re pretty darn comfortable. To match the giant earcups, the AKG K550 use super-chunky leather-topped foam pads that do a fantastic job of buffering the mid-level pressure they exert on your head. The padding on the headband is much less luxurious, requiring a few minutes of bedding-in before feeling quite right, but after this they feel great.

AKG K550 8

The inside of each earcup is fabric rather than leather too, ensuring they don’t head up your ears too much.

Noise isolation is solid too, another argument for their use as an everyday pair of commuter cans. However, the AKG K550’s portable power is all spoilt a bit by the cable.

AKG K550 5

The AKG K550 use a non-removable rubber-topped cable. At this price, we’d ideally like to see a removable cable used. It’s not so much a durability issue here though, as the cable is studio-grade thick. It’s once again a portability thing.

At 3m long, the AKG K550 cable is far too long to be used conveniently on-the-go. This is a cable designed for use at home. Sure, they already look like non-portable headphones, but when one of the key benefits of a closed design is isolation and low sound leakage, this unnecessary limiting design choice is a shame. Making a cable longer is easy – plug in an extension. Making it shorter is not.

AKG K550 12

The problematic cable ends in a threaded 3.5mm jack, and you get a 6.3mm converter in the box. There’s no case or bag included, though, further supporting the idea that these aren’t really portable cans. When the frame uses rotating earcups and the frame is easily solid enough for outdoors use, it feels as though the AKG K550 is pumping out some mixed messages.

It may seem like we’re beginning to complain endlessly that these headphones aren’t really as portable as they should be, but it’s all because their sound is so good we don’t like leaving them at home.AKG K550 14

AKG K550 – Sound Quality

We’ve seen headphone makers spout endless nonsense about their products in the past, often including claims that just don’t ring true when you listen to the things. But, for once, we can’t do any better than the AKG K550’s maker. AKG says they meld “the noise-isolating qualities of closed-back headphones and the spacious, dimensional sound of an open-back design.”

Bang on the money.

The AKG K550 sound is wonderfully spaceous, exceptionally so for sensibly-priced closed headphones. A wide and open sound stage makes for a very engaging listening experience. It’s this that we don’t want to leave at home. AKG K550 13

This focus on creating an expansive sound also helps the AKG K550 side-step some of the potential problems of the tone they opt for. Next to highly-regarded AKG headphones like the Quincy Jones-branded AKG Q701, the K550 are significantly warmer, and easier-going. Often lauded for its highly critical, revealing treble, AKG has taken a more relaxed approach with the K550. They allow for a little more bass than their higher-end siblings.

As a result, many will find them more enjoyable, and certainly more relaxing. The treble trade-off is minor too, with solid treble extension and clarity. There is a little thickness to the sound, which comes with allowing a fuller mid-range, that makes them slightly less effective as critical headphones and less incisive than the higher-end open AKGs. But there’s nowhere near the sort of muddling you’d hear in a heavy-bass style headphone. And you’d pay significantly more for a set like that too.

AKG K550 15

However, where their presentation is wide, it’s also a little flat. They may deliver a decent bass punch, but they’re not the most exciting, dynamic-sounding headphones around. They do well with content that makes the use of its soundstage – movies, orchestral music, acoustic tracks and so on – and not so well with beat-based genres like electro and the more excitable dance sub-genres. This may make the AKG K550 sound like they’re made for old fogies – they’re not – but you need to make sure your sonic priorities are vaguely in-line with its ones.

AKG K550 – Value

At their RRP of £249.99, the AKG K550 represent solid value for money. For portable use, we’d still go for the Sennheiser Momentum, but they would hold their own in a scrap. Of course, these days The K550 don’t sell anywhere near their RRP. You can grab the AKG K550 for just £140, and at that price they are quite excellent.

Of course, some of the AKG K550’s problems don’t go away. The 3m cable is too long, and really a bit too thick, for on-the-go use, significantly limiting their versatility. However, their remarkable open sound is really worth experiencing. Unless you listen exclusively to hip-hop or harder dance music.

Verdict

The claim that the AKG K550 are closed headphones that sound like open ones is right on the money. If wonderfully open and wide sound is among your top priorities, you won’t find a better closed pair at the price for the job. We just wish they were more portable-friendly - a thick 3m cable is just the ticket while you’re at home, but will leave you with a pocket full of wire on the train.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 7
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Value 8

7doug

February 25, 2013, 12:09 pm

Cable length is a non-issue. The AKG K551 are same phones, but designed for use on the go - it has a shorter cable (1.2m) with in-line controls for ipod control and a carry pouch.

Peter Campbell

February 25, 2013, 10:43 pm

Had these for a coupla months.

Very comfortable for hours on end. I have a large head, and these fit great and deliver good toe-curling bass, Careful - because that would not be true if they were a more loose fit.Their wide pads allow tight yet comfy.

I use them at home, and wish the cable were 3' longer!

These certainly reveal detail very well. Symbols swish smoothly, balance is good. I find they do well with all my musical tastes. Adequate volume on any IPOD/Phone you might have, but I wouldn't say these are meant to be portable.

At under $200 CAD, I almost feel like I robbed these. They cause you to want to re-listen to all your old favorites. I auditioned several at near 2x price, these compare well.

maxx

March 23, 2013, 6:52 am

i have myself some of these headphones and they work and feel amazing even after a year of constant use

Gruffmeister

May 17, 2013, 2:06 pm

I'm slightly sceptical of the article writer dropping a whole star from the quality of these cans. Complaining at cable length and non-portability? According to AKG's own website they are for home use, not portable. So why not open design? Well like most peoples homes, I suspect there's a lot more noise at home than in a recording studio box where open design really works. It sounds like you are more interested in style and looks than the quality of the product?

I have a pair of these and there isn't a single thing out of place with them. Ideal for using in a noisy office environment (the long cable helping when your computer is under the desk) and absolutely fantastic when you want to close out the world, stick on an old vinyl and read a book. The flatness helps with the clarity, and the pick-up is out of this world for the price. I picked them up brand new from Amazon for £132!

MathH

May 24, 2013, 11:32 pm

Totally agree on the flat-sounding. I have found no mention of this elsewhere. I tested it vs. the Sennheiser HD 598 in a shop, and they're completely different. The Sennheiser has great soundstage, great depth, but it sounds dry and relatively lifeless. It depends on the kind of music, but it tends to be more in the background and less intense. I'm familiar with that (like my old, half-broken 595). The AKG on the other hand is the opposite. It sounds great, forward and intense. A very different experience. But boy, the soundstage is pure crap. I can't locate where the different parts are coming from and there is effectively no depth at all. It all seems to be in the same place, struggling to get the most attention. It also can get noisy quite easily. All in all nothing short of horrible, to be honest. In terms of soundstage and depth it sounds like some overpowered budget device. No comparison to the Sennheiser in that regard. This is a really frustrating set of alternatives, since I would really enjoy the new and different sound of the AKG with a more sensible, deep and transparent soundstage.

Jazzeroo

September 21, 2013, 4:24 pm

I find that the cable issue is not that drastic as to impede or diminish the great sound and presentation that these headphones deliver. Very well made considering it is Chinese as some people believe all things made in China are of less quality. Quality control has seen this model to be of great finish and engineering.
The sound is not what you would equate as inferior just because it was made in China and in fact quite the opposite. It is an AKG after all and it sounds similar to the 701/702 but better all around. The bass is tight and has a presence that is missing in the 702s and with a bit more depth as well. The incessant treble that is the 702 seems rolled off a tad making for a more natural sounding balance between the lows, the mids and the highs. There are some obvious peaks in the mid to high but I don't mind them as they bring a lot more precision in the male and female vocals. Cymbals are as crisp and sharp as always and the reverbs linger on for longer as it tries to impart depth and width.

No more unsure or confused presentation with these headphones. If it was well recorded, you would hear it in all its sonic glory. Easy to drive at 32ohms, but does sound much better amped to my ears. Yes, it is too big to be a portable if portable means headphones you will wear walking or riding a train but it would suffice if you really want your great sound to go with you. Not so good on planes either as it doesn't isolate as well as an in-ear even if it claims to be a closed type.
It has leaks so be careful what the others might hear.

No more of the veiled sound, no more grainy highs associated with the other high end brands, just a very, very good headphone worthy of its reputation and price.

Sneakerman

November 13, 2013, 6:52 am

100% spot on regarding the 598 and the K550. Just wondering what Cans you have settled with? Would love something like the 598 but with a bit of warmth but can't seem to find anything.

Mel

December 19, 2013, 1:33 am

Correct, 7doug. I have the K551 and am very happy with them. I do not go out with them, I use them with my laptop or ipod and Fiio E17 portable amp. set at 6 gain. With my old ipod and my cheap computer the K551's sound quality becomes apparent at full volume not lower. A benefit of the E17 is that I can slightly fine tune the treble and bass of the headphone and the instruments become less muddled. I tried plugging these into my old amplifier's 1/4" jack and I got an annoying humming keeping me from experiencing them fully.

jdwii

December 27, 2015, 12:49 am

Slightly flat-sounding

as a con? Lol that's whats wrong with people now a days they like fake freaking sound. Go buy beats or bose or something then

sergio

April 20, 2016, 7:03 pm

Ragazzi qualità suono e 9 !!! a me interessa il suono ok. Boys sound quality and 9 !!! I'm interested in the sound ok.

comments powered by Disqus