The AKG Y50 are low-cost portable headphones, offering a cheaper alternative to the Beats Solo 2.
They’re on-ear, bold in design and have a slightly bassy sound that puts that extra bit of energy into your music. However, in usual AKG fashion, they keep enough of an eye on balance to keep audio obsessives happy. A bassy mess they are not.
Available for as little as £49, but generally seen around the £69 mark, the AKG Y50 are affordable wonders we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. It’s not often we see budget headphones get this much this right.
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The AKG Y50 are on-ear headphones. These are pretty much universally portable pairs that are usually a bit easier to get away with style-wise than giant full-size sets.
AKG has made some of our favourite on-ear headphones in the past, like the bargain-tastic AKG K451, but the Y50 see the company having a crack at a whole new design. Teeny-tiny earpieces have been switched with much bigger ones. AKG is having a go at a much louder-looking headphone.
And boy, are they eye-catching. The glossy aluminum caps on the ear cups feature a huge AKG logo, so big in fact that parts of it don’t even fit on the cups.
It should look silly, it should look over the top. But somehow the AKG Y50 look just about right. They are confident enough to pull off their kind of brashness with charm.
If you’re repelled by it, AKG also makes an all-black version that’s a lot less like a TV prop designed for eye-catching product placement. Those who like the loud look can get the Y50 in yellow, red or teal.
There is more than a hint of adolescent energy to the AKG Y50, but that doesn’t meant the design hasn’t been carefully considered. Take the headband, for instance: towards the top of its arc it flattens out instead of continuing its natural curve in order to stick closer to your head. The arms that connect the ear cups to the headband are also more sophisticated-looking than those of the older K-series AKG sets too.
This is effectively AKG injecting a bit more style into its classic portable headphones. And the best bit is that they haven’t gained any cost in the transition. They retail for £90, but a cursory search will find them on sale for £49-69. Rip-off prices are pretty much alien to this brand.
The AKG Y50 fit is great too. They use large, deep (synthetic) leather-topped pads that will instantly fit to just about any head thanks to cups that pivot in two directions.
The only potential we encountered is that we needed to pretty-much fully extend the headband. If you have a truly gigantic head, you may have a little trouble.
Other than that, they are commendably comfortable, especially for an on-ear pair: this kind of headphone is the most prone to comfort issues. Mid-firm headband tension means the AKG Y50 have enough grip for joggers, but the pads have a soft-enough feel to avoid feeling like your head is being gripped. As with most on-ear pairs that use anything but a light grip, though, they’re not perfect for glasses-wearers. And if you're going to be wearing a set for more than a few hours at a time, consider a full-size pair instead – while comfy they do naturally put some pressure on your ear cartilage.
Noise isolation is remarkably good too. The AKG Y50 appear to be non-ported, with the only deliberate gap between the driver and the outside world being, well, the bit where your ear goes.
These are excellent headphones for banishing the noise of passing cars and roaring bus engines (granted, those new-fangled electric buses are pretty quiet anyway). They also fold up for portability.
In the spirit easy, practical inclusiveness, the AKG Y50 have a single-button remote that’s part of a cable with a standard 2.5mm jack on the end that should be easy to replace if something nasty happens to it.
There’s nothing too flashy about the Y50 outside of their provocative look – no wireless, no noise cancelling – and the largely plastic construction isn’t going to wow anyone. But from a pure practical standpoint they’re just about perfect.
AKG has also put a lot of thought into the sound of the Y50. While AKG certainly makes better headphones, this is gunning to be the best stylish at the price. And you know what? We think it might just have done it.
The AKG Y50 are similar to the Beats Solo 2 in terms of what they’re out to with sound. They’re not too hung up on sounding entirely accurate, and happily take on a little extra bass because it’s what most people are after these days. Still, the same was true of the old AKG K451 and they’re a long-standing budget favourite.
The bass is punchy and fairly taut, avoiding the sort of fug you get with pairs that try to inject big bass, but don’t really know how to do so musically. And it’s not enough to upset the sense of tonal balance – they’re fun, not fug-ly. Still, if you’re part of the anti-bass brigade, you might not like the bass emphasis going on here: as it to be expected of an entry-level set, its bass integration is not perfect.
Treble is fairly detailed and articulate but smooth, offering sound that while pretty satisfying is also very easy on the ear. On-ear headphones are generally not the best for all-day listening, but in the AKG Y50’s case at least, that’s not down to the sound.
The soundstage is also quite different to the portable AKG sets of the past. It’s a lot wider, where the AKG K451 are much more forward, making it sound as though the music is a lot closer to your ears.
They’re not analytical, but they are enjoyable.
We think these changes are down to AKG’s attempt to create something a bit closer to the very popular Beats Solo.
That the AKG Y50 can be compared directly to the Beats Solo 2 is no bad thing – while reviled by some, we thought the new-gen Solos weren’t too shabby, and they cost almost three times as much as the Y50.
The AKG Y50 are less-aggressive-sounding headphones, with a smoother, more natural treble tone and less compressed-sounding mid-range. However, the Beats Solo 2 sound has a bit more energy and is even wider, offering a soundstage unusually large for an on-ear headphone.
But is it worth £100 extra? Absolutely not. The AKG Y50 destroy the Beats Solo 2 on value.
The only people we can imagine not getting on with the AKG Y50 are those who detest on-ear headphones and those who can’t stand any artificial bass emphasis.
Other than that they have everything you could ask of a portable set: good isolation, decent comfort and style that runs from demure to bold, depending on the colour you pick.
If you want to go even cheaper, the AKG K451 are £20 cheaper, although we rate the Y50’s sound a little more highly, as well as their comfort. Similarly, if you can spend more, the Audio Technica ATH-M50x’s bass integration is a little more subtle. But bang on the price these are among the very best on-ear headphones you can get.
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Striking portable headphones for those who like their headphones with a bit of extra bass bounce.