It’s normal to see a reference audio headset retail for hundreds of dollars, but AKG is bringing high-fidelity audio to the modern man with the AKG K371. Within just a few hours, I knew these would be some of my favorite headphones: they’re uniquely comfortable, reproduce accurate audio, and have ear cups that rotate up so you feel like a DJ at a moment’s notice. Without further delay, here’s why the AKG K371 is one of my favorite sub-$150 headsets.
Who should get the AKG K371?
- Audio engineers should consider the K371 for their neutral sound, portable design, and extreme comfort. The fit makes it easy to wear for hours at a time, which is necessary for those midnight editing sessions.
- Podcasters will be able to accurately mix their episodes thanks to the accurate midrange response reproduced by the 50mm dynamic drivers.
- Anyone with glasses knows how hard it is to find a comfortable pair of headphones. I’ve given up for the most part and instead use earbuds, but the K371 are some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn atop my plastic frames.
Using the AKG K371
This is one of AKG’s middle-tier professional headsets, but don’t let the reasonable price fool you: performance is great. Both ear cups can be rotated upward 180° for transport, meaning users can articulate either ear cup as needed to hear surrounding noise — a must-have feature for DJs and sound mixers alike.
A metal bracket extends from the headband and holsters an AKG-branded adjustment piece, which is unfortunately plastic. The K371 has proven sturdy nonetheless. I listened with the headphones on walks and tossed them into my book bag before any shutdowns were underway. The ear cups feature soft memory foam ear pads, which will be comfortable for both bespectacled and eagle-eyed listeners. The downside to this is that it can take a few tries to get a proper seal, especially for those with larger ears.
These are the headphones we bespectacled listeners have been waiting for.
Both ear cups feature a plastic, but refined finish and are differentiated only by the mini-XLR input on the left side. There’s a small, flat divot in the otherwise circular input to lock the cable into place. AKG provides three cables ranging in length and design: a 4-foot straight cable, 10-foot straight cable, and coiled cable along with a ¼” adapter — all of which terminate in a 3.5mm TRRS plug.
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Among those provisions is a drawstring bag lined in a soft material to prevent scuffing. Although it’s nice to have a storage pouch for the cables, it doesn’t provide much protection to the headset. Assuming the K371 is in the bag at the bottom of a backpack and you drop a textbook in the same pack, you may risk damaging the headphones or its internals.
Are the AKG K371 headphones portable?
For over-ear headphones, the AKG K371 are quite portable. They fold into a compact shape similar to the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x but are more lightweight and less cumbersome. They won’t compare to the portability of any true wireless earbuds or even on-ear headphones, but the K371 headphones afford better sound quality than the former and greater comfort than the latter.
Can I wear the AKG K371 with glasses?
Yes. The slow-retention foam is a pleasure and doesn’t place too much pressure on the temples. Pressure is evenly distributed across the adjustable headband and ear cups to prevent hot spots. Aside from a headset with velour ear pads, these are my favorite headphones to wear with glasses. Again, finding a proper seal on the first try is trickier, but I prefer that to having a migraine-inducing fit.
How do you connect the headphones?
These wired headphones only have one way to connect to a source: by wire.
In some senses, wired audio isn’t as convenient as Bluetooth playback, but the idea of plug-and-play wired headphones still holds its appeal for many. Plus, if you have a library of lossless FLAC audio files or subscribe to services like Amazon Music HD or Tidal, the wired AKG K371 will reproduce your songs at full resolution. This can’t be said for the AKG K371 BT which, like all other Bluetooth products, doesn’t have the bandwidth to relay lossless audio.
How do the AKG K371 sound?
AKG’s reference sound signature is extremely accurate through the 200Hz-1.5kHz range, which is where nearly all the fundamentals of your music fall. This is a generally great frequency response for a pair of 50mm dynamic drivers and will reproduce heavy metal, rap, and acoustic music with great accuracy.
The frequency response chart illustrates ever-so-slight sub-bass emphasis and mid-bass de-emphasis. While these abnormalities appear wonky, they work well together: you’re able to register unusually low notes that might otherwise escape your auditory perception while avoiding bass-to-midrange auditory masking. In other words, bass notes are heard clearly without degradation to instruments and vocals. The crests and valleys in the treble range (cyan) are strategic as well, and mitigate distracting resonances within the ear canal. We’ve observed similar frequency responses from various Sennheiser products, too.
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Isolation is merely “decent,” as the earpads aren’t very dense and clamping force is rather light. However the return on this shortcoming is uncommonly good comfort. It’s easy to keep these headphones on all day. However, you may hear some external noise, which could degrade sound quality unless you’re in a quiet place. This also means others may hear what you’re listening to or editing. Fortunately, the ear pads are removable, so if this really bothers you, pick up a pair of third-party ear pads.
Lows, mids, and highs
Listening to UPSAHL’s song Drugs via Tidal HiFi sounds great with the K371: bass notes are easily recognizable while her vocals remain clear during each verse. More impressive, vocals remain distinct during the din of the outro. Skip ahead to 2:30, UPSAHL echoes the word “drugs” an octave higher than her usual pitch. This is hard to discern with bass-heavy headsets like Beats but comes through surprisingly clearly with the K371 even when surrounded by synth noises, a kick drum, and her own lead vocals.
These headphones aren’t without their weaknesses, though, because clarity isn’t as pronounced as you’d expect from more affordable open-back headphones like the Grado SR80e. However, an open-back build can’t effectively be used on-the-go as these can. If you’re looking for pristine audio reproduction and don’t mind the limitations of open-back headphones, you may want to look into something like the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro, Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee, or Monoprice Monolith 565.
How do the AKG K371 compare to other headphones?
The AKG K371 hold up rather well against its main competitors, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x and Sennheiser HD 569/598 CS. Additionally, they make a compelling case against the longtime industry stalwart, the Sony MDR-V6 variants. That last bit is important, as being the upgrade pick to headphones that have long served as a workhorse for many creative industries is not something we take lightly here.
Audio-Technica’s headphones have a more industrial appearance and use circular, rather than oblong ear cups. Both headsets have 50mm dynamic drivers, yet the ATH-M50x have a much more consumer-friendly sound: bass and upper-midrange frequencies are amplified, rendering some bass notes twice as loud as certain midrange notes. Isolation is slightly better with the K371, but neither are stellar for blocking out the sounds of your daily commute. Unlike the AKG K371, the M50x rotate to lie flat against a surface but lack the ear cup articulation that lets you to feel like a DJ.
The AKG K371 headphones have one of the best frequency responses in this price range.
The Sennheiser 569 closed-back headphones have oval-shaped ear cups and a different style than the K371. The former appears slightly more mature and slightly less modern, but both remain attractive headsets. Again, you’re not going to find the same neutral-leaning sound with the HD 569 headphones compared to the AKG K371: bass notes are emphasized. The headphones aren’t very portable, because the ear cups don’t rotate or fold up toward the headband. They are, though, nearly as comfortable with glasses.
Again, emphasized bass is preferred by some and often cited as being more “engaging” or “exciting” than a reference sound. However, if you mean business, the AKG K371 is a better option than similarly priced alternatives.
Should you buy the AKG K371?
Yes, the AKG K371 headphones provide a fabulous bang for your buck. Anyone interested in high-fidelity audio should consider these. AKG proves you needn’t spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get high-quality, reference audio. Sure, there are even “flatter” responses available but, again, that requires a more forgiving budget and potentially more hardware like an amplifier. The AKG K371 aren’t perfect but, boy, are they close.