Pros: Open Stage, No Congestion at High Volumes, Quality Built, Reference Response Curve, Comfort
Cons: Artificial Treble (can be improved with burn in & DAC/amplifier), Earcups Maybe Too Large For Some
I got these headphones around the national holiday. These came out about 2 years after I had got my K701. I was first attracted by its classy design and colour. I thought I would never get another pair of AKG headphones since K701 has been my favorite all the time. I finally decided to purchase a pair due to the discounted price of $180 USD including shipping in my country; and most importantly, I needed a closed can(s) to enjoy music at night without disturbing others. In this review, I will skip all the con(s) about these headphones and straightly elaborate on the sound quality and cozy build structure of these headphones. The reason is that at this price point, there are really no con(s).
Design & Build Quality
The build quality and design is simple but sturdy, is black/grey but classy, is far from top notch but flawless. I believe the design is better than my K701 because K550 has more grainy metals to withstand any abuse. The headphones are consisting of 3 major parts – the ear-cups, the joint, and the headband padded with synthetic leather. The ear-cups are able to rotate from the joint (by a little), and the joint can also rotate from the headband for approximately 90 degrees. This clean and versatile design allows me to store the headphones in my hobo handbags. Nothing feels flimsy or sticking out which will cause a problem. The headband adjustment is locked by a click. The numbering system on the headband will allow you to adjust the headband length to your most desirable positions. This helps a lot because getting a good seal on this K550 may be tricky because of its size.
The leather on the ear-cups and the headband are so comfortable that I actually enjoy wearing them once in a while. Although I would prefer the alcantara material (like on the K701) for the hot summer, the seal and comfort is better with the leather or leather-like material.
To begin, I was feeling a little disappointed coming from K701 when I was listening to these cans for first few hours. After 60-100 hours of burning in, the bass opened up and the artificial treble (which seemed like plastic spark) smoothed out. As several master reviewers had mentioned, there seemed to be a very slight disjointness between the bass and sub-bass area (of course, they have heard headphones around $1K mark). However, in term of the fullness and tightness of the bass is on par with my K701. Master reviewers would obviously magnified the disadvantages of these headphones, but they should consider there are very few competitions at this price point with this kind of sound quality in a closed full-size headphones. The T5p is triple the price, the build quality on the SRH840 or 940 may not be as good, the M50X may have a smaller soundstage. Nothing is perfect in this world especially with closed headphones. It is easy to make an open headphone sounds good, but it is harder to tune closed headphones. The K550 produced a full and tight bass with good and not-too-forward mid(s), and a nice sparkle treble without any harshness. The vocals are accurate and shine on these headphones.
The overall sound quality is impressive on these closed headphones considering they were at $180 USD when I purchased them. For people who prefer a reference sound signature with price-to-value ratio in mind and an amazing soundstage in closed nicely built comfortable headphones, you will not be mistaken by this K550. Just remember to give it a little time to burn-in and find a good warm source (like my Audioquest Dragonfly) to match the lean signature of this headphone.