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Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › Over-Ear › AKG K 550

AKG K 550


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.


Pros: Looks, Build Quality, Decent tonality and fairly flat FR from midrange down to bass, no treble emphasis, decent soundstage for a closed headphone

Cons: Serious peak and resonance in one spot in the upper mids ruins an otherwise decent headphone


First Impression


When I first listened to these headphones, my initial two thoughts in this order were:

1. Wow these sound pretty fast and also fairly even

- 15 seconds later -

2. Wow something is wrong with the upper mids



who cares


Build Quality/Aesthetics

These headphones feel very well built.  I can't speak to their longevity or durability, but they are nice to hold, feel sturdy, the movements are tensioned well and feel solid, there's no creaking of cheap plastic.  The finish feels durable and well made.  One of the better headphones out there IMO for it's apparent build quality and finish. 


They look very nice when sitting on your desk, and in pictures.  A good design, but they are one of those headphones whose looks don't entirely translate to looking good when worn.  They have all the right shapes and dimensions relative to each of the parts, but the whole thing is just too big to look very good.  For their size, I'd say they don't look too bad as they are slim, so they don't stick out horizontally very much and give you the alien mind probe look that grados and many closed headphones do.  The headband is slim too since it comes together at the top of the cups, so it doesn't have that gigantic and unnatractive arc that the older AKG's have like the K240.  The headband hugs the sides of your head well.  Still, the cups are huge even on my big noggin.



Very good except that the earpads just aren't thick/deep enough.  Huge design flaw IMO because everything else was done very well for an extremely comfortable headphone.  The cups swivel in a really nice way since they have a good amount of friction in the movement, so you can place them at the right angle for your head, and they stay there.  Headband is comfy and is the right shape.  But the earpads aren't thick enough to keep the grill over the drivers from hitting your ears.  With such huge, soft earpads this is a pretty big fail IMO.  I tried putting the foam donut shaped inserts that Hifiman has in their earpads into the K550 earpads, increasing the thickness, and it had no effect on the sound and made them supremely comfortable by simply increasing pad thickness.  So as long as you don't have huge ears they should be fine.  Or if you don't mind a little pressure from the grills.  it doesn't hurt too bad on my big ears, but it just would have been so easy to avoid this situation.  I get the feeling they didn't do much real world testing on these and got carried away with computer modeling. 





They overall have a flat, balanced sound from bass to midrange with good tonality, and with a treble presence that is in balance with that part of the spectrum, which is very rare for headphones.  But there is a serious problem spot in the upper mids that ruins this headphone.  A resonant peak in a small part of the upper mids.  I would describe their overall sound as a slight rainbow shape FR, though leaning upwards towards the upper mids for enhanced sense of clarity.  They also can sound kind of fast for a closed dynamic.  Not ortho or stat fast by any means, and not Grado fast, but maybe 6/10 for speed.  Not bad. 



Good not great.  It extends down plenty low, it seems flat, there's no apparent midbass hump, bass does not bleed into the midrange or vocals in the slightest but is also well integrated with the midrange.  There's no "bass + mids"  or subwoofer effect where the midrange and bass feel separated by gaps in the spectrum.  They have a cohesive transition from bass to mids, likely from a fairly flat FR.  But bass is a bit low in quantity despite what the FR measurements suggest.  The bass is in the background on these phones, with emphasis on the midrange.  Not for bassheads at all.  Bass is not bad quality, but it sounds kind of dry and a bit soft, whereas better headphones have more definition and dynamics and detail in the bass.  Not bothersome, especially since it's in the background.  I'd describe the bass as being just enough to provide a foundation and not sound too lite, but too low to sound totally neutral- it keeps your attention on the midrange.  It gets out of the way so to speak, for better or worse.



I'd say the treble on these is very similar to the bass.  Good not great.  There's no emphasis in the cymbal range as far as I can tell.  If anything it sounds a bit recessed in the upper treble.  Nothing sticks out at you here or is glaringly bad.  But the treble is not that clean or precise sounding.  It is a bit rough/textured or papery sounding.  Like the bass, I'd say it's a backdrop for the mids.  Not a treblehead headphone either.  Yet despite this lack of apparent brightness, these phones have a strong sense of clarity about them.  I think this is what people like in this phone.  They don't sound dull or rolled off or warm at all.  Likely because of the slight lowering of bass volume, along with the emphasis in the upper midrange, the "clarity" range in the FR.



Here's the problem.  Both the bass and treble on these are both presented as a backdrop for the midrange but there's a serious problem in this area, so these phones wind up failling short for bassheads, and treble heads, and then have issues in the midrange.  First the good part.


The heart of the midrange and the lower midrange is done pretty well.  Vocals have both the proper richness for a male voice like Tom Waits or Chis Isaak, which is surprisingly rare- they don't make vocals sound thin despite the lack of bass emphasis.  They also don't sound overly rich at all.  Chris Isaak's voice sounds very good.  Vocals also give the proper air and breadth to female vocals like Emmylou Harris or the Audiophile favorite Allision Krauss.  But sometimes vocals reach up into the problem spot and sound off. 


Upper Midrange Issues
There is a spot in the upper midrange that has a pretty bothersome resonant peak.  I kept wanting to call it "glare".  The upper midrange glare isn't the most peircing or painful I've heard in a headphone but it is very bothersome and might be described as severely "jarring".  It doesn't seem to cause me to reach for the volume knob as feverishly as some phones have, but it does keep me from turning them up and leaves me in a state of fear wondering when something is going to hit this problematic range and if it is going to hurt, since it seems to be right on the threshold.  Any instrument in that range sticks out way too loud, and looses proper tonality as the sound in that range gets mangled by resonance and takes on a plastic tonality. You can clearly hear the coloration being added to what should be the original signal.  This is partly because it's such a specific problem spot.  You can sometimes hear an instrument or voice go up in the range and suddenly jab at you by suddenly increasing in volume while taking on this plasticky resonant glare.  The decency of the lower part of the spectrum gives it a "surprise attack" quality which is what generates the fear and hesitancy when listening.  If there was an instrument that existed only in this range, I am doubtful you would be able to hear what instrument it was.  Some recordings play well with this problem spot and it's not grossly apparent because of the frequencies being excited by that recording and the particular balance of the recording (if the recording has a peak in that spot too, it's clearly going to be worse).  But even on these recordings, this spot gives the whole spectrum a cheap plastic headphone feel kind of layed over the sound, as if you are listening to some very good throw away headphones.  I kept thinking of them as the best airline headphones ever.  Much better extension, tonality, more flat, but still plastick-y. 



Overall good size for a closed headpone, has a spaciousness about it, but there's something strange about it as well.  It's almost like there are 2 soundstages happening at once, the lower part of the spectrum sounds more spacious to me than the upper mids/treble, which sounds more constricted.  This gives them a lack of coherency, or a kind of bad crossover effect, where the sound is a bit disjointed.  I think this is because the resonance artifact in the upper mids destroys soundstage by getting in the way of the "trick" the headphones are playing on your perception.  Soundstage is also destroyed by a "driver dildo" that was installed on the back of the driver creating a tiny chamber behind the driver rather than the comparatively larger size of the earcup.  I'm guessing it was placed there in an ill conceived attempt to control the bass, but I have modded a pair of these by removing this dongle, and correctly damping the cups, and the soundstage becomes more coherent. 



Good looking, sturdy closed headphone that is fairly comfortable and has a mostly well balanced, even sound except for a very problematic part of the upper mids that sticks out sorely and ruins them. However, this part may not bother everyone.  If it doesn't bother you ie if you're not sensitive to resonance or FR irregularities, and you are looking for a well balanced headphone erring on the side of being a bit basslite for the sake of clarity, and you want good soundstage these may be a good choice for you.  If you are not bothered by Grados you may not be bothered by this resonant peak.  however, Grados have much more natural tonality, for example vocals sound more life like.  I recently had an MS1 here and despite their colored signature they sound better than the K550 in every way except may soundstage width.  There's no plastic tonality in the MS1's signature. 


Here is a picture of the inside of the K550's cups.  The lack of damping here contributes to the resonant peak, but after spending time with my modded pair which has damped cups, I have found that it is also being caused by the driver itself.  Damping the cups helps, but doesn't fix the problem.  The small rubber thing in the middle of the light gray circle around the driver, is the "driver condom".  This seals around the driver and makes a small enclosure size behind it.  The light gray area are vents, though they seem to be closed off with solid plastic.


AKG K550 inside the earcups- stock. The small rubber thing in the middle of the light gray area around the driver, is the "driver dildo". The light gray area are vents, though they seem to be closed off with solid plastic.


Pros: Excellent bass extension & mid-range clarity. Smooth & grain-free treble. Spacious soundstage.

Cons: Treble rolls off a bit early. Lower-treble a bit too forward. Mid-range and bass could both use some additional body. Sound imaging a bit indistinct.

Comparison Review: ATH-A900X, AKG K550 


This is the third major update to this review. I have now spent two years with these headphones and am intimately familiar with their sonic qualities (no more "I think/I feel" in my conclusions). I cleaned up the review significantly and trimmed off the fat. The review now focuses on just the ATH-A900X and the K550, and refers to the A9X and K553 in brief comparisons only (I have written separate reviews for those cans).


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Packaging & Presentation 


Audio-Technica ATH-A900X: The A900X comes packed in a simple cardboard box with a plastic holder. It's not distasteful but not particularly elegant either. I personally find it a bit cheap-feeling. One might argue that packaging is the least important aspect, but considering $200+ is significantly more than how much the average consumer would spend on headphones, I feel a bit more of a luxurious treatment could really help.

AKG K550: The K550 is packaged in a very hefty and sturdy cardboard box. The holder, though plastic, is covered in soft black velvet. The whole package feels like a expensive piece of jewelry or a work of art - and given the K550's design direction, one shouldn't be surprised: This headphone is an artistic statement. I personally think AKG did a much better job here.


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Materials & Craftsmanship 


Audio-Technica ATH-A900X

  • The A900X is a good-looking pair of headphones. It doesn't have the "flash" of the A9X, but it definitely looks classier than the A900 that preceded it. Comfort level is very good and I in fact prefer it over the K550 in this department - the angled drivers on the AT do not press against my ears, unlike on the K550, and clamping force is more adequate in my opinion.
  • Construction appears to be solid and durable. Nothing felt loose or flimsy, and the plastic bits seem to be high quality with no rough seams.
  • One particular thing another reviewer complained about was the "poor quality" of the wings on the A900X. I looked into this issue, and did not personally find this to be true (relative to previous models). Below are my observations:
    • On the old model A9X/7X/5X, the wings only pivot in one direction (let's call it the Y-axis), which is up and down.
    • On the A900, AT implemented the "3D Wings" which pivot in two directions (X- and Y-). The way they achieved this is by making the wings themselves into a 2-piece design - there's an "outer rim" that pivots around the Y-axis (like the old wings), and an "inner piece" that pivots back and forth (X-axis).  This is actually a fairly intricate design and I imagine, harder to manufacture.
    • On the A900X, AT simplified the "3D Wings" to ease manufacturing process while still retain pivots in both directions. The wings themselves are now back to a 1-piece design and pivots up and down (like the old wings on A9X), but the T-shaped joint where the wings are clipped onto the arms now pivots back and forth (in the older models, this joint is fixed). The joint on the new system makes the wings feel loose, giving the appearance of flimsiness, but having owned this headphone for two years I can attest that the construction quality on the wings are solid.
  • Material quality on the A900X is decent but not great. It's a step up from the A900 (which had the cheapest pleather possible and several plastic bits just look like sub-$100 headphones), but it's not at the same level as its older cousin, the A9X (which had supple protein leather earpads and wings). The earpads on the A900X is a durable-looking pleather that feels a bit on the hard side, and the wings remain fabric-covered like on thd A900.
  • One nitpick: The stereo plug on the A900X is the exact same one AT has been using since the mid-90's (starting with the old ATH-AX series). It might have looked ok in the 90's, but looks a bit gaudy by today's more understated aesthetics.





AKG K550

  • I consider the K550 one of the most beautiful and tastefully designed product (not just headphones) I've seen. The construction, materials, and appearance are all superb. The earpads and headband are of very high-quality and supple protein leather. The headband markings are beautifully etched on rather than painted. Even the stereo plus is meticulously designed to look like a luxury item.
  • Comfort level is good but there are some nitpicks here... The earpads could be a bit deeper. The top of my ears do press against the drivers because the foam used in the earpads are extremely soft. The earcups are a bit stiff when it comes to pivoting, so they may not conform to the shape of your head without manual adjustment. The clamping force of the headband feels a bit loose, especially if you have small heads (and this is a headphobe that already has sealing issues)
  • The plastic used for the signal cord, while fairly high-quality, is still more prone to tangle and deform in comparison to Audio-Technica's fabric-wrapped cords, which retain their shape better. I personally prefer AT's implementation.
  • One material nitpick... The headband padding is pasted onto the headband using basically a double-sided tape. Unfortunately the adhesive becomes a black goop as it ages and, in my case, actually started oozing out from the headband and making a mess on whatever surface I leave the headphone on. I ended up tearing out the padding, cleaned off all the adhesive, then glued it back using a glue gun.


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Sound Quality 


Several Head-Fiers have claimed that the A900X and K550 are tonally similar. This can't be further from the truth, heh. These are very different-sounding cans.


Audio-Technica ATH-A900X

  • Treble: The A900X has a fairly clear and resolving treble. It's quite sparkly and lively without being offensive or sibilant (the lower treble is recessed on these cans to reduce sibilance). Extension is absolutely brilliant, going fully up to 20KHz. The only complaint I have is that it's very noticeably grainy-sounding compared to the K550, whose treble is absolutely silky-smooth.
  • Mid-Range: The A900X has a sweet, thick mid-range supplemented by full upper bass/lower-mids. It's warmer than neutral, but I wouldn't say it sounds too colored. In comparison the K550 sounds rather thin and less musical. All that said, mid-range clarity is not nearly as good as the K550, which has a near-black background and is significantly cleaner-sounding.
  • Bass: The bass is my biggest gripe with the A900X - there's quite a bit of mid-bass bloat and the control isn't particularly tight. Bass extension isn't very good either - the rolloff starts at 50Hz, which means there's not much sub-bass compared to the excellent extension of the K550.
  • Soundstage: The A900X has a very wide sound stage, likely owing to its excellently-resolving treble. Imaging is likewise excellent - I feel this is one area where it has a definite upper hand against the K550, whose soundstage - while large - feels a bit indistinct.



AKG K550

  • Treble: The treble is a bit of a problem area for the K550. Many users have complained about it being "peaky" or "sibilant". I don't find it offensive overall, though the lower-treble is a bit too forward, causing the slightly unnatural treble presentation noted by many reviewers (a problem compounded by the thin-sounding mid-range. Both issues were addressed in the K553). I also wish there were less roll-off in the higher octaves, as the K550 could benefit from a better extension (it's rolled off from 1.5KHz onward). Complaints aside, treble clarity is decent and I do like how amazingly smooth the treble texture is. There is absolutely no grain on the K550.
  • Mid-Range: The mid-range on the K550 has excellent clarity, which I really love. However it is sometimes dominated by the lower-treble, which as I mentioned, is too forward. Additionally it could use some additional body - the upper-bass/lower-mids region feels a bit recessed.
  • Bass: The bass on K550 has excellent tightness and extension, however it could likewise benefit from some additional body. A 2-3dB boost in the mid-bass would provide a more balanced bass presentation (exactly what the K553 did).
  • Soundstage: The K550 is well-known for its spacious soundstage, and I do agree it feels very wide and airy. However, I feel the imaging is a bit fuzzy and indistinct. Watching movies and playing games, it's much easier to tell where a sound is coming from on the A900X.



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Final Thoughts 

The A900X and K550 are both good headphones with distinct personalities. Neither are perfect, though. The A900X is definitely the more musical of the two thanks to its overall fuller and warmer tonality, and its accentuated mid-bass makes it more ideal for games and movies.


The K550 is much cleaner and analytical-sounding, and with the exception of the lower-treble issue, is the more ideal of the two for professional applications.


Pros: Sound, Overall quality, Comfort, Closed-back but they don't sound like it, Bang for the buck

Cons: Non-removable cable, Cable is very long (3m), Can be hard to drive from small devices, not recommended for small heads because of sealing issues

This a review, as well as bit of a comparison to the Focal Spirit One, as those are the last headphones I owned and I absolutely loved them. 

Man, where to start with these; right off the bat let me tell you that I absolutely love them. They are totally different from the Spirit One, and in a very positive way. When I first got the 550's, I was surprised at how heavy the box is. Now to anyone who thinks you get a lot of accessories with the K550's, I have to disappoint you. All you get are the headphones and a quarter inch adapter, the latter of which is gold plated and screws on top of your cable. Everything about the headphones exudes quality, which couldn't be said about my Spirit Ones, as their headband and joints are made only of plastic, and thus cracked under my big head. The 550's cable is not removable and it is 3 meters long. That's definetly something to keep in mind. Alternatively, you could go with K551, which have a detachable cable. Me, I just couldn't justify the hefty price difference between the two.


When you put the K550's on your head, there are two things you immediately notice (coming from Spirit Ones): Man, there things are huge! And; Man these things are comfortable! Seriously, comfort is insanely good, which once again can't be said for the S1.
I don't know if I would take these out in the public though, as they are quite big and the cable is looooooong for mobile use. 


Enough of the chatter now, and let's get to the sound :)

I listen to music through the following setup: 
-HP Envy 17 Laptop with FLAC's or Spotify- FiiO E07-K Andes USB DAC/amp (To bypass the HORRID beats audio on the laptop, that RUINS anything connected to it)- AKG K550

When I first started listening, I noticed that you absolutely need a good seal with these headphones, in order to enjoy them. For me, that's easy. But for anyone with small heads, and/or women, this might be a real issue. Try not to buy them blind like I did, and try them in a store to see if they fit. Once I found the perfect seal, I was amazed at how much bass there was. Compared to the Focal, which are said to have a lot of bass, I was really surprised because the AKG have more of it. The bass is deep and very well extended into the sub-bass range. It also never sounds boomy or muffled, nor is there too much of it. 
Next, I wanna mention the soundstage: WOW, do they sound different than anything I've owned before, even though they are closed as well. They sound very similar to the K701, which I had the pleasure of testing. Instrument separation is excellent, and there is no "overlapping" of treble sounds, like I've noticed in the Focal. Mids are not as warm as the Focals' and overall, the K550 sound more detailed and technical, while the Spirit One are very warm and love vocals. Not to say that the AKG's don't, it's just a different kind of love :) . (The upper mids can sound a little (too) prominent at times)
Now for the highs, as they were the most notable change for me in comparison to the Focal; they are a lot more prominent and not rolled off, especially in the lower to mid-highs. They provide a nice amount of sparkle and excitement in my opinion, but sometimes at a cost: The 550's are kind of "unforgiving" when it comes to older recordings and lower bitrates. They will bring out every imperfection in the sound and can thus produce hissing and siblances. This was notable on older rock/metal recordings or such that weren't perfectly mastered, which is most of them. (Dream Theaters older albums are an example here).

Overall, I'd call the sound open, pleasent and enjoyable. 


Should you buy these headphones? -Absolutely. That is, if you can find a good seal, and you don't plan taking these on your commute every morning. The great sound, quality and comfort, as well as the the awesome bang-for-buck ratio are reason enough to buy them. But for small heads, and a closed portable, I'd still favor the Spirit One.


Pros: Sound, Fit, Style

Cons: Ears Can Get Sore

I've constantly said I wanted to try these.

I've seen the price tag stay at $200, and it's appropriate.

It's big, but has elements.

It's sound is stand out, Class A, $200 Sound.


The AKG K550

I've been wanting to try these since I seen the price tag, after searching for an upgrade, looking at the MDR-7506, and seeing these side by side, the MDR-7506 is OK, but has a purpose. It's a Studio Monitor, that's it's justice.

The AKG K550 is an important piece in it's price range, and it reminds us as the why the M50 lost it's reputation.


I finally got a chance to borrow these.


Let's discuss.

Build Quality:

- To one who can appreciate, is to one who's more likely to fall more in love.

Those are definitely words to live by when looking at this as a beginner headphone. 

It's a big headphone.

- She's built like a brick house.

Not to be confused with the song, but the headphone is heavily proportioned, and has a beautiful slick look, also durable... more durable than most.


Easily put, it's a headphone that for it's price, though not a Studio Monitor, it's built to take a beating like one.



We aren't going to get into Highs, Mids, & Lows, but we'll discuss this sound signature widely.


My impression of the sound at first was that it had an artificial sound to it.


Be It This Is A Sub-Open Back Design by sound.

The Soundstage is a bit awkward though. I'd compare if to being in a square shaped room, and telling everyone to face their corner and begin to play.


This created a mere echo in the vocal signature, quite disturbing, but after some burn in the sound smoothed out, but remained to sound in that pitch.

The Bass is VERY FULL, TIGHT, & COLORFUL, it's full of character. I can't say that there's even a true sound for the Bass. 


That said, this headphone will kindly fit any genre, and is polite to Hip Hop, & Rap for a change.

I think after seeing that this didn't budge much with Rap based genres I found my disappointment.

Techno, House, & other Electric genres lacked clear detailing, they weren't as vibrant, and you didn't feel like you were getting to experience the vibrations and clicking that some people find in these genres.



On my last bit of information, I think with the things this can has to offer, it's the best in it's range if you aren't looking for a Studio Monitor.

It's unique, and I would also argue, if you're not used to Warm, or Cold Sounding signatures, and don't wanna jump into a random experience, this is perfect for the job.

I didn't find a genuine sound fit to this, it never had a too Bright sound, it wasn't ever truthfully relaxed, and the Bass notes, undertones, and playbacks weren't Warm sounding.

It's mixed, almost giving you a hollow type of sound.


Pros: Comfort, Isolation, Balance, Detail

Cons: Nothing at this price.

Been a while since I bought some new headphones. The HD800's put an end to that for the last couple of years... But I wanted some closed back for certain times and so snapped these up. 


The balance of these is very good indeed, as is the tone. The AKG sound in a closed back pretty much. More midcentric than the KXXX with a closer image - slightly warmer but still with plenty of bite at the top. I'm impressed with the isolation as well- wasn't expecting too much - I wear glasses and I still get a very good seal. The comfort of the pads is another plus- very soft. 


The mid frequencies are much better on these than the KXXX and this is most welcome. (no nasty peak at 4k)


I wouldn't normally recommend any closed back hp for classical music but these sound great. Obviously not as airy as their older open back brothers, but the imaging is very focused and certainly open enough for large scale orchestral works. The detail retrieval is on par with the KXXX imo, only a little more more smeared at the lower end. 


I would describe the sound sig as typically AKG - 'dry' apart from the warm bottom end. I've read a few reviews that describe these as sounding more like an open headphone. They do have an ample soundstage for closed but they still sound like a closed headphone.  


Yup, an absolute bargain for what they are going for these days!   


Pros: Clear high band, acceptable mid tone

Cons: Absolute lack of bass

Well, the infamous K550 was there. Big, comfort at an incredible price. I had to wait for one week before I got mine so I put it on.

Absolutely better than K701 I had a while ago. However, the overall quality is killed by zero presence of the bass. Where have they gone?


Pros: Spacious - for closed back. Non-fatiguing, easy going sound. Work surprisingly well with iPhone.

Cons: No better than a reasonable £30 pair of open back 'phones.

I tried these with a Benchmark DAC1, a Fiio X3, a Fiio X1+E17 and various lesser devices including an iPhone. They seem pretty easy to drive. Music was a mixture of classical and Jazz - both CD quality and HiRes. 


My value rating is based on the £107 I actually paid from Amazon. I am having to keep reminding myself how cheap they now are in order to give them much praise though. I guess the heavy discounting of these should have told me that they were not that special.I would certainly have been pretty pis**d if I had paid full price.


Their best attribute is a surprisingly spacious presentation - about as good as a cheapish pair of open 'phones. To me they didn't sound any better than my £30 Jays-vJAYS except, for some reason with an iPhone. There seems to be some sort of synergy going on with the iPhone and they made it sound better than I have ever heard it. IF the iPhone was my sound source I would have been very pleased with the K550's but it isn't, so I'm not. They have a pretty laid-back relaxed presentation without any intrusive exaggeration but also without clearly presenting the fine nuances that you can always hear in real life (musicians breathing, fingers sliding on strings, valves clacking, scores being tuned, chairs squeaking etc). IF you can get them comfortable, they would probably be OK for long-term, relaxing listening but if you are trying to listen carefully, they just don't deliver.


Although huge, they don't actually look too silly when on your head. It is difficult not to think of Dr Who and the Cyber-men though.  They feel fairly robust and appear well made but I don't find them comfortable. I have no problem with head-squeezing or seal - that's all works just fine for my head. My problem is that the padding on the top of my head just doesn't protect me. After a few minutes I am uncomfortably aware of the weight pressing  down on the top of my skull. Easily cured with a bit of foam padding but do you really want to do that..........


For £107 they are pretty good value for CLOSED 'phones but in no way exceptional - unless you use an iPhone.


Pros: Non-overwhelming bass, detailed vocals, great soundstage

Cons: Can't find yet

Excelllent headphones, coming after ss 9h headset, senn's 429 558 598 and i love these most, i differentiate details better in vocals now, i can say if vocalist is blowing into microphone while singing, there are more details in vocals which i cannot explain in english,  coz i'm not good at this section in english. Bass is not overwhelming, it is what i like most, not muffled, also if you EQ the bass it will sound much better as it did on my nokia with eq presets. Priority is for home use, but it's perfect using outside with phone, cable thickness is not the problem, as you can roll it around the phone, and put everything in the pocket without all stuff sticking out too ugly.


So much better in games with hearing steps detailed, soundstage is right as i wanted, with 9H i wanted to hear games world better/wider than i heard, akg550 fills this hunger, love it. Orientation in fps games maps is very good right now for me.


Pros: imaging, clean sound

Cons: no carrying case included

I have been using AKG K550 for past few weeks and enjoying them pretty well. This is my first foray into mid fi and I think its a solid contender for getting into mid fi sound especially as it has very low barrier for entry (whole setup). I am driving it with Audinst hud mini, entry level dac/amp and it drives it with authority and good clarity.


I have been using Sennheiser HD518 extensively, and have auditioned HD595 as well as HD650 before this. So thats my reference point here as HD5XX series is rather popular and what you can expect to get if you go for K550.


First some sound signature differences between sennheiser and akg. k550 requires you to be engaged to music instead of being half asleep to enjoy. k550 has this comparatively thin sound that changes very fast according to notes being played, thus conveys note level information with much more clarity. this clarity improves dramatically in hd650 but still k550 is clearer. For me, I need to actively listen to music and be engaged to enjoy k550.


So is one inherently better than other? I don't think so. both sounds are usable according to mood. (its not that I am feeling sleepy all the time, so why Sennheiser only collection?)


So now about K550. First some observations about K550 that are striking:


Great isolation without any clamping pressure whatsoever. No seal issue for me. I would attribute this to ear pad material. Its most certainly is something special that blocks sound very well. It must be in contact with your skin to achieve seal.


Very forgiving for low bit rate material. my much lower hd518 is almost un listenable out of phone with lower bit rate tracks as I could see some holes in music. k550 polishes it and makes it listenable, I think. It might have something to do k550 being easy to drive, not sure why it does that.


Very clean sound. no grain whatsoever. hud mini is inherently grainy and with grainy old recordings of the old like led zeppelin, it was almost un listenable on hd518. (all three recording, dac/amp, headphone are grainy making too much of it). on k550 its pristine.


Now I would describe frequency response a bit:


Bass: awesome. Goes very deep, is tight and reasonably textured. Exactly what I wanted.


Mids: Rich, detailed, not upfront. very enjoyable.


Treble: Now I am terrified of sibilance or bright sound. But k550 sounds exactly like I wanted it to. I don't think its dark sounding, but its got this peculiar way of doing treble. Treble extension is good but detail is very less thus to my ears sounds perfect. (better safe than sorry. won't cut any points here cause of my preference. I am looking for enjoyable headphones than perfect ones).


A word on soundstage:


Good sized. Its a closed headphone and has good width and depth with that limitation. Most impressive part has to be imaging. Pin point imaging if its present in recording, even if two same instruments are playing, it places them very well in sound stage.


Comfort is very good as it exerts very little pressure on head, but as its a sealed design, it gets sweaty. Ear pads don't allow a lot of breathing.


Build quality is good mixture of metal and plastic. not built like tanks and I intend to take good care of them. especially i don't want to change alignment of cups and thus affecting seal.


All these things make them a worth can but what makes them 5/5 special is, well they are very enjoyable. Even with their relatively thin sound, they have this deep and satisfying bass thus make for a very convincing presentation. Their sound stage is wide but they don't have diffused presentation like my HD518 that renders each component of music completely separate. Instead it presents a good mix of music, instruments often inter lapping but still sounding separate with note level detail, harmonious with each other. If you think about it, that is how you hear music when in a hall with musicians. Not completely separate from each other.

AKG K 550

With the K 550s, AKG engineers have struck a masterful balance between the noise-isolating qualities of closed-back headphones and the spacious, dimensional sound of an open-back design – creating reference-class headphones ideal for private listening both at home and on the go. 50mm drivers, the largest in our product line, deliver great AKG sound from your hi-fi system or virtually any portable device. The large ear cups and new headband design ensure an amazingly comfortable fit, and the 2D-axis mechanism folds flat to stow or go. Acoustic Seal: Closed Driver Type: Dynamic Ear Coupler Type: Full-Size Coupler Size: Large Cord Type: Straight Left-Side Cord Length: 9.5ft Detachable Cable: No Impedance @ 1kHz: 32 Ohms Isolation: -12dB ~ -18dB Weight: 305 grams w/o cord Connector Type: 1/8 Headphone Type: Full Size Manufacturer Warranty: 2 years Sensitivity: 114 dB

Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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