Pros: Neutral Sound, Tight Bass, Full Bodied Mids, Isolation, Comfort
Cons: Lacking Mid Weight, Poor Treble Attack, Too Little Bass for Some
AKG K550 [Price $160 Used]
Source Win 7[Foobar2000 WASAPI] -> oDac -> MonoPrice Premium Coaxial Cables -> Matrix M Stage [0 [w1000x Akg K550/+18 db Gain Lme 49990 OpAmp]
Will be compared again'st my w1000x and my Beyer Dt 990, since I intend to use this headphone as a portable, with all genres. I want to see how it does against my two "specialists" Specifically, the Dt 990 will be compared only with Classical and EDM [I got lazy and only did classical and Dub Step] genres. Songs 2 and 7.
As always gain and volume are adjusted for each headphone. [To ensure each has equal volume levels, despite gain.]
7/9 Songs are without EQ, Benga-Invasion and Kidnap Kid-Animaux do feature an EQ added by me. This should demonstrate the ability of a headphone to handle EQ.
In addition, from this review and out, italic text will contain comparisons against my reference headphones. In addition, comparative points of interest will be included in Head Fi review posts, with all Blog Posts reaming more simple and to the point!
I recently sold my old Beyerdynamic Dt 880 Pro 250 ohms, and since then I've been in search of something that captured it's sound! I think I may have found just such a can.
I am impressed, the headband is metal with a nice extension feature. Nice physical feel in the hands, not as tough as the Dt 990, but not nearly as fragile as the w1000x. A solid build! Still these are composed of more plastic than metal. Yet the plastic has a nice look and finish to it!
Closed Back Dynamic Operating Principle
32 Ohm Impedance
114 db Sensitivity
Ease of Use [Comfort/Fit/Isolation] [4/5]
People complain about the fit, and the lack of clamp force and sadly I did not experience any of this, I put them to 4 on each side slapped em on, pressed them in ever so slightly and enjoyed. I will mention that they sound DRASTICALLY changes depending on how far from the front of the pads the front of your ears are. Essentially for me, the closer the back of my ears are to the back of the pad the Thicker the lower mids are, the closer the front of my ears are to the front of the pads, the thinner the entire can sounds!
In addition, these cans actually isolate very well! Much more so than the w1000.
But still these are STILL easier to put on my head and adjust than the w1000x, yet a little more fickle than the Beyer Dt 990!
Sound Signature and Character
Sound Stage: A very wide sound stage, good instrument seperation.
The Akg K550 is fickle with it's sound stage, with vocals it really shines and widens. Not as initimate with vocals as the w1000x, yet with pianos and wood instruments it's not quiet as wide as the w1000x or the Beyer Dt 990, how ever my w1000x is Modded so it's... well much tighter than stock.
Sound Signature- Easily the most neutral balanced headphone I have heard to date. The bass is tastefully tight and deep, the mids are warm and delicate, with good punch. The treble as well is smooth and very refined! Although it still retains some of the Closed Back sound.
Song by Song Breakdown with Comparisons to w1000x & Beyer Dt 990 Pro (Click to show)
1 - Lisa Ekdahl _ Of My Conceit
A vocal jazz piece, Lisa's voice is the main focus. Yet behind her is a lovely piano and a delicate guitar strumming! The piano provides a nice upper Mid and Treble balance, while the guitar provides lower mids and some bass. Both of these elements compliment Lisa's voice. A song best on a warm neutral can, a larger sound stage is excellent with this song as well!
Treble- It's nice. Great detail, yet lacking sparkle and quick decay. Air and extension are nice. Again very neutral, as I know that I honestly prefer bright cans.
The w1000x, is brighter, faster and has better decay in the treble. Treble on the w1000x is not quiet as smooth, but again I'm not a huge fan of overly smooth treble. I enjoy the extra dynamics of a slightly sharper treble.
Mids- The details in the vocals is excellent! There is a good balance of smooth lush sound and detailed quality!
Actually, the k550 have more details than the w1000x, which is slightly smoother and more enjoyable. While the w1000x retains and projects just as much detail, it's not as tight with vocals as the k550 is. Still the w1000x's more smoother intimate vocals are just as punchy and more enjoyable imo, although ever so slightly less detailed. In addition, the K550 places Lisa's voice a little farther away from me. Showing it's transparency and neutrality! Still I'm a sucker for the more intimate vocals of the w1000x. It's also important to note the Angled drivers of the w1000x really give it a slight edge.
Bass- Very tight, good warmth in the bass with a nice little bit of impact.
Both cans handle this bass well! The Akg K550 however does it a little nicer.
Dynamics- Very nice, the left and right channels feature different instruments, and they flawlessly shift from louder to softer notes.
These two cans handle dynamics very similarly! Both do a great job!
2- Anne Gastinel & Francois-Frederic Guy Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5
Classical track features heavy focus on mids with sparkles of lower treble and the balance between the Cello and Piano!. Another song benefitting from a larger sound stage and a well balanced head phone. The bass of the cello accentuates nicely against the Piano. Both having deep beautifully lush tones. Air and extension make this piece come alive and lack of it, can kill the mood entirely! Then entire audible spectrum is equally beautiful through the entire song!
T- The treble is very smooth, well defined and good clarity and details Truly the treble is very neutral! Yet it's still retains beauty and flawless detail.
Not as smooth airy and well extended as the Dt 990, in addition the is not as airy and bright as the w1000x
M- Nice tone, this is an extremely mid heavy piece... the piano and upper mids are flawless. Decay is good, yet could be a little quicker.
Again, the w1000x... has the better mids... a little more lush yet also punchier than the K550. Slightly, more sound stage and clarity on the w1000x as well.. Still the Dt 990, remains the Classical King, with more delicate, detailed and well extended mids. Not to mention more sound stage! Non the less, honestly even with the slight, lack of refinement. The k550 does a wonderful job with classical!
B- Very tight and well placed, the bass never impedes on the delicate mids!
All three do the bass equally well, each with a delicate touch of the cellos bass every time it's needed, stll the w1000x and Dt 990 are just ever so slightly tighter, with that lower mids bass combo punch!
Dyna-Really wonderful. Very quick, no sluggish change in dynamics at all.
3. Yoshida Brothers -Love
The two brothers are performers of the traditional Japanese music style of Tsugaru-jamisen which originated in northern Japan. They debuted in 1999 in Japan as a duo playing the shamisen, and it remains a main instrument. In addition to traditional Japanese percussion, this track features a very gusto male shout. What sounds like a verbal battle cry, is over top the delicate shamisen. The punchy yet warm mids of the male vocals pair well with the light upper mids and treble of the Shamisen.
T- Shamisen has a great tight snap to it, good smooth extension to those higher notes!
M- The mids of the Shamisens are, just as lovely and gentle as they should be. Quick on their feet, and with a deadly accurate attack. The mood of the song is capture nicely in the mids. The male vocals are actually wonderful! Not too deep, but warm enough with power. A good balance of warmth and power.
The w1000x has more Gusto, more body in the mae vocals, making them a little less punchy but more powerful, Honestly, both do These male vocals really well, both have a good balance of power, punch and warmth. With a little more warmth and power on the w1000x, with the K550 maintaining the same power and a little more punch over warmth. Also the Shamisen, has a better attack on the w1000x. Due to a little more weight in the mids, where as the K550 has a nice snap to it, a little lighter but just as quick as the w1000x. Still the K550, lacks that... mystic woody tone in the Shamisen.
B- The bass is very... super tight. More percussion than an actual bass line, non the less what's there is well represented by the K550.
w1000x, does equally as well considering how little bass there is in the track.
Dyna- Amazing as always. This can is proving just as light on it's feet as my others!
4 Kidnap Kid- Animaux
A nice Vocal DnB Tune. A really demanding tune, as the mids and bass over overly overtop another. The sound is very... wonderful! The beauty of the mids right atop deep tight bass, followed by drops of nice punchy vocals. Best of all, the pesky 150hrz makes a return in this tune for a lovely meaty support for those mids. The layering and texture of the bass is, something I'm still not used to! I feel a little spoiled each time I hear it!
T- Good energy and balance on the mids. Smooth and pleasant, in no way drowned out or invasive of the rest of the frequency.
The highs are equally enjoyable on both cans. Not much to say about them really. Both maintain good energy and relative placement of the highs.
M- The mids have nice body, but still lack a little in weight. Yet they remain playful and smooth. Over top the bass line, the warm mids work well with the deeper more impactful tight bass.
Again the w1000x maintains more mid warmth body and weight, the track as a whole is more intimate, yet the increased sound stage of the w1000x [again mine is modded] keeps the separation of mids and bass clean. It should be noted though, that with EQ the w1000x get's a little smudged in it's mids,. where as the K550 does not. The K550 also lacks some of the imaging of the w1000x. The sound is a touch more forward, yet not as intimate. .
B- Bass is wonderful, this being a more laid back tune the bass line stays nice and tight, while still having impeccable weight and body.
Being that this is a DnB song, I do prefer to eq my DnB. Using FooBar a +4 @110hrz and -4 @156hrz gives the bass a little more body while not removing any weight and still remaining tight!
Immediately the w1000x displays a bass with slightly less control and more body. Using the same Eq setting drowns up the mids ever so slightly on the w1000x. The k550 displays a little more clarity when eq'd over the w1000x, yet the w1000x has full bodied weighty mids along with a punchy yet laid back bass [it matches the mood of the song very well]. Ultimately, it seems the K550 needs to be eq'd to have the more laid back and intimate sound that pairs so well with this Drum n Bass tune! Yet Some may prefer the Tighter less intimate presentation of the K550 over the equally clear but more intimate presentation of the w1000x in this DnB tune.
Dyna- Dynamics are smooth, the neutral sound aids in a clean shift in the dynamics of the tune!
The w1000x is has a touch faster dynamics, or rather the increased attack in the mids leads to a better dynamic shift, as both cans have equal mid decay. Both cans handle the bass and highs exceptional well!
5- Dai Qing Tana & HAYA Band- Missing You
Beautiful Mongolian vocals, and a world music sound that breaches more than just Asian styles. This track features a lovely guitar to your left, a cello to your right with Dai Qings delicate yet warm deep lyrics right in the middle. A perfect tonal balance is ideal for this track, as it's simplicity does not allow for any distraction from the overall mood of the song as a whole!
T- This song has a VERY thick and warm bottom end sound, that being said the bright energy of the guitar is never lost in the mid warmth. The highs prove to be well defined without being bright!
Actually, the highs in this song some times get a little lost in the upper mids, seeing as the guitar is only peaking at about 2.3 2.4k hrz these are the lower most highs, and for these lower treble, the K550 keep a slightly better serration between them and the upper mids. Yet the w1000x is brighter by a touch though. Both are very pleasant with these low treble notes, in addition the w1000x has a little more attack on the notes as well.
M- The powerful lower mids from the guitar have nice body to them, and sufficient weight, a real master of balance, the Akg K550 clearly defines it's upper and lower mids. Each having nice body and a little bit of weight. The upper most mids [also lower treble] maintain good presence despite the powerful lower mids and beautiful airy weight and body of Dai Quing Tana's voice. The deatils in the vocals are wonderful Her voice remains the focal point, with a lush body and just a touch of weight. Which suits her airy voice very well! The Cello in the right channel as well has a lovely tone to it, good body but it could use a little more weight.
The w1000x also adds an intimacy to the vocals that the K550 does not, yet both do a good job with this mid heavy track. Still the w1000x has a little more sound stage, thus the weighty sounds remain intimate and yet well spaced. Not to mention there is the beautiful tone of the woody mids on the w1000x. Where in which the Cello really shines.
B- The bass is as always, well controlled on the K550, yet the more controlled less full bodied bass does take away from the Cello's beautiful weight. Non the less the Cellos retains it's lovely body on the tighter bass notes!
It should be noted these Bass Notes, are in conjunction with the lower mids very much in this track. As the Guitar and cello each have a sense of Mid and Bass in their lower notes due to nature of the instrument.
Here both cans do really well, where the K550 lacks weight it does a little better job of retaining a clear sense of body. Where the w1000x adds weight, the body get's a little too much decay. Again these are for the very lowest notes on the bass and cello respectively. The we1000x still has a touch to much bass decay, especially when compared to the more neutral K550.
Dyna- The K550 as always does a great job with it's dynamic shifts, the Cello especially fades in and out of the track often! Always coming into focus nicely, and exiting cleanly.
Still though, the extra decay in the bass of this track especially take away slightly from the dynamic quickness of the w1000x. So for a track like this, with multiple heavy mid presence, the K550 remains a little more dynamic than the slightly mid focused w1000x.
6- 3nd_ Algorythm
Great tune from a Japanese Rock band, wonderful energy and great layering. A nice high energy rock tune. The kick of the drums and the clash of the cymbals, combined with sweet guitar mids and a mellow bass line. The bass in particular shifts a lot, the skilled bassists really shows off from time to time, combined with dual guitar tracks. Balance is a great benefit, as is a good sound stage to this song.
T- The symbols and upper range of the guitar are nicely presented by the k550. The drums especially have great energy on them!
The slightly brighter w1000x however is a little more pleasant. The additional sound stage really brings adds enjoyment to the brighter and airier treble. In addition to an slightly bigger sound stage and a little better 3D imaging. [But again my w1000x is modded]
M- The K550 does rock very well, everything is well placed and the decay is excellent throughout. The mids retain great body.
Tough battle here, the w1000x is magic for rock. The big sound stage and excellent separation pair excellently with the forward mids. There is an warm high energy to the w1000x in rock that the k550 doesn't quiet have Yet the K550 has a touch more detail due to it's less forward mids! There are in fact 3 guitars in this track, one to your left right and center! The K550 and w1000x both do a great job to balance these out! Still in the end, the combinations of forward punchy mids and bigger sound stage leave the w1000x more engaging! Still both are equal in clarity and detail, with the k550 being not quite as fun seeing as it lacks some of the aggressive attack [and sound stage] of the w1000x.
B- Bass, the k550s best feature. The bass line in this rock track has such great texture placement!
Ahh bass, the w1000x one shortcoming, this is not an aggressive bass line. It's very clean and punchy but still a strong bass line. The w1000x adds a little to much attack and decay to the bass. which is nice yet it losses a little bit of the texture because of this. Granted I've modded A LOT of the decay out of the w1000x bass, but it's still no match for the k550 very neutral bass!
Dyna- The k550 does a great job as always, it's slightly less aggressive attack and always quick decay make it nice with the rock dynamics.
Again both do a good job, but I give dynamics to the K550 for it's tighter bass line. The bass on the w1000x still has a touch to much decay to be as quick with dynamics in rock as the k550. Yet where the w1000x lacks in it's bass decay, it makes up for with quick dynamics in it's punchy forward mids. [Having both excellent attack and decay on those mids] Where as the k550 does not have the attack of the w1000x, which for rock is a little missed.
7- Benga- Evolution
A lovely mid intro, builds to a very aggressive and tight drop. While the mids are an excellent addition to this song, the cymbals and bass are the focus here! Aggression is key in this track, the tighter and deeper the better. The faster and punchier the more enjoyable!
I will admit, I do enjoy my Dub Step eq'd ever so slightly. That being said, I do use the same modest eq for both cans. A +1 boost at 55hrz leading to a +4 boost to 110hz, followed by a -6 decrease at 156hz following a slight incline to +2 at 1.2k hz then back to +_0 I prefer the mids boosted a pinch, and that pesky 156hrz when removed or eq'd out bring a VERY tight bass line to any track, As this frequency is a VERY meaty upper Bass... that said I remove it as it lacks deep impact or TIGHT punch imo.
T- Treble is accurate and neutral with the K550, although the often lush mids of this tune drown out the treble a touch. Some brightness is nice for DubStep.
About the same, both have great treble detail, the Dt 990 has a little more air and extends nicer. Quicker on the decay as well. With EdM the brigher treble of the W1000x and Dt 990 are preferred.
M- Mids are a strong point in this Dub Step tube for the K550. The slight touch of weight and nice full body are great again'st that DEEP bass line!
Mids are lusher on the w1000x, but a little too weighty and lush. On the Dt 990 the punchier nature of the mids cut's against that deep bass a little more pleasantly! Like the Dt 990, the K550's nicely bodied [but neutral] mids are a better contrast to the bass!
B- Great tight bass. A perfect balance of attack and decay.
The Dt 990 and k550 both have a nice tight bass. Although the Dt 990 just has more bass to it! The open back design allows all of that BASS to stay nice tight and super aggressive. Where as the k550 while equally as tight, lacks sheer bass quantity when compared to the Dt 990. The w1000x doesn't even need to be mentioned, as this track is best with a TIGHT bass line. While having more bass than the k550 it's not tight enough and has to much decay. Still enjoyable though.
Dyna- Excellent, good fast shifts!
What... Dub Step song with Dynamics... you mean other than... BASS no BASS... just kidding. Seriously though, the song has nice dynamic shifts, and the massive bass stays tight and decays faster through these shifts on the DT 990. An as always the w1000x is a little slower with it's bass decay. K550 is as always nice and quick with it's bass.
Should be noted, the Dt 990 and K550 struggles a little bit with deeper acoustic bass notes. The w1000x is a little more natural with wooden instrument bass, than is the Dt 990 or k550. The extra decay of the w1000x bass is a big part in that, as woody bass has more decay than does synthetic or metallic bass.
8- Lenny White, Jamey Haddad, Mark Sherman -Seven [Binarual Recording] From _ (Explorations In Space and Time)
A percussion trio, this binarual recording has only one thing that makes it wonderful... imaging. The Width and depth of the recording is really wonderful, not to mention the dynamics of the track as a whole. A headphones Sound Stage, width and height are very important. However too wide a sound stage and the 3D imaging can get a little veiled.
T- Good energy in the drums and cymbals, but the lack of brightness and attack is a little missed.
Cymbal are wonderfully airy, great energy and the linear space is good, the 3D position, imaging how ever is not as nice as the w1000x.
M- Good body on the drums, yet they lack a weighty tightness. Still very solid and enjoyable. Not to mention the placement in this track is not as 3D as one would like with the k550
w1000x added sound stage and over all forward and punchy mids are nice with this percusion tune. The 3D imaging is better as well, yet the K550 is still very enjoyable!
B- Nice and tight, very pleasant!
Can't complain much here, both do a nice job with the drums bass
Dynamics- once again, pleasantly tight and quick.
Both cans do a nice job with dynamics
9 The Modern Jazz Quartet- Reunion Blues
A lovely classic jazz piece, what makes this such a great tune is the balance of each instrument, as well as the placement of each in the sound stage. This song... is spilt literally into left and right. A soft Piano and Percy Heath's Double Bass to your right, with the drums and cymbals to your left, Also in the left channel is a magically warm and lush Xylophone! Best of all despite extreme stereophonic sound, the track as a whole is very balanced and incredibly enjoyable! Here a wider sound stage takes heed over a tall one.
T- Lovely, cymbals have good extension and fabulous air.
But not as airy as the w1000x.
M- the upper mids are excellent, as are the lower mids! The piano and Xylophone work together for a wonderful mid core!
Proving jack of all and master of none, the K550 is nice with jazz. Great balance but it again lacks the energy and airy brightness of the w1000x
B- Excellent, tight,
Yet again the 3D imaging shows to be a little weaker than the w1000x, and the bass is a little too fast for the Double Bass, the lack of attack and extra decay do take away from the joy of the double bass in this jazz number!
Treble [3.8/5]- Very neutral, which isn't always my cup of tea. I miss the energy of slightly brighter cans. Not to mention the lack of air.
Mids [4.2/5]- A beautiful tone to mids, with the right mix of body and a touch of weight to be enjoyed with all kinds of music.
Bass [5/5] - Excellent bass all the time.
Conclusion- For $220 and around $170 used, it's one of my favorite all time closed cans! Great sound for almost all kinds of music and the bass lovers will enjoy it with everything! Good dynamics and fantastic build quality. A must have for any one getting into Audio Phila!