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AKG K 601 Headphones

Posted

Pros: seems custom made for the HEARO 999 headamp, a classic AKG sound in an open design, brings beat based music to life, performance beyond price

Cons: needs more amp than price suggests, very loud music listening is likely if properly amped, you might miss some sleep at the least

These were considered the second rate headphones just below the K701 when they first came out, and were priced considerably lower. I considered my pair almost a gift back in 2007. But the K701 got all the attention in the audiophile reviews. Well, little sister has grown up and she is strutting her stuff. Lately, I have noticed that many shops are selling the K601 at the same or higher price relative to the K701. Maybe raw emotion is selling better than analytical talent these days. Maybe the K701 has the unsurpassed musical skills of an Ella Fitzgerald, but if Xena Warrior Princess walks up on stage, you know who I will be paying attention to, even if the musical skills come in second rate. Maybe Xena would make you forget about musical skills altogether. One thing is for sure, once you get the K601 properly amped and feed it some beat based music, you will forget about analytical audiophile nitpicking minutiae and just get body slammed into the musical performance. The K601 may sit on your head, but it connects to your heart. 

 

You will need to give these cans at least 100 hours of rather loud music to loosen up and deliver up the bass and smooth out the treble. Also, they are 120 ohms, so a low voltage device can't deliver enough current into these fairly inefficient cans. The K701 is an easier drive, but even they are considered rather demanding of an amp in order to sound their best. However, the K601 can tolerate quite a bit of power so lack of efficiency is of no concern if your amp has the drive capability.

 

Sound from my Sony CD player headphone output is just mediocre. I own the AKG HEARO 999 Audiosphere II, and it has a very strong hardwired headphone amp. The best part is that it sounds best with classic AKG pro type headphones, and the K601 is in that camp. The midrange is glorious, but it is a bit forward of the bass and treble. The HEARO 999 seems to boost bass and treble, especially the bass, of every headphone I have driven with it. In fact, 32 ohm headphones may be overdriven before the volume pot is turned halfway to max. I typically listen to the K601 below halfway up, unless I have a very low volume recording playing, and it is the most inefficient set of cans I have ever had. Even my 600 ohm Sennheiser pro cans needed less rotation of the volume pot relative to these cans. When driven by the HEARO 999, the K601 cans are pure sonic nirvana for hard driving beat based music. These are PRaT cans for sure. However, vocal music is especially well served due to the glorious midrange. Live recording such as Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance" has all the life, edge and rawness of a live performance intact. What is surprising is that the K601 is almost a liquid and smooth set of cans when the music is that type. 

 

For those of you who remember using Kodachrome 35mm film, the K601 would be likened to Kodachrome 64. The slower Kodachrome 25 may have been the most neutral and balanced on a sunny day when everything was perfect, but on an overcast day when everything wasn't just right, the faster 64 ASA film would give you a better look and as Paul Simon wrote in his song, "Make you think all the world's a sunny day". Well, few of my recordings are audiophile perfect and therefore I don't need a headphone made for perfect recordings. If the recording is good or bad, the K601 will let you know it, but it tries much harder than my DT880 cans to make you forget about the bad and just start grooving to what is good. It could be ABBA or Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson or Rammstein. If you really liked it before the K601 came along, you will LOVE it afterwards. It's sort of like a stuffed animal coming to life suddenly in front of you.

 

I have owned at least a dozen cans in my day, Grado SR200, Sennheiser Pro, Beyer dynamic DT880, AKG 999 are some of the models. I don't care too much about absolute quality after a certain level of audiophile quality is attained. It's about how it integrates with the rest of your gear and taste in music that counts. It's about how many times you find yourself up out of your chair and moving with the music that counts, and these cans have done it more than any others. It's best not to microanalyze it and maybe just find another pair and stash them away in case the price climbs any higher. Life is too short to collect a bunch of second rate gear just for comparisons.

 

Beware the tendency to play these cans very loud. Could you drive a Ferrari and not thrash it around a bit? These cans seem designed to listen to modern music at live concert levels. Since live concerts are a small part of our lives, that's not too much of a danger. Hopefully you will only lose a few hours of sleep after falling in love with these cans, but I find myself listening too loud too long at times.

 

Look at all the latest audiophile gear that gets good reviews and then is forgotten about or hits the used market at bargain prices. An old Conrad-Johnson Premier One tube amp from the 80's will get sold almost as soon as it hits the used market and there will be no haggling with the seller over the price, which may be more than he paid for it years ago. It may not be the audio reviewers' latest darling amp, but insider music lovers have tagged it as a real Monkey Bone Reference, and the late Bascom King of Audio magazine, an amp designer himself, said it laid out the emotions in music like no other, in spite of what the mediocre lab tests might say. The K601 is a Monkey Bone Reference if you treat it right. The K601 walks all over higher priced cans like a Denon phono cartridge does to its higher priced competition.

 

FWIW, I have owned a stack of C-J amps for 10 years with no intention of ever selling them. The K601 has the musical involvement of C-J gear, so if you are a C-J lover, give the K601 a try.

Posted

Pros: Extremely comfortable (near weightless), excellent mid range and large soundstage

Cons: Build quality is a little bit flimsy, bass is light and sound is a little lean.

Even though I have several cans that do many things better than the K601, I still found this to be my go-to headphone for some laid back listening before and after work. AKG engineered a winner in regards to comfort and engaging mid-fi sound reproduction that just does not get fatiguing.

 

This headphone is all about the mids! Not particularly detailed and therefore fairly forgiving, but very involving and musical. Bass is light, but packs a small punch and one can appreciate that it goes deep. Highs are a apparent although a little rolled off on the very top end, but this helps it keep its laid back signature.

 

Not balanced in the sense of reproduction, but very balanced in the sense that it does almost every genre well.  If you're looking to take a jump from $100 headphones to $200 headphones and are looking for a laid back headphone as described above, then these are your guys. Note, you'll want an amp with a bit of a punch as the K601 is power hungry, although note that matching synergy is important as I found them to sound better via my Travagan's Red amp (with AD743 opamps) rather than HiFiMAN EF5 which is far superior in the power category.

 

 

A brief review, but if you have any more questions, just ask!

 

- Evan

Posted

Pros: Great comfort, and good sound for the price.

Cons: Design may not fit wider heads, and build quality could be better.

I'm going to dive straight into the sound of the K601. Bass is where this headphone will be criticized most. Whilst it extends fairly well, the impact can be put to question; when a recording gives you bass impact, the K601 usually comes out with it, but it can fall short sometimes, especially when a recording has been a little reserved in terms of bass. It certainly won't suit the "bass head" type of listener.

 

Mid range is frankly superb, and the best part of the headphone's sound. Open and expansive, but somewhat lush at the same time, it really involves you. However, this comes with some penalty; there is some fuzz on the side of instruments, taking that clear edge off what you'd expect from reference headphones, and it can get a bit muddled depending on how many different sounds are thrown at it. Nonetheless, it still has a good deal of clarity and separation considering the headphone sits more in the "mid-fi" category.

 

Whilst most describe the K601's treble as "non-fatiguing", this is not entirely true; where a recording has a tipped treble, you'll certainly notice it with this headphone. That being said, it's definitely not intrusive for the most part, and you shouldn't find your ears feeling really tired out after a good listening session with the K601. Again, as with the mid range, you lose that clear edge and more refined detail of a reference headphone, but the headphone is by no means lacklustre in terms of over-all detail.

 

The K601 has a fairly wide sound-stage and sports an airy sound. Instruments will have good separation and positioning where recorded, though there is still a sense that things could be a little more accurate.

 

This headphone is orientated for home usage, and you'll find portable players and low grade sound cards don't really do it justice, resulting in a lack of flesh and impact to the bass and treble especially. Pair it with a "mid-fi" source and amplifier, and it'll really supply you with some great audio. Whilst the airiness and sound-stage help make the K601 work well with classical, that relaxed edge to the sound enables the headphone to act as a fairly good all-rounder, and I enjoy it with any music I throw at it.

 

 

Onto comfort, this headphone should certainly cause you no problems with of a CD or two's worth of straight listening, if not more. The velour ear pads are soft, and clamping force is quite light. This has some drawback, as moving your head forwards too far can result in the headphone slipping a bit, and vigorous head-banging on any axis will move it easily, but this should be little issue for most users. The headband is just a flat piece of leather, and I have found it to cause some pressure discomfort over long listening periods, but usually a slight repositioning will fix the problem for a while on top of that.

 

This leads me onto design. Whilst comfort will be very good for the majority of users, the K601 is not without design flaws. The adjustment mechanism does not allow for a great deal of movement, and it works mostly in the vertical plane, so for those with particularly wide or over-all large heads, the headphone may not fit properly. Whilst the headphone is relatively attractive, the design is by no means as robust as some headphones, and though it may be sturdier than it appears at first sight, it might not last a major beating, or a big accident.

As for those who like to re-cable, the single ended design and complex access means you'll have to put in some work to get the job done compared to some headphones. The pads at least come off relatively easy, where you simply push down on them and turn them anti-clockwise, not to mention that K701 pads (plus pads from earlier models such as the K501) are interchangeable, allowing for some slight tweaking to be made if desired.

 

 

Over all, the K601 performs well with several types of music, responds well to good equipment, and offers great comfort, all at a reasonable price. Most certainly worth checking out if you're looking to upgrade from a lower end set-up, or want to enter into headphone audio with a decent amount of money to spend.

Posted
Paid a small fortune to get these. went shopping for a Squeezebox, and ended up buying both. My Point Of Reference is the HD600 - post 20 hours, here are my impressions>

 

 

Frequency Response - on par with the HD600 - the only caveat being the presentation of the bass. It seems to DOES go lower, but not as much in Quantity as the HD600 - Listening to Eric Clapton Unplugged, the Presentation is warmer on the Sennheiser, but Warmth and Extension are two Different Concepts - Some music requires Warmth, Some Music Asks for Extension. As for me, I like both flavours.

Treble is Close to Grado levels, but far smoother and enjoyable for longer periods - Guitars are well-voiced, as are other instruments, but I now realize how special the Grados are for Rock-nothing else gets that texture out. Still, Pink Floyd and Diana Krall sound wonderful. Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (live) shows the Cans' real Chops - on the Track "Great Gig in the Sky" the spoken bits in the beginning are much more coherent, the wailing is also more...human. 

 

The Cans are very Revealing, and will not magically add tone to recordings with lean bass and midrange. Poor records will sound bad, and nothing short of an Equalizer (or a Very Good Preamp) will do.

 

Imaging - Beats the HD600 - the soundstage does indeed extend beyond the headphone in a smooth, sweeping arc across your ears. There is a natural depth to the Soundstage, and it is easier to place individual instruments. The HD600 does exhibit the 3-blob effect in comparison. Live Acoustic sets are a joy on this headphone - if the lack of thump does not bother you.

 

Driving - these buggers demand power. I thought the HD600 was hard to drive - guess againPowering them with a Lovely Cube with OPA627 biased into Class A by 3.7dB, and 20dB Gain set on the switches. The HD600 is easily wrangled by this amp, But the AKG is more challenging. I do believe it is the lean Mid-bass that causes me to crank the volume up-but to its credit, the K601 never, ever shows any inclination to distort-except when severely underpowered, such as when I directly plugged it into my D2 - maximum volume was translated to a polite volume in the K601, and the bass fell apart.

 

Bottom Line - No Power, No Go.

 

Comfort and Build  - No sign of the Sennheiser Clamp of Death here. The automatic band is a pleasure to use, and the roomy earpads are very comfortable. A point to note -The Roomy Earpads require you to be a little careful in placing the unit over your head carefully-following Dr. Jan Meier's Advice of Low-And-Forward does enhance the Soundstage to a spacious 3D space, and affects tonality positively. On another note, the slimmer cups of the K601 (vis-a-vis the HD600) make it easier to wear in bed.

The Phones are as light as a German Sponge Cake, and unfortunately also feel just about as delicate. The HD600 feels far more Robust, well-thought out in terms of Modular Design, best of all, built to last.
 

Posted

Pros: Comfortable

Cons: Hard to like the sound

For the record: I am NOT an AKG basher.  I own and love the AKG K340.  I owned K270 Studios for a while, and liked those.  I liked the K701 fairly well, but sold them after a while.  I definitely like the K340 best of all the AKG's I have owned.

 

The AKG's I liked the least, by FAR, however, were the K-601. I bought a pair of K601's on some recommendations I had read, however, after several weeks of burn in and then listening, I thought they were just dreadful.  Painfully bright, and completely lacking in bass.  In spite of having a bright upper-midrange.lower treble, they actually still lacked top end air and extension.  This headphone left me wondering what AKG was thinking.  I suppose there is room in the world for a headphone that sounds like this, as someone is bound to like a sound like this, given how many different views of the world there are.  But I thought this was one of the worst non-entry-level headphones I had ever heard.  I recommend extreme caution when considering these.

AKG K 601 Headphones
By:
Description:

"Precisely tailored response and cutting-edge design: a must for all audiophiles. These future-oriented, open-back dynamic headphones do not only offer good wearing comfort but also deliver an incredibly detailed, full, yet crisp sound. This is the result of a new AKG Varimotion two-layer diaphragm that ensures optimum diaphragm motion for extremely accurate highfrequency response and a powerful low end. The overall sound is uncommonly natural and open. In short, the K 601 are premium reference headphones for anyone who appreciates true high-end equipment."

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandAKG
EAN0689076266581
FeatureIndividually tested and numbered
Height0.39 inches
Length0.39 inches
Weight0.52 pounds
Width0.39 inches
LabelAKG
List Price$299.00
ManufacturerAKG
ModelK601
MPNK601
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
PublisherAKG
StudioAKG
TitleAKG Open-Back Studio Headphones - K601
UPC410200151271
Batteries Included0
Is Autographed0
Is Memorabilia0
Product Type Subcategory2300799
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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