Pros: neutral, comfortable, closed, cheaply replaceable cables and earpads
Cons: bulky, non-folding, slightly bass shy
When visiting recording studios in Europe or looking at the sales ranking of Germany's largest online store for musicians, the AKG 271 appears as the most popular studio headphone, well ahead of any competition. That isn't head-fi's major target group, but one should reconsider why and what for we use headphones. We want to listen to music in compromised environments, i.e. with neighbours behind thin walls or even with other people present in the same room, commuting or travelling with restricted luggage. Many of us spend more time listening to music under these conditions than at home in their designated listening room with multi-kilo-buck source gear and loudspeakers.
Like most cans the AKG 271 benefits from a dedicated headphone amp, but also sounds decent straight from a laptop's or CD player's 3.5mm jack. My preferred source is the iPod Classic with Headstage Arrow amp. The Arrow's bass boost feature perfectly complements the 271's slightly bass shy sound signature which on the other hand allows many hours of listening without getting tired. There are recordings where I prefer to switch off the bass boost.
It is not industrial grade hearing protection, but the 271 prevents leakage of noise and mutes environmental noise substantially better than open headphones and the nominally closed Denon AH-Ds. Light weight, large, circumaural earpads (choice of pleather and velvet), moderate clamping force and the automatically adjusting headband provide exceptional wearing comfort. The one and only downside from that is the 271's bulk, without folding or collapsing action. Commuters may want a less obtrusive, easier stowable headphone.
For peace of mind, to fit my entire CD collection on the iPod I listen to compressed AAC 256. Hence I happily waive that last bit of detail and sound quality lossless files and better, open headphones could deliver. Yes, I noticed a difference with serious ABing against highend Sennheisers, but tend to forget that after few minutes under the 271. Its exceptional wearing comfort and decent noise isolation help furthermore to accept this compromise,
Mobile use and travelling means rough handling, sweat, risk of damage and loss. Nice to see then that exposed parts (earpads, cable) can be replaced cheaply, thanks to its pro-grade studio rather than "high-end" designation.