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The Reasonable Choice

A Review On: AKG K271 MKII Headphones

AKG K271 MKII Headphones

Rated # 4 in Noise-Canceling
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Price paid: $150.00
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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. 


Hi Zappp, great review. I use my Edirol UA 101 soundcard to listen to music on the AKGs and it's great. Certainly beefs up the bass and makes everything sound clearer than the regular input slot on my Creative T20 mk ii speakers.
I thought the AKG 240s were more popular though?
I don't know why, but I've got both K242HD and K271 MKII and the 242HD are way better at everything. Clearer, better bass. I used the velour pads for the MK II to get similar standard. Strange... Would have to trry the 272HD to see if it's an MKII thing...
I found them to be pretty good with bass dependent music like jazz, drum and bass and rock music. Another use for these are for vocalists because of their isolation and auto-mute switch when they're not being worn - a useful feature if you have microphones around you.
Although I find them a bit narrow in comparison to open-back headphones which tend let your ears 'breathe'. This though is a problem of headphones in general and not the K271 per se - the lack of central imaging.
Once these are amplified they do sound really good, especially as they use AKG's propriety 200mW diaphragm drivers. And do remember these are designed for monitoring and tracking - not automagical music performance. ;-)
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