Pros: Organic, realistic, detailed and excellent imaging
Cons: Unforgiving of weakness in chain
I have owned the AKG K702 for a few years now. Of course, it is one of the most difficult to drive full sized cans around. If not properly driven, it sounds rather bright and is bass light. Feed it enough power, the sound you get out of it is rich and there some serious bass there. The K702 was under appreciated by the general public but a jealously guarded little secret of audiophiles who knew its true nature. It was also many years since AKG first came out with the K702 as its flagship headphone.
We all despaired if AKG would ever rise to such heights again. Of course, AKG surprised us a few years back with the AKG K3003 which was a phenomenal little in ear monitor, with a soundstage like it thought it was a pair of full sized cans.
As to how I came upon the AKG K812, I have two good audiophile friends in Singapore to thank: Joe and Ken. When the AKG K812 was showcased in Singapore last December during Mook, I was laid up in bed because of a bad bout of flu. Immediately after that, I travelled to NYC for a few weeks. Hence, I did not hear about the buzz the K812 caused during Mook. However, separately, both of them swore blind that they thought it was the best dynamic in the market and that I would love it. Perhaps I should explain - the both of them almost NEVER agree on any iem or can. This had to be a first. I knew it was a sign... So, when limited stock arrived at Jaben, I made sure that I had one. Wilson and Claire were kind enough to set one aside for me.
As a background, I have practically all the TOTL headphones: LCD 2 & 3, HD800, Beyerdynamic T1, Hifiman HE-6, HE-5LE, HE-500, Fostex TH900, plus all the higher end Grados (save for the PS1000) and the Abyss.
The build quality of the AKG K812 is good. There is a nice hefty solid feel about them. It doesn't feel too heavy, certainly nothing close to the Audezes. I particularly liked the ear pads which was oh so comfortable and my ears fit nicely within.
The only downside is that the cable connection is similar to the old AKGs, ie. on one side only. Further, while the connectors that are used seem solid enough, they are not the common mini-XLR used in the AKG K702, which means that you couldn't rotate after-market cables between the two AKGs.
Comfort and Isolation
What I found with the K812 is that it was very well fitting for me. The clamping force of the headband was just nice and there is never any fear that it may just slip off. And yet when i'm wearing the K812, I don't notice it is there even if I wear it most of the day.
As you may expect from an open can, the isolation is moderate at best.
I have a very wide repertoire of music in my music collection: all the way from medieval church music to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra to Diana Krall, Holly Cole, Stacey Kent, Rumer to classic music to modern pop.
What is enjoyable about the K812 is that it is at least competent with all genres. There are some in which I find I do enjoy tremendously and that would be jazz vocals, opera and acoustic vocals. I have even listened to Calvin Harris and Above & Beyond on these cans without any issue.
I don't actually worry about finding particular genres to listen to when I am on the K812: I just pick any album on the JRemote on my iPad and just hit play with full confidence that nothing but realistic and organic goodness will fill my ears.
The K812 are very well balanced: the trebles are extended, the mids are full and have a lovely timbre, the bass is deep yet tight. On top of this, the K812 has a wide and deep soundstage while maintaining beautiful layering, accurate imaging and excellent details.
Of course, there have been reports of tizzy trebles, but to date I cannot say I have heard any. As for some critics claiming that its soundstage is not as wide as the HD800, whilst that is true, the depth and layering of K812's soundstage cannot be beat. And it does make for a much more organic and natural representation of the music.
What I will say is that next to only the Abyss, this is the pair of cans that has the capacity to take my breath away or move me so.
I currently run my AKG K812 with Toxic Cables Black Widow. I wanted a fuller and more detailed sound from the K812 - no change in basic sig of the can but something which could communicate more than the very sad stock cable. On a side note, AKG K702 owners will be glad to know that AKG didn't discriminate against the K702: the stock cable of the K812 is just as flimsy.
My desktop rig at home comprises of a modded Mac Mini (with external linear PSU), Bricasti M1 DAC and then balanced out to the Bryston BHA-1 and RCA to the Woo Audio WA2. I will say that I am particularly fond of the sweet organic sound, with a wonderful intimate soundstage, that the K812 produces with the WA2. Of course, I also run it off the Bryston, with which the soundstage opens up and the K812 is more dynamic.
In my cosy little musical universe, the AKG K812 comes only second to the Abyss in the pleasure it constantly gives me. This is a pair of headphones which are organic while being transparent and detailed. AKG rises again!