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REVIEW: 3 Closed Portables Compared—AKG K81 DJ, Audio Technica ES5 & Sennheiser PX200

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
REVIEW: 3 Closed Portables Compared—AKG K81 DJ, Audio Technica ATH-ES5 & Sennheiser PX200

Pricing
Sennheiser PX200: Street Price: ~$50-$60.

Audio-Technica ATH-ES5: List Price (in USA): $169. Street price (imported from Far East): ~$90-$110.

AKG K81 DJ: List Price: $99. Street Price: $69.

Intro
Having recently been given my first DAP, the iPod Nano, I have to admit somewhat sheepishly I was pretty astounded by its sound quality; I mean I was really caught off-guard. For some reason, I had been prejudiced against them even as a concept. Without ever hearing one, I naively assumed they would all produce a tiny, tinny, hashy “digital” sound from crummy lossy mp3s. So deep was my ignorance, I wasn’t even aware you could download uncompressed files on to them. Up until this time, for the last 15 years, I’ve used a succession of different portable AM/FM radios (I could write a treatise on all the models I’ve used), as musical accompaniment during my workouts (25% in the gym, 75% running).

Anyway, after spending a couple months with the iPod listening to uncompressed .wav files, it was clear that this device could really shine with much higher quality headphones than I’d been using with any of the portable radios I’d owned. Because I only use portable audio devices for workouts, this restricts a lot of the headphones types I’m able to use comfortably. First, they need to be closed to help block out road noise and gym noise. Next, they can’t be too expensive as they have to be replaced on fairly frequent basis due to extra wear and tear during workouts. I can’t use clip-on headphones, they’ll never handle the jostling on my runs. No earbuds or IEMs either, as they’re too uncomfortable and build up sweat in the ear canals and can jiggle loose. Nor could I make do with the streetstyle phones with the headband in the back, because they also don’t stay secure enough. Finally, they couldn’t be too big and bulky/heavy, again because they might fall off my head, and to be honest, also because no one wants to look like a big headphone dork at the gym.

So, over the years, I’ve chiefly used a lot of the vertical style headphones, and a few of the smaller supra-aurals with a vertical headband. I’ve been using the Sennheiser PX200 for a couple years now, but like most, I was generally underwhelmed with their sound quality; IMO, they were really no better than the Koss Sportapros and at twice their price to add insult to injury. So, because my particular needs drastically narrow the field of possibilities, there were very few better-quality smaller closed headphones with vertical headbands for me to even consider.

In addition to the three reviewed here, I also looked at the Audio Technica ES7, but thought it would be too expensive, and the Audio Technica FC7, but decided to just go for the more upscale ES5 and be done with it. I also thought about the AKG K26P, which I would have bought if I hadn’t found out about its bigger brother, the new AKG K81 DJ. At the time I placed the order, the only real info on the sound of the brand-new AKG K81DJ came from the Headroom site where they compared it favorably against the smaller and less expensive K26P. So, why not be the first kid on the block with a pair, and take one for the team? Since then, several Members have received their K81DJs and some mostly positive buzz has already started.

This is just a long way of saying that no, I can’t compare any of these headphones to the Shure this, the Beyer that, or the Grado the other. So this won’t be an exhaustive review of cans in this price range, but I did successfully manage to find a pair of headphones that are surprisingly excellent sonically while meeting (most) of my other demands; a headphone that I think will please a lot of other Head-Fiers as well.

Because of my excitement about them, and because this headphone is relatively undiscussed on the site as yet and there is a little heightened interest, this review has been somewhat rushed to get the word out sooner. Though I’ve spent quite a bit of time with them, I’ve only had them a short while, and burn-in is likely not yet 100% complete. I’ll follow-up later if there are significant changes. (Skip ahead to the end if you can’t wait to find out which one it is! )


Sennheiser PX200



I’ll try to make this short (well, short for a markl review ), since most of us are familiar with these, they’ve been discussed ad nauseum, they’re a good starting point and common reference. “No highs, no lows, must be…“ Oh, wait, they’re Senns.

Build, Fit, Ergonomics & Isolation
Adequate. Worst build quality of the group. Relatively flimsy frame, plus the ball and socket construction where the earcups attach does not inspire a lot of confidence, and they tend to make an annoying squeaking noise when I run. The pleather padding on the headband and the earcups does not last; after two years of admittedly heavy use, they are starting to wear through. I also found that the joint where the cord attaches to the 1/8” jack also does not hold up under use. I have an intermittent connection problem that was solved by wrapping a lot of black electrical tape around the weak spot, keeping it stiff. At $50-$60 one would expect better durability.

Fit is good, they are comfortable. They apply the least pressure of the bunch, and are somewhat loosey-goosey but manage to stay put for the most part. Many Members have complained of how hard it is to get a good seal and to position them properly on the ears to get best sound quality, and I’ve found this a problem as well. On days with heavy winds blowing, I’ve found the breeze flows up under the earpads creating a “whooshing” sound that obviously harms sound quality.

Isolation is also nothing to write home about. If 0% is zero isolation and 100% is total isolation, the PX200 is at around 15% and that’s being generous.

Drive-ability
Easy to drive, will present no real challenge to portable devices.

Treble
Rolled, but not horrible. They don’t sound muffled or airless, but clearly there is some treble missing here. Highs are generally grainy and gritty in character, with fraying at the edges, though because of its polite nature, this doesn’t cause any actual discomfort. It’s just annoying.

Midrange
Pretty good midrange response, but still a little lean, thin and brittle. But the graininess of these cans infects the midrange as well as treble.

Bass
What bass? Pretty severe bass roll-off. Bottom octave simply not there. Decent bass tonality however.

Resolution/Detail/Transparency
Adequate detail, but lacking fine resolution, they remain somewhat lo-rez overall. The grainy noise inherent in these phones can also obscure some fine detailing. PX200 responds relatively little to changing the EQ balance on your DAP. They seem to stubbornly maintain their general character and flavor. Even on my home-based system, they didn’t suddenly rise to the occasion and become great-sounding cans, so it’s not about synergy with the iPod Nano, the PX200 simply isn’t very transparent. Luckily it has above average tonality in and of itself.

Tone/Timbre
Very good. This is the PX200’s saving grace. They have a quite natural sound, and to some degree avoid that typical fake “headphone-y” signature. No particularly discernable “echo” or boxy coloration due to their closed-back design. Instruments sound nice and real, close to true-life for a headphone of this class at this price range. No small advantage, but not enough to overcome its many other flaws.

Soundstage/Imaging
Quite small and unimpressive. Compared to the others, the PX200 has a “dinky” sound which isn’t helped by their general lack of foundation.

PRAT
Poor. Small driver + poor bass response = low-impact, low-energy sound.

Summary
IMHO, not a horrible or unacceptable headphone at all, but at the asking price, one expects better. If these were $25, they would be a great value. At $60, not so much.


Audio Technica ATH-ES5



This is one of Audio Technica’s newer cans, they aren’t much discussed around here chiefly due to the relative difficulty in obtaining a pair. Although Audio Technica has included the ES5 as part of their new “Import Series” at an astronomical $169 list price, they aren’t really available in the USA, and must be ordered from overseas vendors, with a street price varying from around $90-$110 shipped.
The ES5 sounds TERRIBLE right out of the box, but that starts to clear up quickly; even after only 5 hours of use they were much improved, and seemed not to change much after 15-20 hours.

Build, Fit, Ergonomics & Isolation
Excellent. For a headphone of this size, in this class, it’s impossible to fault the build quality of the ES5. Very sturdy build that needs to be seen and felt in the flesh to really appreciate, it looks like it will survive years of abuse. The ES5 sports a very strong plastic frame and a very unusual mechanism for achieving the right fit. It has what I can only describe as “arms” that flex at the “elbow” to move the transducer up or down and to cause the headband to move up or down on the head to get a secure fit. The elbow flex mechanism is very firm and moves with a really nice action. You set the headphones on your ears, then pull down on the “arms” to move the headband down to get a secure, snug fit. From the photos, you would think the “arms” face the rear of the headphone, but actually they are out in front. The ear cups are approx. 15% larger than the PX200’s and a bit deeper as well. Like the PX200, the ES5 will collapse and fold up into a fairly compact ball that can be tucked into the supplied accessory pouch.

While the “arms” add somewhat to the bulk of the headphones, and maybe look a little odd, they enable the ES5 to provide the most comfortable and secure fit of the lot. Simply put, these are damn comfortable headphones. Even better, they manage to provide a terrific seal with your ear without applying a lot of clamping force. These things will gladly stay exactly where you put them, and unlike the PX200, require no special fiddling with to achieve good sound quality, there is no need to worry about seating them “just so”.

Isolation might be marginally better than the PX200, but still not very good. If 0% is zero isolation and 100% is total isolation, the ES5 is at around 20%.

Drive-ability
Easiest to drive in this survey; will play at absolutely INSANE volume levels (not advised).

Treble
Clean, clear and crisp. No roll-off whatsoever. No grain or grit like the PX200, and leading edges are clean, not frayed. However, treble is slightly aggressive, which means it can at times be a little shrill, and has an unnatural sheen and added sweetness to it that gives a twinge of artificiality. There is some glare or “halo effect” that infects some of the midrange as well. Overall, a bright, happy and shiny treble with an occasionally splashy and forward sound.

Midrange
Midrange is lean, thin and brittle. Mids lack body, it’s all surfaces with no substance. These are generally forward headphones, possibly too aggressive for some, but those traits could very well make the ES5 ideal to others.

Bass
Remarkably deeeeeeep bas response, the ES5 will play very low bass notes, with surprisingly good tonality compared to other phones in this survey (though that’s the only place it gets decent tone). ES5 provides a BIG, punchy bass sound, with palpable texture and oomph. It’s not proportional to the rest of the frequency spectrum, but for the most part, it manages not to intrude too heavily on the mids, these are not especially muddy or muddled phones. Bass mostly stays within its allotted space, but is much larger than it should be.

Resolution/Detail/Transparency
The ES5 is extremely transparent, they respond very easily to subtle tweaks in your DAP’s EQ. They are like an open window. They provide a highly focused sound, low noise floor, very high-resolution, with crisp, sharply-defined detailing. They give you the *feeling* that every last digital bit is fully rendered, BUT, IMO it cheats a little to achieve that.

The ES5 has a highly compressed sound. Not “compressed” as in lossy digital mp3s, but “compressed” as in restricted dynamic range, or the boosting of low-level, low-volume events up into the same area of loudness as high-volume events. This means you get to hear everything that was recorded, but everything sounds LOUD, and everything is competing with everything else to be heard in the mix. In that respect, these headphones sound like a lot of modern highly-compressed CDs, and can be somewhat incoherent at times. While that can horrify some audiophiles, the fact is that the average guy on the street generally likes that sound because it’s “exciting” and “powerful”. So, while I find that a flaw worth noting, to another pair of ears, it could be a positive boon.

Tone/Timbre
To be frank, pretty poor overall. Tone and timbre is the PX200’s saving grace but the ES5’s Achilles heel (for this listener anyway). The ES5 has a thin, tinny sound. It’s overly shiny, with an added layer of glare. It sounds synthetic and not real or natural. It errs on the cold, clinical and “digital” side, no warmth in sight, no body to the music. Pianos go plinkety plink, voices sound like the microphone, not the singer. But the bad tonality really manifests itself most clearly with the sounds of cymbals and drums.

Cymbals sound like tinny little scraps of metal with no decay, they go “pish” instead of providing a nice brassy “baaaaaasssssshhhhhhh”. Drums have a similar thin metallic, tinny sound, there is no body to them, all you hear is the skin being hit, not the full sound of the drum. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get past this, even though the ES5 has so many other virtues. They just don’t sound natural. At least bass guitars, though still not portrayed completely naturally, exhibit some variability in tone from song to song, unlike the others in the survey which, relative to the ES5, are a bit “one-note” in the bass department.

Soundstage/Imaging
In a word: HUGE. Monumentally large for such a small headphone, easily 50% larger than the PX200. Sounds are very well defined and easy to pick out within the soundstage. But because the ES5 compresses the sound, the soundstage is somewhat flat front to back, you need to be able to hear tiny variations in volume to give the impression that some things are farther away than others. There is a bit of a “reverb-y” or echo-y sound to it as well, possibly due to the closed backs, but this is really quite minor.

Still, from left to right and top to bottom, if you like a big, towering image with you right up on stage with the band, the ES5 really delivers.

PRAT
Outstanding, almost shocking. How did they manage to get so much energy out of such a small headphone? The ES5’s 40mm driver might explain some of it, which is substantially larger than the PX200’s 30mm driver. But really, the ES5 has a punchier, more forceful sound than many full-sized cans I’ve heard. The ES5 is lightning fast and packs a serious punch. I think their sheer drive-ability adds to this as well, they are so easy-going that they can make the most use out of the miniscule levels of power your portable device can deliver. If only drum sounds sounded better and more realistic, the ES5 could take better advantage of its fantastic PRAT capabilities and surprising heft and slam.

Summary
A nice upgrade from the dull PX200, but not for the feint of heart. The ES5 has a lot going for it, but I think overall reaction to them will depend on your level of tolerance for their many tonal colorations. I concede it’s even possible that some listeners might actually *enjoy* it precisely for its colorations, but I’m not one of them. Ultimately, despite all its other positives, they were just too unnatural to sound realistic, and that’s a real deal-breaker for me.


AKG K81 DJ



Saved the best for last. As a “DJ” headphone, I was afraid these were designed and voiced to appeal to the worst instincts of certain unsophisticated listeners, but I needn’t have worried, these are surprisingly refined cans.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m still in the early stages of ownership with these headphones, but this was a case of like at first hear. Be assured it has its flaws, nothing in this class is going to sound like an R10, but it wasn’t difficult for me to decide that these were a good solution for me almost immediately. Since there seems to be a demand for information on the K81DJ right now, I thought I’d go ahead and throw caution to the wind and share my thoughts so far. If anything changes drastically, I’ll follow up or amend this review accordingly, but I’m certain I’ve got them pretty well nailed already.

These are hard to find in stock right now, they seem to exist as a special order item from AKG at the moment, so your on-line retailer may show them as “in-stock” but the reality is that there’s a 2-4 week delay for them to get the K81 from AKG and then to get them to you.

Build, Fit, Ergonomics & Isolation
Really remarkable given the street price on these. Best build quality of the bunch, no one should be disappointed with how these things are put together. Tank-like construction, solid aluminum headband surrounded by thick durable plastic with a rubbery plastic coating all around to protect it from scratches and dings. Nice, attractive touches of brushed silver aluminum makes them look great, too. The pads are nice and thick and firm, with what appear to be thicker pleather coverings than either the PX200 or ES5, so I guess they will last longer and wear tougher.

The headband is adjustable with conventional detents that click into place and hold firm, plus there are little numbered steps on each side, so you can quickly verify you have each side extended identically. The earcups swing wide open for DJ use, but there is some tension in the joint so they aren’t loosely flapping around. The fit is snug, but very comfortable. Though substantially heavier than either of the others, I was surprised at how well the K81DJ stays in place, it provides a nice secure fit, even when I’m running I have no concern they will jiggle let alone fall off.

Honestly, the K81 DJ is a bit larger in size than I’d like. Roughly double the size of the other two phones, and considerably deeper, the earcups are ~2.75” in diameter and ~1.4” deep. While this allows for the use of a bigger driver, more room within earcups to create a soundstage, and covers more of the ear providing greater isolation, you do look a little dorky wearing them. But they are still supra-aural headphones (rest on the ear), and are smaller than some other similar supra-aural phones, so will certainly seem quite compact to folks brave enough to wear full-sized circumaural headphones in public, but for me, I still feel a little weird.

Isolation is quite good, much better than the other two, and they provide an airtight seal. If 0% is zero isolation and 100% is total isolation, the K81 DJ is at around 35%.

I do have one pretty major reservation about the K81’s build/design, and that’s with the cord length. It’s a full meter too long for portable use. Obviously it was designed to be used by DJs in clubs where they probably need a longer tether. But I did find an acceptable solution for those who want to go mobile with the K81.

Check out http://www.sumajin.com/online-Smartwraps.html, and get yourself a Smartwrap. This simple little device allows you to wrap the extra cord length around it securely while it dangles gently. I’ve put mine right under the point where the twin y-cords meet at the little plastic junction, so it rests on my chest. It’s quite light-weight, so you don’t really notice it there. Not perfect, but a decent option.



Drive-ability
Hardest to drive of the bunch by a fair margin. Despite its deceptive 32-ohm rating, the K81 DJ plays at a noticeably lower volume than the other two, and seems to suck the juice out of my iPod Nano significantly faster. Probably a good candidate for people who already own any of those little portable amps that are so popular around here. I don’t have one and have never owned one, so I can’t discuss synergy or make recommendations, etc., but I don’t want to over-state the whole amp thing, I am able to use them just fine straight out of my Nano’s headphone jack.

Treble
A bit rolled and recessed, I admit, but very refined and clean and oh-so-natural and real. OK, first things first, K81 DJ needs to be EQ-ed. If your DAP does not let you tweak the EQ, there’s a good chance they may not work for you. My Nano has around a dozen pre-set EQ settings I can choose from, most of which only subtly tweak the sound. I’ve found that the “Acoustic” setting sounds best through the mids and highs; through just this slight tweak, the K81’s treble/mids go from adequate but occasionally frustrating to darn near perfect. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that what’s especially striking (and a bit unexplained to me) about the K81 is the remarkable coherency of their sound, even when you tweak the EQ. Somehow, the sound remains balanced and fully integrated; the driver speaks with one voice no matter how much EQ you give them (well to the admittedly limited degree of EQ my Nano can provide anyway). Weird and contradictory, but that’s my observation.

Unfortunately, the “Acoustic” setting also adds a bit of bass bloom which sadly takes the K81’s bass level a step too far on some-- but not all-- tracks (more on that later). The “Treble Boost” setting is a nice compromise, not as much midrange bloom, but no extra bass boost, so the low-end is always under control.

I loaned the K81 to a friend and warned him about the need to add some treble EQ, and when he gave them back to me, in his opinion, on his DAP (don’t know what it was), no extra EQ was needed, treble was fine. So, YMMV with regard to whether what I perceive as the treble roll-off is undesirable to you or even exists at all (but I’m pretty sure you’ll notice it ).

Another important thing to note is that all the edges of sounds produced by the K81 are very noticeably rounded off. Leading-edge transients are blunted almost, and this can sound weird until you get used to it. On the positive side, that means the headphone should never cause you any listening fatigue.

Midrange
Not as recessed as the treble, but not as full and forward as desired. Vocals a little too laid back in the mix when un-EQed. But again, fantastically dead-on tone. These cans sound much more true-to-life than I would have guessed possible in this class and at this price point.

Bass
Bass is somewhat odd on the K81. Although there is a lot of it there, and it seems fairly “large” in size and it goes nearly as deep as the ES5, it seems to all occur off in the near distance somehow, just behind all the other sounds/instruments.

The tone the bass of the K81 strikes is very natural, but it’s pretty much the same tone applied to all recordings. That can be frustrating. I wish it had more upper-bass warmth to help flesh it out and enable it to present a larger number of different shadings. As it is, you get a pleasant low rumble that only seems to vary within certain parameters, never fully conforming to the actual sounds as recorded.

Also, instead of a nice clean “brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” sound, some bass guitar notes occasionally make a rumbling, juddering, quickly stuttering sound, that sounds like “jud-jud-jud-jud-jud-jud-jud-jud” instead of one smooth continuous vibration. This *may* be due to the K81 presenting too much of a load for the Nano to fully drive its bass demands 100% cleanly-- I can’t yet verify, I haven’t had much chance to listen to them on my home rig. I will update on this later.

I recognize that as DJ headphones, there would be concern that they are going to be intrusively bassy. Yes, there is a possibility of some unnecessarily over-busy bass-work during certain songs, but for the most part I haven’t found this a major issue, and I’m no bass-head either. The only time the bass level becomes an issue for me is on hotly-mastered, compressed electronic synth bass notes of the type that do not occur in nature. It’s chiefly on those ultra-low events that I get the slight juddering sound I mention above and when the bass gets too heavy and seems to start stepping a little bit on some of the other frequencies and musical sounds. So, overall, I would advise some caution for people especially wary of bass, but see much less likelihood of serious issues for everyone else.

Resolution/Detail/Transparency
Roughly in the middle between the PX200 and the revealing ES5. The same way that the ES5 presents a compressed sound, the K81 DJ provides a totally de-compressed sound. Lots of dynamic range with these phones, and because they have a relatively low noise floor and black background, plus are more isolating from outside noise, the low-level fine detail is still plenty audible even though it occurs more naturally at a lower volume.

Because the K81 is nice and clean, it can present you with solid, stable sound, allowing the little details to emerge. It won't shove them under your nose, but they are there for you to experience at your leisure. Not as focused or as laser-sharp as the ES5, a bit soft on the edges, but still above-average detail retrieval and resolution.

Reasonably transparent, the K81 will respond to EQ changes. There is a slight veiling and a bit of detachment relative to the other two, but nothing worrisome.

Tone/Timbre
These rival and can actually beat some full-sized “high-end” cans in terms of presenting a realistic, accurate sound. The most notable coloration is a slight dryness to the tone. They aren’t rich or lush or romantic, or brutally revealing and sterile, they are slightly warm-ish, natural and real. Other than the somewhat same-y bass tone, I have zero criticisms or arguments with the tone they provide, let alone at this price point.

IMO, the K81 is not a “whiz-bang”, “holy-cow” piece of hi-fi (see the ES5); it may not wow some younger ears right away looking for an instant sugar rush. Getting the tone right and making humans sound like humans, instruments sound like themselves, and music sound like music, may not be the sexiest or most noticeably ear-opening “trick” in the book, but it’s one of the hardest to get right. I can only say, don’t focus on what they aren’t doing, listen to what’s there. It’s good stuff.

Soundstage/Imaging
A bit closed in, and you are set back a couple rows, but the only one of the three to present any sense of front-to-back space and image depth. Not as overwhelmingly large as the ES5, but plenty big and coherent. There is a slight boxy coloration, some added reverb from the enclosures, but to some that extra ambience may add to the sense that it’s happening in a concert hall.

PRAT
The K81 DJ has a slightly “thick” sound to it which gives a little added heaviness to the presentation which means that although it has great body, it’s not the fastest headphone on the block. In addition to somewhat diminishing PRAT and impact, the heaviness can eat away at some note decay. It kind of sucks those trailing sounds back into the void.

Drums don’t kick as hard as they do on the ES5 (although they sound so much more real, it’s not even funny) and there’s generally less slam all around. But this ain’t no feeble headphone like the wimpy PX200. I can easily see many people finding the ES5’s PRAT over-blown, and the K81’s more natural.

Still, I’m left with the impression that the driver on the K81 is wound up too tight. It needs to loosen up and let the sound just happen; as it is, at times the grip on the sound can be overbearing and heavy-handed. The good news is that it’s very likely that with further burn-in, this should be alleviated to some degree. Again, I’ll follow up on this later.

K81 Summary and Review Conclusion
So, the K81 is not a “perfect” headphone, but at this price that’s really asking too much, and that wasn’t my expectation. At the start, I was just looking for “acceptable”; I really wasn’t expecting “quite good, actually”, which is what the K81DJ delivered for me. IMHO, the K81 provides A LOT of headphone for a very modest price indeed, the value is simply excellent. Terrific build quality, excellent sound quality, good fit, and decent isolation… if only AKG offered a model with a shorter cord for portable use, it would be close to ideal for me. I think this headphone (with subtle but judicious EQ of upper mids and highs) will please a lot of Head-Fiers looking for closed phones in this category. But again, I’ll have to leave it to others to do the comparison against the other models in this class that I haven’t heard and are not covered by this review.

Based on what I’ve heard, my thinking is that if the lowly K81 DJ manages to sound this good, AKG’s new flagship K701 must be quite impressive indeed. I hope to get to hear that one soon, my curiosity is definitely piqued.

Cheers!
post #2 of 33
Wow, great review and comparison! It's nice to hear more opinions on the k 81 dj.
post #3 of 33
have you heard the D66 eggos? how do those compare to it?
post #4 of 33
Wow, a review EVERYONE can understand.
No crazy audiophile language here.

Great review.
post #5 of 33
Dear Mods, this review definitely deserves consideration for the Featured Reviews forum.
post #6 of 33
Awesome review,Thanks!!
post #7 of 33
You didn't have any problems running with the headphones on your head? Do all these headphones use pleather?

I'm glad to see a senior member get in on the portable action.
post #8 of 33
i want to hear one of these, looks like the HD 25-1's got a serious competitor for those on a budget
post #9 of 33
I'd been wondering why my new K81DJ was so bassy...realized the EQ on my computer was grossly out of whack. I love these things and am glad to see a good indepth review. However, gotta agree on the "hard to drive" - my Sleek's volume only goes to 25 and I've got to put these at 19 to get any enjoyment out of them. By contrast my Super.fi 5 Pro only needed to be at 7.

However, they weren't difficult to find - HeadRoom did have them in stock; I got them the day after I ordered.

Thanks for the review!
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
have you heard the D66 eggos? how do those compare to it
Nope. As I mentioned, these are the only cans I have to compare, if I'd had more, I'd have written them up.

Quote:
You didn't have any problems running with the headphones on your head? Do all these headphones use pleather?
No problems at all when jogging, K81 stays nice and secure. I have no concern about them jiggling or coming loose. Yes, all 3 of these phones use pleather.
post #11 of 33
If you got less isolation from the PX200 than you did with the ES5 which are essentially open, then it looks like the PX200's didn't fit you properly.
post #12 of 33
Thread Starter 
Or the ES5 didn't fit *you* properly. ES5 are not "essentially open", IMO either. They are definitely closed phones, though maybe not to people who insist the Sony CD3000 is "open" as well....
post #13 of 33
Spot the vents on the back? The sum total of the thing doing the isolating on the ES5 is the speaker diaphragm.
post #14 of 33
Nice review. I think the k81 is finally getting some recognition around here. Personally these are real killer headphones for $69 where the value/performance ratio is very very excellent.

Mark, you didn't think these AKGs were fast. Maybe against the ES5 it seems. I think with more testing and burn-in they'll provide plenty speed in my opinion. Well also against other headphones I've owned, the AKGs were definately on swift side of the bunch.

I still don't like the cymbals on these cans. I don't know if its the recording or the headphones, but I will have to go back to see if they are natural and decayful in spectrum. Anyway I'm enjoying these cans for sure.
post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Mark, you didn't think these AKGs were fast. Maybe against the ES5 it seems. I think with more testing and burn-in they'll provide plenty speed in my opinion. Well also against other headphones I've owned, the AKGs were definately on swift side of the bunch.
Hi BigD. I don't think they're at all slow, just not as fast as I've ever heard. I think the issue right now *may be* three-fold (one, all or none of these may be possibilities). First as I noted, the driver seems tightly wound up, so I agree it may definitely loosen some more as it burns in and get faster. The way the leading edges are strangely blunted possibly adds to the perception of lack of speed. I speculate there's also a third factor, which is these cans seem to need a little more juice than the others. It's possible that without as much to power them on my Nano as they'd like optimally, they just don't have enough oomph available to them to really get the lead completely out and cut loose. If that's the case, it's doubtful burn-in will have as much effect on that situation.

But again, I don't want to over-emphasize the amp/power issue because it's not a big deal IMO (the K81 sounds *great* un-amped and I don't intend to buy a pocket amp for them), and the K81's definitely not a "slow" headphone by any means.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › REVIEW: 3 Closed Portables Compared—AKG K81 DJ, Audio Technica ES5 & Sennheiser PX200