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AKG K501....should I take the plunge?  

post #1 of 76
Thread Starter 
Received info from AKG that there are 3 dealers in my city. I contacted all three and they would have to special order in the K501, which means I can't demo before I decide to buy.

It is not my policy to buy before hearing but I have some questions:

1) Is 501 compatible with X-Cans? I'm sure RA-1 is out of the running as I doubt it will drive the AKG.

2) Does the 501 really sound "distant"?

3) Is the build flimsy like some other AKGs I have tried? Do they fall off your head if you sneeze?

4) How do they sound? From what I have read, the 501 seems to have the best high frequency response, no bottom end, good pace, timing and dynamics, grainy midrange (violins sound like they are played with hacksaws), very musical, distant sounding, lacks immediacy.

Let me also say that I once owned the K-240 and hated it. They had this plastic honkiness in the midrange and the bottom end was terrible. Is there a trademark AKG sound?

For circumaural, if I am not going to be improving on the HD600 I already have, then I guess I shouldn't bother considering the K-501.
post #2 of 76
Quote:
1) Is 501 compatible with X-Cans? I'm sure RA-1 is out of the running as I doubt it will drive the AKG.
I have both in my system right now (RA-1 and X-Can V2) Both of these amps can run the AKG 501, you will just have to turn up the volume up some more than you normally would.

Due to AKG's overly polite sound, they sound much too boring and dull from the neutral RA-1, IMHO. The X-Cans add some color improving the bass a bit and making them more enjoyable. Maybe, a better tube amp will make them sound better, I don't know.

Quote:
2) Does the 501 really sound "distant"?
Not as much as you would think, the HD-600's soundstage is much bigger than the 501's. The 501's tend to just suck the life of most recordings making them sound dull and boring. I guess you can call this result distant, if that's what you mean.

Quote:
3) Is the build flimsy like some other AKGs I have tried? Do they fall off your head if you sneeze?
Can't say for sure, since I haven't tried other AKG headphones. However, the 501 are much more comfy than say the Grados or Senns. They cover your full ears, and you can have them on all day. The cord makes a loud thump if you hit it while wearing the headphones, at least that's the way you hear it. It has a single cord design, so it you need not worry about it getting it tangled up like some other cords. The grey plastic ear cups look cheap, but are well made. Not to the level of 600's or of course HP-2's (but what is?) but these headphones also cost much less. The headband design is nice as well, they are also feel very lightweight on your head.

Quote:
4) How do they sound? From what I have read, the 501 seems to have the best high frequency response, no bottom end, good pace, timing and dynamics, grainy midrange (violins sound like they are played with hacksaws), very musical, distant sounding, lacks immediacy.
These headphones will suck all the life, power and energy out of your CDs. They have a dull, lifeless, boring sound, making them sound overly polite. However, because of these reasons, they also happen to be the least fatiguing headphones that I have tried. Because of their great comfort level and non-fatiguing sound, you can wear them all day. They will be very relaxing, and it doesn’t matter what style of music you listen too, it will sound this way.

In the end, if you listen to mostly laid back, relaxing music, then you will love these headphones. If not, then stay far away, unless you just want background music that is not too engaging.


I guess you can count this as my review of these headphones.

post #3 of 76
Quote:
These headphones will suck all the life, power and energy out of your CDs. They have a dull, lifeless, boring sound,
KR, tell us how you *really* feel
post #4 of 76
I don't have that much to compare it to, but non-fatiguing is probably its main attribute. But it definitely doesn't lack transparency and I would never describe it as dull. When you listen for it, everything is there, it just doesn't come at you or hit you over the head, you have to pay attention to it. Bottom end is definitely less than usual, but I am used to small speakers and it works well with the bass-heavy Headroom crossfeed on my Little.
I love my 501.
post #5 of 76
Thread Starter 
I have indicated recently how I have been "having fun" with my SR80. Sounds like the AKG will provide all the enthusiasm of a kid having to leave the swingset and go to church.

KR, seems like we share similar taste and preference in headphone sound (i.e. GRADO) and you know what's best for me.
Thanks for pulling that cigarette and bottle from my hands. I'll thank you later

During my lunch hour today, there was a quartet (violin, bass, guitar and sax) playing in the lobby of my office building. They sounded exactly like Grado headphones sound...musical, non hi-fi, involving, no obvious "treble". Most other phones lack that natural body in the bass/lower midrange.
post #6 of 76
The AKG501's will be the most different sounding pair of headphones...even compared to your HD600 or Grados.

Who knows if you will like it. Just don't even think that you will like the AKG501 for any of the same reasons you like your SR80's! Just IMO.

I like AKG501 build...if you have no qualms about low-end Grado build, AKG501 build is not bad at all IMO. But some people couldn't even figure out how to put thier pads back on if they've fallen off so I can't say how you would like it. The suspension mechanism and cording may come across as flimsy...but other than that the build should be superior to a low-end Grado. It's a give and take in this regard.

IMO yes the AKG501 will sound distant...but this is what some people will like about it.

You can try it if you are up for something really different. And truly it is a very relaxing phone, while still being more forward than Senns. Yet more distant. In otherwords, its got a unique sound that you probably won't figure out by reading strange contradictions that don't yet make sense. On the oterhand, buying a phone just to audition it without the ability to return isn't that safe unless you know you want something really different.
post #7 of 76
Thread Starter 
Thanks, sounds for sure like it would require an audition before buying.
post #8 of 76
Well, I cant so much comment on the K501s, because I only own the K401s..

I can relate to the fact that they sound a tiny bit distant at times. Especially when the music focuses on the upper midrange, where its a bit recessed. The cool thing is, though, is this gives you a real out of your head sortof sound. Vocals and instruments at times seem like theyre coming from a few feet away, rather then in my cranium. Volcals are never really directing from inside my head, acutally. Nothing is....

When I first put them on, they were definatly polite sounding. This was ok, though. No big deal. After they broke in, everything improved, but what improved most was the bass response.

Listening to some pretty heavy music, lots of tom-tom, snare hits, etc, I cant bring myself to think that these headphones are boring, though.

But then again, these are the K401s I'm talking about here. Which afterall, supposidly have a little bit more in the bottom end, and slightly peakier highs.

Compared to the bass, the highs are defainatly laid back, so you're not looking at a bright phone here, rather then one slightly on the dark side. Which is good for me.
post #9 of 76
Quote:
2) Does the 501 really sound "distant"?
This was a bit strange to me. Before I got the K501's, I read that they sounded slightly closer to the performance than Sennheisers (note: closer isn't the same as impactful here, e.g. where Grado's are both forward and impactful). This is something I noticed after getting the K501's. But when comparing the K501's to HD580's, the K501's did seem to have a larger soundstage. I don't know if this may sound contradictory, but while being closer to a performance, it at the same time had a bigger out-of-your-head feeling.

EDIT: Ah, after listening to my HD600's, I figured out what I meant. The HD580's and HD600's will make sounds seem like they're coming somewhere in front of you, from their more in-head sound. But since the K501's present sound AROUND you instead, it seems like you're actually closer to the performers, since you're immersed in the middle of the sounds.

Quote:
3) Is the build flimsy like some other AKGs I have tried? Do they fall off your head if you sneeze?
The build is quite good actually. The only thing I didn't like is how the inner headband's tension was maintained by springs in the earpieces, connected to the headband by 2 strings on each side. The springs can make noise if you're adjusting the placement of the headband and the tension changes, but when the headphones are finally placed right, they won't both you.

The K501's fit very lightly on your head, very unlike the clamp-like feel of a new/unbent pair of HD580's/HD600's. If you have a voilent sneeze, the positioning on your head will probably shift, but the headphone shouldn't fall off. You'll just have to readjust it.

Quote:
From what I have read, the 501 seems to have the best high frequency response
Depends what you want the best high frequency response to be. IMO, the K501's had a very very very smooth high frequency - in comparison, HD580's and HD600's might seem somewhat peaky (not painful or harsh), but definitely having more sparkle. Depending on what you listen to, it may be better or worse to have the smoother highs.
post #10 of 76
build quality on my K401's is top-notch, as it was with the k501's I auditioned at the headroom meet. the only problem I've heard people complain about is that the little gold rings around the endge of each earcup will sometimes move, but that is not the case with mine. They're really very well made.

And the K501 is NOTHING like the K240. totaly different sounding headphones.
post #11 of 76
Beagle, if you can find and locate some AKG 340s, I'd recommend those instead of the current day AKGs. The 340s totally blow away the K501s.
post #12 of 76
Quote:
Beagle, if you can find and locate some AKG 340s, I'd recommend those instead of the current day AKGs. The 340s totally blow away the K501s.
Vertigo, I usually agree with your headphone assessments, but I'm afraid I'm gonna have to disagree on this one. I have both the 340s and the 501s. One of the reason I got the 501s was to see what improvements, if any, AKG had made in the last 20 years. To my ears at least, the 501s definitely improve the immediacy of the sound. Everything has more clarity. It is, however, a much lighter sound. The 340s, while still maintaining the large soundstage of the 501s, have a darker, fuller sound. The bass is fuller and vocals have more weight to them.....there's a fullness that is lacking in the 501s. Then again, that fullness is replaced by more clarity on the 501s. Both, however, still have a somewhat distant sound, with the 340s sounding even more distant to me. I wouldn't go so far as to say one is better than the other. As is usually the case with high quality headphones, the sound portrayed is different. Again, which one the listener prefers is a personal choice.
post #13 of 76
beagle: If you like the Grado sound, then I would recommend going for the beyerdynamic DT531 instead of the K501. The DT531 is much more involving and has real impact in the bass department. In addition, the DT531 is nearly as comfy as the K501 and much comfier than the SR80.

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
post #14 of 76
I personally prefer the 340s myself because they have a fuller sound than what I heard on the 501s, which sounded way too lightweight over an extended period of time. However I certainly don't find the 340s dark at all...they're quite crystalline clear, clearer and cleaner in the highs in fact than say, Sennheiser HD-600s, and even the Allesandro MSPs. Those electrostatic drivers are definitely showing themselves off in the 340s...they just exhibit an extra transparency that's missing in other dynamic headphones, as if a veil had been lifted. The next headphone to surpass that veil lifting would be the Sony R10s, which sound EXTREMELY clear in everything. Those 501's I heard had a veil of a sort, I couldn't quite place it at first but my conclusion to that was that perhaps they needed a more powerful amp than what I had back when I owned the 501, which was an MG Head DT.

I need to do side by sides later tonight to see how they are really though against my other headphones...
post #15 of 76
vert, all a more powerful amp will do is give you the ability to go louder (and if you had it at or near max it would give less distortion). But that's really all.
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