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AKG K181DJ review

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I wrote the following in response to a thread about which AKG someone should purchase. One of the OP's possibilities was the 181 so I thought I would throw out the recent positive surprise I got after buying a pair. I figured I would copy it to here so people looking for a review would run into it. Feel free to ask any questions.

"The 181s are WAY underrated. I know they are "DJ" cans and have the bass boost that makes audiophiles barf, but I picked up a pair on fleabay a few weeks back and they are phenomenal.

I own and love my K501s with Fitz black clover and ALO 701s - along with my 600s they are my favorite open cans. I have heard 240s and have previously owned sextetts and 271s. The 181 is a completely different (and less refined) beast than the 501s and 701s, but I would place them ahead of the other AKGs in a flash.

I should say that mine are no longer stock. I did the blue-tak mod usually used for the K81. I also pulled the foam circle. And just today I attached a zu cable. These things all made a difference, but the following comments are true (if only to a bit lesser degree) even with the stock pair.

The 181s are not a neutral monitoring can. They are very in-yourt-face intimate with great punchy bass (even without the boost). Part of that is due to the supra-aural cups and AKG designing these for DJ use. But in my opinion the 181s are a great combination of bassy fun and the well-known AKG clarity in the mids. They are the bassiest cans I have ever heard where the mids still presented themselves as forward and transparent. The treble seemed a little rolled off and that was my only complaint until today when the Zu arrived and the sparkle kicked in. Now they are just amazing and pretty close to flawless in a closed-can kind of way. I recently had (and sold) the ALO 780s which I thought were terrific. These 181s are better in almost every way with the all-important mids leaving the 780s in the dust and giving a much more natural sounding presentation and timbre. The treble is better with the new cable and the bass is similar, if (perhaps) a touch less thunderous.

I know people will tend to discount all this praise for a DJ can that gets little love on this forum, but what can i say? I usually have pretty standard taste and have gravitated toward some pretty popular headphones. But the 181s have just blown me away. They surprised me too......"
post #2 of 20
Little love??????
You must be joking.
Did you actually search and missed this thread?
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kees View Post
Little love??????
You must be joking.
Did you actually search and missed this thread?
Those are the K81DJ, the K181DJ's little brother.

Thanks for your review. Very interesting, especially considering the negative reviews I read about the K181DJ when the K81 and K181 first came out. Can you comment on or compare them to your other headphones in terms of comfort?
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yes, the K81 seems to get a relatively large amount of respect and attention.

As to comfort, for me that is currently their one downfall. They do clamp pretty tightly, though that is getting better with some overnight burn-in/stretching-over-books.

But I really prefer circumaural and so far my experimentation has yielded no useful results with alternative pads. The sound greatly thins out when anything but the stock pads are on. I am still thinking about possible alternatives.

Also, I wear glasses which makes it worse, but I have found that placing my ear pieces up a little as I put them on helps quite a bit.

The cup is 3.5 inches, so if anyone has some ideas about pads please let me know.
post #5 of 20
Thanks for the review. I myself own a K181 but mine is stock. Nevertheless it proved itself worthy but due to the clamp force, I chose DT770 over it.
post #6 of 20
Thanks for this review.

That's really, really interesting. I've been traveling a lot and after something other than the Senn 280 or HD-25 or even the AKG 171.

These look to be just what the doctor ordered, especially if the blue tack mod tames the bass a bit. AKG mids with a replacable cable that folds flat - brilliant!
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yes, the blue-tak addresses the boominess (as expected) but also made the mids more natural-sounding (less echo-y) and that is what pulled these up to something really extraordinary.
post #8 of 20
well, i've got the K 518's and i love them. Only wish the ear pads weren't made of leather, from a Rhino's backside!
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by rhythmicmoose View Post
Those are the K81DJ, the K181DJ's little brother.
I totally misread the type number.
But I do remember there has been some talk about it in the thread I mentioned.
post #10 of 20
I own the K81, my first buy under the head-fi influence. Headband has quite a bit of pressure, but the overall experience was good. Now I might be looking to it's big brother (or sister?)!
post #11 of 20
Thanks for the review senns&nonsense.
Have you considered padding them with Dynamat instead of the bluetak? I wonder if that would provide tighter-righter bass.

Your comments about the HFI-780 keep me wondering... would you please elaborate a bit more the areas in which the k181 DJ were better than the Ultrasones?

Rgrds
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
I had sold the ALO 780s just prior to receiving the K181s, so some of this is from memory, but I also A/B'd the K181s against a stock 780 at the recent CanJam.

As usual foir AKG, the mids are where they shine. I thought the mids on the 780 were good, especially for such a fun bassy can. they were not overpowered as I think they are, for example, on Darths or DT990s. But they still had a graininess (especially stock) compared to the liquid mids of the 181s.

I also like the slightly smaller amount of bass on the 181s. The 780s have a thunderously punchy, cracking bass that is a lot of fun and sounds great on something like Terence Blanchard's On The Verge. But I think it is akin to equalizing everything you listen to in a way that is not natural and I would not want all the time. Ultrasone says that the 780's frequency response is tuned for CD/DVD playback. I bet Spiderman would sound great through them, but I do not want all my music having all that jarring bass. The 181s are VERY bassy, and seem to extend very low, but sounds right to me, bassy but still in balance, not EQ'd.

They are both aggressive cans, but through my Doge the AKGs even have a pretty nice soundstage, a little wider than the 780s which is sort of amazing for clamping supra-aural "DJ" phones.

I wish they were more comfortable......
post #13 of 20
Thanks, I get the picture

rgrds
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
OH.... About the Dynamat.... It is certainly a better material, but would be harder to use for the 181s. If you look up the mod for the 81s you will see pix of what needs to be "padded". On the 81 the cup is pretty uniform, but on the 181 the back of the cup has electronics and lots more stuff to work around. The blue stuff can be worked into the right spots, but cutting exact pieces of the Dynamat would be for someone handier than I.....
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by senns&nonsense View Post
OH.... About the Dynamat.... It is certainly a better material, but would be harder to use for the 181s. If you look up the mod for the 81s you will see pix of what needs to be "padded". On the 81 the cup is pretty uniform, but on the 181 the back of the cup has electronics and lots more stuff to work around. The blue stuff can be worked into the right spots, but cutting exact pieces of the Dynamat would be for someone handier than I.....
I see, I haven't seen the K181's insides. Dynamat looks like vituminous so cutting small pieces and pasting them in the right places between electronic parts, can be a real PITA.
Any idea if those electronics are diodes or anything "tweakable"? I wonder if AKG has included some "protection" circuits that could be degrading sound.

Rgrds
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