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REVIEW: Cool colorful genuine leather earpads for AKG K240 et al

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
To wet your appetite and as an incentive for you to keep reading, some pictures first:

Philips N6330 with orange pads:


MB Quart Phone 70 with blue pads:


Don't they look good?

These are pads with an elastic ring, and according to the seller, suitable for AKG K240, K241, K250, K260, K270, K271, K280 and K290. A year ago, when I bought the two pairs I own, I had wanted to use one on my K340, but the K340 are slightly too large to easily fit the pads. It can be done, but they might slip off during handling. They do fit any headphones with about 105 mm diameter, like my MB Quarts for instance.

Let me mention first that these are sold here in Germany on eBay, and the seller (IdexMedia) does not ship abroad due to awkward legally complicated warranty and return policy regulations. Besides that, I contacted him before writing this review, and he mentioned that he has only about 50 pairs left in stock, which he does not intend to replenish. This means that for all you guys and girls in the Americas, obtaining these is unfortunately going to be somewhat difficult.

I still thought it worthwhile to finally post a review of these pads, because they look great, sound excellent, keep your ears cool and dry, and are very firm, so they flatten very little over time, all qualities one looks for in earpads.

Before I write about what they do to the sound, I'll first tell you a bit about their not-so-important qualities:

They are available in 5 different colours: black, brown, red, blue and orange (for pictures of the other colours, see the seller's website in German). They are handmade, genuine leather pads, so they "breathe", meaning they are great for people in hot countries and/or people that sweat a lot. They are well-made and firm, so they last long, unlike the original pleather AKG pads that tend to flatten quite a bit over time. They are pressed firmly and seamlessly to the head. Because of their firmness, some people may find them slightly less comfortable than pleather or velours pads, but personally I really love the fact that they don't sweat, so I prefer these over pleather. I haven't tried the standard AKG velours pads, so I cannot compare to that, but some head-fiers have commented that they change the sound too much (I do love velours too, as my Philips HP-1000 is the most comfortable set of cans I currently own). They are slightly smaller than the original AKG pads, meaning that also the inner ring is a bit tighter (6 mm smaller to be exact). In my own case, they just fit over my ears, but for people with big ears, this is something to consider.

Now, how do they sound, or rather, do they change the sound, compared to the pleather pads? I'll tell you my impressions.

Why did it take me a year to finally write something about these pads? Because I have had a love/hate relationship with them ever since I got them. I have used them on and off during the course of my headphones and equipment upgrades, on the AKG K340 (sold since then), my two current favourite cans, an MP and LP Sextett (AKG 240), a Philips N6330 and an MB Quart 70 that came without earpads. I will spare you the details of these upgrades, and cut down to the chase.

Do these pads change the sound, compared to the original pleather ones? YES! Do they sound better? A conditional YES! For the purpose of this review, I will talk about the sound signature of these pads, as heard through my two "reference" models, the Sextetts.

I currently have 3 old sets of pleather pads in varying stages of "flatness" and one brand new set of pads, directly from AKG. If I pair these up according to "flatness", I have 4 sets of AKG pads that all sound slightly different. Which one of these sounds best and would be the most suitable to function as a refererence for the leather pads? One would expect the brand new set to sound best, but funny enough this isn't the case. They sound ... confused, muddy, I don't know... just plain wrong. The flattest pads sound coherent, but muddy. They smooth the sound, but quite a bit of detail is lost. The best ones, which I will use as a reference for comparison, are the best conserved old pads. They are still quite firm, but already slightly flattened, compared to the brand new ones. These sound great!

How do these compare to the colourful ones? The difference is not that great, but it's not that subtle either. Comparing them one against the other positively, the pleather AKG pads lean towards smooth, warm, coherent, full-bodied with a solid headstage. The leather pads are transparant, clear, micro-detailed with fast transients, textured. On the negative side, the pleather pads smear the sound somewhat, mask certain details and absorb transients, while the leather pads are unforgiven in exposing flaws in the signal chain (something I have come to experience in the last year), not as full-bodied and solid-sounding, maybe not that suitable for rock/electronic, possibly a slightly less defined headstage.

Knowing these sound signatures, one can choose the best pads for a set of cans. For my MP Sextett, which is detailed but slightly warm, the leather pads are perfect, while for my LP Sextett the pleather pads are a perfect match. I use the MP with leather for classical and acoustic and the LP with pleather for pop/rock. Also the phones in the pictures, the Sextett-cloned Philips N6330 and the MB Quart sound better with the leather pads.

Objectively speaking, I'd say the leather ones are the most true to the ultimate reference (like how does an acoustic instrument sound in reality) and also subjectively, ever since my latest upgrades (amp mod, sextett recabling, digital source upgrade), I must say I prefer these babies. Only my LP Sextett, which is a bit too bright and has a somewhat thin bass, thrives on the original pleather, smoothing the highs and oompfing the bass, making it a great allround set for MP3's and electrically amped/electronic music. For acoustic detail I can only recommend these gorgeous pads.

I'm actually one set short at the moment. I think I might order another set and this time make it red ones.
post #2 of 26
Tiemen once got also such pads from ebay, and I figured as dummy, as they were germany only. I tested them on my K271, they sounded ridiculous, and they also weren't of Tiemen's liking (dunno which proband he used).

Padrolling is quite difficult (especially with "grown up" cans like AKG, Beyer & Senn). 90% don't work, 5% are on par but have drawbacks; to find the "remaining" 5% that "upgrade" can be quite a chase.
post #3 of 26


I'm sold.
post #4 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchen View Post
Tiemen once got also such pads from ebay, and I figured as dummy, as they were germany only. I tested them on my K271, they sounded ridiculous, and they also weren't of Tiemen's liking (dunno which proband he used).

Padrolling is quite difficult (especially with "grown up" cans like AKG, Beyer & Senn). 90% don't work, 5% are on par but have drawbacks; to find the "remaining" 5% that "upgrade" can be quite a chase.
How they sound compare to the stock pads?
post #5 of 26
Bassless, coloured mids, shrill highs.
post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchen View Post
Bassless, coloured mids, shrill highs.
Did you try the beyer pads?
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchen View Post
Tiemen once got also such pads from ebay, and I figured as dummy, as they were germany only. I tested them on my K271, they sounded ridiculous, and they also weren't of Tiemen's liking (dunno which proband he used).

Padrolling is quite difficult (especially with "grown up" cans like AKG, Beyer & Senn). 90% don't work, 5% are on par but have drawbacks; to find the "remaining" 5% that "upgrade" can be quite a chase.
Yup. They were very uncomfortable, because too stiff and not enough room for the ear to fit in.
The sound I got from them on the GMP250 and K270 Playback, was also not acceptable.
I destroyed the pads and threw them away.
These are IMO a sheer waste of money.
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiemen View Post
Yup. They were very uncomfortable, because too stiff and not enough room for the ear to fit in.
The sound I got from them was also not acceptable.
I destroyed the pads and threw them away.
So, what are good options for my GMP?
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acix View Post
So, what are good options for my GMP?
For my GMP 250 I use DT770 velour pads.
I covered the little holes at the back with tape.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchen View Post
Bassless, coloured mids, shrill highs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiemen View Post
They were very uncomfortable, because too stiff and not enough room for the ear to fit in. The sound I got from them on the GMP250 and K270 Playback, was also not acceptable. I destroyed the pads and threw them away. These are IMO a sheer waste of money.
Well, I'm not criticizing your opinions, because everyone has the right to express theirs. There have been times in this past year I would have said exactly the same as you have above. In stead of destroying the pads though, I kept them and as my equipment changed I tried them again.

As far as the comfort goes, this improves over time, like with genuine leather shoes , and I did mention that they are indeed slightly smaller, but my own ears fit perfectly and they are not exactly tiny. It takes some time to get used to them.

As with most things concerning hi-fi, the way we judge sound quality all depends on a combination of individual ears, musical taste, which headphones they're used on and system synergy. They can indeed be used to reduce weaknesses and emphasize strengths, just as the choice of any link in the musical chain affects the overall sound (silver vs copper, tubes vs ss).

In case of my favourite set of cans, listening to classical music, acoustical instruments and voices, which are the most sensitive to claims of high-fidelity, at least compared to let's say death metal (no offense intended), these pads can hold their own against the stock pads, at least to my ears, in my system, which I wouldn't call a low-fi system. These pads are not perfect. I have listed the pros and cons in my OP, but if they are one thing, they are transparent and detailed and will just pass on flaws in the signal chain, while the stock pads have the ablity to smooth things over.

I tend to listen to music about two hours a day, one hour of classical/folk on my blue-padded Sextett MP and another hour of pop/rock on my stock-padded Sextett LP. Why would I do that if I didn't feel that they sounded better that way? Still, it's only one man's view, but even if I would be the only one, it wouldn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying myself each and every day.
post #11 of 26
Back in the day (when I had k240s and k271s), Beyer pads made for dt770, dt880 or dt990 were just fine. The next step was to play with foams other than the stock AKG.
post #12 of 26
@ satshanti:

Maybe these pads work acceptable with your vintage gear, Tiemen's & my criticism was only related to unsuitable coupling with K270/K271 and GMP 250.
post #13 of 26
satshanti, as nickchen said, those pads do sonically not work with the K270/271 and GMP250.
But that's not to say they go along well with the Sextett's.

One thing I agree with you, and it puzzles me. New AKG vinyl earpads do not sound as good as the slightly flattened and softer older earpads.
I bought some used K340 pads, and I prefer them over the brandnew ones, both for comfort and sound on my K270 Playback.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiemen View Post
For my GMP 250 I use DT770 velour pads.
I covered the little holes at the back with tape.
and what does it change to do that? I believe I tried it at some point on my DT770Pro/250, but I think I didn't like it...can't remember why, more bass maybe?
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by leeperry View Post
and what does it change to do that? I believe I tried it at some point on my DT770Pro/250, but I think I didn't like it...can't remember why, more bass maybe?
Makes the sound less bright. Not more bass, just a more coherent sound.
The GMT250 stock earpads don't have those holes in their earpads, so a completely sealed earpad makes more sence.
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