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Another AKG K271 MKII Review

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Why the AKG K271 MKII is an exceptional safe-lab headphone:

The Short Version™
  1. Comfortable enough that I can wear them for a long time
  2. Isolating enough that you won’t hear the drone around you
  3. Ugly enough that they won’t be stolen
  4. Cheap enough that they can be stolen
  5. Nice looking enough that people don’t think less of me
  6. Good sounding enough that I don’t miss my home rig too much
  7. Not perfect enough that I they make my home rig obsolete

The Long Version™

My name is Jeremy. I work in a laboratory. This isn’t a particularly dangerous laboratory, where the worst thing that happens is the occasional capacitor explodes, or the magic purple smoke that makes semiconductors work will escape its ceramic prison. Even in the worst case, the fire alarm is so piercing that I’m not sure it would be possible to fully block it out. In other words, I work in a white collar lab.

I spend a lot of time around exceptionally loud fans, specifically inside of computers. Protip: if loud computers bother you, you should not consider a job in the semiconductor industry. While that does make me a prime candidate for noise cancelling headphones, I basically just don’t like changing the batteries in them, meaning such phones as the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 and the like were out. This meant that in my particular circumstances, my highest priorities were comfort, isolation, and sound. I have a lab workbench as well, so moving around isn’t an issue either, meaning that I can drive the headphones however I please.

I should also add that my tastes in music are generally classical, some folk and acoustic rock, and electronic. I don’t need a lot of bass. And I can’t stand sibilance. Really, it makes me take off a pair of headphones in seconds flat. I equalize everything above 15 kHz if the headphones require it.

I was looking for a ~$200 pair of headphones. Provantage had the AKG K271 MKII for $160 shipped to the USA, so I went with them. I didn’t have the opportunity to listen to some of the other widely recommended closed headphones, so I went with these sight-unseen. Having the K340’s, I felt confident that the fit would be acceptable for me. I’d bought the Shure SRH-840’s and immediately sold them in the FS/FT forums as my ears stick out and broke their seal.

My points of comparison for this set of headphones: the Grado SR-80, the AKG K340, the ATH-A700, and the Denon AH-C551K ear buds.

The setups I tested with were:
ASIO -> USB -> γ2 -> Tangent PPAv2 and
ASIO -> USB -> γ2
DirectSound -> USB -> γ1 -> Cavalli CTH
iPod mini, generation 2.
and I’ve burned these headphones in now for around 100 hours. They sounded pretty good from the start and haven’t dramatically improved, at least to my ears. They don’t sound good straight out of the iPod; they do need either an amplifier or a powerful enough source. For example, my γ2 is sufficient to power them. I’m using the velour pads because the vinyl pads get sticky after around 2 hours.

Comfort: This is essentially my largest concern; I wanted to be able to wear these for about 12 hours straight. The K271 hits the mark perfectly. They don’t clamp too hard, the velour ear pads that are included are great and the coiled cable and straight cables are excellent for switching depending on if I need to venture to a far side of the lab. The sibilance doesn’t inspire me to take them off and the bass isn’t overwhelming. The sound is somewhat forward, but again not in a way that I find offensive. I prefer the velour's but the vinyl pads aren’t bad either.

Looks: Outside of the audiophile communities, people tend to think certain headphones look ugly. These are, according to my coworkers, less offensive than others. However, most people see them and don’t think twice about wanting them. This again suits me fine; my office is fairly safe and no one’s vying to steal them.

Build: Sturdy, I don’t mind bashing them around, tossing them onto my desk, and pulling them off. Would I drive over them with a car? No. Can they be stepped on like the German Maestro phones? I don’t want to try. There is a small button that breaks the circuit when the headphones aren’t being worn; some people dislike this feature, but it suits my needs nicely. I don’t fear these breaking any time soon.

Value: I think they sound pretty good. Particularly, if someone does steal them, I don’t necessarily mind replacing them. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to me, and I’d probably get another pair.

Bass: Present and accounted for. Overwhelming? Again, no. The bass is more present than on my K340’s, however is less present than the ATH-A700’s and the AH-C551K’s. It’s tight and defined and doesn’t sound muddy. I would say it’s more defined than the ATH-A700’s, but that may be because there is less of it.

Mids: I’m spoiled. My K340’s ruined me. Absolutely ruined. I find myself listening to more music with female vocals over male vocals. I understand that this is typical of AKG headphones though. I absolutely prefer the mids of the K271 over the ATH-A700 though, also over the AH-C551K.

Treble: I like it. It’s there, it’s detailed and not sibilant. It sounds comparable to the ATH-A700 to me.

Soundstage: There isn’t much to speak of it. There’s more soundstage than the SR-80, and there’s less soundstage than my ATH-A700. The source of each instrument isn’t well defined; I can find them if I listen for them, but in general they come from either the “left” or the “right.”

Fun: I can corroborate the opinion that these are somewhat clinical and flat. For my tastes in music, they’re great. I wouldn’t recommend these with metal, hip hop, rap, or hard rock. I tried out a few Miles Davis tracks and they sounded good to me. Imogen Heap was just great. I love the sound of a grand through these.

Overall: I like them. I like my K340’s more; I tend to prefer open headphones, but I can’t get away with them at work. They don’t need much in terms of amplification, and definitely don’t need much in terms of equalization or coloring by an amp. I’m happy with my PPAv2 driving them, but then the CTH also sounds good. An overly tubey sound might make the mids too present though.

Things I couldn’t figure out where to mention: They are extremely revealing of clipping, much more than the ATH-A700. They aren’t studio headphones without reason.
post #2 of 23
excellent review - thanks for sharing!

i really like the K271. (right now i'm listening to AIR with my y-2/Bijou). although i don't find them clinical with any of my amps. they don't impose any freq on you and instead just let the music flow with excellent pitch, color, drama, and rhythm. a highly underrated can.
post #3 of 23
I liked the sound of the 271s so much, I bought the 271mkII as a backup pair when the shop I usually buy from didn't have the S variant anymore. The mkII I use more often with the velour pads on for more bass. I also work in a noisy PC environment. The mkII is plugged in to a small Behringer mixer with the lower freq knob ever so slightly tweaked up to give the 271 just a little more bass kick. I don't hear the PC fan noise surrounding me and I can listen to my music in absolute bliss while I work. Co-workers have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention...which is fine by me.
post #4 of 23
nice review there, the MKII series headphones from AKG have amazingly little impressions here.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by InFn-0 View Post
nice review there, the MKII series headphones from AKG have amazingly little impressions here.
My understanding is that the MKII headphones are essentially identical to their studio and HD counterparts (K271S = K271MKII = K272HD, K240 = K240MKII = K242HD) except for the "peripherals" included, the aesthetics, and whether or not the cable is detachable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D4R View Post
<snip>... Co-workers have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention...which is fine by me.
I find a rear view mirror works wonderfully.
post #6 of 23
Very nice review! Well written, organized, and succinct.

You have corroborated my experiences with the K271's and the K340 as well.
post #7 of 23
having tried the denons, I prefer the akg k271. the overpowering bass and recessed mids of the denons bothered me. the akg k271 are really underrated here at head fi and even at headroom.

I don't know how the denon ah-d2000 can be considered reference closed cans at headroom with all its flaw and not the akg k271.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by D4R View Post
I liked the sound of the 271s so much, I bought the 271mkII as a backup pair when the shop I usually buy from didn't have the S variant anymore. The mkII I use more often with the velour pads on for more bass. I also work in a noisy PC environment. The mkII is plugged in to a small Behringer mixer with the lower freq knob ever so slightly tweaked up to give the 271 just a little more bass kick. I don't hear the PC fan noise surrounding me and I can listen to my music in absolute bliss while I work. Co-workers have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention...which is fine by me.
Do you happen to notice any sound difference between original S and MKII?
Thx.
post #9 of 23
I've heard K240S, K240 MKII, K271S and K271 MKII.

Both K240S and MKII sound the same when both have leatherette pads on. But when you put velvet pads on either model, they sound different. Same thing for K271S vs. K271MKII. In other word, the differences are caused by their earpads.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cankin View Post
I've heard K240S, K240 MKII, K271S and K271 MKII.

Both K240S and MKII sound the same when both have leatherette pads on. But when you put velvet pads on either model, they sound different. Same thing for K271S vs. K271MKII. In other word, the differences are caused by their earpads.
Does that mean that K271S and K271 MKII with velour pads sound identical? Accordingly to assembly manual they use same part numbers, so I don't see how there could be any difference, although there was a post a while back claiming that K271 MKII is a noticeable improvement over older K271S.
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_WOT View Post
Does that mean that K271S and K271 MKII with velour pads sound identical? Accordingly to assembly manual they use same part numbers, so I don't see how there could be any difference,
I should have made it clear:

K271S with leatherette pads sounds the same as K271MKII with leatherette pads.
K271S with velvet pads sounds the same as K271MKII with velvet pads.

But when you have different pads on them, for example, K271S with velvet pads and K271MKII with leatherette pads, or K271S with leatherette pads and K271MKII with velvet pads, they sound different. So the difference are caused by the type of earpads, not the version of the headphone, same for K240S and K240MKII.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_WOT View Post
although there was a post a while back claiming that K271 MKII is a noticeable improvement over older K271S.
Some people hear difference between HD650 w/black driver and HD650 w/white driver or K701/K702.
post #12 of 23
I accidentaly vacumed my K271s cable, and shreded it into pieces. That was the best mistake I made in my life. A simple aftermarket recable, took the headphone two notches up in SQ. I am still keeping mine since 2003
post #13 of 23
I spent a few minutes with a K271 MkII. I thought I might weigh in.

Quote:
Bass
No comment; didn't have my music on me when I demod them. Couldn't find any cello pieces.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jezz View Post
I absolutely prefer the mids of the K271 over the ATH-A700 though, also over the AH-C551K.
I'd agree with you there, but the A700 is recessed in the mids anyways. I use my MS1s for anything requiring mids. The K271 MkII is definitely a step above the MS1 in the mids department though. Relatively, the K271 makes violins sing, whereas the A700 makes them sit in the back.

Quote:
Treble: I like it. It’s there, it’s detailed and not sibilant. It sounds comparable to the ATH-A700 to me.
I always thought the A700 was bordering on sibilant. Walking on the fine line, but not quite crossing. I've yet to hear a headphone or earphone with comparable treble other than the K271.
post #14 of 23
Loving my K271 MKII as well after a week or so with them. Really one of the best choices if you are looking for best mids from a closed can. While they don't extend on both ends as well as K701 does, I feel that it gets the mid balance better.
post #15 of 23
Great review! I'm now sure that these headphones are not for me. Anyway, I think they look awesome it's definitely one of the coolest phones I know.
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