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AKG K340 Electrostatic Headphones

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone, I recently picked up a pair of these in good shape in their original box for $10 (Quite a score for some vintage TOTL headphones - I knew nothing about these but figured they were worth their price given it said electrostatic on the box. I've heard there are three versions (Bass heavy, bass light, and balanced) - anyway I can tell without taking them apart? I've not listened to them for too long or too critically, but they work fine without any issues. My only other headphones are a pair of ATH-M50's and some Head Direct RE0 IEMs - though the latter doesn't seem like a fair comparison since I have discovered I have a strong preference for OTE's (Stupid IEM's, the left one falls out of my ear all the time). Comparing to the M50's these don't have as much bass, so I'm guessing they're not the bass heavy version. If one considers the M50 a comparatively balanced headphone then these would be the bass light, though while they don't have as much bass as the M50's they're not bad (I've honestly not heard enough headphones to be really informed on what a boomy headphone is vs a weak one - other than those awful Apple buds, yuck!). They're quite pleasant to listen to - first pair of electrostatics I have ever heard. I almost had some Stax but got a great deal on some audio components that were way rarer than a good deal on some Stax (And cost me less on top of it).

 

I hear people with Stax say they have good bass and imaging - I'll say these AKG's have pretty nice imaging from what I've heard so far, bass is certainly better than a lot of cheap headphones I've had the displeasure to listen to. I find it funny too that this has the same flat cable like a Stax - what is the reason for this strange looking cable? These things are also super lightweight on my head - I never thought the M50's were that heavy but these AKGs are so light the M50 feels heavy by comparison. I'm not a fan of the stupid round headphone cups though - I have to fidget with it for awhile before I get a comfortable listening position on my head, but it's fine once I get it. I guess my ears are just a tad too oval shaped or big to fit these as easily as the M50's comfortably fit on my head. Ha, at first I thought these also might be a new pair of headphones I could listen to on campus - however I saw the impedence, 400 ohms is uhh a wee-bit more than my iPhone can easily drive on its own.

 

I don't really need more headphones (Really I'm more of a speaker guy - but the more I hear nice headphones the more I want more!). Figured I couldn't go wrong with the price I paid, but I wonder how these compare to more contemporary headphones? I've heard about some mods too - what exactly would those be and what effect do they have on their sound? If anything, I'd like a little more bass out of them - I have no quelms with the highs or mids so far, but the more I hear them the more the bass seems pretty decent. Funny thing though, these are the only pair of headphones I have ever used that made my receiver get warm while listening to them - but I know electrostatics be they headphones or speakers are power hogs.

 

So what are some of your opinions on these headphones? If anyone owns or has owned both these and the ATH-M50's, I'd love to know your comparative opinion - relative also to what version of the AKG's you have.

post #2 of 29

Never heard them before so I have nothing to add, but wow, $10.  Amazing what you can find sometimes when you're not actually looking.

 

Thanks for the impressions.

post #3 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Morden View Post

Figured I couldn't go wrong with the price I paid, but I wonder how these compare to more contemporary headphones?
Quite simply, they beat them all except the Stax O2s.

10$ is simply unbelievable, and I'm quite sure there will be many, many jealous people around here!

First, some information on them. They are hybrid, using a dynamic cone driver for bass and mids, and an electret electrostatic driver for treble.
The "bass light" and "bass heavy" versions are only distiguishable by taking them apart and looking at the color of the driver, green for bass-light, grey for bass-heavy. Note that both are actually bass light in comparison to other 'phones.

Funny that you find them light, I find them quite heavy and difficult to keep on my head for more than a few hours. I would also be surprised if they don't need a change of pads and elastics.

They are definitely not for portable use. The high impedance and low sensitivity require a powerful amp.

Soundwise, well... I have not found any set that beats them in all regards. Even the O2s don't have their treble extension.
The 340s treble extension is unsurpassed, and their bass extension is also industry leading, but they lack the usual bass and midbass boost of most 'phones. Their speed is fantastic, better than any i've heard except the RE-ZERO.
Besides the bass, their only other sonic shortcoming is a bit of midrange "confusion" due to the crossover between the drivers. It's hard to describe it, since other 'phones don't have crossovers.
But the detail, dynamics, soundstage, speed, are all amazing and IMHO (despite not having heard any of the statement dynamics) they beat any dynamic in existence.

Without an amp, they still retain the detail and imaging, but tend to sound apathethic, with lack of dynamics and lose a lot of midrange quality.
Edited by Wildstar - 4/9/11 at 5:16am
post #4 of 29
>Quite simply, they beat them all except the Stax O2s.
> Even the O2s don't have their treble extension.

lol...bit of wishful thinking there... plus most people describe O2 as dark.
The pair I had was ok for easy listening and rock music(quite enjoyable), but it's nowhere near as good as even 202/404/507.
The mids were colored so it wasn't so good for classical music. The seal isn't very good on them (semi-open biggrin.gif ), so they're leak sound a lot and the bass isn't quite what it should be either.
It's certainly a nice pair of HP, especially for $10, but not nearly as good as modern Stax /\ frame HP or Omegas.

It will definitely give $200-400 a run for their money if you find the right amp to drive them.
Edited by svyr - 4/9/11 at 6:01am
post #5 of 29

The k340 sound really good, they need a bit more drive than most dynamic headphones, they have a slight hollow signature to them, and $10 is going to warp your bang for the buck perception permanently. 

post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the thoughts guys. These are in quite good shape. I imagine the previous owner used them occasionally since they have some dirt on them, but they're in good shape and in the original box which makes me think the guy didn't listen to them a lot. The elastics are still fine on them and I can see how that would be something that would break. My initial impression coming from the M50's is to say they don't have as much bass as they should, but it actually more seems like it depends on the music I listen to. Lots of things I listen to sound excellent on these and is really detailed.

 

Heh and I know about getting great stuff for a ridiculous price, I picked up a bunch of very rare gear that I got for a great price a few months ago. Man, and I almost walked right by these because at first I thought they were just some old cheap heaphones in a box and didn't even notice the brand. Sure glad I didn't walk by them now! After a couple good finds now I'm sure I'm destined to have a few months of pure crap finds - but such is how it goes! And isn't this just a tease, the guy who I bought all my rare gear from also had the manual to a Pioneer SA-9800 - making me wonder where that amp is! I'm sure it was there since he had the manual but he didn't mention it. Ah well, I'm quite content with the goodies I've been lucky enough to get. I guess part of the fun is in the hunt for goods, it would be boring after awhile if you always got scores.

post #7 of 29

To me the K340 sounds like an LP Sextett with better highs but decreased comfort. It's quite good, and worth more than $10 (obviously). If you plan on keeping it make sure to drive it with something powerful, like a vintage receiver or a nice amp.

post #8 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aflac View Post

To me the K340 sounds like an LP Sextett with better highs but decreased comfort. It's quite good, and worth more than $10 (obviously). If you plan on keeping it make sure to drive it with something powerful, like a vintage receiver or a nice amp.



I agree, but I would add to this by saying that the K340 sounds like the K240 Sextett with better (although also brighter, which is a fault IMO) treble, but less coherent and less realistic midrange.  They area amazing in many ways that have been documented pretty well, but I do think they are missing something in the mid-upper midrange area and are a bit too bright for me.  But I haven't heard my pair on a good enough amp I don't think.  I'd love to hear them with the Lyr!

 

post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by svyr View Post

>Quite simply, they beat them all except the Stax O2s.
> Even the O2s don't have their treble extension.

lol...bit of wishful thinking there... plus most people describe O2 as dark.
The pair I had was ok for easy listening and rock music(quite enjoyable), but it's nowhere near as good as even 202/404/507.
The mids were colored so it wasn't so good for classical music. The seal isn't very good on them (semi-open biggrin.gif ), so they're leak sound a lot and the bass isn't quite what it should be either.
It's certainly a nice pair of HP, especially for $10, but not nearly as good as modern Stax /\ frame HP or Omegas.
For some reason, mine (actually my father's) K340s seem to sound better than most, from what I read around here.

Direct a/b with the 202 some years ago: from memory, the 202s were more detailed, but had no bass whatsoever, and also less dynamics.

I was able to listen to the current Stax range briefly in an audioshow last month, obviously could not a/b with the K340. My impressions:
SRS-2170: what the heck? These don't sound electrostatic at all. A "fun" signature, mimicking dynamics, poor treble extension and too much bass;
SRS-3170: the most pleasant sounding headphone system I've ever heard. Very nice, although not as detailed as its bigger brothers, maybe a bit of emphasis on the bass and treble, but everything seems to be in its right place. Seriously considering getting one of these later on;
SRS-4170: very similar to 307, but more detailed, possibly the highest treble extension of the lot, but not as pleasing. Some kind of "ugliness" in the mids and upper mids in comparison;
SR-007mk2+SRM-006tS: the true hi-fi musical experience, the likes of Ongaku and old Bel Canto stuff. Pure magic, it just disappears, which is what hi-fi gear should do, and just sounds effortless in everything. The treble doesn't seem to go all the way to the top like the K340, however. This could be because of the other hardware. Still, with a sound like this, who cares? I justed wanted to stay there and listen forever...

In the end, I feel the K340 is flatter than the 307, but the latter is more pleasing. The 407 might be better in all respects except bass depth, but I really didn't like it. The 207 is not worth it, get a good dynamic instead.

I feel "my" K340s were from a fortunate batch, or something. They don't have some of the faults I've read on the 'net. They're not very good for bad recordings or "rocking out", but on good recordings, especially symphonic music, they are sublime and in all cases simply allow you to hear more than most other cans.
Edited by Wildstar - 4/10/11 at 9:04am
post #10 of 29

Wildstar, thanks for comparing the new Lambdas, very very helpful.  First comparison like this I've seen.

 

post #11 of 29
>202s were more detailed, but had no bass whatsoever,

Mmm, didn't like 202 very much either. The bass was severely rolled off and didn't go very deep (large scale orchestral sounded hollow, as did anything with drums biggrin.gif ) . Mids detail and coloration were a lot better on them than on the K340 I had.


>The 407 might be better in all respects except bass depth, but I really didn't like it

Try 507 if you get a chance. They should have better bass extension and just about the right amount. Strange... I could've sworn the original post above was talking about 507, and now it doesn't :\


Very possible about 'fortunate batch'. Considering how old these all are, and how much the use/storage conditions vary... My pair was all over the place with colored mids, ok highs and meh bass (maybe strange due to the seal). I'd probably describe it as 'meh' electret + meh dynamics hybrid.

Strange comments about 2170. There's an impressions thread where they guy says they're pretty much no different to 2050a (sr-202 + 252a)
Edited by svyr - 4/10/11 at 6:47am
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by svyr View Post

I could've sworn the original post above was talking about 507, and now it doesn't :\
It did, it was my mistake tongue.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by svyr View Post

Strange comments about 2170. There's an impressions thread where they guy says they're pretty much no different to 2050a (sr-202 + 252a)
I was also very surprised. Maybe it was tweaked or something? I dunno. It sounded very different from the others. It really seemed to have the midbass hump and rolled off treble most supra-aurals have these days. It's as if it was tuned specifically to appeal to "the common folk".
The store is the new rep. for Stax in my country, maybe they tuned the show model like that on purpose.
post #13 of 29

Welcome to the K340 club.  beerchug.gif   10$ is a cheap fare for membership, that's for sure. 

 

They do need an amp though... that line might be head-fi over abused motto but it's quite true in that particular case. Paired with a nice vintage receiver, they can sound quite magic, if undefined in the bassiest notes. Perfection is to be found, in my opinion at least, with powerfull tubes amplifiers (or at least hybrids).

 

I've had quite a few headphones in the sub 300$ range... the K340 are the ones I kept.

 

 

Ben, proud K340 owner since 2003.

 

post #14 of 29

I've had multiple pairs from multiple versions and in different stages of (dis)repair over time. I know these headphones pretty well, or so I'd like to think.

 

No, they're not electrostatics. They're a dynamic/electret hybrid. You can't really make generalizations about electrostatics after hearing the K340s. They're more dynamic than electrostatic, though their treble has some of the smoothness of good electrostats.

 

The different versions do sound pretty different based on my memory - but that could be simply different condition. I also heard a number of modded pairs, and I ended up preferring a stock bass-light pair over any of them. If I got a pair and was handy with a soldering iron I would think about reconditioning them first before modding them.

 

It's kinda hard to generalize about their sound, since different pairs vary so much. I wouldn't call the K340s very accurate headphones, but they are definitely enjoyable ones. The best pair I've had was bass-light, fairly bright (bordering on relentlessly bright when paired with bright amps/sources but quite pleasant off a warm, mellow tube rig), but with warm mids and a punchy bass that didn't quite go down all the way. It was detailed, fluid, and had very accurate imaging. I think it's the combination of warm midrange tone, treble sparkle, liquid transients, and overall feeling or air that gave it a special kind of magic. It was very vivid sounding, and more than once I commented that it sounded alive.

 

Comparisons to the O2 aren't really relevant except in the sense that the O2 is better. In every way. But the O2 also has significantly stiffer system requirements and can sound quite dull in the wrong rig. But in the right rig it has the same vivid magic that the K340 does, except more so, and technically is on another level.

 

Comparing to other headphones in the sub-$1k category that are worth their money, the K340s more than hold their own. But, you have to have a good-sounding pair; some of the bass-heavy and modded pairs I heard sounded pretty terrible.

 

They require good amping, or at the very least powerful amping. Portable amps need not apply. Cheap tube amps that would otherwise sound too thick with more balanced cans work very well with the bass-light pairs, but for bass-heavy pairs you'll want something much leaner and with better bass control.

 

The biggest flaw in the K340s for me was the chassis design. They need a good, almost IEM-like seal in order to sound good, but the chassis doesn't provide anywhere near enough clamping force, and the earpads aren't soft or cushy enough to be able to form a good seal with the little clamping force that's there. I ended up having to hold them up against my ears most of the time and that, rather than the sound, was the deal-breaker. I think a transplant onto another headband mechanism, maybe something like the DT770 headband which could provide a lot more clamping force, could improve things greatly.

 

$10 is a ridiculously good deal for them, but you'd better have a good amp.

post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 

Well, I have a few amps that could serve the purpose. I have an Adcom GFA-545 II at 100 watts per channel, a Marantz 170 DC at 85 watts per channel, and my Denon AVR-4802 receiver which is 120 watts per channel (Though does accept external amps via pre outs). I'm not really a tube kinda guy, they're expensive, hard to find, and I listened to some tube stuff and heard no difference between it and a nice solid state receiver. Are my amps adequate, or are we talking something ridiculous like a 150-200 watt per channel amp for these?

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