AKG K550 vs Audio Technic ATH900 (Closed headphones battle)
Build and quality:
K550s weigh about the same as the A900s, size difference the A900s are similar sized cups but the wing system and headband make the A900s a lot bigger, also the cups are more wider on the A900s and stick out more. If you’re looking for something a lot smaller and more compact the K550s have the edge here. As for looks and design there is no contest really the K550s look sleek and sexy and a lot more refined while the A900s look more "plasticy". The Cable on the K550 looks similar to its black matt type finish also, looking at the jack it does not appear the K550s will not get worn out or loose like my A900s did after a few years of pulling in and out of the jack!
The A900s pads are terrible is the best way to describe it, last only a good year or 2 and generally very expensive to replace from audio cubes (if you want the originals) I found I had to pay £50-60 for replacements, they are however comfy and quite soft but don’t last long. I understand they have apparently fixed this with more pleather/solid and stiffer pads with the A900X updated versions though. The K550 Ear pads are lovely and soft also and look like they could last 3-5 years or a lot longer but it’s impossible to say having not owned it that long. Overall prefer the K550 pads here simply since they look like they can last the distance.
Closed back and overall Design performance:
The ATH900s cups provide ok isolation but it does leak noise, Generally it works ok once around your ears, blocks the noise by a good 30-40% from leaking, but the noise that is leaked does mean others in the same room can hear it also, next room I would say no.
The larger A900 cups have more space for your ears to breathe in so getting hot or sweaty and getting uncomfortable is not going to happen so much with the A900s. I love the Audio technic wing system it adapted to my freaky flat sized head and the cups slipping off my head and ears issue went away soon after, my A900s clamping force also went away and they fit perfectly after 1-2 weeks breaking in use.
Now in comparisons to the K550 the 1st thing to note is the closed back performance is way better. It’s night and day difference! As long as you push gently down both sides of the cups you can get a nice seal, you can feel your ears sort of pop and then it seals. The noise leakage is very little about 20-30% so if you really want silence the K550s are a lot better.
I cannot describe just how good the K550s isolate noise, if I crank up full 100% volume on the A900s and cover the cups with my hands the whole house could still hear it, if I do the same to the K550s can barely hear anything!
Also to note K550s headband can rub the top of my head the padding under the K550 headband is weak a bit, not really an issue tbh but I’ve been with A900s so the headband does not remotely touch the head.
I noticed with the K550s my ears get a bit warmer but it’s nothing that causes any issue. Just with any headphone your head and ears have to adapt and it takes time.
Sound quality overall:
Before I give a breakdown of how both sound overall, I have owned the A900s for many years and K550s were brought a used pair 2 weeks ago but I also gave them 150+hrs burn in, the reason why Is I noticed the K550s vocals in all my songs were low and life-less and weak in comparison to my A900s, but after several hours use the K550s vocals started to sound better and more forth coming, I also found I had to increase the volume a good 10-20% more to match volume since the A900s were easier to drive... so as a result I did the 150hours+ burn in and redid an A/B comparison !
The A900s still drive easier then the K550s, I require upping the volume a bit more on my K550s just to get the same level of audio output, this maybe important depending on what equipment your using ( I used my Desktop PC), it was just something to note.
Perhaps it’s just the sound signature or the way the drivers are of the audio technic ATH900s, but the sound stage is bigger on the A900s. Perhaps I am getting the terms wrong but with the K550s the sounds generated are almost closed within a bubble, while the ATH900s the sound spreads a little more further out the bubble the sounds on the K550s are how can I describe it? It’s reaching 85% down the road, while the sounds on the ATH900s reach 100%.
The Stereo effect is wider on the A900s as a result, I’m hearing sounds carry more smoother and longer, perhaps this is just that the sound stage is bigger on the A900s but it makes a lovely difference to how instruments and vocals and how overall everything is heard, the Audio Technic A900 Sound stage wins.
Bass is very similar between both, I would say the mids from the K550s are more accurate giving the bass that rounded off thud over the A900s, overall not much difference between either headphones but the K550s have a slight edge here due to better accuracy.
Mids and trebles
I am finding male voices sound better with the K550s, they just have more substance and tone and more controlled and accurate however I find female vocals to be more magical on the A900s, perhaps the A900s are brighter and happier with female vocals and the K550s are more manly to male Vocals is the only way to describe it. It could just be the A900s sound stage and wider stereo making female vocals more open and inviting.
Overall with instruments and general sounds and even male or female vocals the K550s is more accurate and controlled, while the A900s are sounding more brighter and more lively perhaps due to the bigger sound stage and wider stereo separation, one thing to note though is sometimes the A900s can sound more harsh and brittle due to being brighter and happier cans.
It’s hard to say which is better, both have their good and bad points it’s like saying overall the A900s sound better thanks to the sound stage and separation but the K550s can sound more accurate and natural but as a result more duller over the brighter A900s, really tricky but both very good if only one could have the best of both worlds here.
Both solid and top headphones, if you’re looking to pump up the volume up high @ 3am without waking up to a screaming family the K550s is the top choice.
Overall the K550s are more accurate in all areas and not overly harsh or bright and overdoing it. If you like a wider sounding sound stage and want more distinction of sounds and instruments from left to right and more colourful and brighter pair of headphones the Audio Technics is better. Sometimes I feel it’s that open type headphones giving the A900s the edge with the soundstage and greater left to right awareness in stereo which in a sense can make it feel better, but the accuracy of all sounds on the K550s reminds me the way music and sounds should be heard. I was not even aware of the brightness and harshness of my A900s without listening to the K550s, don’t get me wrong it doesn’t put me off my Audio technic a900s since it can make female artist and mids sound more beautiful and open, and in comparison it can make the K550s dull and with a veil on it.
Overall I own both cans, I would love to get the Audio Technic A900X and see if they have improved on the classic A900s, and which pair will I be using from now on?
K550s, while I notice the sound stage and left to right Stereo lesser then the A900s I can still enjoy my movies and games and music with total clarity and accuracy and more importantly at 3am without waking up anyone, it’s my privacy and able to do what I want that counts.
Hopefully my review helps a few people out there !