Type Universal Fit IEM
What I own Shure SE535, AKG K451, AKG K374
What I used to own Klipsch S4i
What I've extensively listened to Sennheiser HD800, Sennheiser HD650, Shure SE215, NuForce NE-700M, Nocs NS600, B&W P5, B&W P3
What I've extensively listened to (loudspeakers) B&W 802D, B&W 804D, Paradigm Signature S8, Focal Electra 1028 Be 2, Tannoy DC10T, B&O BeoLab 5, B&O BeoLab 9
Before we jump in, I would like to sincerely apologize on behalf of the Head-Fi team for the lack of photography. The reason there are no photos is because the people behind Head-Fi think that as a new member, there is no possible way that I genuinely want to review something and that in fact i am surely a spammer. They also believe that any spamming tendencies I may have had when I joined, would magically disappear by my third post. Anyway, the review:
I'm planning to keep this review short and sweet so lets get the big stuff out of the way.
AKG has an annoying tendency of on one hand making very average or even bad products. On the other hand, they end up making true greats like the K701/K702, K3003, K495NC, K450/K451, etc. Speaking of that last one, the K451, it truly is one of if not the best sounding headphones you can by new for its $150-ish price. To get sound that equals it, you're looking at a bill totaling around $300 - $400. However, they're sound isolation is next to none so I was looking for a good pair of IEMs around the $100 mark for use on my daily commute. The K451s are now used as portable "at home" headphones for when I travel.
The 374s do not sound as good as the 451s. They do however sound just as good as all the other top tier $100 IEMs of which there are plenty. Yes, like most other IEMs in this price bracket, they boost the bass a little. And yes, I would of liked them to be a bit more open and clear sounding. But on a noisy Toronto bus they sound fun, engaging, and very enjoyable. What more could you ask for?
For reference, I used my usual bevy of test music:
Arcade Fire - Sprawl II
Arcade Fire - We used to wait
Beach House - Myth
Beach House - Lazuli
Beach House - Other People
Bishop Morocco - Our Time
Chromatics - Lady
Death Grips - The Fever
Dusted - Bruises
Equilibrium - Blut im auge
Flying Lotus - Putty boy strut
Hans Zimmer - Time
Herbert Von Karajan - Gustav Holst - Jupiter
King Dude - Witch's Hammer
King Dude - River of Gold
The Knife - Heartbeats
Lamb of God - Vigil
Napalm Death - Nazi Punks F*** Off
Neil Young - Heart of gold
Phantogram - When I'm Small
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
Real Estate - Green Aisles
The Secession - Yermo
Tame Impala - Elephant
This Will Destroy You - Threads
TNGHT - Goooo
Trust - Heaven
The xx - Crystalised
One word, Excellent. Don't get me wrong, the other $100 IEMs have great isolation, but these have outstanding isolation. The first time i tried them, i was on my usual commute. I put them in, turned on the music, and immediately I learned what it would be like to be deaf and schizophrenic at the same time; only if the voices were replaced with music. Mind you, I've had this experience before with my Shure SE535s. However, those are lot larger, more cumbersome, fiddly, expensive, and definitely not something i would take with me everyday on the bus.
Fit & Finish
This is where the AKGs really pull out a lead. First of all, they're roughly the same diameter as most $100 IEMs but only half the length, so they barely stick out your ears. Next, both the buds and the plug are made from a combination of beautiful brushed aluminium and quality feeling plastics. Design wise, miles ahead of the competition. And finally, the cable is really very thick. I measured it as being almost twice as thick as the Nocs NS600, Klipsch S4, and NuForce NE-700M cables.
Great looks, build, and materials. The sound isn't perfect, but good enough for me not to call it a negative. Seriously recommended.