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Review and Comparison of the $200 Open-Back Underdogs: The AKG K612 Pro and the Sony MDR-MA900

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 

I've owned the Sony MDR-MA900 for about four months now, I got them because I wanted something with more relaxed treble and a bigger soundstage than my K240. My AKG K612 Pro's were a gift from a close friend and I have owned them for about a month now. I find both of these headphones a bit overlooked, although the K612 is the more overlooked of the two and less have seemed to of tried it. I am amping both with an Hifiman EF2A(nos rtc tubes) and an ASUS Xonar DX as the DAC. When it comes to music and genres; I listen to everything and anything and I also game and watch movies, so the comparisons between the two will be taking in all these factors; thus I am comparing the headphones as all-rounders. This review is a bit of a work in progress, I will add more to the review as I compare them more in-depth later on.

 

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Build Quality and Comfort:

 

K612: The K612 Pro is a well built headphone, doesn't feel cheap or poorly made, the plastic is of high quality and has a substantial feel to it while being quite light. Has a slightly floppy feel because of the headband, but it doesn't take away from the quality if anything makes them more durable. The cable is non-removable but seems flexible and sturdy, it's a well made cable in my opinion. My K612 Pro is made in Austria, it's possible they may make them in China later on but all current K612s are made in Austria as far as I can tell. Comfort wise I found these slightly clampy at first and the pads a tad too stiff and hard, with use the clamp and pads soften up and ends up very comfortable. I don't even notice the headband so headband comfort is great.

 

MA900: I find the MA900 overall a well-built headphone, it's thin and a bit flimsy feeling but overall they feel well-made and more durable than they initially appear. They seem to be made of a mixture of plastic and a magnesium alloy like some other Sony headphones have been made out of. They are made in Thailand as it says on the cable termination. The headband makes a slight creaking noise at times when you extend it to put on your head. The cable is a bit thin and is a little stiffer than the K612s cable, the terminating jack seems to be a bit cheaper made than other headphones. Comfort is one of the aspects where these headphones really stick out, the earcups are deep and very comfy and the headphone is insanely light-weight. Clamp is very light and non-existent. I did find the headband somewhat noticeable at first but it became more comfortable as I used it more.

 

Build Quality: K612

Comfort: MA900

 

Soundstage and Imaging:

 

K612: The K612 has an accurate and natural sounding soundstage, it's big, but it's nothing that sticks out as abnormal, rather it's well integrated in it's overall sound signature. The imaging is great on this headphone, very accurate and presents a nice feeling of where the sound is coming from, this makes it very good for music and games that take advantage of good imaging.

 

MA900: The MA900 has a huge soundstage and with that a big sound on top of that. This leaves a very cinematic experience few headphones can achieve, it can sound a tad too big at times. The imaging is good and accurate, but it's not quite as precise as the K612s.

 

Soundstage: MA900

Imaging: K612

 

Transparency and Detail:

 

K612: The K612 is the more detailed and revealing of the two headphones, you hear subtle textures and minute details you just can't hear on the MA900. There is also a greater dynamic range in the sound on the K612, this can be heard with vocals and various instruments, the MA900 sounds a bit more compressed and flat in terms of dynamics. You get a greater sense of clarity and transparency, the vocals and instruments sound more authentic and as if it's not coming from the headphone more often with the K612.

 

MA900: The MA900 is a bit less detailed but is still a detailed headphone for it's price range. It does seem to lack slightly in terms of transparency, there is a slight veil in the sound and sounds a tad ill-defined at times when compared to the K612.

 

Transparency and Detail: K612

 

Bass:

 

K612: The bass on the K612 is well textured, I found I get more information and texture out of the bass than the MA900. The bass is very linear from upper, mid, to sub bass, doesn't seem to emphasize any region of the bass over the other. It has a thick, present, and robust feel to it. There is also good extension in the sub bass, it extends further in the sub-bass than the MA900, you get the deep subbass rumble with these headphones if the track calls for it.

 

MA900: I find the bass on the MA900 quite textured and detailed, not quite to the K612s level but it isn't a slouch in this area. There is a slight mid-bass hump in the sound of these headphones, so when a song calls for mid-bass it's a bit more prominent than the K612s. The bass isn't quite as thick and solid sounding as the K612s bass though and it does lack some sub-bass extension.

 

Bass: K612

 

Midrange:

 

K612: This is where this headphone really shines, the midrange is very linear and natural sounding. It's simply beautiful and can give an eerie spine-shivering experience with certain vocal tracks, there is a texture and resolution in the midrange that just isn't found on the MA900. The midrange is neither forward or too laid-back, it's just right. It's clear and pristine.

 

MA900: This headphone has a pretty good midrange, but it does seem to lack a bit in texture, detail, and transparency when compared to the K612, but it's a good midrange nonetheless. It does seem to have an emphasis in the lower midrange to give it a warmer sound, but this takes away from it having a more pristine midrange.

 

Midrange: K612

 

Treble:

 

K612: The treble of this headphone is linear and pretty much grain-free, it doesn't seem to over emphasize anything, it's neither dark or bright, it's just right, there is a slight roll-off in upper treble though. I find the treble adds a certain beauty and air to the sound and the headphone isn't veiled in any way in the treble. The treble is more detailed and refined than the MA900s treble. It's a very unoffensive treble and isn't overly sibilant or anything, but it will reveal if a track is overly sibilant but won't thrash your ears.

 

MA900: The treble in this headphone is slightly dark and laid-back, but also has a little more grain than the K612s treble. It's more rolled-off in the treble than K612 as well and there is less sense of detail and refinement to the treble, but the headphone still has plenty of air to it's sound due to it's large soundstage. The treble isn't overly sibilant and is unoffensive.

 

Treble: K612

 

Conclusion:

The two headphones are both good headphones, but the K612 clearly wins sonically to my ears. In terms of amplification, the K612 is harder to amp and is also pickier about the dac and source than the MA900. Although I do find the MA900 performs best when amped, it sounds thin and a little harsh in the upper regions when not amped and without a decent dac behind it. I personally recommend both the headphones to be amped and have a decent dac behind them. The MA900 doesn't seem like it needs amplification but it does in my experience. Both headphones are great in the ~$200 range and sound different, but the K612 sounds like it's a league above in my ears. The resolution, texture, transparency, forgiving yet revealing sound, better dynamic range, better extension, etc. put the headphone in another class to my ears sonically. And currently the K612 is cheaper than the MA900.

 

In terms of overall sonic signature alone(not including transparency, refinement, detail, etc.) both are on the unoffensive side and both are headphones you can basically listen to all day. I find the MA900 a bit more laid-back sounding and more of a soundstage lovers headphones yet the sound is also more intimate and forward in some areas. The K612 is more of a neutrality lovers headphones and is more engaging sounding overall. I can see people swaying either way on which they like more and which you will like better will often come down to personal preference and system synergy.


Edited by kman1211 - 2/6/14 at 2:46pm
post #2 of 84

Cool.  Thanks for the comparison.

post #3 of 84

Bump for an excellent review. :) 

post #4 of 84
Thread Starter 

Thank you, I'm still not quite used to doing reviews, still trying to find a format that works well. Still working on the review and checking for errors and adding a few things as I compare them more. I'm likely going to sell the MA900 in about a month or two, although I may keep the headphone.

post #5 of 84
Thanks! I've been curious about both. Good review too: organized and clear.
post #6 of 84

Nice review.
Did you think the k612 had a landslide victory or was it more of a sound signature preference?

post #7 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SouDesu View Post

Nice review.

Did you think the k612 had a landslide victory or was it more of a sound signature preference?

Well the K612 is the better headphone in terms of refinement, transparency, etc. Overall I think it has to do with the K612 being the better headphone and part of it had to do with personal preference.
post #8 of 84

Someone get Mad Lust Envy a set!

 

Now I'm kinda curious if the K612 Pro retains any of those qualities without a dedicated amp. One of the things I like about the MA900 is that it can be driven off just about anything and not sound terrible for it. (Well, it still needs a treble boost no matter what...)

post #9 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post
 

Someone get Mad Lust Envy a set!

 

Now I'm kinda curious if the K612 Pro retains any of those qualities without a dedicated amp. One of the things I like about the MA900 is that it can be driven off just about anything and not sound terrible for it. (Well, it still needs a treble boost no matter what...)


Well it does to a degree but honestly the headphone needs an amp, you basically have to crank the volume way up to get normal listening levels and underamped it doesn't have quite as much bass and it just doesn't sound as good as it's a bit compressed and held back sounding, there may be slight distortion in the bass as well, but it's not terrible but it's obviously held back. It needs an amp and decent dac to sound it's best. I didn't find it picky with amps, it sounds pretty good on basically any amp I plugged it into as long as it gets that extra bit of power it needs, it really needs a decent dac though, something like a decent soundcard or an external dac such as the Modi would be sufficient. If the DAC isn't up to par or dirty, you get quite bad distortion.

 

I think while the MA900 is easily powered, it at least needs a decent DAC behind it and amping does make it sound better. I think the MA900 responds well to tubes, at least the tube amps I tried it on, both mine and my friends. The Magni wasn't a good match for the MA900, it made the bass ill-defined and veiled at times and the treble a bit more grainy.


Edited by kman1211 - 11/22/13 at 12:55pm
post #10 of 84

kman - nice review. Are you going to update it with how well it does in FPS gaming (realise it's a work in progress)? Also.. have you had a chance to compare the K612 to any it's higher tier kindred?

post #11 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaLX View Post
 

kman - nice review. Are you going to update it with how well it does in FPS gaming (realise it's a work in progress)? Also.. have you had a chance to compare the K612 to any it's higher tier kindred?


Well I will when I get to that, I haven't done extensive testing with gaming yet as I have been too busy with school lately. Yes, I have actually. It's quite comparable to the K701, K702, Q701 in terms of overall sonic ability, it's a bit different though. It isn't as wide in the soundstage but the soundstage is more rounded and more natural sounding, it isn't quite as detailed and analytical, it's a little more forgiving, the highs don't extend quite as much, but it does have a more natural and linear sound and a more robust bass and better extension in the low end. It is warmer sounding than the K702 Annies and isn't quite as dark in the treble.

post #12 of 84

I feel like I've been validated for all the times I've recommended the K612 Pro.

(even thou I've never listened to them)

post #13 of 84

Thanks for this comparison... very interested in the K612!

post #14 of 84

So K612 Pro v Philips Fidelio X1?? Gentleman, enter the ring please.......:smile:  Don't know if this is a strictly fair completion. *edit* competition.


Edited by SaLX - 11/22/13 at 4:03pm
post #15 of 84

Hyped on the K612's! Thanks.

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