For some time I was interested to check out the new K812 and I got my chance when Beniamin, a young headfier from Israel contact and ask me to test out his new K-812 for channel imbalance, and possibly some sound distortion in the right driver as well to check out the K-812 Phonitor combo.
I'll start directly with my first impression. Going from my K-702 to the K-812 what I noticed first was the sound separation with a very strong focus on details and sound resolution. The sound separation of the K-812 have enough space around the instruments to create a new headphones standards for me, and YES, I got this wOw factor right away! The effects in my music production behind the instruments were clear and well positioned, I was able to hear the reverb, chorus, and the subtle distortion from my feedback delay (more about this later).
The second I noticed was the boost in the lowmid/bass and treble. Now, on some recordings those boost can sounds very natural, easy going and undetected. But with EDM (electronic dance music) the boost in the lowmid/bass and treble will stand out compare to the K-702 that sounds more balanced all over the sound spectrum.
The boost in the lowmid/bass is not that bad at all, is very punchy, solid, fast and very accurate and don't give you the impression of some added octave to the midbass/bass like in the case of the T1 bass boost. I guess the K-812 will be perfect for the Beyer T1 owners and the Sennheiser HD-800 fans that needs a bit more cowbell in kick. (for more cowbell check Youtube for Christopher Walken on SNL Sketch).
The treble boost are also not that bad because they smooth out a large treble area and avoid any treble spikes focused in one area like the HD-800 have, this is a good achievement for the AKG K-812 as a flagship dynamic headphones Vs the HD-800.
The headphones graph of the new HD-800 (2013 Version) looks a bit better but they added a few unnecessary dbs over the K-812 treble boost.
On the down size, the K-812 boost of the large area of treble bring out any subtle distortions in the recorded materials. For a studio guy like me this can be a great plus because I can hear those subtle distortions in the treble and try to eliminate, or bring them down a bit in the mix/mastering process before the music get out as the finish product. For the listeners this is entire different story and probably ends with individual preferences.
As a mastering engineer and recording artist I can tell you those subtle distortions can happen in the early stage of the mix/studio work and will probably get emphasize during the mastering process. In most of the cases no one will go back to the studio to record the song again and fix those minimal subtle distortions that now is emphasized and notable by the K812 treble boost.
The funny thing is after you'll be aware of those subtle distortions in the treble you'll be able to hear them on speakers too (Adam A7 monitor speakers). As Beniamin point out after I looped a short piece of music that we tested out those subtle distortions for a few minutes. I'm not sure how those K-812 treble abilities will translate in/for the studio/audiophiles/headfiers market.
The other issue I had with the K812 was a bit of a claustrophobic sealed/closed feel (like some closed hps design). This bring me to the K812 new pads which are great in away, the sealed of the pads offer a good grip on the head. The pads are made PE material and do contribute some punch and fast snap to the sound. The downside of those pads after few minutes in the session I start to feel some comfort issue behind the ears around the mastoid bone of the skull.
To be honest not every music artist will have/want to invest his $1500 in those headphones as a new studio standard. Most of the artist that I know will invest the $1500 on other musical equipment which they feel is need more, most of them will put the headphones as the last item on their list.
As for me, I do want to have a headphones with the sound separation of the new K812, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to get the whole K812 package deal boosted. I'll be happy to see a new K812 with a second pair of velvet pads that can bring down the treble with few dbs and maybe bring in some more sound balance in the lowmid as well and less pressure over the ear for the future AKG K-812 package deal.
A big thanks to Beniamin for bringing his new K812 to my studio. In the photo Beniamin holding in his hands the AKG past and future flagship headphones.