Animagus

Reviewer at Twister6
AKG’s Harman Target based closed-back headphone.
Pros: Best value for money closed-back in its segment.
- True reference well-balanced Harman-neutral sound signature, sub-bass rumble, midrange quality, natural tonality and timbre, smooth but resolving treble.
- Build quality for the most part.
- Compact form factor & comfortable fit.
- Detachable cable & multiple cable options.
Cons: None for the asking price.
Nitpicking - I personally would've liked a bit more upper treble, concerns of durability of faux leather and glued on rubber cushion of the headband, unavailability of replacement ear pads on the official website.

About AKG.

AKG probably needs no introduction since it has been making great world-class audio gear for more than 50 years now. For those who are still unaware of its existence, AKG is an Austrian audio equipment manufacturing company founded in 1947 in Vienna. AKG produces both professional as well as consumer products and is particularly popular for its microphones, headphones and wireless audio systems. It was acquired by American company Harman International Industries in 1994, when it had already established its American subsidiary arm in Los Angeles (1985). In 2017, Harman decided to shut down all of AKG’s facilities in Vienna and was then acquired by Samsung Electronics in the same year. AKG Acoustics USA now has its headquarters in San Fernando Valley, California.

AKG has been making excellent microphones over the years like C12, C414, D112, etc., which are some of the go-to microphones for professionals. I personally own a couple of them too. They’ve also had quite a lot of popular headphones over the years like the K240, K701, K702 Pro and a collaboration lineup with famous producer Quincy Jones.

Disclaimer.

I'd like to thank Harman and AKG for providing me the AKG K371 for a review. I am not affiliated with the company or any of its sellers and write this review with an unbiased opinion regardless of how the review turns out.

Links - AKG K371 (Official Website) | AKG K371 (Amazon India) | AKG K371 (Harman India)

AKG K371 Solo 2




About AKG K371.

K371 is a $149 (currently selling for $119) closed-back, over the ear headphone which has been developed with Harman’s research of an optimal headphone target curve spearheaded by Dr. Sean Olive, called the Harman Target curve. As per the research and study, it is a target curve measured at the ear-drum/DRP (Drum Reference Point) that defines a reference sound signature that sounds most natural, pleasing and tonally correct to majority of listeners.

Technical Specifications.

  • Driver - 50mm Titanium coated diaphragm with pure OFC voice coils
  • Sensitivity - 114 dB SPL/V @ 1 kHz
  • Rated impedance - 32Ω
  • Audio frequency bandwidth - 5-40kHz
  • Cables – Detachable 1.2m straight, 3m straight, 3m coiled.
  • Connector type – Mini XLR
  • Weight – 255 g
AKG K371 Box


Included in the box.

  • AKG K371 headphone
  • 3 Cables – 1.2m straight, 3m long straight and 3m Coiled cable
  • 3.5mm to ¼” adapter
  • Waterproof carry pouch
  • Warranty card and manual
AKG K371 Accessories



Build Quality.

K371 is built mostly from highly quality plastic with a metal hinge holding the ear cups but is well put together. The top of the headband is faux leather with a rubbery cushion at the bottom. The foldable ear cup mechanism clicks as you fold the ear cups into a compact form (picture below), which makes it nice and easy to carry for on-the-go use. The earpads are made of pleather with memory foam on the inside. They are soft, squishy and very comfortable; much better than the earpads on M50 which are harder and prone to cracking or the ones on Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro and Sennheiser HD380 Pro which are extremely crinkly and start fraying rather quickly. The only things I have my doubts on in the build are the top faux leather wrap of the headband and rubbery cushion that is glued on, whose durability will be seen as the time goes by. Besides that, K371 has a very good build for the price and should last well.

Cables - There are 3 cables in the package, 2 straight cables (1.2m and 3m) and a 3m coiled cable. They are well built and should last even with typical studio rugged use. Nevertheless, the cables are detachable and have a mini-XLR connection, so you can always replace them in case you somehow manage you break theem. Male XLRs connectors are sturdy and give me a sense of security since they have a click lock mechanism which restricts the cable from coming off randomly or when pulled accidentally.

AKG K371 Folded


Comfort and Isolation.

K371 has a very comfortable fit for me personally, especially owing to its small form factor. It does not have a lot of clamp force or downward pressure at the headband. The pleather pads are big enough to cover my whole ear and the memory foam adapts to my head shape pretty well but since the foam padding isn't too thick, larger/bigger ears may touch the driver housing. It is definitely better than the Audio Technica M50 for me in this regard as my ears touch M50’s driver assembly the whole time I have them on. As for isolation, the headphones don’t leak too much sound outside and are fairly decent in reducing the average background noise. I personally can't hear the house bell ringing if I have the headphones on and music playing at decent volume.

Sound Section.

Prelude - Concept of target curve tuning with Harman Target curve in spotlight.

I won’t go into too much detail but here is some quick insight. You probably would've come across this line before - ‘Flat (straight line) on a headphone/IEM graph does not sound flat (tonally correct) in real life’. Not wanting to complicate or overpopulate the review with lots of audio engineering theory, I’d highly recommend you to read more about HRTF, ear gain, target curves, etc. For sake of understanding for people who aren’t yet aware of all this, loosely and quickly, studio monitors are tuned to measure flat but flat line measuring headphones don’t sound tonally accurate to us because of ear related gain factors. Hence, target curves were developed by different research groups at different times to model the way our ear anatomy responds and affects sound before it reaches our ear drum by measuring flat speakers in different acoustical rooms.

Diffuse Field target (DF) and Harman Target (HT) are two popular reference target curves used by manufacturers around the world for tuning their headphones/IEMs or as compensation in their graph measurements. Harman Target was developed by researchers at Harman International led Dr. Sean Olive who is now a Senior Fellow at the company. Their years of extensive research led them to develop a target curve that mimics and sounds like good speakers in a good (well-treated) room. They took into account individual preferences of test subjects in the study and tweaked the curve slightly to what sounded most pleasing, natural and preferable to the majority in the study.

Even Sonarworks Reference 4’s Headphone Edition which has calibration profiles for a ton of popular headphones, have their own target curve which is actually quite close to the Harman Target, but with a lower bass shelf and a tiny bit more upper treble. So, loosely even Sonarworks’ idea of flat response in headphones is basically a slightly modified Harman Target curve, which is also their idea of how flat studio monitors are perceived by our ears in an acoustically treated room. I use Reference 4 for my production work and it works really well for my use, be it for calibrating my studio monitors for flat frequency response or using their calibration profiles for the headphones I own. It makes moving between studio monitors and headphones much easier and I achieve my mixes which translate better way quicker now.

Sound Analysis.

Summary - As you know by now, K371 are tuned to the Harman Target OE curve. Dr. Sean Olive, the creator of the Harman Target says that the K371 comes within about 1dB of the Harman curve, which I think is pretty cool considering this is a $149 headphone. I perceive a nice 5-6dB sub-bass shelf, very linear mid-bass and lower midrange, forward upper midrange with a nice 9-10dB ear-gain around 2.75kHz and well-balanced smooth and neutral treble presentation. What impressed me right off the bat was the maturity of tuning and balance.

Let’s dig in deeper…

AKG K371 Solo 3



Bass – K371’s bass tuning is very well done and it is even more impressive considering the asking price. It has a nice 5-6dB sub-bass shelf starting around 100Hz with a neutral mid-bass and upper-bass presentation. Sub-bass is where a lot of headphones roll-off and K371 being able to follow the Harman curve well here is definitely a feat. It has very good low-end extension and as a result, songs have good sub-bass rumble, which is well present but always in control. Mid-bass and upper-bass ranges are very clean and linear, so songs are presented in a very neutral and reference fashion. Overall bass has very good clarity, resolution as well as accurate tone and timbre, which can be very musical, exciting and enjoyable for people who like to hear the bass as the artist and engineers intended the mix to translate.

Mids – We have a very linear lower midrange and a forward upper midrange. I perceive a nice 9-10dB ear-gain around 2.75kHz, which is a tiny bit less than Sennheiser HD650/HD6XX. As a result, K371 has very good tonality and timbre presentation. It moves away from the Harman Target slightly with a very minor dip in the 3.5-4.5kHz region, which is why K371 doesn’t come off as forward or shouty as some headphones like the HifiMan Sundara in this region. Instruments have good strong definition because of the forward upper-midrange, which makes them a joy to listen to. Resolution, note definition and clarity are really good, even better considering the price, making it quite easy for musicians and instrument fans to focus on the nuances of the instruments.

Treble – Treble on the K371 is maturely tuned with good balance, clarity and tonality in line with the Harman Target treble character, following it almost perfectly. It is more towards warm than sparkly or sizzly and there isn't any harshness or sibilance. The only gripe I have here is that I personally would've liked a bit more upper treble and air. It has more to do with the Harman Target’s treble curve in general than K371 itself. A bit more upper treble post 10kHz would’ve added some nice sparkle, making K371 more open, airy and exciting. Nevertheless, if you like your treble smooth-neutral and in line with the Harman Target, you definitely won't have any complaints.

Drivability.

K371 is rated 32Ω with a sensitivity of 114dB/V and is fairly easy to drive through smartphones, laptops and SE output of DAPs.

Soundstage and Imaging.

Soundstage and imaging are good for a closed-back headphone for the price. The soundstage isn’t exactly in your head and neither is it too holographic. It is somewhere in the between where the vocals and snares are deeper than where you perceive your nose and wide panned guitars stretch parallel to the ears. It is nowhere close to high-end open-back soundstages but it is pretty good to translate mixes or help you imagine how your reverb tricks and instrument panning will pan out in the final mix on near-field and far-field monitors. Width and depth resolution is pretty good for the price as you can hear reverb trails very clearly and that helps greatly while mixing, making it easier to hear and perceive psychoacoustic mixing moves and tricks with EQs, reverbs and delays.

Comparisons.


AKG K371 vs Audio Technica M50 – I don’t have the newer M50X but have had the original M50 for years in my studio. So, we’ll have to do with a comparison with M50 for now. As per Audio Technica, not much was changed in the M50X update except for making the cable replaceable.

M50 is mostly plastic but has a nice rugged build. It’s the kind of headphone that can take beating with rugged use and that is why you see a lot of them in studios as monitoring headphones. K371 is lighter as well as more elegant and refined looking in comparison but maybe loses a bit in the ruggedness department in comparison to M50, but is no slouch by itself in isolation. Comfort wise, I dig the K371 more as M50 ear pads are rather lean with my ears touching the driver casing all the time. M50 earpads aren't wide and tall enough to encompass my complete ear, which creates hot spots after a few hours of usage. K371 on the other hand stays much more comfortable. On the other hand, M50 has better adaptiveness compared to K371. Sound wise, M50 has slightly lesser sub-bass around 20-40Hz, more boosted mid-bass, a little dip in the 250-500Hz of lower midrange away from neutral, a tiny bit more upper-mids in the 4kHz region and a bit more upper treble sparkle post 10kHz. K371 is an overall better tuned headphone as it is more neutral, better balanced, more tonally accurate, a bit more resolving and has a wider soundstage too.

AKG K371 vs M50



AKG K371 vs Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (32Ω) – Beyerdynamic is mostly plastic with a metal hinge but has a certain ruggedness to it. For me, K371 feels easier to wear for hours owing to its more compact form factor. Sound wise, K371 has better and more tonally accurate bass tuning and extension. DT770 Pro has less bass presence as well as leaner instrument body. DT770 Pro has a dip around 3.5-4kHz in upper-midrange and a more prominently boosted lower treble which skews its tonal and timbre accuracy of instruments. K371 is much more tonally accurate because of better midrange and treble tuning as it is in line with the Harman Target. DT770 Pro has more prominent upper treble too and as a result, DT770 Pro comes off as a very bright headphone whereas K371 leans towards warmth without sacrificing on clarity and details. DT770 Pro has a wider soundstage, a lot owing to its bright treble boosting but at the cost of it coming off as overly bright with some songs. K371 is much better tuned as well as a better overall product in comparison.

AKG K371 vs DT770 Pro



AKG K371 vs Sennheiser HD6XX – Even though HD6XX is an open back, it is a popular reference headphone that a lot of engineers and audiophiles swear by, so I think it’s a fit comparison for people looking for a reference headphone with a budget of $150-250. Build wise, both are made of plastic with a bit of metal here and there. HD6XX has more clamp force but is quite comfortable for me personally as the ear pads are big and encompass the whole ear. A lot of people bend HD6XX’s headband adjuster outwards to reduce the clamp force a bit. Drivability wise, HD6XX is a 300Ω headphone and needs more power than K371 to be driven to similar loud volume levels. Sound wise, K371 has better sub-bass extension as it extends till 20Hz with a sub-bass shelf boost whereas HD6XX rolls off sub-bass past 40Hz. HD6XX has a tiny bit more mid-bass. Overall HD6XX’s bass note weight is weightier but K371 has quicker speed. Both have very neutral lower midrange and forward upper midrange tuning. HD6XX has a bit more pinna gain in the 2-5kHz region. K371 has a tiny bit more of lower treble whereas HD6XX has a bit more upper treble with fresh ear pads and is airier in comparison until the ear pads start getting old. K371 has a bit more stage depth but they have similar width.

AKG K371 vs HD6XX


Conclusion.

Given K371’s technical capability, well-balanced Harman-neutral tuning and natural tonality & timbre of instruments, K371 is not only a great tool for music professionals but also a great headphone for music enjoyment if a well-tuned neutral signature is your jam. It has very good build for the price, a nice compact form factor for on-the-go use and a very comfortable fit. I can’t think of another closed-back headphone in this price range or even a segment above that is so maturely tuned and does so many things right. For me, K371 at $149 is the closed-back headphone to beat and I highly recommend it! At its current sale price of $119 on AKG's official website, it is a steal!



Gear used for testing and review.

  • DAPs – Hiby R6 2020 | iBasso DX160
  • Audio Interfaces - Universal Audio Apollo | Focusrite Clarett 8PreX
  • Laptop – Apple Macbook Pro 15″
  • Phone – OnePlus 7 Pro

Reference Songs list.

  • Foo Fighters – The Pretender, Best of you, Everlong & Sonic Highway album
  • Coldplay – Paradise, Up in flames & Everglow + Everyday Life Album
  • Biffy Clyro - A Celebration of Endings & Ellipsis albums
  • Ed Sheeran – Thinking out loud, Bloodstream & Galway Girl
  • Dave Matthews Band – Come Tomorrow album
  • Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia album
  • Chainsmokers – Somebody, Sickboy, This Feeling & Closer
  • John Mayer – Slow dancing in a burning room, Stop this Train, Say & A Face to Call Home
  • Gavin James – Always & Hearts on fire
  • Switchfoot – Meant to live & Dare you to move
  • Porcupine Tree – Sound of Muzak, Blackest Eyes & .3
  • Our Lady Peace – Do You Like It & Innocent
  • Linkin Park – Papercut, Somewhere I belong & Talking to myself
  • Maroon 5 – She will be loved, Payphone & Lost stars
  • Lifehouse – All in all & Come back down
  • Breaking Benjamin – Diary of Jane
  • Karnivool – Simple boy & Goliath
  • Dead Letter Circus – Real you
  • I Am Giant – Purple heart, City limits & Transmission
  • Muse – Panic station
  • James Bay – Hold back the river
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Mshenay

Headphoneus Supremus
Exceeding Expectations
Pros: Isolation
Comfort
Balanced Tonality
Value
Cons: Not a "fun" tuning

In the many years I've enjoyed in this hobby I've owned a few AKG Headphones, each was special and unique in their own way. Still they always had quirks, some of which made them truly one of a kind like the magical mids of the bass light K501 others like the original K550 were truly outstanding... when you maintained perfect posture and stillness sufficient for it to actually retain it's seal.

With the sale of Harmon to Samsung many in the hobby including my self worried about what would happen to AKG. I'll admit that their most recent flagship headphones have left me with a luke warm impression... however I'm excited to say I feel with the K371 they've finally started getting it right...again! Namely, producing a product that is mostly free of those "quirks" and simply excels at it's given price point! Speaking of price, it's new in store MSRP is $149, how ever there are retailers that often have them at $129 new and there's an abundance of second hand and slightly used "open box" stock that sits just below $99.



Comfort and seal have always been kind of hit or miss in my experience. The aforementioned K550 while it sounded amazing did not keep a seal on my head. This "quirk" basically removed all low frequency energy... which isn't something I wanted nor enjoyed.



Thankfully the plush pads and overall shape of the K371 maintain a seamless seal on my head even with glasses. The headband and gimbals, while made of light weight plastic, have a nice mix of strength and flexibility. I don't have any concerns of them breaking nor do I find the clamp to be overwhelming.



You'll also notice these have maintained the removable single entry cable set up and there is both a straight and coiled cable included at no cost! There's also an included cloth carrying bag made of a nice grey cloth material bearing the AKG logo.

Sound Signature

The bulk of this review was performed with the Bricasti M3H Direct Stream all in one, I used jRiver for network interface with the M3H functioning as both a streamer, DAC and Amp. As per usual any and all comparisons to this system or the AKG K371 headphone were performed with volume levels matched via Pink Noise.

I felt overall the K371 has a slightly bright neutral sound with a lean harmonic presentation. There is a slight sub-bass boost with a fairly linear mid range and some slight top end emphasis. It's sound stage was sufficiently open with average precision and cohesion overall. It's presentation was fairly natural, neither aggressive nor too relaxed with better than average detail and transient clarity.

It reminds me a lot of how I remember the original K550, well balanced and fairly linear, but without the often unpredictable seal. I'm quite happy to see another headphone on the market which achieves this level of balance.

Source and Amplification Pairing and Scale

With a more modest entry level portable DAC/Amp, the new Fiio Q3S in this case, I found much of it's tonality remained however it's presentation lost some clarity. Additionally there was a slight, but mostly negligible, loss of detail. Overall I don't feel the headphone really scales well enough to necessitate the purchase of a higher quality source or amplification. In fact I appreciate how much balance it retains both on both entry and top of the line systems.

Comparisons
Comparisons were done volume matched and will be listed initially with a Greater Than Rank ( x > y ). Details regarding the individual comparisons will follow as in some cases I felt there were qualities regarding an individual trait that were more different than simply better or worse. In those cases an equal sign ( = ) is used.

For this review I listened to K371 alongside a few other headphones while enjoying music, television and some gaming.

Relating to the Low Frequencies I'm listening for texture, body, and impact

Body

  • E-MU Purple Heart > DT 177X GO > HD 25-1 ii = K371 >Sony MDR V6

Texture
  • Sony MDR V6 > DT 177X GO > K371 > HD 25-1 ii > E-MU Purple Heart

Bass Impact
  • DT 177X GO > Sony MDR V6 = K371 > E-MU Purple Heart = HD 25-1 ii

Regarding the Mid-Range Frequencies I'm listening for richness, detail, and naturalness

Richness

  • DT 177X GO = E-MU Purple Heart > K371 = HD 25-1 ii > Sony MDR V6

Detail
  • Sony MDR V6 = DT 177X GO > K371 > HD 25-1 ii = E-MU Purple Heart

Naturalness
  • DT 177X GO > K371 > E-MU Purple Heart > HD 25-1 ii > Sony MDR V6
Regarding the High Frequencies I'm listening primary to the Response, so Withdrawn vs Forward

Withdrawn or Dark
  • E-MU Purple Heart > DT 177X GO > K371 > HD 25-1 ii >> MDR V6
Forward or Bright
  • Sony MDR V6 >> HD 25-1 ii > K371 > DT 177X GO > E-MU Purple Heart
Regarding Sound Stage I focused on "Openness" or a lack of congestion and excessive overlap between various audio elements of the composition.

Openness
  • Sony MDR V6 > DT 177X GO = K371 > HD 25-1 ii > E-MU Purple Heart
Regarding the Presentation or qualities of the Envelope I'm listening for emphasis on either the;

Leading Edge, Trailing Edge and balance between the two.

More Aggressive
  • Sony MDR V6 >> K371 = HD-25-1 ii > DT 177X GO > E-MU Purple Heart
More Laid Back
  • E-MU Purple Heart > DT 177X GO > K371 > HD 25-1 ii >> Sony MDR V6
Balance
  • K371 = DT 177X GO > E-MU Purple Heart = HD 25-1 ii > MDR V6
Regarding Detail I'm listening for how audible and discernible transients are.

Detail
  • DT 177X GO > MDR V6=K371 > HD-25-1 ii = E-MU Purple Heart
While I love the overall performance of the K371 I feel it has the MOST value as a first headphone or an upgrade from older outdated entry level headphones or newer "consumer" headphones in and around the $100 price point. While I appreciate that it is able to outperform higher priced headphones like the V-Moda M200 both for all purpose listening and as a studio headphone, it doesn't quite have the same level of detail and nuance as a product like the DT 177X GO which can be found for around $325 second hand or $449 new when it's in stock.

I did enjoy it quite a bit more than my own older 2015 HD 25-1 ii, but that is a headphone that I own and use while for it's robust overbuilt build quality and aggressive passive isolation. Mostly when I'm working out, running or flying with a dedicated DAP and some heavy EQ!

For individual comparison I choose to focus on two well know closed back headphones, one a more modern offering and another an older well known but still some what relevant "vintage" product.

E-MU Purple Heart with CAL Pads vs K371

Readers of my content may remember a few years back the did a review of about 8 $100 or less closed back headphones. At that time I choose the E-MU Purple Heart as the best sounding alongside of the more sturdy and practical Audio Technica M40X.

What I found however is the E-MU Purple Heart even with upgraded pads sounds some what stuffy in comparison to the K371. Vocals have a nice rich body but come across a bit muffled as do a variety of other instruments. All of this is further compounded by the recessed top end response as well.

The K371 on the other hand has less congestion without the stuffy or muffled vocal response. Some may find the K371 to be a tad bit bright but I don't consider it offensive or intrusive by any means. K371 provides better detail and clearer transient edges as well.

An as much as I like the Purple Heart I don't feel it's really competitive these days given it's limited availability and poor durability.

Sony MDR V6 vs K371

Sony's classic studio monitor offers amazingly taut well extended bass, withdrawn mids and piercing sharp highs. On older audio gear with excessive top end roll off it sounds stellar but with most modern gear it's almost un-listenable.

So that said, I wouldn't advise purchasing a MDR V6 these days and if you own one I feel K371 would be an excellent upgrade. While it's not quite as detailed or open the MDR V6 is most often painful to listen to give how rough and excessively forward it's top end is.

Not to mention the non removable coiled cable on MDR V6 is heavy and cumbersome, K371 has both a removable straight and coiled cable.

Concluding Thoughts
I found K371 to be excellent, it's build quality, overall ease of use and sound are outstanding at this price point. I really enjoyed it with iFi Zen Dac as well as a variety of other products, but even without a dedicated Dac/Amp K371 sounds fantastic.

There are more detailed headphones with the same overall tonal balance but most that I've heard cost around twice as much, for music enthusiasts and really any one wanting an affordable closed back headphone I feel the K371 is the choice to pick!
ascortjkk
ascortjkk
Gotcha. I have a Topping D90/A90 stack which I know is super overkill but that's for driving my Arya/Aeolus.
Mshenay
Mshenay
I had a chance to listen to the D90 and I imagine it'll serve you well for mixing alongside the A90 and a DT 177X Go,
ascortjkk
ascortjkk
Awesome! Thank you so much for your response. I really enjoyed the unique format of your review and looking forward to read more from you
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