AKG K271S - Am I missing something?
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Snufkin

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After all the praise these headphones have had around here I expected something pretty good.

The first pair I received sounded terrible, so I sent them back.
The second pair I received sound identical and the supplier confirmed that the first pair wasn't faulty.

Ok, so what's the big deal here?
The bass is weak, the midrange is dull sounding, the high end is strangely artificial and robotic sounding, the soundstage is compressed and the overall sound is really quite boring.

I've tried them from multiple sources and with multiple amps (which changed their sound very little if at all), I've even had a few people listen and tell me what they thought: 10/10 people said they didn't sound that great at all.

Out of all the headphones I've heard lately, the K271S has to be the least impressive to the point where I think far cheaper models outperform them.

So why are they so recommended/sought after?
Have I had 2 faulty pairs in a row, do they need special treatment in the source/amp department, or are they just not that great?
 
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Snufkin

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oops, double
 
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3lusiv3

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This site is slow at the moment.

Hey dude, I hope you're missing something because mine are on the way.

What you're saying is not what I have read around here. Maybe they are very music/genre dependant? Or maybe they are meant for audio engineers and therefore need to have a very neutral sound that a lot of people dislike?

I have read they are very source/amp dependent as well, but then some people love them and only have them plugged into their soundcard.
 
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bangraman

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If you've tried them out of multiple sources, the 'odd to drive' doesnt seem to apply. Out of many of my sources the K271S will deliver big lows, even mids and detailed yet not-harsh highs.


The bass is not as thundering as the HFI-650, but the low has just a touch more attack than the 650. It's a lot less forward in the mids than the 650, agreeable to me. The staging while not huge is slightly wider but maybe slightly less '3D' as the 650.
 
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Snufkin

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I've tried them for all kinds of music - I've got rather broad tastes.
For dance/trance/electronica they're just dull and can be too bright sometimes.
For vocal oriented music they sound artificial.
For rock they just don't rock.
For classical they're too artificial sounding again and have a poor soundstage.

I've tried them from 3 different computer soundcards (Audigy2, SantaCruz, MAudio Revo) and didn't like them from either.
I've tried them from both my CD players (with various amps) as well as a friends Marantz cd player straight from it's headphone jack.

And none impressed me at all.

If they were the only "good" headphones I'd heard I might be impressed, and I know I like them more than headphones like the Sennheiser HD570 but I really don't think they're a very good headphone, which is confusing because headroom and meier rate them fairly highly.

I don't think they sound even or balanced at all, the HFI-650Trackmaster is a far superior headphone in that regard IMHO.


Quote:

The bass is not as thundering as the HFI-650, but the low has just a touch more attack than the 650. It's a lot less forward in the mids than the 650, agreeable to me. The staging while not huge is slightly wider but maybe slightly less '3D' as the 650.


I don't think the Trackmasters bass is that thundering, I remember some comments about the K271S having bass as deep and/or powerful as the 770pro - completely the opposite! IMHO the K271S has extremely lean (sure it's detailed and goes deep, but there's just no kick behind it) and uninteresting bass making them boring for bass intensive (rock/dance) music.
The soundstage just sounds .. bleh. Thin and not holographic at all with instruments sounding like they're on top of each other sometimes. You can still pick everything out, but there's no sense of being there at all.
 
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bangraman

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I have a decent mixer and a music production system and it sounds excellent (and as described) out of those. Similarly, my main PC set-up of a Live! card going to a DAC and another mixer sounds excellent with the K271S. One surprise is the Sony D-NE900... the extra clarity of the K271 over the 650 is easily discernible and also the two get pretty close in low-end impact because the NE900 has not that much.


Out of all of these, the Trackmaster does actually sound peaky and unbalanced... but in an entertainingly pleasant way. I have broad tastes too... for a typical day's listening check the test tracks of my latest review of the ATH-D1000.


I think the NE900 experience is pointing out something to me. The K271S is nearly as demanding of power as a DT880. The volume has to be tweaked noticeably more than the HFI-650 and that's on an amp that has absolutely no problems powering 600 ohm gear. What other amps have you tried? Any studio-use gear or tube amps? If solid-state, which?
 
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Snufkin

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eeh, if I have to get a specific setup just to make them sound good, I'm not interested


I admit the K271S can have a little more detail than the Trackmasters at times, but it's in such a way that I don't notice it at first. It's almost like everything is all jumbled up with the 271S and I have to sort through it to pick things out, whereas the Trackmasters have everything laid out neatly in front of me.
I don't consider the Trackmasters to be particularly bass heavy headhpones at all, so having at least as much impact as the Trackmasters isn't a hard thing - but I've yet to hear it. Sure, bass detail and clarity as well as extension is there in the 271S, but it's just not kickin'
I was expecting fairly impressive bass from what some people have said, but I've got a list of headphones as long as my arm that have more impact and more interesting bass than the 271S.

Perhaps they would be appropriate for some studio use, but I doubt I'll ever find myself reaching for a pair to listen to for enjoyment.

Quote:

What other amps have you tried? Any studio-use gear or tube amps? If solid-state, which?


I've tried all the amps I have access to, which includes your basic Rega Ear and Creek OBH-21, as well as stuff like an MG Head OTL Mk2, Mg Head OTL32, Talisman T-3H and Sugden Headmaster.
I honestly didn't think they sounded much better at all from any of them, whereas headphones like the AKG K240S sound dramatically different from the Tube amps vs the SS ones.
 
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bangraman

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I don't know how many phones you've owned despite being a dealer but from what I drive them out of usually, the Trackmasters have extremely solid bass impact. They have some of the low-end twang of good phones combined with some of the air-moving capability of the Sony MDR-V700DJ. And that's an assessment out of the 50+ premium phones I've owned. I would say they're a "tight yet big" basshead's dream and as such, not what I would consider 'nominal'.
 
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Snufkin

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Just check my profile for info on what I have easy/in reach access to, the rest of it varies


The Trackmasters definately have nice bass, but it's not a characteristic of the headphones that I think leaps out - the DVD model on the other hand has bass galore, and when people mention LOTS of bass the 770pro is what springs to mind. I'd put the Trackmasters at a smidgeon below the bass levels that I like and I'd put the 271S perhaps a step above the K501 (without the wonderful soundstage and air
)
 
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Gee guys, stop editing your posts. It makes it hard to read when we're all live.
 
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bangraman

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Of course there are bassier models! but what I'm referring to is in terms of premium closed headphones as a whole, the Trackmasters are easily above-average while the K271 is slightly above-average.


I think I'll perhaps have to put even more of my gear in boxes and cart them over to the next meet so people can hear the difference between properly / inappropriately driven K271. It can be achieved through luck, serendipity and other factors which explains the pot luck nature of whether you like these phones or not. While I don't agree with Geeks' statement that these match multi-thousand-dollar amps, there is definitely a case in stating that powerful headphone amps which deliver current and swing galore really make the most of the K271, although portables will in many cases do the job well too (although not the iPod).


I haven't owned the 240S (strangely not present from my local dealer's books) so I can't comment on them but to me, I think the K271 stands up with it's current major competitors... and more.


Unfortunately the space devoted to phones in the profile can't even begin to accomodate what I've owned to date. My list of sources and amps is smaller than that but still pretty vast by most people's measure. But the 240S? My curiousity has been piqued



I've finished with this one, I think... yes sorry about the serial edits, perhaps there should be like an icon we can flash up saying 'post under construction'
 
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I must confess i'm also quite surprised to hear about the "thundering bass" of the hifi650. The pair I had certainly didn't have such a bass. It was a good, tight and fast, bass but certainly not overwhelming.
 
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bangraman

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Hmmm... bass frequencies are zeroed out... check I've got no ridiculous settings in the 828 or anywhere... and when I stick the HFI-650 on, yes I do get a very impressive low end.


Let me waddle across to the WAD
and have a listen. That's quite neutral.


On listening, I put the low-end heirachy:
HFI-650 - ATH-W2002 - K271S


The 650 easily has the most low-end punch. The W2002 has pretty solid lows too and it has a reputation for being so, while the K271 is less present in the lows. This is out of a fairly powerful yet pretty neutral tube amp which is currently configured to drive low impedance phones (and has plenty of power in reserve to drive demanding examples of that ilk).


The K271S provides backbone in the lows but doesn't over-emphasize it on something neutral. If you operate it off a bassy source or EQ it to X, it will respond favourably too. I've now switched over from the MOTU 828 -> K271S to the CA S700 -> Behringer MX2004A -> K271S.


What can I say except I like it, and like it better than the HFI-650 for my tastes. The 650's very entertaining but there's just a tiny touch of the DJ boom phone about it. Yes I'm picking nits
The response suits me for portable use, but due to the design it just keeps slipping off my head when in active use (and am now glad I didn't buy a Beyer DT660 for portable use). Excellent for gaming due to it's 3D positioning and sonic characteristics, not what I'd choose for multi-style music listening though.

 
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I feel as though I'm in a small dimly lit room listening to some experts having a chat, and one is smoking a cigar.

Are the current headphones in your profiles the ones you prefer?
 
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bangraman

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My current preferred phones are the Stax Omega II / SRM-007t (home), the Shure E5 by itself (super portable), the K271 through the Ray Samuels XP-7 (not very portable) and the ATH-D1000 (not really portable but a hell of a lot better than lugging the XP-7 around).


My taste seems to run to the more bassy when outside, more neutral when in. The K271S/XP-7 combination is by that reasoning a 'conservatory phone', i.e. half-in, half-out
 
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