Basshead - AKG K550?
May 14, 2012 at 9:32 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

UnixxinU

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Hi there, I am not sure what to do. I have the option of buying the AKG K550 for £170 (I'm in the UK) and was wondering if they would need to be amplified (my pc sound card is terrible, but what about my HTC One X, does it need a portable amp?) and was also wondering if there are any better headphones than these available. One of the main reasons as to why I want these (excluding audio quality) is their noise cancellation.
 
Unsurprisingly, I listen to many variants of electronic music. I don't want any compromise and was wondering what I could get in the sub £300 region. Also, would you guys recommend the FiiO e7 or e10? I have my phone for portable audio, but my pc is where I'll be listening from half of the time.
 
I was also wondering if it is worth doing this "pink noise" method to fine-tune headphones which I've been reading about.
 
Thanks for your time.
 
May 14, 2012 at 9:50 PM Post #3 of 23

ricerocket

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Start by reading the K550 thread here (the reviews don't come in until the beginning of 2012, since it's a new can):
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/553944/akg-k550-new
 
And a comparison:
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/609898/the-akg-k550-my-initial-experiences-and-a-review-comparison-with-the-d2000
 
 
 
They don't need an amp, but I found mine were mildly enhanced when amp (better separation, tighter, more present sub-bass).
 
They're not BASSHEAD cans, but they do bass and sub-bass very, very cleanly. I returned my Ultrasones (DJ1 Pro and HFI-580) because these were so much less sloppy.
 
May 15, 2012 at 12:13 AM Post #4 of 23

PurpleAngel

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Get the Asus Xonar DG (or DGX), should improve the sound (better DAC) of any headphone over whatever on-board audio your computer has.
And get the Fiio E11 portable headphone amplifier, you can plug it into the DG, as the amplifier is better then what comes on the DG.
And the E11 can be plugged into whatever portable media player you have.
 
May 15, 2012 at 12:37 AM Post #5 of 23

jackwess

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Or simply the E10 which is a usb dac/amp
 
May 15, 2012 at 4:56 PM Post #7 of 23

pkurk

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Quote:
Hi there, I am not sure what to do. I have the option of buying the AKG K550 for £170 (I'm in the UK) and was wondering if they would need to be amplified (my pc sound card is terrible, but what about my HTC One X, does it need a portable amp?) and was also wondering if there are any better headphones than these available. One of the main reasons as to why I want these (excluding audio quality) is their noise cancellation.
 
Unsurprisingly, I listen to many variants of electronic music. I don't want any compromise and was wondering what I could get in the sub £300 region. Also, would you guys recommend the FiiO e7 or e10? I have my phone for portable audio, but my pc is where I'll be listening from half of the time.
 
I was also wondering if it is worth doing this "pink noise" method to fine-tune headphones which I've been reading about.
 
Thanks for your time.

Let me start by saying i was on the same quest as you, finding something that was bassy and would keep me happy when i'm not listening to electronica.
 
I picked up the AKG K550's after extensive research and driving all over the world to sample different types of headphones.  For what you're looking for, i would recommend these cans and to get a FiiO E7.
 
I make this recommendation because of a few things, first you say youre going to listen at home, but you also will probably want some portability, and these headphones do that perfectly, theyre not huge, theyre built really well, they look good etc.  They also can easily be driven by iphones/ipods/android's.  The impedance is only 32, so you dont need a DAC/AMP for it.  
 
However, when i use my E7 with this set of headphones i notice a discernable difference, and improvement.  Now, while agreeing with others that this isnt your sony XB line, you STILL get insane bass on these headphones.  And when i say that, i mean the headphones vibrate on my actual head and you can feel the depth of the tone physically and aurally.  
 
So for a portability/quality and still bassy experience i recommend these.
 
The problem i find on this forum with people who recommend cans to a basshead is that people then go to extremes with recommendations and sort of forget that dubstep still has every other property (mids and highs).  If you want disgusting, obnoxious bass just go buy beats and get it over with.
 
But if you still want to be impressed with the actual feeling of bass on your head, and still have something thats crisp and very clean with mids and highs.  I recommend the AKG K550's with the E7 DAC/Amp.  You wont be disappointed.  
 
May 15, 2012 at 4:56 PM Post #8 of 23

jackwess

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Quote:
Or simply the E7 which is a portable usb dac/amp

 
It is more a usb dac though...headamp section is weak Imo. 
wink.gif

 
Jun 10, 2012 at 12:53 AM Post #12 of 23

eskimoo

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I recommend minimal FiiO E10 USB DAC/AMP for K550. or E17 for portable player setup.
Heavy bassheads better go for K518LE or profesional K181DJ will satisfy you with bass thump, punch & impact.
K550 more toward to premium audiophile electrostat quality ... with quality Bass!
 
Jul 22, 2012 at 2:01 PM Post #13 of 23

cyberalpha11

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I recommend minimal FiiO E10 USB DAC/AMP for K550. or E17 for portable player setup.
Heavy bassheads better go for K518LE or profesional K181DJ will satisfy you with bass thump, punch & impact.
K550 more toward to premium audiophile electrostat quality ... with quality Bass!


For quality bass, how does AKG550 compare to Shure940?
In term of sound stage, which is better; AKG550 or Shure 940?
 
Jul 22, 2012 at 2:49 PM Post #14 of 23

Dazron

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I've been on a similar journey to you, purchasing three headphones and two portable amps all at once in order to try and find something that ticks all my boxes with one bit of kit, unfortunately I don't think i've found exactly that (I'm not sure it exists!) but what i've found I can pass to you.
 
I listen to a lot of electronica (Orbital, Flashbulb, Hecq, Aphex Twin, Underworld) 60%, and a lot of ambient music 20% (The Orb, Harold Budd, Eno, Dub), indie rock about 20% of the time, but it's stuff like flaming Lips and Spiritualized which as far as I am concerned needs careful sonic attention.
 
My source is a humble iPod Classic, using a Fiio LOD cable to the amps I tried below. Source files vary from v0 MP3 rips to FLAC files converted to aac at highbitrate - but i'm not at all precious about conversion and much more about music collection completeness. Perhaps that is something I will have to look into!
 
Equipment I bought:
 
Klipsch Mode M40 (because I am a long term Klipsch fan, I love their S5i's in ears, for running and commuting; great punchy aggressive bass-present but controlled - and something I try to look for, in line remote, as i'm travelling on a train for 3 hours a day, with 120gb of song in my pocket on shuffle, I like to be able to skip very easily without going to iPod in my pocket, un-locking it etc).  Amazon £250
Audio Technica ATH-M50 because they were cheap (more so just plain great seeming value) and from all of the reviews I read, sounded like the perfect sound signature for me. Amazon £130
AKG K550 - used (ebay), but only 20 hours break in, and from an original reciepted purchase from Richer Sounds (3 weeks old). Ebay £130
Fiio E11 Portable Amp. Amazon £45
Fiio E17 Portable Amp / DAC (thought the DAC would enhance the output from my iPod classic. It didn't. Wasted purchase (think it only works on USB input from computer). This is going back! Amazon £99
 
Overall Conclusion of 'experiment'
My summary conclusion is that I was massively disappointed in the K550's, hugely impressed with the M50's and realised that products like the noise cancelling Klipsch M40's are something that is no longer relevant to me. I demand better, more robust sound - although the Klipsch's were still good, they weren't 80% better sounding as the £100-less M50's, which to my ears, sound 2x as good. The M40's got returned to Amazon, the K550's are back on Ebay. No remorse.
 
I purchased all three at once knowing I could return whatever I didn't like, and could do a better direct comparison, AND avoid shiny new toy syndrome.
 
I lack the expertise or language to go properly into sound-review mode but I will summarise as best as I can.
 
Sound Summary
 
AKG K550s - Sounded clear, and was looking forward to lauded wide expansive soundstage but it just never materialised. Just sounded empty to me. Didn't clamp my head nearly enough. Mids were really clear and satsifying, but the highs, oh the highs were just too raspy for me by far. Uncomfortable. I ended up using a Treble Reduction EQ setting with these, which I'm sure is heresy. I ran these with and without amp, they definately needed amplification to compete anywhere near the m50's. The Bass was the one biggest clear disappointment. It was wooly, loose and anything but tight and punchy. At least i've learnt that I like a good bass earthquake from my listening. I was impressed by the mids on these, if I could have lifted the mids up and into the M50's overall sound I would be in headhone heaven.
 
ATH M50s - Wow. Immediately engaged by these. I've read a lot about people questioning whether a set of HF's are 'fun'. Well I can tell you that out of this small test (and my other experience of Klipsch IEMs) these are exactly that - engaging and fun. Perfect for my tastes, and perfect for what I listen to. They especially excel at pumping out my preferred staple of gutsy, aggressive electronica. The bass is what makes these. It's the best i've ever experienced, i love it. It's loud, tight, punchy, never wobbles into growling. They are bass monsters and not just sub-bass - ie that low frequency background noise that often passes for bass. This is like standing at the front of a leftfield gig when they play 'phat planet'. These were also a perfect partner for the E11 on low gain setting, the brilliance of that amp was the extra control over the bass eq setting that amp has. If I switched out of one genre to another, for example from techno into slow, delicate budd/eno ambience, it gave me the option to calm things down and let the sound-mix sit back a bit if that makes sense, and also let me keep back the 2 setting to really rip into something that comes on, like Mona by Underworld. Fantastic. I am in love with these M50's and I really cannot believe that they are so cheap - especially in comparison with my old favourite kit brand Klipsch.
 
Klipsch M40s - I didn't give these a fair chance it had to be said. I didn't like how they sounded with noise cancelling turned on - the music started to sound thin and artificial somehow. To be absolutely clear, once i'd heard the Audio technica phones, these just didn't have a chance, because they were nowhere near as good, and £100 more. I almost instantly knew they were going back. They aren't BAD, they are just over-priced and not what I want. I used to gravitate towards Klipsch because of the nifty inline remote AND the tremendous sound they get out of their lower priced drivers and kit, but this is a bridge too far, and I even prefer their £60 Klipsch Image Ones to these.
 
Regarding the e17, it just wasn't the right bit of kit for my needs so again didn't fit the bill, and has gone back to Amazon immediately. I am convinced it's a good product, just not for me. But I LOVE the Fiio e11 - the bass control and the warmth of sound is wonderful, and for £45 you cannot go wrong.

This whole exercise really brought home to me that you don't always get what you pay for, and sometimes you just have to let your ears do the talking :wink:

I hope this helps, as it sounds a bit like we were on the same journey!
 
Now all I need to do is figure out what my upgrade path is...
 
 
(first post)
 
Jul 23, 2012 at 6:33 AM Post #15 of 23

cyberalpha11

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Quote:
I've been on a similar journey to you, purchasing three headphones and two portable amps all at once in order to try and find something that ticks all my boxes with one bit of kit, unfortunately I don't think i've found exactly that (I'm not sure it exists!) but what i've found I can pass to you.
 
I listen to a lot of electronica (Orbital, Flashbulb, Hecq, Aphex Twin, Underworld) 60%, and a lot of ambient music 20% (The Orb, Harold Budd, Eno, Dub), indie rock about 20% of the time, but it's stuff like flaming Lips and Spiritualized which as far as I am concerned needs careful sonic attention.
 
My source is a humble iPod Classic, using a Fiio LOD cable to the amps I tried below. Source files vary from v0 MP3 rips to FLAC files converted to aac at highbitrate - but i'm not at all precious about conversion and much more about music collection completeness. Perhaps that is something I will have to look into!
 
Equipment I bought:
 
Klipsch Mode M40 (because I am a long term Klipsch fan, I love their S5i's in ears, for running and commuting; great punchy aggressive bass-present but controlled - and something I try to look for, in line remote, as i'm travelling on a train for 3 hours a day, with 120gb of song in my pocket on shuffle, I like to be able to skip very easily without going to iPod in my pocket, un-locking it etc).  Amazon £250
Audio Technica ATH-M50 because they were cheap (more so just plain great seeming value) and from all of the reviews I read, sounded like the perfect sound signature for me. Amazon £130
AKG K550 - used (ebay), but only 20 hours break in, and from an original reciepted purchase from Richer Sounds (3 weeks old). Ebay £130
Fiio E11 Portable Amp. Amazon £45
Fiio E17 Portable Amp / DAC (thought the DAC would enhance the output from my iPod classic. It didn't. Wasted purchase (think it only works on USB input from computer). This is going back! Amazon £99
 
Overall Conclusion of 'experiment'
My summary conclusion is that I was massively disappointed in the K550's, hugely impressed with the M50's and realised that products like the noise cancelling Klipsch M40's are something that is no longer relevant to me. I demand better, more robust sound - although the Klipsch's were still good, they weren't 80% better sounding as the £100-less M50's, which to my ears, sound 2x as good. The M40's got returned to Amazon, the K550's are back on Ebay. No remorse.
 
I purchased all three at once knowing I could return whatever I didn't like, and could do a better direct comparison, AND avoid shiny new toy syndrome.
 
I lack the expertise or language to go properly into sound-review mode but I will summarise as best as I can.
 
Sound Summary
 
AKG K550s - Sounded clear, and was looking forward to lauded wide expansive soundstage but it just never materialised. Just sounded empty to me. Didn't clamp my head nearly enough. Mids were really clear and satsifying, but the highs, oh the highs were just too raspy for me by far. Uncomfortable. I ended up using a Treble Reduction EQ setting with these, which I'm sure is heresy. I ran these with and without amp, they definately needed amplification to compete anywhere near the m50's. The Bass was the one biggest clear disappointment. It was wooly, loose and anything but tight and punchy. At least i've learnt that I like a good bass earthquake from my listening. I was impressed by the mids on these, if I could have lifted the mids up and into the M50's overall sound I would be in headhone heaven.
 
ATH M50s - Wow. Immediately engaged by these. I've read a lot about people questioning whether a set of HF's are 'fun'. Well I can tell you that out of this small test (and my other experience of Klipsch IEMs) these are exactly that - engaging and fun. Perfect for my tastes, and perfect for what I listen to. They especially excel at pumping out my preferred staple of gutsy, aggressive electronica. The bass is what makes these. It's the best i've ever experienced, i love it. It's loud, tight, punchy, never wobbles into growling. They are bass monsters and not just sub-bass - ie that low frequency background noise that often passes for bass. This is like standing at the front of a leftfield gig when they play 'phat planet'. These were also a perfect partner for the E11 on low gain setting, the brilliance of that amp was the extra control over the bass eq setting that amp has. If I switched out of one genre to another, for example from techno into slow, delicate budd/eno ambience, it gave me the option to calm things down and let the sound-mix sit back a bit if that makes sense, and also let me keep back the 2 setting to really rip into something that comes on, like Mona by Underworld. Fantastic. I am in love with these M50's and I really cannot believe that they are so cheap - especially in comparison with my old favourite kit brand Klipsch.
 
Klipsch M40s - I didn't give these a fair chance it had to be said. I didn't like how they sounded with noise cancelling turned on - the music started to sound thin and artificial somehow. To be absolutely clear, once i'd heard the Audio technica phones, these just didn't have a chance, because they were nowhere near as good, and £100 more. I almost instantly knew they were going back. They aren't BAD, they are just over-priced and not what I want. I used to gravitate towards Klipsch because of the nifty inline remote AND the tremendous sound they get out of their lower priced drivers and kit, but this is a bridge too far, and I even prefer their £60 Klipsch Image Ones to these.
 
Regarding the e17, it just wasn't the right bit of kit for my needs so again didn't fit the bill, and has gone back to Amazon immediately. I am convinced it's a good product, just not for me. But I LOVE the Fiio e11 - the bass control and the warmth of sound is wonderful, and for £45 you cannot go wrong.

This whole exercise really brought home to me that you don't always get what you pay for, and sometimes you just have to let your ears do the talking :wink:

I hope this helps, as it sounds a bit like we were on the same journey!
 
Now all I need to do is figure out what my upgrade path is...
 
 
(first post)

Can you make a relative comparison between between ATH-M50s vs AKG-K550 in term of separation, sound stage, mids & high?
 

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