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The new kid on the block: The AKG K420

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  1. plainsong
    Long time, no post... but there hasn’t been much for me to talk about headphone-wise. I’ve been happy with my main rig for the past couple of years, and happy with the occasional pair that I bought every now and then. Everyone knows (or should) about the Beyer Dt250s and Yuin PK1, the Manufacture Beyer DT990 (600ohm), the old skool Sensaphonics 2x-s. I’m not here to talk about any of those.

    I’m here because I went on a little bit of birthday shopping spree today. I migrated to the headphone section... as you do, and saw a new kid on the block. Luckily there was an open pair ready for testing, and I’d brought my iPod Touch with me. I plugged in this new unheard-of headphone and found all the goodness I look for in portable cans. This new kid has a name, and it is the AKG 420.

    What I look for in a portable headphone:
    1. Fun Sound: Check
    2. Ergonomics that make them comfy and easy to take out: Check
    3. Pouch that you probably won’t use, but is nice to have anyway: Check
    4. Fold flat for easy storage without squishing one of the earpads: Check
    5. Durability: Check
    6. Easy to put on quickly and not fiddly about positioning: Check
    7. A profile slim enough so that the cool kids don’t laugh at you: Check
    8. A cord that isn’t 5 miles too long: Check
    9. Easily drivable sans amp: Check
    10. The general feeling that it wasn’t a huge sacrifice choosing these over larger cans: Check

    What do I mean by fun sound? I mean a sound that makes you want to get down with your bad self. Usually that means a midbass hump, and enough detail and clarity to know what you’re listening to. We all know that Portapro kind of sound. the 420s are that on steroids. I’ll say right now that I like them better than K81s, and I liked the K81s. The K81s were too boomy (price of being closed), and the cord was 5 miles too long. Yes, there are mods, but I’m comparing stock to stock. What I get from the sound is that fun midbass minus the sonic boom, and with an added top end for clarity. I listen to acoustic, metal, hip hop, and everything in between and there was nothing they sounded bad with. The worst I can say is that the top end is a little bit harsh. Not headache-inducing or anything, but it’s the same kind of hardness I get from unburned-in stuff. These impressions are the sound right out of the box. I can’t comment much on the soundstage yet, other than to say... hey, there’s a since of stage and space here.

    They are very easy to drive. I don’t have a portable amp right now, and these don’t need one. I have a Euro iPod Touch jailbroken to remove the volume limiter, and these are earbleeding at halfway.

    The 420s are semiclosed, which I take to mean mostly open. That’s where the good sound comes from, so that’s the tradeoff. It’s still tough to find closed headphones at that price point which don’t suck. I’m spoiled from the combo of Sensas and dt250s there. I’m happy to take the tradeoff.

    Overall, if you’re looking for something better than the K81, something more portable and reasonable, but something really fun - check out the AKG K420. I found them good enough to come back and actually make a post about headphones. :)
  2. jughead
    Ah, thanks for the mini-review! Finally found someone with similar things that I'm looking for in a portable headphone.

    I'm still a bit worried about the semi-open design though. Have you by any chance compared it to Senn PX100? Or maybe the closed-back AKG K430?
  3. mrarroyo Contributor
    How about posting a couple of pictures?
  4. jughead
  5. Bonthouse Contributor
    I would've bought these if I hadn't chosen the Creative Aurvana Live! (rebranded D1001, but the Denon prices are through the roof here in Europe)
    Those earpads look super comfortable! Please write an extended review when they're broken-in!
  6. Shosta

    Originally Posted by jughead /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I'm still a bit worried about the semi-open design though. Have you by any chance compared it to Senn PX100? Or maybe the closed-back AKG K430?

    I have Senn PX100, two years old, they are my second pair. For portable listening, they are always in my bag. Today I saw these K420 and bought for backup (the cable in my PX100 is a little used, in any time they'll die).
    The sound in the K420 is more opened, less punchy although still warm.
    For an open design the PX100 had a lot of bass. Sometimes, too much in my opinion.
    I think these AKGs will stay in my bag until they broke. I hope they'll last the same as the PX100: almost 3 years of daily use!!! (each one)
  7. Asincrono
    Aren't those just the k412p(26p) with new look? I ask cause I love my 412p and I hope I can replace they with 420 if a disaster happen.
  8. kandiman
    i want the AKG K 414 P for it's looks, how does the 420 compare to the px100 is what i like to know to, i've had the px100 but did not like them so it's a toss up between the 414p and 420
  9. grantlp13
    i just bought akg k420 yesterday. for me this product is way better than px100, igrado and portapro.

    the clarity of the sound is fantastic. i tried grado sr125 also but this akg didn't lag behind too much. i'm quite shocked because sr125i's price is 3 times than this akg
  10. plainsong
    I know. It's a great portable set of headphones that doesn't have you pining for your home setup every time you use them. When spending hours in the computer lab at school, the AKG K420 has pulled through with flying colors, plugged into an iPod Touch. They're forward, fun - but not to so much that they sacrifice too much honesty, and you don't find yourself straining to hear details that the other "fun" headphones have problems letting you hear. That's a keeper of a portable headphone in my book.

    I've got the K450 on the way, to see if it's an upgrade, or just a pretty face. [​IMG]
  11. dorts

    I'm interested in the K420 or K450. Just wondering is the bass as muddy as the K416P/K414P? I had to cover the 2 holes located at the top of the each side to improve the bass..

  12. knugge
    Just tried the 420 and compared to my 412. It's really difficult to determine which is the better one or more reasonably put, which one I prefer. I've compared the Teo before and at tjat point I felt I liked the better clarity of the 420 but now I don't feel they are clearer any more. I listened to Lauryn Hill and felt the soundstage was deeper and the bass less boomy and clearer with the 412. As usual I'm now confused but the difference isn't exactly monumental which ever way you put it.
  13. epithetless

    Originally Posted by plainsong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I've got the K450 on the way, to see if it's an upgrade, or just a pretty face. [​IMG]

    Looking forward to your verdict! [​IMG]
  14. battleaxe
    So what is the update here?
  15. plainsong
    Woops, don't post here often so forgot to give an update. My quick and dirty update is that this is a cruel joke by AKG. The K450 looks the business. It's built solid. Everything about it, from the earpads to the fancy case to the solid build quality just screams flagship portable in that price range.

    But they're just not. They're absolutely awful. Every problem that the K81 had or the 26p had is made worse. Boomy, boomy boomy, everything is colored darker, recessed mids, treble that hurts.

    The K420s are just wonderful. The K450 were some kind of April Fools joke. Now mine aren't fully burned in yet, maybe they have about 50 hours on them. But they've not gotten better, and I've never had a headphone that did a complete about face on its sound from pre to post burn in. Maybe there's still hope for it, but I'm doubting it.

    Getting the K450s and HD228s, it's like the 228s are open and the K450s are closed, and suffer the same fate that many inexpensive closed cans suffer. You wouldn't know that it was the opposite.

    I gave the K420s to my husband, and he just loves them. Who wouldn't? I don't want to ask for them back, so I've ordered some Jay's V-Jays to sooth the hurt. [​IMG]
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