We find out what sound quality you can expect from AKG's newly launched K812 reference headphones, which will set you back a cool £1,000
AKG has launched the K812 reference grade headphones, a pair of £1,000 over-ears that are designed for studio engineers and audiophiles after the very best sound quality for the money. We got to try a pair out at London’s Red Bull studios earlier today.
Designed from the ground up over two years as a “statement of intent” to show what AKG was capable of in terms of high-end audio, the K812 looks every bit the flagship product. Built from a stunning combination of raw metal and black mesh, the oversized cans are chunky and hefty, but feel incredibly comfortable once you slip them on.
That’s partly down to the two-stage headband, which combines a solid metal frame for rigidity and a mesh material band that stretches around your head. It’s designed specifically to keep sweating to a minimum for long periods of listening, clipping into place with a push-pin mechanism on either side of the frame to prevent unwanted movement once on your head.
Each ear cup is mounted to the frame using a cardan hinge, which can rotate in almost every direction to create the best possible fit over your ears. The cups themselves have an irregular shape designed to seal sound around the ear, preventing as much accoustic leakage as possible.
The 53mm drivers inside each ear cup were designed specifically for the K812s, with a significant amount of development time spent on getting the maximum size to performance ratio. According to AKG, going any larger would have impacted sound quality, even using its 1.5 Tesla magnetic transducers to drive them. A compound diaphragm with an air-flow dome should prevent damage when turning up the volume to very high levels.
A single-sided cable connection built into the frame should keep wires out of the way of any studio engineers trying to get on with work, but it also prevents any cable noise transferring directly to the ear cups. It uses a mini-XLR connector rather than 3.5mm for the best possible audio quality.
Slipping on a pair to listen to AKG’s prepared selection of test tracks (played through a Sony CD player connected to a Lehmann Audio headphone amplifier), we were suitably impressed with their crystal clear sound signature. They have a flat, monitor-like sound, which brought out all the detail in a live rendition of the Eagles’ Hotel California, but still produced powerful bass when switching to Muse’s Madness. The entire frequency range was clean and balanced, with no part of the mix overshadowing the others. Arguably they won’t suit anyone pushing out hardcore EDM beats as bass doesn’t boom out of each ear, but we were suitably impressed when it came to acoustic, classical and guitar-based tracks.
Each pair of K812s will come with this wooden display stand
Although primarily designed for audio engineers and high-end audiophiles, AKG says the K812s have a 36ohm impedance. That should mean they will play nicely with more mainstream gadgets like smartphones and MP3 players. We tried them with an LG G2 and could only spot the slightest signs of distortion at very high volumes.
They are an absolute luxury, even for audiophiles, but we still walked away suitably impressed with the K812’s performance. If music is a job and not just a passion, they could be worth every penny. The AKG K812 will be going on sale in the UK, Europe and the US from the end of October onwards, from £1,000/€1,200/$1,500 respectively.