It would appear that headphones are back in fashion in a big way. Literally, the bulkier the headwear the more fashionably conscious you supposedly are. A couple of new headphones recently caught our eye, the stylish new AKG K361 and K371, but don’t go calling the fashion police just yet!
How Well Do I Look?
These two new sets of headphones bring a host of impressive new design features, technology and specs, but first, let’s look at aesthetics and fit. At first glance, anyone familiar with AKG’s professional line of headphones will be forgiven for not recognizing them as AKG headphones at first glance. You’ll notice the absence of the circular ear cups and self-adjusting headband, these being an iconic look and feature of the brand’s pro headphones for decades, but this new aesthetic by no means compromises performance. The oval-shaped earpads on both models make for superb isolation right around the ears and supreme comfort with their slow retention ear pads. Both models employ a nifty foldable design where the ear cups fold up and sit comfortably underneath the headband in a crescent moon-like shape. The K361 has three set positions for adjustment whilst the K371 utilize a metal hinge which allows for finer adjustments and positioning, not to mention added durability. Regardless, both models allow for easy one-ear on/one ear off positioning, a must-have for DJs worth their salt. Wearing each model for extended periods is a breeze and being so lightweight (the K361 at 219g and K371 at 255g) doesn’t make them fatiguing to wear.
Following the Curve
AKG have been meticulous in their design of these new headphones. In conjunction with its parent company Harman, the AKG Reference Response Curve has been developed, setting the bar for headphone response and accuracy. Yeah cool, but what does this actually mean? Without going into white paper detail, an in-depth five-year study was conducted in which hundreds of participants from around the globe ranging from complete novice music listeners to highly experienced pros were asked to provide their feedback on how they listened to and perceived audio, within a critical listening environment. Through meticulous data retrieval, fine-tuning and repeat testing the vast majority of participants preferred the listening experience with the response curve applied. **For those interested, you can read up on the science behind it all from Dr Sean Olive’s (Harman Acoustic Research fellow and one of the minds behind the development of the curve) blog here.
Whilst the K361 doesn’t quite reach the Reference Response Curve, (no small feat we might add) the K371 falls within the bounds and crikey, do these headphones perform, more details on this in a bit.
Compare the Pair
Starting off with the K361, putting on a few very familiar reference tracks, their well-balanced frequency response was immediate. Boasting a range of 15Hz – 28kHz, a rather impressive spec given their price point and it certainly showed, with a noticeable extension in the lows and nice detailed, airy highs. Compared to other AKG’s we’ve heard over the years the K361 sounded a little less bight-y in the upper-mids and seem to be quite smoothed out. A definite centre and a nice stereo image was also apparent, with a nice sense of space for a pair of closed backs. After continuous listening to a wide variety of reference material for a substantial period of time, it was nice that the ears weren’t fatigued, whilst head and neck were left unburdened due to their lightweight, comfortable design.
From first listen of the K371 it was evident that they’re something special, based on spec alone with a whopping frequency response of 5Hz – 40kHz, solid sensitivity of 114dB SPL/V @ 1kHz and overall response. Listening to much of the same reference material as the K361, what was immediately noticeable was the additional perceived width of the stereo image. Guitar parts were distinguished and defined, with a rock-solid centre for vocals, kick, snare and bass to happily coexist. Not to say the K361 didn’t have many of these characteristics too, they just seemed a little more refined with the K371.
One thing worth a mention is when listening at lower volumes how much of the low-end information was retained, which can be a general problem when mixing on either headphones or studio monitors, purely down to how the human ear perceives loudness of certain frequencies (enter Fletcher Munson Curve reference). This is where the K371 really shine, with the ability for users to listen and mix at a variety of output levels without sacrificing vital frequency information or to the detriment of users hearing. It would seem the AKG Reference Response Curve really shows its value here, giving an even response with fine detail from lows to highs.
Something for Everyone
It’s fair to say the new AKG K361 and K371 headphones are not only stylish but offer professional spec and features that are well beyond their respective price points. Both have a very comfy fit, an ingenious folding design that is both practical in use and in storage when travelling. Both models come accompanied with a plush protective carry pouch, a 3.5mm to 6.5mm jack adaptor and multiple cables dependant on your needs; the K361 includes 1 straight and 1 coiled cable, whilst the K371 includes 2 straight and 1 coiled. Perhaps the option of a right-angled connector would be welcomed for those using headphones on the go. Both feel right at home for studio monitoring/mixing purposes, to producers, content creators, DJs and gamers alike. Two great headphones, making it hard to choose between the two, ultimately there’s something for everyone in both models, so simply take your pick.