The AKG K550’s were the first reference headphone I listened to that really made me think twice about how I listened to my music. Bass-heavy tracks seemed hollow and distant at first, until I realized that you really have to listen for the bass instead of feeling it, which is unlike a lot of other modern headphones. What caused my initial reaction were the large ear cups, which leave a lot of wiggle room around your ears and therefore can change how the sound is perceived.
Once you get the positioning/fit that’s right for you, the K550’s have some very impressive sound for a pair of portable, reference headphones. The bass is somewhat subdued, but I found that this helps a lot to reduce the possibility of a track sounding muddy. The highs are crisp without being sibilant and the mid-range is flattened out, which helps to give tracks more presence. They give a very accurate reproduction of room tone and the space in a recording, which is very impressive for being closed-back. They sound best when using a higher quality codec, such as .wav or .flac, but luckily they don’t give an over-compressed sound when using .mp3 format, like some other reference headphones do.
These are definitely a comfortable over-ear thanks to the large ear cups. Even though the ear cups do tend to become warm at times, I wore them for about 2 hours and only had to take them off for a couple minutes to cool off. This is a small price to pay for the sound quality you get when using the leather-like ear pads provided. I would hesitate to use velour ear pads or a more breathable material, since it may cause a change in frequency response.
One of the most notable aspects of the K550’s is the fact that they produce audiophile sound at an impedance of 32 ohms. This means that they can be driven by most portable devices. However, I feel like their size makes them more cumbersome if you were trying to use them as a portable headphone. Musically, they do a very good job of accurate sound reproduction for any genre.
These are definitely a good value for those looking for a reliable reference headphone. At $300 they stay just under the audiophile price range, but the biggest value lies in the fact that they can be run from any device so you don’t have to purchase an amplifier. However, considering their size, it would be nice if they included some type of carrying case that could make them more portable.
The sound is extremely precise, the fit is decently comfortable and the price range is very affordable when it comes to audiophile headphones. They have the capacity to be portable due to their impedance, but their size would make it harder to take on the go. However, as a purpose-driven headphone user, I say these are perfect for monitoring recordings for audio or video productions because of their low impedance, comfort, and sound quality.
Sound – Fantastic
Comfort/Fit – Amazing
Versatility – Incredible
Value – Amazing
Overall – Incredible